We have published digital nomad interviews before. For example, this one, with Nikki Scott, where she shared her experience starting a magazine in Southeast Asia. And today I want to share with you a different story, a story of a digital nomad Adrian Sameli, who is working for social enterprises. He works, he travels a lot and he manages to find time for some cool adventures in between, too.
Meet Adrian Sameli!
Please, Tell Us a Little Bit About Yourself!
My name is Adrian Sameli. I grew up in Basel, Switzerland, at the border to Germany and France. Despite the amazingly high quality of living, this place became a bit boring for me. As a teenager, I discovered my passion for the internet and its unlimited possibilities.
After college, I turned my hobby into a profession and built online solutions for the local market and Swiss government. After more than a decade in the industry and establishing my own web-development team, I was looking for something else. I felt the urge to leave Switzerland and explore the world.
And that’s what I’m doing for 3 years now.
How Did You Start Traveling? Why?
Everything started at the age of 21, when I embarked on my first solo trip to China. Without further consideration, I used my first salary to book a return flight and the first night’s accommodation in Beijing.
From the very first moment, when I met a friendly taxi driver at the airport, I was thrilled.
I took a deep plunge into the Chinese culture and for two weeks only interacted with locals. Because I was travelling alone, I have met a lot of locals who wanted to practice their English and also wanted to help me showing their country. It was a revelation to discover a remote culture through my own experience, unfiltered by any media!
Please, Tell Us More About Your Gap Year!
Ah well, it has become my new lifestyle and it’s far away from being organized. Over the years, a lot of curiosity and desire to explore the world has built up inside of me.
I started with a half-year long road trip across Scandinavia and all of Eastern Europe. The longer I drove, the more I wanted to see and explore. In the end, I drove much further than I have ever dreamt of – a total of 25,000 kilometres through 30 countries!
On this trip, I started to build my sabbatical travel blog and also organized my first pro bono project.
No gap year is complete without dedicating some quality time to a good cause, helping others in need.
I was very lucky to find a project, where I could use my technology background, learn something new and also have an impact with the poorest people in the world. Working half a year pro bono for Angaza Design and bringing solar light to rural Africa was very rewarding. This mission concluded a very successful year abroad.
How and When Did You Realize Thant One Year Will Not Be Enough?
Honestly, I’ve never had any specific timeframe nor goal in mind. That was also the reason why I decided to quit my job instead of just taking a few months off.
The longer I was on the road, the less I wanted to go back to an ordinary office job. After my social project, I wanted to go on another epic road trip (across half of Africa by the way). Then, I felt the urge to do another social project. Yes, this is getting a vicious cycle here… or it has become a new lifestyle!
How Do You Find the Next Social Project You Are Going to Work for?
Networking is my number one method to find new opportunities. Whatever I am doing, I always establish an authentic and meaningful conversation with the people. Over the years, I have learned to talk openly to ever person and quickly identify
opportunities. I have developed a gut feeling for honest people and sincere intentions.
Since I have left my home, my main drive is to discover less driven roads and have an impact wherever I go.
When working with social enterprises, I want to utilize my skills and enable the local team to improve their performance. I do not consider myself a Samaritan nor do I believe I can do things better than them. Thus, I only accept suiting positions in an organisation that shares my values.
How Does Your Plans Look for the Next 2-3 Years?
I seriously cannot answer this question.
My world consists of a series of parallel opportunity strings. If you keep your eyes open, there are endless opportunities to acquire more knowledge, explore new paths and having an impact through work. My digital notebook is full of ideas and whenever I talk to people, new plans come up.
Since 3 years, I’m continuously challenging myself and ask: what to do next?
Whatever topic is most prominent in my mind, is slowly turning into reality. As for this year, my main goal is to reach 100 countries. I will certainly reach this mark after my next road trip across Central Asia, driving from Kazakhstan to Iran and then Turkey.
After that, I consider dedicating my time to another impact driven startup. But I have not decided which one yet.
How Do You Financially Support This Lifestyle?
First and foremost, I have radically reduced my expenses. I’m not living on a shoestring but my only notable expense is my global mobility. Using online booking and comparison platforms, I can save a lot of money for accommodation and flights.
Most of my pro bono missions are covering my daily expenditures. In addition to that, I am offering remote technology consulting for selected customers. I get by with a bare minimum and I am very happy with that.
What Does Mindful Traveling Mean to You?
Since my first trip to China, I have always considered myself a mindful traveller.
Instead of booking all-inclusive packages and spending much time at touristic sights, I am spending more time with locals. Whenever I am talking to a cab driver, or for that matter to any locals, I treat them as a human being, not as a second-class citizen.
Thanks to online platforms like Airbnb and CouchSurfing, I can meet and stay with locals instead of hotels or overcrowded hostels.
Within the first 3 months in India, I have not spoken to a single foreigner (other than project related).
Travelling means to dive into a foreign culture, experiencing local traditions and understanding their world.
Where Are You Heading to Next?
My next mission brings me to a startup bootcamp in Pyongyang, North Korea!
Together with www.ChosonExchange.org, I will spend one week in the country and introduce 60 Korean entrepreneurs to the Design Thinking Methodology. I am very excited about this unique opportunity and hope to have an impact in their live and business.
While the majority of the world is getting emotional about politics, we all tend to forget the suffering of the people. The county’s isolation has left the ordinary people behind with little opportunities. And despite the communistic government, the
domestic market is slowly evolving, allowing witty entrepreneurs to start a venture.
Seriously, can I do anything better than being a part of that movement? If you can answer this rhetoric question with yes, please get in touch with me!
Photos used in this article have been provided by Adrian.
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.