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 to forge their own way. The brave outliers featured in this collection of interviews are the digital nomads, online entrepreneurs and lifestyle trendsetters who decided it was time to say to hell with the humdrum and grab life by the roots.
Adam Groffman runs Travels of Adam, a men’s lifestyle blog that focuses on stylish travel and LGBT-friendly places. He quit a job as a book designer in Boston in 2010 and took a trip around the world. Then he kept traveling.
The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?
Adam Groffman More people are trying to do what they love, and there are more opportunities for more people to achieve those goals. The idea has probably been a popular one for a long time, but as our global economy has shifted and as more tools have been developed to make entrepreneurship more attainable, it’s definitely caught on. It’s, of course, not always as great as it seems from the outside (is anything?!), but obviously it’s an attractive and interesting way to work. The gig economy has definitely made it more achievable to escape the 9-to-5, for better or worse. I wrote about this subject and my conflicting emotions (and loneliness).
What was the “aha” moment that sparked this idea of travel for you?
AG After graduating college, I worked full-time as a graphic designer for a book publisher. In all respects, it was my dream job. But after three years, I suddenly realized I hadn’t once left the country during that time — it was always work, work, work. On the spur of the moment, I decided to take a three-day weekend and jet off to Iceland for some adventures. By the time I returned to work on Tuesday morning, I knew travel needed to be a bigger part of my life. I then spent the next nine months going through the corporate bureaucracy to transfer my job to an international office, until finally I realized the only way I would be guaranteed the chance to live and work abroad was if I took the task into my own hands. So I did.
What inspired you to start blogging, and how did you first build a following?
AG I started my blog out of a passion for social media. I always used Twitter to connect with strangers, and when I finally quit my job to travel, I knew my experiences abroad would be so much better by using social media to connect with other travelers and locals when I could. Out of guilt over quitting my job and for a desire to extend my connections, I created Travels of Adam, which at the beginning was just a Twitter account. From there, it was a matter of using social media to connect with other people, share my stories, and meet people when I could. My fun and friendly connections online eventually extended throughout my brand and into real life.
Why did you decide to focus on the Travels of Adam idea and brand?
AG For me, travel is fun and should be social. I try to showcase the best places and the tools to make a trip worth taking. That’s why I started publishing my series of Hipster City Guides. I know many people don’t like “hipsters,” and few people would identify as “hipster,” but in my travels and experiences, I found that by pinpointing the cool and hipster hotspots, that’s where you get the good stories to take back home. I’m always trying to discover offbeat neighborhoods, quirky things to do, and whatever other fun and social places I can find.
I also focus on LGBT tourism on Travels of Adam because I feel it’s a segment of the tourism industry that doesn’t always get a lot of attention. Many guidebooks gloss over LGBT spaces, bars and history, but for travelers like myself, it’s important and useful. Today, modern gay travelers don’t need a print guidebook to find underground, gay-friendly places. We don’t have to walk around with colored bandanas to send secret signals when cruising. Instead, we’re looking for more varied experiences from our “gaycations,” and that’s why I try to highlight the gay travel resources to make travel a bit more colorful.
How does a life now compare to before you started the site?
AG Life is busy! Blogging and social media have been a part of my life since I was a teenager. I’m determined to keep my brand as social and outgoing as possible, so as the blog and brand grows, I find myself meeting more people and having more adventures. Even in my adopted home of Berlin, I’ve extended my blog into the real world with a monthly meetup that I co-host with my friend Cheryl Howard. We get a group of hundreds of Berliners together every month to make friends and be social.
Do you have a favorite travel anecdote you’d like to share with Paste readers?
AG I have a thing for deserts. There’s this strange calmness and quietness in the desert, not to mention the weird plants and animals that live in these desolate places. I’ve gone camping and hiking in various deserts across the world, including Wadi Rum in Jordan, the Negev Desert in Israel, Jujuy in Argentina, White Sands in New Mexico, and Sonora in Arizona. The most fantastic and surreal experience was hiking up Mount Sinai in Egypt. I remember waiting at the top of the mountain for sunrise and an incredible view. Even though there were so many other tourists there, I felt a profound connection to the desert and to the world. I’m a city boy through and through, but I live for these escapes to the desert where everything is so calm and quiet.
The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is becoming more popular as well. Does the market seem saturated, and how do you stay connected with your followers?
AG The internet is a funny place because there’s an infinite amount of space. We seem to be in a golden age of content recently, with everyone able to share their own stories. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though, because honestly, who doesn’t have a good story to share?! Everyone’s experience — whether traveling or not — is different from one another, and as we consume so much media, there’s always space for one more story. I keep my social media authentic, light-hearted and social. My blog was born out of a desire to connect with people, so that’s always going to be at the heart of my travel blog.
What’s one tip you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?
AG We shouldn’t be afraid to get out there and try new things. It’s what makes life exciting and interesting, and despite what you might read in the news, the world is largely a friendly place. We’re all looking for connections. With the rise of the internet, the “sharing economy,” and so many other innovations, it’s never been easier to connect with people.
What are you most excited to focus on for the rest of 2017?
AG Earlier this year, I won a travel journalism award for my series of Hipster City Guides, and I’m planning to create more and update several in the series. Amsterdam was recently updated, for example. I also partnered with a local guidebook publisher, BertaBerlin, and we’ve created a new QueerBerlin map, which features three walking tours through Berlin and nearly 50 other LGBT hotspots such as shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. The response to the QueerBerlin map has been positive, and it’s available at many galleries, shops and bookstores already.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance health and science journalist for regional and national publications. She writes the Escape Artist column for Paste Travel, On the Mind column for Paste Science and Stress Test column for Paste Health.