How to Escape the Cubicle & Travel the World with Greg Rodgers

lifestyle travel Jul 15, 2021
 

Traveling around the world isn't just for the rich, famous, and young. Greg Rodgers, a pioneering travel blogger and adventurer, shares his tips for prioritizing your globetrotting dreams today.

Some of this weeks episode highlights are:
4:19 We're used to vacation style travel which is expensive. When you return, your inbox is full and you're punished for taking vacation.
23:00 I'm used to working where and when I like. I'm willing to structure my life so that I can enjoy a location independent way of working.
32:15 Get over your fear. There is a mis-conception that extensive world travel is only accessible to the rich or the retired.

--- Full Raw Transcription of Podcast Below ---

Greg Rogers (00:00):
Usually the good things are on the other side of discomfort. And we have this natural biological tendency to lean away from discomfort. But if you can push through, that's usually where the reward is.

Introduction (00:15):
Welcome to the SideHustle Lounge. If you're looking for flexible ways to earn income, grow your mindset, and live the lifestyle you've always dreamed of, you are in the right place. So lower the lights. Grab your favorite beverage and join your host. Founder of NotaryCoach.com and Amazon bestselling author of Sign and Thrive: How To Make Six Figures As A Mobile Notary And Loan Signing Agent, Bill Soroka.

Bill Soroka (00:50):
Cheers and welcome to my next guest, Greg Rogers. Greg is a travel writer and adventurer. Greg, Welcome. I'm so glad to have you on the show.

Greg Rogers (01:02):
Thank you. I'm really happy to be on your show.

Bill Soroka (01:05):
Well, this is truly an honor to have you on the show, Greg. For those who maybe don't know Greg, Greg ranks in the top three writers that have completely changed my life, changed my way of thinking, which I'm so grateful for. You know, in the early two thousands, I was big into a lifestyle design and Vagabonding thanks to Tim Ferris and Greg Rogers. Greg, your blog, and in particular, your article ""Escape the Cubicle"" changed my life. And it allowed me to believe that there was something more to life than just working for other people in a cubicle, in a call center. So thank you so much for writing that and continuing to live your lifestyle.

Greg Rogers (01:57):
Yeah. Brilliant. Yeah, Bill. First I've got to say you've got the smoothest intro to any podcast I've ever listened to. I feel like I got invited to a jazz party at the Playboy mansion or something. I love it.

Bill Soroka (02:11):
That's exactly the vibe I was going for.

Greg Rogers (02:12):
It's, it's brilliant. I love it. Yeah. So the blog yeah, I'm amazed every day, really at how much it changed my life, you know, it's helped me meet extraordinary people like yourself and it's really opened up a lot of opportunities I didn't expect. And you know, I left my job at IBM in 2006, I was an engineer. And the last thing I expected to end up was a writer, especially a travel writer and the blog it was an accident itself, you know, I plan to just use Yahoo email and send these group emails out where I would attach photos of my trips and they were so big, they were getting rejected. So I went out and found a free travel blog on boots and all dot shout out to the Portland guys. Rolf Potts was affiliated with those guys and friends and one thing led to another and you know, here we are.

Bill Soroka (03:09):
Yeah. Well, and back then, I mean the early two thousands, I mean, you were a trailblazer, this idea of Vagabonding blogging your way around the world. That that was just, that was kind of cutting edge stuff. Yeah. And I think Tim Ferriss, Rolf Potts, or maybe it was under the radar and because of the internet, we heard about it more.

Greg Rogers (03:29):
Yeah, yeah. Precisely. Rolf Potts book ""Vagabonding"", like so many other people, you know, that really inspired me and put me on the path and you know, you hit on something. That's why I've been working on this https://www.scienceofescape.com/. This new site, and course is... Back in 2005 when I was wanting to start doing this, you know, I didn't really have a lot of role models or mentors. There was nobody in my circle or family who had left a job and gone to travel the world or started Vagabonding. And so aside from, you know, some forums and Rolf Potts book, I didn't have a lot of people I could ask you know, real-world advice and I wanted to make it easier for other people to do what I did back then.

Bill Soroka (04:19):
So let's talk about that for a minute. What is... Number one - what is Vagabonding - what's that?

Greg Rogers (04:26):
Yeah, well, it doesn't necessarily mean having to you know, give up all your material belongings and start, you know, sleeping on trains or whatever. That's a misconception, but that's an option, but you don't have to. So Rolf Potts, I believe had the best definition then his book he said, it's just a deliberate way of living. You're reprioritizing your life. So that extended long-term travel becomes possible. So, you know, we're used to vacation style travel, which is expensive, and that's a lot of trouble. You know, when you come back from a one week or God help you a two week trip, you've got a full inbox, your projects are, you know, all over the place and you kind of get punished for taking this vacation. And you know, statistics show so many vacation days go unused in the United States every year. And that's because people know when they step away for too long, they're going to get punished for it. And so vagabond and you structure your life in a way that you can go for three months, six months, you know, a year or as long as you like.

Bill Soroka (05:37):
And does it have to be ""glamorous"" travel Greg, or does vagabonding count anywhere you go?

Greg Rogers (05:46):
Yeah, I, I believe you can be Vagabonding and at home you know, when you return home from a long trip and are working and saving money again or whatnot, in my opinion, you're still vagabond and you're still thinking and planning and structuring things for that next trip. You know, your life is oriented around experience in the world, meeting people. You know, I always like to use the example you know, I hate to start attacking smartphones here, but every year a new smartphone comes out and it's more expensive than last year's model. Right. And if your current phone still works well, feel great to this new model. I mean, that's what I pay to spend a month or two scuba diving and living in Asia. Right. So do I really need that new phone or can I go to Asia for two months? Right. So it's really just a way to realign your decisions.

Bill Soroka (06:46):
Do you think that because of maybe the shift in the work, the way the U S or the world is working now since the pandemic, do you think there could be a rise in the vagabond lifestyle and the possibilities?

Greg Rogers (07:05):
Yeah, 100%. You know, we see now even traditional companies are way more comfortable with a work from home model than they used to be, obviously. And, you know 16 years ago when I was working at IBM, I was a network guy and network security guy, you know, I had the capability to work from home back then, you know, we have VPNs 20 years ago and, but it wasn't really a part of the culture, so still kind of frowned upon. Right. And that has lingered even now 20 years later. It still seems like some some companies have a traditional model where they, they don't like the idea of their employees, you know, working in flip-flops or whatever. So, yeah, exactly. But I really think that's going to be a boom here soon, you know so called digital nomad movements. It was already booming before last year. So I think we're going to see that much more now that people are comfortable with the tools who work online.

Bill Soroka (08:04):
I want to talk a little bit more about that too, but first I want to, I'd like to introduce our audience to your story and how you made it happen 16 years ago, you said?

Greg Rogers (08:16):
Well, I made the decision in 2005 and then I left my job January 1st, 2006 and two weeks later, I was on a one-way flight to Thailand of all places. And so I started I started in corporate America at a young age. I was 19. And I was an electronics technician for a company called Lexmark here in town. And you know, all my other friends were out partying and being normal 19 year olds. And I spent three years already working for the corporate world. Right. I turned 21 and then I went to the army to get a little bit of adventure and I came back and I started IBM in 1998 and bought a house and kind of got on track for the standard issue, American dream lifestyle, you know? And unlike your recent guests was Jen Enck.

Bill Soroka (09:13):
Jen Enck

Greg Rogers (09:16):
Yeah. Unlike her, you know, it sounded like she enjoyed her job. I did not. I did like the technical aspects. I did not like the corporate culture and the politics around it. And so I believe it was in October, 2005. Actually I'm not sure of the month, but at one point, you know, I'd been working 60 or 70 hours a week and you know, anytime on one of the networks I built and the world went down, I was on the phone. Didn't matter if it was weekends four in the morning holidays. And meanwhile, I then was doing a lot of outsourcing and, you know, my workload was increasing. And at one point I needed some business cards too, because I was going out and meeting with engineers. Right. And IBM asked me to buy my own business cards.

Greg Rogers (10:13):
So here this multi-billion dollar company and you know, at the time executives were getting seven figure bonuses and that sort of thing. And there was this kind of like an epiphany there. And I thought, man, I'm on the hook for my own business cards. Right. And here I am working, you know, extra, extra grand card. And so I think that was the Kim, the straw that broke the camel's back. Right. And I went and spoke with my manager and I asked for three months on paid leave. And you know, I was turned down because we were so busy. So I went back to my desk and typed up a letter of resignation. Wow.

Bill Soroka (10:53):
Just jumped right on it.

Greg Rogers (10:56):
Yeah. Yeah. I realized there was, I kind of had an epiphany. There was like a Eureka moment where I really got honest with myself and I realized a couple of things. One was that a lot of the senior people that I worked with worked much happier and they had a lot more money. But they were still as stressed out as how I was. So in my mind, climbing the ladder and earning more money in this environment didn't necessarily equate the more happiness. Right. Right. And the second thing I realized was that most of the things I really wanted to do, didn't take that much money in the first place. You know, at the time I was into hiking, I'm a rock climber. I was studying Chinese Kung Fu I like to study languages, read like the grow plants. None of those things cost very much. You know, all they really cost is time. And I didn't have much time left because I was selling it all for money. Right. And so in theory, I should have had a lot of money, but where was the money going? It turns out I was spending the money to buy things that were supposed to boost my time and happiness, so full circle. And there's diminishing returns there. Right, right,

Bill Soroka (12:16):
Right. Well, the vicious cycle. So how do you, how did you overcome the F the fear of number one? I'm sure you're surrounded by people who thought this was just ridiculous. So foolish to, to leave the corporate job that everybody would want. So how do you overcome that social pressure? The fear of what might be coming next, right.

Greg Rogers (12:40):
Yeah. That's something I, I talk about a lot in my course is how much power the environment has over us. You know they always say to surround yourself with people who are more successful and it raises your internal thermostat and your environment has a pull on you at all times. So, you know, if you're surrounded by negative people, it's going to be harder to be happier. Or if you're surrounded by a real consumers, culture is going to be difficult to live minimalist. Right. So I started changing my environment. I started really paying attention to the media. I consume the books I read you know, I also a fan of Timothy Ferriss and kinda delved into the culture. And that showed me that, you know, I wasn't alone. I wasn't the first one to do something like this. It's easy to feel like you're a pioneer when you're actually not, you know? Right. Yeah. Even before Ralph pots are Vagabonding, you know, the pippy trail was a thing. And before the hippie trail was a thing Kerouac and the Beats were a thing in the fifties. Right. And before the Beats were a thing, Marco polo was doing his thing. Right. So you can keep going back. You're not the first, even though it feels like it, but you're just pushing into, into the unknown for, for yourself.

Bill Soroka (14:07):
Hmm. And there is something really powerful about realizing that there's other people that have gone through this with you kind of blazed a trail, shine the light back for you. Yeah.

Greg Rogers (14:17):
If anyone's ever done any cliff diving or cliff jumping, you know, that it is so much easier to be the second person, when you're the first person, you don't know if there's going to be a sea turtle, that's swimming by, or, you know, if it's deep enough or whatnot, but if someone's gone before you, then you're so much more comfortable doing something

Bill Soroka (14:38):
Well, and I think it shows you that possibilities. It reminds me of that story about Roger Bannister, right. The guy, the first guy to run a mile under four minutes. Yeah. Absolutely. Like all through recorded history nobody had ever done before, and then he does it. And then all, I think he held the record for like 26 or 28 days or something then suddenly everybody could do it.

Greg Rogers (14:59):
Yeah, exactly. And the beautiful thing is you know, there are always skeptics because he only beat it by you know, a fraction of a second or whatever. And people were saying, oh, that was the time where it was the judge or whatever. But then, you know, suddenly this torrent of people started doing it and that shut the skeptics up pretty quickly. Right. So they just needed someone to show that it was a biologically possible. And that's a beautiful thing.

Bill Soroka (15:25):
Yeah. Powerful on the practical level, Greg when you made that decision and you, you changed your network and you started filling space with possibilities, but there's still this practical money matter. How did you structure that? Did you have some savings? Did you just have faith? Did you leave IBM and immediately know how you were going to generate income? How does that, how did that look? Yeah,

Greg Rogers (15:57):
A little, a little bit of both. You know, I did stop buying things as soon as I realized that I was going to be doing something like this. And you know, it's amazing how much money comes out of your accounts in ways that you don't even realize, you know, like subscriptions and memberships and all these little things that add up, you know, and I turned that drip off and just started saving money. And even still, when I started Vagabonding, my savings were nowhere where they should have been. So, you know, I did do it cheap, you know, I stayed in hostels and couch surfed. And you know, at the time a bungalow in Thailand was $10 a night, you know? So you know, mind you this was 2006 and still you know, that type of travel is still way less expensive than people realize, you know, we've kind of calibrated our, our thoughts on money, on travel based on vacations and domestic travel. But the reality is it's, it takes way less money than you think.

Bill Soroka (17:11):
Let's talk about that. Is that why you is that part of the reason that leaves that you chose Thailand as your, your first destination?

Greg Rogers (17:20):
No, actually that's an embarrassing story. Yeah. So I had actually initially chosen the start in south America. So I had this massive south America, lonely planet guide book, you know, and this thing was as big as an old telephone book, and I would highlight it and under underscore things I wanted to do. And that was kind of my, my little escapist activity. I come home from a tough day at work or whatever at IBM. And I would this book and start daydreaming about Machu Picchu, and I was studying Spanish. And just one random night went out to my local Irish pub here. And I was friends with one of the bar backs and the guy was tanned and that's winter. And I was like, Hey man, you've been to the tanning bed. And he said, no, I've just come back from Thailand. I just spent 30 days in Taiwan. And I was like, whoa, really, you know, tell me more. And so he painted a picture for me and I got home that night and just on a whim checked flights and they were way less expensive than flights to south America. And at two in the morning I booked a flight and I woke up the next day and thought, oh my God, what have I done?

Bill Soroka (18:43):
Two o'clock in the morning, while you're at an Irish pub, but right after, so there's probably some whiskey or beer involved in the decision.

Greg Rogers (18:48):
Yeah. You don't expect to find yourself standing at a life crossroads at two in the morning, you know, looking at the final buy button or a final bias screen on our flight booking, but that's what happened then you know, the next day I thought, oh, no, what have I done?

Bill Soroka (19:05):
So how long did it, how long before you left? Well,

Greg Rogers (19:09):
I gave a three month notice and you know, just started I, you know, I'd already sold my house and started organizing my life selling things and telling goodbyes and just, I, you know, I was so naive and inexperienced, I spent way too way more than I should have on travel gear that never got used. Right. You know, just kind of in a frenzy, you know, getting ready to face the unknown, then you can picture like this guy with implements hanging over his belt, you know, remember I used to be an army guy. Right. And I was a geeky engineer. So I had over-thought things for every single possible thing that could go wrong, you know? So I have way too many gadgets and that sort of thing.

Bill Soroka (19:59):
It's so funny because I remember in a few books that I read, they always talked about that. So, and then me, even before I'd even booked a trip anywhere, and I haven't traveled really abroad very much at all, but I did the same thing. I still do it. I've got this, I call it my adventure box full of crap that I will never have to use unless there's some sort of apocalyptic situation.

Greg Rogers (20:25):
Yeah. But if the zombies are kicking down your door, you're definitely ready, right?

Bill Soroka (20:28):
I'm the guy you want on your team. Right.

Greg Rogers (20:30):
Exactly. Yeah. I've got eight ways to treat water and, you know, as if they don't sell bottled water in Thailand, right.

Bill Soroka (20:39):
You just never know you brought up an interesting point though. You said, you said that you kind of started saying goodbye to friends and family. How did, how did your family handle this decision? Well,

Greg Rogers (20:52):
That's, that's a really good question. They were very loving and wanted to be supportive, but also didn't really understand, you know, just coming from a different generation, a different era and then not helping things you know, the economy was on its way down. And so here I am leaving, you know, what people call it, quote unquote, a good job you know, right before the economy tanked. And it turned out to be the best decision I've made in my life. But at the time, you know, I live in Lexington, Kentucky. There's not a real travel culture here. So most people value, stability and that sort of thing. Right. So I was kind of swimming upstream. I was balking the trend at the time

Bill Soroka (21:43):
And still they came together and supported. Yeah. Yeah.

Greg Rogers (21:48):
You know, going forward year after year, I would come back for Christmas or to visit and they would ask me, well, are you done or is it out of your system? But you know, after 15 years, I think now they realize that this is kind of this is my thing. And that's what I do. And I love it

Bill Soroka (22:07):
Was the w job at IBM. Was that your last W2 job? Yeah, it was. Yep. So you've had 15, 16 years now of some form of self-employment to support your travel habit. Yeah.

Greg Rogers (22:25):
You know, a bulk of that was writing and photography. So writing first you know, the blog how we met it opened up some other opportunities for me, that's kind of a neat thing. You never know who's reading when you put something out there and that led to some work and bought myself an SLR and started learning photography and kind of did both. And yeah, it was enough to support my travel. I'm also the the Asia expert for trip savvy. I've done that for 10 years now, so, right.

Bill Soroka (23:00):
So without deviating from your passion, in fact, just feeding into it, you've been able to generate an income that supports it. Would you consider yourself unemployable at this point?

Greg Rogers (23:12):
Sadly. So you know, I still love the technical and the hacking world, but, you know, obviously that moves so quickly. You have to stay current or you're going to be useless. And I was busy traveling and also I don't think that I could thrive in that sort of environment anymore, you know, and I'm used to working when and where I like, and I'm willing to structure my life and you know, pay accordingly so that I can still enjoy this location, independent way of working.

Bill Soroka (23:52):
I love that. That's my ultimate goal. Is that location independence. And how does the photography play into your life here? How do you what's that business look like? Well,

Greg Rogers (24:05):
Now it's more or less just for fun. You know, now that I've been working on the course, I primarily do writing, but the photography you know, I, I had several trips, got to cover the rainforest world music festival in Borneo and a couple other just amazing opportunities. It's funny if you put a press pass around your neck and you're clutching an SLR, the places that you can get into, you can get unexpected access and some neat perks as you travel.

Bill Soroka (24:37):
Oh, I bet. I bet. What's your favorite story about that?

Greg Rogers (24:44):
Oh, goodness. Put me on the spot and I don't want to get myself in trouble. I would say probably that Borneo music festival, you know, I got to hang out with with the bands between the shows and you know, kind of see things behind the scenes and then way more embarrassing. My very first assignments I covered two months of spring break and Acapulco for American Eagle, the clothing company. Oh yeah. So you can imagine being on spring break for two months. Oh, that one at age 32. Mind you? Yeah.

Bill Soroka (25:22):
So how many continents have you been on Greg and how many countries,

Greg Rogers (25:28):
You know, bill, I honestly sitting here, I couldn't tell you how many countries and that kind of shows how much value I give to that to a country count. I know it's somewhere in the mid thirties. Nice. which is actually not a lot for someone who's been Vagabonding as long as I have you know, I repeat a lot I'm most

Bill Soroka (25:53):
Often. Yeah. Do you just find what you like and go back? Yeah.

Greg Rogers (25:57):
That's what happens often. So rather than incrementing that counter, you know, I ended up in a place like Indonesia. Well, I mean, it's huge, right? And there's thousands of islands literally. And I can feel as if I'm exploring a new country just by going to a different part of Indonesia.

Bill Soroka (26:13):
And that brings up a really good point, Greg, because do you find that, so number one, you get people who break out of the traditional work cycle to become, get to Vagabonding and, but then do they sometimes tend to buy into that philosophy of Vagabonding and then start just checking off boxes again, just in a different environment.

Greg Rogers (26:36):
Yeah. Yeah. Everyone's got a different priority. You know, I see a lot of travel writers and influencers who have been the 50 or 60 or more countries and they spend a month in each and most of that month they were on a laptop. Right. And you know, I just didn't want to do it that way. So you know, I find myself moving very slowly, which works and you know, if I add a new country, that's great. But if I don't then I don't even think about it.

Bill Soroka (27:10):
Hmm. Sounds like heaven. What's do you have a next trip planned right now?

Greg Rogers (27:17):
Well, I would love to travel with you so anytime, anywhere, man.

Bill Soroka (27:21):
All right. Well, you got my wheels turning for sure. I know there's going to be people listening that probably have been dreaming about this lifestyle. Very similar to the way I have. Would you have any next steps for somebody that wanted to start transitioning into this lifestyle?

Greg Rogers (27:41):
Yeah, certainly. Well, for starters, like we touched on change up, change your environment, you know start really paying attention to the people you talk to the media you consume and that sort of thing. And, you know, that has a nice effect of it starts conditioning your brain to feel that what you're about to do as normal. So what you're trying to do is kind of fly under the radar so that you don't trigger stress or a fight or flight response from your brain. And the more that you let it know, what you're about to do is no big deal versus going into the unknown there's the greater chance that you're going to pull it off and have the courage to make the leap.

Bill Soroka (28:28):
Hmm. Great advice. Any other steps?

Greg Rogers (28:33):
Yeah. People can start by I would suggest staying curious which is really the main reason, you know, most of us travel extensively anyway. If you understand the mechanism behind, behind why things work the way they do then you can more easily change things. So it's kind of the hacker ethos. And so stay curious and so start asking yourself, you know, what are my priorities? What would make me most happy? What are my values and what's stopping me. So that's why I wrote this. I have a module on science of escape.com about overcoming your fear. It's free. People can go download it, but it touches on the neurochemistry and why people feel stuck. And their current situations, you know, I didn't do anything special. You know, I'm not rich, I'm not a ninja. You know, I don't have a degree in cubicle escape, you know, there should be one for that, but there's not, unfortunately you know, anyone can do what I did. You just have to make that big leap.

Bill Soroka (29:42):
And then the money component is important too. And I love that you mentioned how quick, how easy it is to unconsciously spend and hear part of the side hustle lounge. We do a stop the burn money challenge where it just takes control of those finances. So you can see those hidden subscriptions, those things that you might be paying monthly, quarterly, even annually that sneak up on you. For me, I was able to save almost embarrassingly Greg about $10,000 a year. After doing this for four days, I found so much slipping there. So that really is, and my goal is to live this lifestyle, like, like you have to, so that guys, if you're interested in that stop the burn money challenge, whether it's officially through side-hustle lands or just doing it on your own take control of that money, Greg, any other final steps, any final thoughts for our audience of beginning vagabond, yours?

Greg Rogers (30:50):
Yeah. Just keep your hope up, you know know that you can do this look into shifting to an internal locus of control. So Google it read about it just start taking responsibility for your own outcomes and you know, the good ones and the bad ones. And when you do that, you, you give yourself power and then you can better control things in the future. You're not just relying on luck or fate or whatever. And then I would also add do what makes you uncomfortable? You know, and that's usually the good things are on the other side of discomfort. And we have this natural biological tendency to lean away from discomfort. But if you can push through, that's usually where the reward is. So just daily, you can start doing little things, you know, if you're awkwardly shy, like I used to be just start talking to strangers, or if you have a fear of Heights, then go to a climbing gym, you know, start doing what makes you what makes you uncomfortable?

Bill Soroka (31:56):
That's such great advice. And as I'm taking notes on our conversation here, I'm looking at the the quote that's here in Michael Hyatt's ""Full Focus"" planner. Today's quote, ""Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear"" by George Addair. How perfect.

Greg Rogers (32:12):
Yeah, I love it. And that just, you know, it really underscores the importance of getting over fear to get to the good things. You know, there's a, a really widespread misconception that extensive world travel is only accessible to the rich or the retired people. Right. And that's just simply not true. And you don't have to be a broke vagabond or a gap year student, either there's lot of middle ground there. So anyone can go out and experience the world,

Bill Soroka (32:46):
Greg - and that's the biggest gift that you've given me. And I hope the rest of this audience as well is when I read your article. And when I have these conversations and I continue to read your blog, you instill hope and possibilities for living this non-traditional location, independent lifestyle. So thank you for that. And thank you for being on the show today.

Greg Rogers (33:10):
Yeah. Thanks. And thank you Bill for doing what you do to inspire people and to spread the good word. I think you also bring a lot of hope to people who want to start their own - their own projects.

Bill Soroka (33:25):
Yeah. It's really, truly my pleasure. I pinch myself every day. I think

Bill Soroka (33:29):
We've made some good decisions, Greg. We really do get to make a difference. Thanks again. And I'll see you next time for sure.

Greg Rogers (33:36):
Thanks Bill.


- Bill

 

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