This column, “Escape Artist,” is a series about folks who have escaped. More importantly, this biweekly column is for those thinking about trading in their 9-to-5, leg-shackled-to-the-desk existences in order to grab life at the roots and forge their own way. The brave outliers featured in these collection of interviews are the digital nomads, the online entrepreneurs, and the lifestyle trendsetters, who decided it was time to say to hell with the humdrum and go elbow deep to grab life by the roots.
Traveler and writer Chris Guillebeau runs The Art of Non-Conformity, a lifestyle blog that shares how “unconventional” people battle against conventional beliefs in work, life and travel to achieve personal goals. During 2002-2013, Guillebeau visited all 193 United Nations-member countries and wrote books about entrepreneurism and happiness. His fifth book Born For This, released on April 5, explores how to find the work you’re meant to do.
Paste Travel The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?
Chris Guillebeau It has always been popular and enticing, but what’s changed is that it’s more feasible and relatable now. There have always been people who escaped and became location independent, but they were seen as rebellious, mischievous or exceptions to the rule. Now people are realizing that it’s not unusual to do. It’s accessible, smart and a safe career choice.
PT What was the “aha” moment that sparked your goal to travel to every country in 2002?
CG Between ages 22-26, I volunteered in Africa for four years and thought about freedom, independence and travel. I love making lists, writing things down and checking them off. Once I started traveling, I made a list of countries I had been to and came up with 30. I wanted to get to 100 and set that goal when I was 28. As I got closer to 100, I needed more of a challenge and decided to visit all 193 by the time I was 35.
PT Why did you decide to create a lifestyle blog and focus on “unconventional living”?
CG It’s the only way I know how to live. I’ve always done my own thing, and I wanted to help people ask the right questions to do the same. If people think about what they value and how they can help others, it’s a powerful process that can lead to awesome changes for them. I decided to provide strategies and tools, whether that’s showing them how to sign up for credit cards to fly around the world or helping them set travel goals, so they can feel empowered in their lives.
PT The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality also seems to be booming. What have you seen, and how do you stay connected with your followers?
CG In the past year or so, blogging (and standing out) has become harder for several reasons. Technology has made it more difficult. I was a big believer in newsletter subscribers, but Gmail has made it more difficult to get messages to followers because it goes to the Promotions tab. It takes more effort for your readers to open the email. The same goes for Facebook pages and the new algorithm where only 10 percent of followers see your posts in their news feeds. I’m figuring out these changes like everyone else, and I’m focusing on what I can offer to other people. It’s not as easy as putting up a basic website with an ebook and making tons of money. This is a process.
PT What is one tip you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?
CG Everybody wants to escape the 9-to-5 to live the life they want, and I encourage them to ask themselves questions about why they do what they do. The more you understand the specifics about what you want, the more you can find ways to invest your time and effort to get there. Make a list of 10 things you like to do and do them in the next year. See what resonates and move on to something else. The sooner you can get on that journey, the better.
PT Do you have a favorite travel spot you’d like to share with Paste readers?
CG Sydney, Australia, is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s my hideaway, and I have a routine that I do when I’m there. I still do my work but also enjoy exploring. I like the blend of foreign and familiar, of going back to places I know but also doing new things.
PT What are you most excited to focus on in 2016?
CG I’m starting the Born For This book tour, which takes me to 30 great cities to meet many of my readers. The annual World Domination Summit takes place again in Portland in August, and I’d love to see more people there. I’m also continuing to write and figure out changes with blogging, social media and newsletters.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health and business for regional and national publications.