Category Archives: Vagabond

The Vagabond Life – On The Road

Why I’ve Been So Quiet

To be honest, I’ve been neglecting you.

That’s right – I’ve applied my warcry of I Don’t Care to you.

It’s not that I don’t like you – surely you’re my readers, I appreciate you greatly.

But life has its way of changing things – and it’s changed me these past few months.

To give you a brief rundown of how I’ll use a nice easy to read set of bullet points.

•  Roadtrip Disconnect

I finished a month long roadtrip this summer with an amazing woman.  I learned a great deal about living on the road even though I had been doing it for nearly eight months.  What it’s like to take care of your space, be direct and honest with other people, reach out when you need to, and take care of myself both physically and mentally.

The roadtrip also helped me disconnect from a number of addictions or habits I had cultivated over the years.  An addiction to being connected was broken because I was in a car in the middle of nowhere half the time where my iPhone didn’t even get voice service.  An addiction to coffee was broken when in Chicago I made the decision to cut it out of my life.  Three months later and I don’t need coffee or caffeine, my energy levels are more even (I wake up naturally without an alarm about 9:30am everyday) and I don’t spend as much money feeding that addiction.

I cultivated a practice of doing yoga every morning.  I call it a practice and not a habit because it’s a conscious choice every morning to get up and flow through my sequence – it’s a part of my centering each day.  On top of that I added rigorous body weight intervals to increase strength, endurance, and power (while home I managed to add about 8 lbs. of muscle mass in less than 6 weeks).

•  Family

While there I helped (i.e. smooth talked) them renovate my old bedroom into a library space.  This involved sorting through about two decades of attic and storageroom stuff of theirs and sending it to Goodwill, the dump or repackaging it for sale or storage.  Then tearing out a ceiling and a wall, sanding down a floor, staining the floor and building a wall to wall bookcase with my dad.

Additionally I spent time helping my father after a surgery around the house.  Cutting down trees that had been bent over in an ice storm last winter.  Chopping firewood for the external wood furnace that heats our house.

Spending time helping my family through a bit of a rough patch, involving myself in manual labor and creating something with my hands, helping my family streamline a bit of their life – these things have so much reward for me and they took precedence.

•  Retreat

I went on a weeklong retreat in Hartland, Vermont hosted by Vida Samiha that focused on sustainability in our lives.  It began with a workshop focusing on Design Thinking, Permaculture and the intersection with Social Movements.  Tasked to implement these strategies in relationship to a project we were involved in, it really helped clarify where I wanted to go with my work-career-liberation path.

The rest of the week focused on the retreat space where we could reflect on specific terms like oppression, sustainability, and privilege in our lives.  It allowed me to connect with individuals doing exceptional work in their communities, explore concepts in a new way, and revisit activist (both socially and ecologically) roots that I have let stagnate.

As part of the retreat I got to share the ideas of the lifestyle design community and the vagabonding community with everyone, including a 45 minute talk about my expulsion from Canada, my embracing of a transient life and minimalism (including the 100 item challenge).

•  Coaching

I started exploring the possibility of adding life coaching to my repertoire of skills.  I reached out to a few life coaches I know personally and they explained their entry to the field, how they operate and some valuable lessons they have learned in the process (Jonathan Mead talks a bit about this in the latest conversation we had).

As part of this process, in addition to researching it, reading about the practice and studying the concepts I had my first coaching session with Jenny Blake from Life After College.  It was an amazing experience.  She guided me through some visualizations which guided me to a re-imagining of my path in life.   It also included an wonderful visual image for me about how I will walk through the world and enact change.

The following work I did at the Retreat and at home has led me to the place where I will be retiring Slacker Reform.  Even though I love the name, the work I do here and what it embodies – it lacks a certain mindfulness and calm that I want to embody in my life.

So where does this leave you?

The path I will be walking through the world will involve the retirement of Slacker Reform, however, it will be the birth of the Drop Of Change website and blog.

Drop Of Change’s mission is to create sustainable, curious and mindful living.

I hope you follow me on my path to the Drop Of Change – I will continue to write about personal development, lifestyle design, life hacking and all of the issues I address here but the tone of the site will change from Slacker Reform and I will add issues that are important to me like sustainability, design thinking, spirituality, physical practices and more.

If you are interested in the path I have chosen to walk, please visit my personal vision statement that was the culmination of my time at the Vida Samiha retreat.

If you are interested in contacting me, please e-mail me at carl(at)slackerreform(dot)com.

Today I Am Lost Again

lost Today I Am Lost AgainVagabonding is a life of letting go.

Of things.  Of places.  Of people.

Each day is new, unique, fresh.  Yet the day before is gone, a shadow, a memory of the road you can’t turn around on.  As a wanderer of the globe you are not rooted in one place.  You will meet amazing people, you will love them, then you will leave.  Your life is not there.  It’s out on the road.  One you have chosen, perhaps one that has chosen you.

That road calls.

It is not about falling asleep content at home.  It is collapsing – exhausted – wherever you may be because you have spent all you have in the world.

“When will you understand that being normal isn’t necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

One day another road may call, it may reunite you with a world you once knew but the time is not now.  It is not time to step off your road.  Instead…

Strive to break the world.  When it shatters a new one is revealed.

Embrace the impermance.  Love the temporary.  Live it fully.

Vagabonding is about losing yourself.  Then finding yourself.  Then getting lost all over again.  Without the lows (the letting go) the highs (the experiencing) would never be revealed.  We only know what we had once it’s gone.  And for vagabonds, we are always going.

Vagabonding reveals to us that which a stationary life cannot for we are always in the process of losing something.

Today I am lost again.

Epic Roadtrip 2k9: 17 States, 13 Cities, 27 Days Later

ER2k9 Map Epic Roadtrip 2k9: 17 States, 13 Cities, 27 Days Later

The life of a vagabond is one of shifting cities, hours in transit, waiting, boredom, loneliness, excitement and the unknown.

But that’s not always the case.

The past 27 days have been a fast forward blur of cities as a friend and I road tripped from Massachusetts out to Denver then down to Atlanta.

We have stayed in 13 cities (or metropolitan areas) and passed through 17 states in less than a month.  Generally an advocate of stays lasting at least a week (usually 2 weeks) this rush of scenery was a drastic change from city hopping via planes.

Traveling in a car through the U.S. as an American is an experience that so few of us actually take the time to do.  Had we been in Europe we would have passed through as many countries as we had states with their flags, culture and language.

In short the U.S. is massive and diverse in culture, landscape and even language.  The experience of driving through Nebraska end to end with a detour along a state highway towards Chimney Rock was one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen.  I would never have called Nebraska beautiful but driving through the windswept plateaus and ravines, kicking up dust and rolling through towns with nothing but a water tower, a gas station/grocery, and dirt roads changed that opinion.  Admiring the country that you live in is something so few Location Independents do.  Most of us are technological nomads accustomed to urban centers with the occasional wilderness jaunt to sate a cultured desire to “get away from it”.

Yet the miles of cornfields, empty highways, decaying farm and industrial towns that I have passed through and stopped in has given me an appreciation that I think only an older generation of vagabonds and nomads understand.  There is a hint of Kerouac in the true cross-country road trip.  Kerouac saw the road as a spiritual journey, whether you are 300 miles into the middle of cornfields or in the heart of Chicago, it is a journey which changes you if you are willing to be conscious of it.

There is no getting away from it, it is always there.  Those cornfields go on for miles.  Those people work to feed hundreds of people.  Those roads are vacant with the occasional semi screaming through at 85 MPH.  The vistas of wind carved stone are populated with cows and rattlesnakes.  The world is always there – vast, living, growing, dying – whether you are there or not.

Consider that vastness.  It should make you feel small.  Then the vastness is in you. You are as much a part of that vastness as the dust, the windmills, the mountains.

Before you consider leaving the country you live in, take a moment to consider if you really know it or just your little corner of it.  Then, go out and journey.

Life In A Backpack: An Exercise in Minimalist Living

100 Items or Less

When was the last time you considering the things you carried.

I’m not talking about emotions and the past, I’m talking about the objects in your life.

Even if you don’t carry them around with you everywhere you go (as I do) – you carry them with you in life.

Possessions weigh on you by attaching you to the world, to a place, to things.  The modern brand of Western consumerism driven by the cradle-to-grave philosophy encourages status by possession and not status by merit.  And when those possessions are no longer interesting it’s time to stuff them into corners and leave them forgotten.

Yet they are still there.  They weigh upon your freedom.

Examine the things you carry with you in life.

Are they necessary?  Do they contribute to your life in a meaningful way?  Are they just a way of showing status to others?

Cut the cords of attachment to possessions, reduce the clutter, and go on with a minimalist living.

My Minimalist Living Story:

Recently I re-considered the things I carry when my suitcase died.  I sought out a replacement and settled on the 22″ E-Motion 4.0 Trek Pack Plus.  It is quite a bit smaller than my old suitcase which forced me to minimize.

And so my 100 Item Challenge is underway.

My initial list was around 90 items.  I was already under 100 items – a surprising fact.

So, when I ended up in Maine for a week long respite from the world, I thinned down my travel gear once more and below is the final list.  Some of the items are listed as collections which made the challenge a little easier.

My final total: 77 items.

  • 4 Ties
  • 3 Scarves
  • 1 Belt
  • 1 Set of Suspenders
  • 1 Pair of Florsheim Dress Shoes
  • 1 Pair of White Leather Keds
  • 1 Hat
  • 1 White Linen Jacket
  • 2 Pairs of Dress Pants
  • 1 Pair of Jeans
  • 1 Pair of Shorts
  • 10 T-Shirts / Short Sleeve Shirts
  • 5 Dress Shirts / Long Sleeve Shirts
  • 2 Sweaters
  • 1 Black Pin-Stripe Vest
  • 1 Sweater Vest
  • 7 Pairs of Boxer Briefs
  • 7 Pairs of Socks
  • 1 Travel Towel
  • 1 External Hard Drive with Cable
  • 1 MacBook Pro with Cables, Extra Battery and Bluetooth Mouse
  • 1 iPhone 3G with Cable and vModo Duo Headphones
  • 1 Extra Internal Hard Drive
  • 1 LED Flashlight
  • 1 Wallet
  • 1 Washboard with Thimbles and Brushes
  • 1 Book Collection
  • 1 Pen Collection
  • 1 Journal
  • 1 Moleskin Pocket Reporters Notebook
  • 1 Pad of Graph Paper
  • 1 Pad of Yellow Notepaper
  • 2 Small Pilates Balls
  • 1 Set of Exercise Bands
  • 1 Bar Soap
  • 1 Shaving Kit (Merkur Safety Razor, Brush and Shave Soap)
  • 1 Stick Deodorant
  • 1 Bottle of Pain Relievers
  • 1 Toothbrush
  • 1 Container of Hel Gel
  • 1 Passport
  • 1 Thermos
  • 1 Victorinox 22″ E-Motion 4.0 Trek Pack Plus
  • 1 Chrome Metropolis Messenger Bag

What Do You Carry?

The Death of a Suitcase

Alas 6 months into my vagabonding trip my trusty Jaguar rolling garment bag has met it’s end.

It has seen over 19 cities and town in the U.S. in just the last 6 months not counting numerous layovers on buses, planes and trains. It has crossed the U.S. coast to coast 5 times logging around 20,000 miles of travel on top of intermittent use in prior years on various dance weekends.

While it has weathered the road well it just hasn’t stood the test of continuous abuse that long term travel puts on objects. I mean the bag is probably older than I am considering it was borrowed from my parents. The fabric is starting to tear and is worn in a number of places, zippers don’t close, and the final straw was the handle snapping my last night in New York City.

VictorinoxTrekPackPlus22 The Death of a SuitcaseSince then I’ve carried the 40+ pounds to Seattle and now down to San Francisco and it’s time for a new bag. I’ve settled on this bag by Victorinox. The 22″ E-Motion 4.0 Trek Pack Plus recommended by world travelers like Tim Ferriss for it’s durability, functionality and ability to be carried on planes. It can be wheeled around, converted into a backpack or split into a regular pack and a daypack.

Not only is this bag exceptional but it will force me to downsize more.

This is not only the death of a suitcase but the death of excess.

I will be moving from many items that I don’t necessarily need to only those things that are truly necessary.

I will be undertaking the 100 items challenge. The goal to cut down all of my possessions to 100 things or less if I’m not already there. If I’m already there I’ll let you know but I’m not certain I am.

If I were just a vagabond I think this would be easier. I would afford myself only the simplest of clothing but being a lindy hop instructor I do on occasion need a few items of formal wear. Add to that the three pairs of shoes I carry for dancing (Keds, Florsheim dress shoes, and tap shoes) and the weight of being a dance instructor adds up quickly.

So as both a birthday present to myself and from my parents I’m buying it. If you feel like chipping in I’ll do my best to visit you in my travels and if you want I’ll give you a half hour private lesson in Lindy Hop no charge except for your donation.


pixel The Death of a Suitcase

Slacker Reform History Round Up

For many of you Slacker Reform is relatively new to you, however it began in earnest back in 2008 as a WordPress hosted blog as personal outlet for my development.  It has since shifted focus into helping create a revolution of Slackers bent on finding their passions and doing what calls to us and not what is assumed by society.

So here is a round up of some of the most popular articles from Slacker Reform’s history and some worth exploring.

Back in November I found this TED talk with IDEOs CEO Tim Brown on Creativity and Play.  While the talk is highly entertaining it is deeply insightful on how adults often stifle the urge to play.  Are we that afraid of being appropriate all the time?

December found me with the urge to play and Play Auditorium, an exceptional game from Cipher Prime, hooked me in with the beta.  It is now out in full release with 70 plus levels blending music, physics and problem solving all in one.

In January I was dancing a lot and an article by Garr Reynolds caught my attention on Wynton Marsalis’s book on how jazz music can be the catalyst for change in your life.  Finding an improvisational form of art which requires a high degree of skill really opens up your personality in ways you wouldn’t expect.

The 3-2-1 Method is more a trick of the mind than a system of productivity.  It’s a way to get over that little mental roadblock that stops you from starting.  I’m no productivity guru and I never want to be but this one definitely helps me keep some of the easy mundane tasks in check.

In February I found myself explaining my vagabond life to people more and more so I wrote the How To: Living Out of a Suitcase 101 guide to help explain it.  While I recently talked about this process in my most recent video blog, this How To is much more detailed on how I went from having a full apartment in Montreal to living out of a suitcase and vagabonding through the U.S.

Thanks to a Christmas gift I took up calligraphy in January and by March I was practicing regularly.  It helped me find peace of mind when I struggled with loneliness and lack of focus.  This is how calligraphy helps me clear my mind.

April was a busier month at Slacker Reform.  I reviewed Jonathan Mead’s e-book Reclaim Your Dreams.  I wrote about making sure It’s Our Time and Our Focus that matters in maintaining momentum.  And I called out three Nonconformists who really stand out: Clay Collins, Chris Guillebeau and Jonathan Mead.  Two of whom I’ve recently interviewed and Chris is on the list to be interviewed soon.

I skipped May entirely.  Actually I told you to Skip Work or School or Life and walk the world a while.  You could even tell your boss (or other authority figure dictating your time) to e-mail me since I gave you permission to say “I Don’t Care [today is for me]“.

And while it is still June, I’ve been videoblogging more consistently and while it’s a new trick for me, Tricks Are For Kids.

If you’ve enjoyed any of these articles please Stumble This.

The Location Independent Survey

I’m happy to be participating in the Location Independent Survey put on jointly by Free Pursuits and Location Independent.

While I use the term Vagabond to describe my own life on the road, there are many terms for this lifestyle: digital nomad, location independent, work remotely, etc.

If you currently or aspire to vagabond, work remotely, or live the location independent lifestyle please complete this survey which is live today here.  This will help me provide you with better resources and information for creating the vagabond life.

In addition, please check out the rest of the participants in this survey.

WebWorkerDaily, Digital Nomads, Nomadness, Slacker Reform, Muselife, Mind the Beginner, Technomadia, Exile Lifestyle, Intrepid Lifestyle, Jet Set Citizen, Live Uncomfortably, Mine Your Resources, Thrilling Heroics, Most Likely to Die Alone and Vagabonding (and the hosts, Free Pursuits and Location Independent).

5 Blogs To Read Before Hitting the Road

As a vagabond who left without doing much preparation I have been exceptionally fortunate to have a few skills I can leverage to keep myself out of a ditch and well fed (sometimes exceptionally well fed).

Here are a few blogs which are exceptional resources for those of us wishing to do the same and take a permanent Slacker Day.  I recommend the reading.

Vagabondish

One of the most prolific blogs on long term world travel it has many exceptional articles on how to prepare for travel, how to save money both on the road and before you embark upon it, professional hobo-ing, and this six part guide on taking the leap to long term world travel.

In addition there are dispatches from all over the world from its many writers, photos from across the globe and much more.

You can subscribe to Vagabondish.com here.

Go Green Go Travel

For many vagabonds, digital nomads and professional hobos we are concerned about how we impact the planet we so wish to travel.  Go Green Go Travel offers a variety of articles and suggestions on how we can travel in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

With the rise of eco-tourism and the rush to see farther reaching and more obscure ecosystems and natural habitats it is even more important that we understand how are travel affects the planet and what we can do to walk the world without leaving a global footprint.

You can subscribe to Go Green Go Travel here.

Location Independent

Maintaining a long term traveling arrangement around the world requires a certain set of skills to continually earn a living along the way.  Location Independent shows you how to cultivate these skills, design a lifestyle that makes freedom a priority, and many resources on the technologies that can be used to facilitate your perpetual day off.

You can subscribe to Location Independent here.

Vagablogging

If I’m going to mention long term travel blogs I would be remiss in omitting Rolf Potts’s Vagablogging.  Rolf Potts is the author of Marco Polo Didn’t Go There and Vagabonding: The Art of Long Term World Travel, the latter of which is one of my 5 books to read before hitting the road.

Not only does he have dispatches from his own travels but advice on travel gear, travel writing, language learning with Tim Ferriss, and other random tidbits from around the world.

You can subscribe to Vagablogging here.

Everything Everywhere

A self-described Around the World Travel Blog by Gary Arndt, Gary really does travel everywhere.  His About page is one of my favorite in the travel blogging community, direct, honest and filled with interesting information about his life.

One of my favorite posts is a recent one on the paradox of travel blogging, or as he calls it the “Gary Paradox”, a phrase I may adopt.  Blogging is an impediment to travel and travel an impediment to blogging and yet as a travel blog you can’t have one without the other.

There’s a lot on his site and I suggest you browse around, truly a great source of inspiration.

You can subscribe to Everything Everywhere here.

What blogs would you suggest to read before hitting the road?

5 Months on the Road

Published initially on my travelogue Vagabond Cafe on April 29th, 2009.  Edited with notes in () for those who may not know me personally.

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.

Pico Iyer

Carl & the AmperstandI have been on the road for over 5 months.  I’ve visited 14 cities in that time and will be revisiting a few more in the next month.

There is a lot to traveling and when it began I didn’t really know where it was going or where I was going.  Not just in an uncertain sense of what city I would visit next but where I was going in my life.  I wanted to lose myself.

I was just starting to deal with the loss of my best friend / girl friend from almost a year prior, I had a lot of emotional baggage tying me down to bad habits in life; with people, with money, with myself and my health.

In these five months I have built a blog on Lifestyle Design (you’re here) and started working on networking and writing for it seriously.  I have taken control of my finances and paid down a good chunk of credit card debt that I accumulated last year.  I have helped spread the love of dance and the passion for life that it has given me.  I have undertaken a serious learning project to create an online business within three months.  I have spent many great nights with friends, many days alone in cafes, many hours on planes, buses and trains.

Most importantly I remember going to bed one night after teaching in Cleveland, OH with Joanna (one of my teaching partners) and feeling supremely at peace.  It was definitely not like that not so long ago.

I woke up at some point about a year ago and I was exceptionally unhappy.  I was working long hours and making decent money, traveling to dance a lot on weekends, and neglecting the most important person who I shared my life with.  I was drinking too often.  I was running from my life.  I knew I needed to change things.

It’s almost been a year and change has come. (It will be one year in 1 week from now.)

I have changed and my world has changed.  I have found myself.

I am willing to take risks and dive into my days to make them meaningful to me.  I am finding a new joy in working, in teaching, in writing.  I want to share my passion for life as art, to create my life deliberately and reflectively.

I want to spread the art of living.  Through dance.  Through words.  Through friends.  Through sharing time.  Through sharing space.

Today I am alive.  Tomorrow I will be somewhere else but I’ll have a passion, a purpose, dreams and values that I hold to, that guide my decisions.

5 Books to Read Before Hitting the Road

When you hit the road for the first time there are a lot of things that are going to turn around and hit you back. Having a little preparation to deal with these things and some inspiration to keep you going is important.

Here’s what I read before hitting the road.

1. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Longterm World Travel

Rolf Potts is an amazing writer who has traveled all across the globe. He writes regularly at Vagablogging.net and has been featured in magazines like National Geographic Traveler, Outside, the New York Times Magazine and many more.

Vagabonding covers the basics of life on the road from before you even start. How to prepare for your trip, how to decide where to go, how to decide what to do when you get there, and much more. It’s less about specifics and more about learning how we want to travel in our own way.

This is one book that has stayed with me every step of my trip.

Buy it on Amazon.com before you get out there.

2. On the Road

Jack Kerouac was the American vagabond of the mid-20th century. Screaming across the country in cars from coast-to-coast, exploring cities and delving deep into life on the road as a spiritual experience, Kerouac has been the inspiration for many who roadtrip or travel.

Reading On the Road for the first time gives you a feel for the density of experience that vagabonding will provide. When you are out there on the road and hit a few bumps it is doubtfully as troublesome as the adventures that Kerouac went through.

I read this when I was in high school and have since read it over and over again. When you need a hit to jump start your passion again, this is one for me and hopefully you.

Buy it on Amazon.com and feel the rush.

3. A Walk in The Woods: Rediscovering America on The Appalachian Trail

Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors hands down. His wit and the lightness with which he describes adversities he faces takes the wind out of that daunting first step.

When you set out to hike the Appalachian trail you are making a statement to yourself.

When you set out to vagabond across the country or the world you are making a statement to yourself.

It’s not about being a nonconformist or breaking from the mold necessarily, it is a personal pilgrimage to find out who you are and what you are made of. Bill Bryson gives us an insight into what makes him him.

Buy it on Amazon.com and take a hike.

4. The Four Hour Workweek

If Rolf Potts is the travel writer of the age, Timothy Ferriss is the entrepreneur who can show you how make the time to travel. This was the first book that really turned me onto traveling in a manner that made sense to me.

The Four Hour Workweek has a number of tools on how to divorce yourself from the incessant streams of information that we are bombarded with, create a business that will help fund your traveling, and a great deal more.

The title was purposefully chosen to create a bit of controversy, and yes it sounds a bit like a scam, but the ideas behind it are powerful and the motivation it gave me (one of the best slackers) to really work at redesigning my life is impressive.

Buy it on Amazon.com and see how many hours you want to put.

5. Your suggestions

What would a list be at only four? The fifth book is up to you, what else would you suggest to read before traveling?