San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
My “new life” world odyssey began five years ago at the age of sixty-four. I’ve written about it a lot in this blog and on social media: the divorce, the job loss, the bankruptcy, the foreclosure, the endings and more importantly the beginnings. I won’t rehash all of it now but if you’re interested you can go back through the archives and read some of my earliest posts—or you can read my book: Expat Journal (Postcards from the Edge). I’ve experienced much in the last five years and I’ve learned many things.
The most important discovery has been my ability to live simple, live cheap, and to live free. In that context I am location-independent and a slo-traveller. I am a photographer, I am a writer, and I am a full-time world traveller. What do those terms mean (my new lifestyle vocabulary) and where did they come from. I know there is a lot of curiosity about my lifestyle, and how it might be adopted and adapted by others (maybe even by you). So I will use this short post to explain those terms and what they mean to me.
San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
First a brief note about the past. My professional life was a life of abundance and squalor. As a banking professional I earned good money (some would say great money). But at the same time I was burdened with bone crushing debt and life threatening stress. A beautiful country home, worth almost a million bucks, sucked every dollar out of a six figure family budget. Expensive cars, boats, toys, clothes, gadgets & gimmicks, and lifestyle used up the rest. Squalor in the midst of riches. With the economic collapse beginning in 2007 it all started to implode. Literally.
By 2011 it was all over but the funeral. The wife, the job, the house, the cars, the boats, the toys, the clothes, the gadgets & gimmicks, and the lifestyle were all gone. I was sixty-four, alone, penniless, and free. I could either give-up or reinvent myself and a new life. I chose the latter. Fast forward to the present: I am a (professional) photographer, a (published) writer, a (seasoned) full-time world traveller, and a wiser man. And though I’m not always ecstatically happy I am for the most part content. I am no longer one of Thoreau’s ” . . . mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation.”
Lago Atitlan, Guatemala
I Live Simple. Everything I own (including my photography equipment) is carried on my back. In that sense I am a turtle (or a crab). Wherever I go my home is with me. I have three pairs of pants, six shirts, six pairs of socks, some underwear, a Tilley hat, a fleece beanie, one pair of gloves, a down vest, a fleece jacket, and a parka. I have a pair of leather hiking boots and a pair of Keen sandals. On a good week I shower every three days (sometimes with hot water) and eat twice a day (a minimal breakfast and a hearty midday meal). I drink beer and good coffee.
Lago Yojoa Jungle, Honduras
I Live Cheap. Cheap living goes with simple living. The secret of living cheap is to: live like the locals. I stay in hostels and cheap local hotels (my budget is $5 to $10 usd per night). I try to eat local instead of frequenting tourist restaurants and expat hangouts. I eat street food (it’s good, cheap, and plentiful) and at local cafes and diners. I travel by local buses, taxis, tuk-tuks, riverboats, scooters, bicycles, and my own two feet. Living cheap means I don’t have a weight problem and I get plenty of exercise (I will be seventy years old next May).
Granada (Mombacho Cigars of Nicaragua), Nicaragua
I Live Free. Living free doesn’t mean I can live on zero dollars. Over the past five years I’ve been slo-travelling Latin America (from southern Mexico and Cuba, through Central America, to South America where I am now) and averaging a monthly expenditure of $475 usd per month (lodging, transportation, and food). Sometimes more, sometimes less—but on average $475 usd seems to get the job done. The real freedom comes from spending my time my way. No one tells me how to spend it—after almost fifty years in military, corporate, and domestic harness this is true freedom.
Jungle of Rio San Juan, Nicaragua
I am Location-independent. Location-independent is an euphemism coined by fellow travel photographer Elia Locardi that simply means homeless. Yes I’ve said it—I AM HOMELESS. But (and this is a BIG but) the world is my home and every new person I meet is a potential friend. And don’t forget the turtle and the crab, I carry my home on my back everywhere I go. Whether it’s the jungles of Yucatan, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, or Panama, the beaches of Cuba and Costa Rica, or the Andes Mountains of Peru, Chile, and Argentina—I AM AT HOME.
I am a Slo-Traveller. I don’t know where this term originally came from, but my good friend (and fellow traveller) Paul France introduced me to the term. I met Paul during a one month jungle stay on the Rio San Juan in southeastern Nicaragua. Some adoptee’s of this lifestyle refer to it as Longterm Slow Travel. It usually implies that you shun expensive, all-inclusive tourist destinations in favor of more authentic experiences. You visit fewer places, stay longer, see less, but experience more. For a slo-traveller it’s all about the experience (the people met along the way).
Andes Mountains, Argentina
I am a (professional) Photographer. A dream come true. I founded my photography company Indochine Photography in 2009 two years before my life self-destructed. I spent over a year as the staff photographer and photojournalist for The Yucatan Times newspaper in Mexico, and was the official photographer for the Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve and Puuc Jaguar Conservation in Yucatan. I’ve sold my work through Soho Galleries and Cafe la Boheme in Merida, Yucatan and worldwide through my online gallery at www.IndochinePhotography.me.
San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
I am a (published) Writer. I created this blog Expat Journal in 2011, at the beginning of my new life, to document my life altering transformation (it’s now followed by 450 people in 125 countries around the world). I am a contributing author with Northrup Photo with their 500,000+ global subscribers. I’ve published three photography fine art coffee table books and one book on Amazon (part memoir, part travel, and part how-to). I also publish a free monthly newsletter for those interested in following my antics as I travel around the world.
Lago Nahuel Huapi, Argentina
Does any of this sound interesting to you? Are you a photographer, writer, or traveller? Does simple sound better? Does freedom appeal more than prison? When Thoreau says “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” does that resonate with you? Do you have dreams, do you have a bucket-list? Does it feel like time is running out? Do you want a new lifestyle, a new vocabulary—do you want to take a bunch of new “Selfies” from exotic places? I started at sixty-four and I’m almost seventy now—IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, Traveller
Currently trekking Patagonia, Argentina