Escape Artist Q&A: Justin Carmack of True Nomads Blog

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Escape Artist Q&A: Justin Carmack of <i>True Nomads</i> Blog

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.


Traveler and writer Justin Carmack runs True Nomads, a scuba diving travel blog that documents the top 100 best dive sites in the world. Carmack began traveling non-stop after a study abroad trip to South Africa in 2012 and has now visited more than 80 countries. He uploads weekly videos on Tuesdays from new destinations around the world.


Paste Travel The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?

Justin Carmack I think people are starting to see the 9-to-5 lifestyle is not optimal if the goal is happiness. When they realize they hate the routine, they decide to take a shot at what they really want to do and find tons of information online. It’s very possible, and you can make a living on the road, even building your own career.

PT What was the “aha” moment that sparked lifelong travel for you?

JC When I took the trip to South Africa in 2012, I met a guy from Israel who left his country and wandered overland to Johannesburg with almost no money. I was astonished and a light bulb went off. If this guy could traverse the world’s most dangerous continent with no experience, no money and nothing but courage, I knew I could. Right away I told my professor that I didn’t want to go home, he agreed, and I never went home.


PT How does a life of travel compare to your previous life in Colorado?

JC It’s ten thousand times better. When I lived in the small town of Grand Junction, making good money, driving nice cars and knowing all the cool people, I knew I had nothing. I had a huge longing when a travel show came on or I heard about someone traveling somewhere adventurous. Now that I have the ultimate freedom lifestyle, I don’t feel envy or materialistic desires. I am actually happy, and there’s no giving that up.

PT Why did you decide to pursue the goal of conquering the top 100 dive sites?

JC I found out that my other passion was scuba diving early in my travels. I dove whenever I could, took courses, started learning underwater photography, and generally immersed myself into diving. I became a dive master and accumulated around 500 dives, then started blogging about diving and the ocean. I started growing a bigger audience in a new niche. My dream was to get paid to dive around the world, start a dive magazine and create my own scuba diving tour company. To do that, I needed to experience the best dives around the world, which has turned into a business as well. Tourism boards and PR companies have contacted me, and I’ve flown to Kenya, Florida, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines for these sites. Scuba diving is a part of the economy for many countries, so it is a natural partnership.


PT What advice do you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?

JC Find a way. The internet is full of resources that tell you how to be a travel blogger or do most jobs remotely online. Save a little money. Start a travel blog. Start traveling. Find opportunities where you can make money online from anywhere in the world, such as freelance writing, teaching English or being a virtual assistant. You don’t need a serious plan — just go. Some people think and plan so long that they psych themselves out and never go for it. If you want to be a blogger, work on growing your reach as you travel and doing whatever you need to do to keep on the road. Eventually, if you stick to it, you’ll make a career out of it.

PT What are you most excited about in 2016?

JC My new dive magazine. I launched and am putting all my effort into that. I’m traveling to major dive shows and partnering with tourism boards and major brands. Istanbul, London, Madrid, Miami and Playa Del Carmen are all on my travel list. Hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll be going for a Guinness World Record in the scuba category as well.

Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health and business for regional and national publications.