Who are you?
I’m a 30-year-old engineer turned MBA turned corporate tool turned Happy Nomad. I left home in 2004 to work in the Persian Gulf and haven’t settled down or unpacked a suitcase since.
Where are you from?
I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, USA, home of Rock and Roll and one of the most infamous rivers in the world (the Cuyahoga River caught on fire several times due to pollution). Though Cleveland will always be home, and my connection to Cleveland lives on via my family and Crazy Hair Fundraiser, I don’t think I’d ever live there.
Where have you been?
I’ve been to 66 countries across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. You can see a map and the full list here.
Where are you now?
Right now I’m in Kannur, Kerala, India visiting a friend I used to work with in Qatar. Tonight I’m catching a bus to Bangalore.
What are the top 3 places you’ve visited?
Peru is a magical place. There is something in the air there, something in the water. I would say this even without Machu Pichu, but Machu Pichu and the Incan ruins are just the cherry on top of an already incredible place.
India has to be listed. India is where you come face to face with who you really are, who you want to be, and peer into your soul. It’s a challenging location when you don’t travel luxuriously and I don’t think I’ve learned more about myself for humanity in any other place.
Myanmar as well. The people were so kind. No vendor, tuk tuk driver, or restaurateur ever once tried to take advantage of the fact that I’m a foreigner. Not once. They know karma is always watching and they act like it. Myanmar is full of fascinating culture, historical ruins, and wonderful people. Though expensive compared to its neighbors, the treasure within more than makes up for it.
What is the best travel experience you’ve had?
This whole trip has been the “best experience.” I know that’s a cop-out, but it’s true.
Before this trip I kind of felt like kids were like aliens. I didn’t understand them at all. So I volunteered as much as possible with them. I was at orphanages in Costa Rica and Ecuador, a Mother Teresa home for sick and malnourished children in The Philippines, an organization in Vietnam to fill kids with HIV/AIDS with dignity and love, and I taught English in Peru and Laos. Each of these experiences helped me see kids for what they are – often just like me. So curious, so willing to explore, so fascinated by everything, so innocent. Conclusion: Either I’m an alien too, or kids are human.
What is the worst travel experience you’ve had?
Since my life the past two years or so has been one of perpetual travel, I’ll give the worst experience while in transit. I was taking an overnight train from Amritsar to Jaipur in India. My stomach didn’t feel great but I thought it was just mild motion sickness from the movement of the train. At about 12:30am I woke up and had to run to the bathroom to purge from both ends. This continued several more times throughout the night.
I was so weak and so tired, maybe the most I’ve ever been. I often didn’t know if I had the strength to return to my bunk in the train, or if I’d pass out and make a mess of myself.
Still, despite my despair I felt lucky. I could have been on a bus. The buses in India never have onboard bathrooms. I could have been sicker. There were a million things that could have been worse. It’s all about attitude!
What is the funniest travel experience you’ve had?
In Medellin, Colombia I went to the botanical garden and had some guanabana juice. They claimed it was made with lactose free milk. I’m lactose intolerant. Either it wasn’t, or it was old, but either way I had some intestinal issues.
I found a bathroom and did my business. I then walked around town all day, no doubt being seen my thousands of people. I took the metro and then a bus to get home. On the bus a lady tapped me on the shoulder and whispered something to me. My Spanish was ok at this point, but due to the volume I only heard the Spanish word for toilet paper. I didn’t understand. She told me again. Still didn’t understand. Finally she said it a third time as she got up to leave. I had toilet paper in my backpack since it was rarely offered in public bathrooms in Latin America. I ripped some off for her and handed it to her as she was leaving the bus. She looked horrified. When I got “home” I went to the bathroom and figured out what was going on. I had a toilet paper tail all day, some toilet paper hanging out the back of my pants for all to see. Finally, this nice lady was the first to tell me and she thought I was handing potentially used (it wasn’t) toilet paper to her. I tend to mummify public toilet seats and no doubt some of the mummification paper got sucked up into my pants as I stood up. Lesson learned.
What is the scariest travel experience you’ve had?
I’ve been robbed a few times on this trip. The scariest was in Manizales, Colombia. I was walking down the street and three seemingly alone pedestrians were walking slowly ahead. I passed two of them and all of a sudden one from behind put me in a headlock and one in front grabbed my jacket and shook me back and forth calling me lots of bad names in Spanish. The third searched for my wallet in my back pocket, but I never carried a wallet in Latin America for exactly this reason (and I’ve never carried a wallet in my back pocket). All the third guy got was a feel of my butt. Since this was the busiest road in town, it was a hit and run attack and they got away with nothing. I got a taste of why everyone in Latin America is paranoid about safety and strangers.
What 3 tips would you give a new traveller before they set off on their adventure?
First, know thyself. We all have limitations and strengths. Limitations may be financial, physical, health, personal, mental, etc. Keep this in mind as you plan your travels and experiences. Likewise, our strengths, interests, and passions guide our travels. At least they should.
Second, know why you are traveling. It can be boring, lonely, and even depressing while traveling (especially when exposed to things you don’t see at home, like rampant poverty for example). When you have a purpose in mind for traveling, be it understanding humanity, seeing the great civilizations of yesteryear, meeting interesting people, photography, and so on you are much more likely to stay motivated and enjoy your trip. If you are looking to find yourself while traveling, that is fine. But be intentional about it. If escaping a burning theater, you may get lucky and find the exit. If you knew where the exit was beforehand, your chance of successfully escaping is much higher.
Watch the movie Yes Man and emulate. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and see each experience as an opportunity to grow. Walk a mile in as many different shoes as possible. You’ll be better for it in the end.
What are your future travel plans?
I’ll be in India until mid-April. I’ll then head to Madrid to give a speech at a business school to inspire students to use their time at school to make their dreams come true. I then plan to take a break and settle in Cyprus for a little while. I want to start a small business (being a happy nomad isn’t free), start writing a book, write some articles, and give my intestines a badly needed break. Thereafter I plan to head to Turkey and The Middle East and continue The Happy Nomad Tour.
Adam Pervez is an engineer/MBA who left his cushy corporate life behind to take the plunge into happiness. For him, that means pursuing his passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, teaching, learning, and telling stories. He’s been on the road for 19 months and has experienced more happiness, generosity, and love than he ever thought possible. He plans to spend the rest of his life giving back to the society, repaying the debt incurred for being so enriched in his travels.
Thanks to Adam Pervez for taking the time to do this World Traveller Interview. If you want to be interviewed in this series called world travellers, just get in touch with me, using the form below: