We get to talk with Zero Dean (aka zerodean). Zero is a real-life adventurer and has travelled continually since he quit his job last year in May. He's also an artist, writer and photographer. And yes, Zero is his real name.
One of his favourite quotations is:
"Men spend their lives in anticipations, in determining to be vastly happy at some period when they have time. But the present time has one advantage over every other, it is our own. Past opportunities are gone, future have not come. We may lay in a stock of pleasures, as we would lay in a stock of wine; but if we defer the tasting of them too long, we shall find that both are soured by age." ~ Charles Caleb Colton
Why did you quit your job, terminate your lease and sell everything?
I looked at where I was in life, what I'd been doing, and where I would likely end up if I kept doing the same things I'd always done. I realised that if I didn't make a significant change, I would likely miss out on many of the things I wanted to do in life.
I started thinking about potential solutions and considered a lot of options. Everything basically came down to having to make sacrifices in order to start getting my life in line with the one I imagined.
I wanted an adventure – while I was still young – and an experience that was uniquely my own. I figured that even if I attempted to do what I wanted and failed, my actions would still push me to a different place than where I'd been – and that sounded... refreshing, actually.
But I was still somewhat surprised when I actually took the bold steps necessary to get my life on a different track.
What advice would you give for anyone considering a dramatic lifestyle change?
First, I think it's very important to know what you want to get from the change. You need to have a specific goal (or goals) in mind. Dramatic lifestyle changes almost always require significant sacrifices to make them a reality. But for everything you give up, you gain something – will what you have to give up be worth whatever it is you want to gain from the change? – that's the question you have to ask yourself.
I think in cases where one is thinking about making particularly large lifestyle changes, passion has to play a primary part – either by being passionate about the process or what the process will provide. I think G.W.F. Hegel is right, "Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion".
And then there's belief – belief in what you're doing and why you're doing it – it's vital. Because it's your belief in what you're doing that helps you face the inevitable resistance that pops up along your path – obstacles or a lack of support. When things get rough or don't go as planned, you are your own most important and significant source of motivation.
Your attitude about what you're doing and your belief in it is everything. You have to be the one who keeps your own fire lit.
What photography tips do you recommend for aspiring travel photographers?
My first tip to aspiring travel photographer is:
Don't be afraid to take a lot of photos – in fact, I recommend it. Digital storage space is cheap. Document everything! When the years have passed, we forget details – nothing brings them back like a photograph, it doesn't even have to be a good one.
I don't think anyone will ever regret taking a lot of photos of the places they've travelled to. And you can do so without obsessing about it, so long as you're not trying to capture a perfect photo every time you snap the shutter. In fact, if you're truly documenting your travels, it's impossible. But sometimes that random photo you took out of your sunroof or a bus window ends up being one of the best.
And if you're an aspiring photographer, nothing improves your skills like practice.
And my second tip is:
Now that you're taking lots of photos, try to tell stories with them – either through a single image (which is often the biggest challenge) or a series of images. In my opinion, the best photos always tell a story.
What's been your favourite destination in the US to date?
It's always difficult for me to pick favourites. I find beauty everywhere. And if not physical beauty, then beautiful moments.
I can name a few of my favorite places and moments though:
- Spending a morning swimming alone in the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming). Only part of it was planned...
I had a set of backup keys tied around my neck. I realised after my first dip into the river that the familiar weight around my neck was gone. My keys! So I grabbed some goggles and jumped back into the water, searching the river for several minutes. I came up empty, but walked away with an interesting experience and no regrets.
- Sitting on a dock in Key West (Florida), drinking my morning coffee and watching waves crash in the distance. Then spending an evening on the same dock watching the sun melt into the horizon.
- Spending a quiet night in Mojave National Preserve (California) and having a sense of belonging – that it is exactly where I was supposed to be at that time, doing exactly what I was doing.
- Watching the sun rise through the hole of the 'Delicate Arch' in Arches National Park (Utah). It is an amazing park and some moments like that are ineffable.
- Locking eyes with a bobcat in Olympic National Park (Washington) and just having a moment of 'mutual understanding'.
One of your life goals is to visit all seven continents and swim in all five oceans – how are you tracking?
Not too poorly, considering that is a recent goal. I've hit three out of seven continents, but I've only swam in two of the five oceans. But these became goals during my current trip/adventure, which has been USA centered, so far.
Do you think more people will adopt the nomadic on-the-go lifestyle in the future?
Location independent working is getting a lot of buzz on the internet – so it's certainly on people's minds – but I'm not sure that's a truly nomadic lifestyle as much as it is finding a place you like and living there, and working by remote somewhere else.
To me a real nomadic lifestyle is traveling and working at the same time – and I think that's a pretty difficult thing to accomplish outside of travel-related jobs. The thing you lose with a truly nomadic lifestyle is stability. I think it's possible to adopt this lifestyle and make it work, but I think it takes a lot of dedication and support.
What are some of the challenges you've had to deal with on your journey?
My biggest challenge, by far, has been a lack of support, understanding and encouragement from the people I expected it from – it's been a difficult thing for me to understand, but I think it's also been a very important obstacle for me to overcome.
I think true 'self-confidence' means being the source of your own motivation and being able to push forward when you believe in something – even when those you have meaningful relationships with do not.
Other challenges, have not been so unexpected – staying clean, connected, focused, and conserving money and resources. As a social person travelling solo and by car (while also deliberately avoiding active couch-surfing for the first year), I've battled with a sense of loneliness at times, too. I've spent more time alone in the past 10 months than I think I have in my entire life combined – at least it feels that way.
Check out these recent interviews in the Talking Travel series: