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
Nathaniel Boyle runs Holocene, a community that explores travel through transformative personal narratives, primarily through a podcast called “The Travelers.” In 2016, Holocene is creating courses, products and events to help travelers explore the world and become entrepreneurs.
The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?
Nathaniel Boyle I can recall the feeling of sitting at my last and final cubicle. I’d just given my two weeks notice to freelance and build more travel into my lifestyle. At the same time, the designer seated next to me had just started in his role at the company after spending a few years freelancing. I was nervous about the uncertainty that lay ahead, so I asked him why he returned to the 9-to-5. “I’ve got a ring to buy and a wedding to pay for in the next year, so the stability is really nice,” he said. “But I miss the adventure.”
Right then I knew that I’d made the right decision. People crave the experience of being more alive, and you don’t find that in the predictable routine of the 9-to-5. As a society, we crave expansive experiences that heighten awareness and create memories and stories that we can share to make an impact. With the ever-increasing accessibility of information and community, there’s a rising prevalence in choosing adventure over security. We’re empowered by technology. It just takes human courage.
Why did you decide to focus on “The Travelers” as a brand and a podcast?
NB For years, people kept telling me to start a travel blog, but there are so many blogs out there and more starting each day. Rather than follow the crowd, I wanted to do something that nobody had ever done before. Podcasts were on the rise and yet, at the time, I could count the number of active travel podcasts on one hand. Thanks to the rising popularity of podcasts and a starved market, I had a thousand listeners on Day One.
Originally, I thought it would be a show about how-to and travel deals. But almost immediately, and by accident, I interviewed a couple about how a single trip to Thailand repaired their marriage. When they returned home, they knew their relationship relied on their continued travels, so they built travel into their lifestyle. This immediately resonated with me, and
I decided to focus entirely on “transformative travel.”
What inspired you to start and be part of Holocene?
NB It’s not easy to find purpose in work and meaning in life. Sometimes we get stuck. The best way to overcome this existential struggle is to immerse yourself in something that inspires you so much that it pulls you into the present moment and empowers you to believe that you can make a difference. The best way to evoke that sensation is to travel. I learned all of this after 200 interviews. I wanted to share what I’d learned, so Holocene was born.
Podcasting can be lonely. There’s no way for someone to comment on a podcast, so engagement with your audience is difficult. I decided that I would flip the paradigm and seek out the people craving inspiration and clarity in their life and offer a safe space for people to gather around that shared desire.
The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is becoming more popular. Does the market seem saturated, and how do you stay connected with your followers?
NB The “travel blogging” market is saturated for what it is, but fortunately it’s constantly evolving. For all we know, and the way technology is influencing media consumption habits, five years from now the blog could be obsolete. But you can use this your advantage. Right now, everyone’s trying to catch the Snapchat wave. If you want to do the same, stop treading water and start looking for waves.
For example, my success to date comes from not travel blogging but choosing to podcast instead. This led to an invitation to the White House, speaking opportunities around the world, and the decision to create a members-only community through which I stay connected with my followers on a more profound and impacting level. Holocene’s members can sit down with me each week if they want. This allows us to establish a much deeper and powerful connection beyond Facebook. I know the personal stories of every one of my members, and I’m present to help them find what they’re seeking.
What’s one tip you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?
NB Choose curiosity and be creative. Too often we look for models of happiness to copy, but you need to live your own adventure. Stop looking for the right answer and instead go find the right questions. These questions lead to more questions and manifest themselves into a life of curiosity and lifelong learning. The more you connect yourself to the world, the more you become fascinated by it and the more you have to share this love with others.
What are you most excited to focus on in 2016?
NB This November, I’m taking people on a transformative travel experience to Patagonia. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done on this experience, and I think it will change lives. I’m also excited to focus on growing Holocene into the foremost authority for transformative travel. To do this, I’ll be unrolling a series of courses and experiences to help people transform their approach to life through travel, connection and creativity.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health and business for regional and national publications.