Today, we’re fortunate to share an amazing interview with Adrian Sameli – a digital entrepreneur who’s working on the road mainly for social impact organizations.
I’m very lucky that I know this man since my trip to Thailand last year and since then, we’re working together on building a business and successful travel site that have a potential to inspire people to chase freedom.
Adrian was in an IT industry for 10 years and decided to leave his corporate job to chase the freedom. He started to work on the road once he took his sabbatical year. His sabbatical year extended and now he’s living the life of digital nomad doing pro-bono consulting for social impact enterprises around the world.
In 2015, he did a stunning road trip through Europe driving through 30 countries with his car. In 2016, he bought a car in Africa and did a road trip through all Eastern and Southern countries (15 countries).
His journey doesn’t end there as in 2017, he traveled across SEA and South Asia visiting 16 countries and living in few.
You can follow his journey and get daily inspiration on his travel blog called aSabbatical.
Enough talk, let’s dive into the interview!
Q. Welcome Adrian! We know each other for a quiet time now, but for people who don’t know you, could you please tell a few sentences about yourself and your blog?
A. Yes Antonio, and I am very happy to finally contribute to your inspiring project. My name is Adrian Sameli and I grew up in Switzerland. There, I spent my first 30 years and started a successful career in web development.
After more than a decade in the industry, I was looking for something different, I wanted to explore the world. My only option was to quit my job and start a sabbatical gap year. Two weeks after I left my office, I was already on the road to the North Cape, where I started to build my blog.
Q. Where do you currently live and is there any place in the world you could say for yourself you’re local there
A. Currently, I am living in New Delhi, India. I am on a volunteering pro bono mission in the role of an interim CTO for Dharma Life. Now, this is my new home for half a year. So many people walk around with closed eyes and don’t even know their own city well.
Because of my approach of fully diving into a new culture, it does not take me long to become a local.
The places, I have seriously discovered are: Minsk (Belarus), San Francisco (USA), Nairobi (Kenya), Cape Town (South Africa), Hanoi (Vietnam), and of course my hometown Basel (Switzerland).
Q. You have an amazing journey so far and we wish you great adventures in the future! Could you tell us how many countries you’ve visited and which one was the most special for you?
A. So far, I have visited 85 countries plus some self-proclaimed independent territories. My best experiences, I have always had in less popular countries. Living more than a month in Belarus gave me a unique insight into Europe’s most isolated nation. In Uganda, I have seen the most stunning landscapes and national parks.
Bangladesh is a hidden marvel for adventurers and explorers in South Asia. What unites these three countries is a lack of tourism, partially because of their political situation. For a mindful traveler, however, they are a true paradise! The people are utmost friendly, hospitable and most importantly, very authentic.
Q. Many people give up the idea of traveling as they don’t believe they can spare enough money or fund their trips on the go. Please tell us how do you manage to fund your trips?
A. First of all, I am living a minimalistic lifestyle and spend my money and time wisely. Instead of watching TV or reading news, I acquire new skills or get things done. I’m not wasting money on fashion, entertainment or luxury goods, instead, I am living in the moment and enjoy every experience. Having said that, I still need a minimal amount for a living and traveling.
While doing pro bono consulting for social enterprises (such as DharmaLife or Angaza), my basic expenses are paid by a philanthropic investor. In addition to that, I am working remotely for different clients. Instead of having a fancy degree, I have acquired all my knowledge online (currently I’m doing an online MBA with SmartLy). Through networking, I have built myself an extensive network. IT services are always needed!
Q. When and how did you decide that you want to travel around the world and work on the road?
A. There was not one big eureka-moment nor one epic decision, my lifestyle evolved over the years. My heaviest decision was to quit my office job in Switzerland, shortly after my 10-year anniversary. There was an urge growing inside of me to move out and explore the world. Luckily, no counter force was strong enough to hold me back.
With some savings and no plan, I just drove off into the unknown. The longer I was abroad, the more I started to enjoy it. Instead of going back to the office, I decided to look for work, that I can do from anywhere. Thanks to the internet, there are endless opportunities available today.
Q. How people around you reacted when you decided to travel around the world and have an adventure of a lifetime?
A. My family and close friends all support my decisions and are very happy for me. They closely follow my journey and whenever I return they welcome me with open arms. I don’t feel any resentments or jealousy, it seems that most people around me prefer their ordinary life over my lifestyle.
The only negative reaction I ever got were worries about a gap in my resume. But I can assure you, I am achieving much more than ever before!
Q. We know that you volunteered abroad many times. People around Balkan region aren’t familiar with the volunteer abroad options. Could you tell us more about the projects you volunteered on and how did you find those?
A. My two largest missions were for Angaza in San Francisco plus Nairobi and now for DharmaLife in New Delhi. For both social organizations, I did on-site pro bono IT consulting. This means, I was living temporarily in those places, working closely together with the team, but was independent and did not get a salary.
The experience was extraordinary because I could seriously help them with my expertise and learn new things at the same time. Like most opportunities in my life, networking lead me to these projects. Eventually, those two social missions were enabled by the Elea Foundation, an amazing philanthropic investor.
Q. What aspect of your job you like the most and what aspect you dislike the most?
A. I love helping and enabling others to be more efficient and achieve their goals. Working in IT can be most rewarding, especially when you can automate and simplify people’s work. Also, I enjoy working in different industries and learning more about various business models. I am able to work with everybody in literally any business.
However, it can be frustrating, that despite endless possibilities, there is never a perfect solution. In the end, there is always a trade-off, mostly because of time and budget constraints. And sometimes, the beneficiaries are simply not willing to change their behavior.
Q. We heard a lot of discussion on work-life balance. Some people think it’s crucial to have a balance between work and life, while others believe that if you love what you do, then you don’t need to balance between work and play. What’s your stance on this one and could you share your routine?
A. I agree with both approaches! The more passionate I am about my work, the less it feels like work and the more I can excel. But even then, I need other activities and people to give me a counterbalance. All humans consist of endless facets, abilities, and interests. The more senses we stimulate and capabilities we activate, the more complete we get.
I need diversity in my life, I enjoy going out of my comfort zone and expose myself to novel experiences. But then, I also have to retreat to pure me-time. My personal balance is more about being outgoing or introverted.
Q. How’s your regular working day looks like?
A. There is no such thing, I completely gave up on “regular working days”. Every day looks different, depending on my projects, desires, and mood.
Q. We bet you had many amazing stories from the road so far! Could you tell us the most positive and the most negative or scary story you had during your travels?
A. My personal arch enemy are hordes of wild street dogs. Already several times have I been attacked by them. Always at night, when I was walking alone through empty, dark streets. In Sarajevo, I found myself surrounded by barking dogs and they even bit holes in my pants! The best part of it is, that kind people helped me out of the situation, a graveyard guard in Sarajevo and a parking lot guard in Goa.
By now, I have learned to defend myself with a stick. Like recently, in an abandoned amusement park in Myanmar. But the real lesson is, that I did not have a single negative experience with another human. People around the world are kind and helpful, no matter what media and politicians say. Don’t be afraid of foreign people or cultures, go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me!
Q. Have your experiences from the road changed your perspectives on money, opportunities, relationships and the world in general? Let’s talk a bit on this!
A. Oh yes, totally! My expectations have multiple times been surpassed. We are living in a wonderful world with amazing people. I have learned, that too many possessions are corrupting people and that there are endless possibilities.
As long as we are true to ourselves, we can meet authentic people and generate new opportunities. There are a lot of inequalities, but everybody can break out of the normal routine. If you are not happy with your life, try to change your habits, friends, and surrounding.
Q. For how long do you plan to travel around the world and stick to this lifestyle? What’s your travel preference – do you like to spend more time in one place or you rather prefer moving constantly around the places?
A. There is no end in sight, it will require a truly phenomenal opportunity to change my lifestyle again. I enjoy living a few months in one place and then crossing a dozen countries in an epic trip of multiple months.
The faster I move, the more aware I become of my surrounding, I suck in novel experiences and feel more alive.
Q. Do you find it hard to form lasting relationships with people as you’re traveling and maybe you will never see the people you meet in some place again?
A. In contrary, since I am traveling, I have formed stronger connections than ever before. All around the world, I have met likeminded people that I highly respect. I am regularly in touch with people across the world.
The internet has long replaced other ways of staying in touch. Nevertheless, it is always a great experience to meet old friends again in a different country. It is about time to meet you in person, Antonio!
Q. If you could live anywhere in the world, which place would you choose and why?
A. I don’t want to live in one place, it feels like a restricting cage to me.
Q. Could you give a genuine advice to people who’d like to start with digital nomad lifestyle?
A. First, get as organized and efficient as possible! If you ever trade your domestic life and stable job against a free-floating lifestyle without any boundaries, you will struggle a lot! You will give up all the commodities of an organized life and workplace.
Suddenly, you have to take care of many more things than before. You need to deal with international bureaucracy, different time zones, and all the small things you don’t even think of in your routines. However, this comes at an unbearable luxury of choosing your next destination!
Can you imagine a world, where you can decide every day what to do next? What sounds like a dream for some can also be a nightmare for others.
Q. Last but not least, what are your plans for the future?
A. Oh, I have great plans! This summer, I will drive through Central Asia. With a friend from Switzerland, I will be driving from Kazakhstan via Iran into Turkey, passing a total of 10 countries. And now, I have just written a workshop for North Korea. In May, I have the unique opportunity to present the Design Thinking Methodology to about 60 entrepreneurs in Pyongyang, hoping to make a difference.
Together with the NGO ChosonExchange, I will stay one week in the country. In a world of criticism and hatred, is there a better way to react than going to the darkest places to interact with the people? If you have a better idea, I would like to hear it 😉
Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring journey with us! I hope we will inspire even one person to try something similar! Remember – EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE! 🙂
And yeah, not to forget, if you want to get a daily inspiration from Adrian’s journey, you should definitely check his amazing social profiles. Here’s his Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and you can even check the videos from the journey at interesting Youtube channel.
Wish you all the luck in your future travels and hope to meet you soon on the road! 🙂