Digital Nomad is a term being thrown around a lot these days. This term, in many scenarios, has grown blasé — we’ve heard it too many times and don’t see much substance behind it. The source of many of those stories are entrepreneurs that take their work with them while they vacation or blog on the beach at a resort.
The true nomad, however, is harder to find. Their skill allows them to go wherever, whenever, and they do so. There is an air of spontaneity to their lifestyle as they are perpetually adventurous.
Asbury Park native, Trip Levine has that genuine drive to keep moving.
On The Road to Redwood and Back
“For me, being a nomad started when I was 18,” Trip said. “I left New Jersey and lived on the street for 2 years. Hitchhiking my way out to California and getting into all sorts of trouble, like living in a Redwood for 3 months without coming down until they hired bounty hunters to get me down.”
Maxxam was cutting down all the Old Grove Redwoods in America. Trip and his fellow demonstrators didn’t agree with that because it was private property and Maxxam was clear cutting the property instead of logging it sustainably.
Trip joined various organizations demonstrating against the logging company. Although his stay in a Redwood was only 3 months, thousands of other activists were involved and the protest went on for 16 years until Maxxam went out of business.
Trip returned to New Jersey, did whatever job he could find and saved up for a computer. “I figured as long as I have an internet connection I can do it wherever I go. So I didn’t have to divorce that lifestyle of being on the road and letting the breeze be my moral compass,” Trip said.
When Trip started out, he walked into a local Mom and Pop shop off the street and asked if he could build them a website. They said they couldn’t pay him, but that didn’t matter. “I just needed something that gave me some parameters to work within and give me a solid project,” Trip said.
Starting a project makes you step outside your comfort zone, tuck in corners on projects you might otherwise simply settle with, and makes you push yourself.
Trip then started teaching himself digital design, programming and got in CUNY
“But it was trash, man. I spent $15,000-$20,000 dollars on a year of college and by the last semester, they were just starting to show us Photoshop and Illustrator. I had already learned all that on Lynda, the online learning and education platform.”
Trip left school and immediately picked up work in North Jersey. It took him 3 years to realize he really didn’t need to physically be in the office to do his work, but more importantly that he didn’t want to live in one place.
“There was a huge textuary and not a lot of people could do what I was doing — code, design, build databases. So I told the owner very nicely, ‘I’m not going to be physically dependent on this location anymore,” Trip admitted.
Lost In Translation
The day Trip got a higher paying programming job he bought a plane ticket to Spain.
Being in a foreign country and not speaking the language, Trip quickly signed a 6-month lease to ensure he had a place with access Wifi. His visa expired in 3-months…
“First thing I did after getting there was pirate Rosetta Stone Spanish,” Trip chuckled.
Trip completely immersed himself in the culture, refusing to talk to anyone from America so he could learn the language faster. 3-months went by and although he was an illegal alien for the first time he had a solid group of friends and stayed for another 7-months before sneaking out of the country.
“After Spain, it all escalated pretty quickly. I just kept going. Around every 2-months I traveled somewhere new and that’s been going for about 7 years now.
Jamaica, Amsterdam, Dubai, Qatar, Jordan, Indonesia, India, England, South Africa, Ibiza, Costa Rica, Nicaragua to name a few.
Finding What Enchants You
Trip has adapted and evolved his workflow as the years went by, taking time for some of the more important things in life.
Now Trip tries to work no more than 4 hours a day.
“I used to work 8 maybe 14 hours a day but that’s not very sustainable.” Trip said. “You can tell when someone puts their whole heart into their work. When you restrict yourself to working just 4 hours a day you end up putting a little more juice into your work.”
Everyone knows that one person who gave up playing the guitar or their favorite hobby as they got older because of ‘xyz’ reason, which is never a really good reason. Maybe you are that person.
Trip finds that he is able to continue those hobbies and get to know himself better through the free time he has.
“Devotion or the ability to enchant ourselves is a skill,” Trip pointed out. “If we don’t practice that, it gets harder for us to enchant ourselves and then we start reaching for really shitty stuff like a 10-second comedy clip on youtube. When the reward cycle is so fast where we don’t need to enchant ourselves, it becomes a nicotine of entertainment.”
Real enchantment takes a couple hours of really finding something fulfilling.
“If you really spend that time and find that enchantment, you aren’t lifted by that 10-second video because you have something so much more powerful in your pocket.
Trip practices Ashtanga Yoga, translates Sanskrit and Hindi texts, and tries to disappear for 4 weeks out of the year.
No matter what your spiritual outlet is, at the end of the day, it’s just another sense or extension of ourselves.
Where Does a Nomad Call Home?
“If anyone asks me where I’m from I always say Asbury Park, Cowerks,” Trip said. “This is my mecca, so five times a day I face my laptop towards Cowerks.”
As Asbury has emerged as a hub for technology and startup culture, the city’s character still hasn’t changed much. Trip embraces that and works with a lot of local entrepreneurs and coders. For all of you food truck fans out there, Trip designed the Cinnamon Snail truck wrap.
“Asbury has a lot of goofy people with intellectual vim. You don’t really find goofy outside of the United States. In Jersey, they’re always on this fountainhead of New York and culture explosion and they’re more experimental.”
This vim and experimental mindset carries the New Jersey tech ecosystem far.
Trip acknowledged that always having authentic relationships, keeping his work and the people he works with authentic is a way to know that everything’s alright.
A Hitchhiker’s Highlights and Next Steps
While Trip has a treasure trove of stories that he could share, he focused on some highlights and what he has in mind for his next adventure.
Sometimes, traveling to remote areas of the globe can be troublesome to find a decent internet connection. Trip elaborated on such a time he was in India.
“I was living in the mountains in the Himalayas with a BB gun and was on the phone with a multi-billion dollar company” Trip said. “And there’s this monkey walking on the fiber line that’s responsible for my internet connection and if he breaks it, the call would cut out.”
Luckily, Trip had some great teammates that always had his back because a few of the calls did cut out.
“A buddy of mine would always cover for me and say, ‘yeah, Trip’s really dealing with some tough WiFi down in Jersey,” Trip laughed.
Trip was an illegal alien twice, once in Spain and again in England. “There’s always ways in and out of a country,” Trip proclaimed.
Trip didn’t have any advice on sneaking in and out of countries, but his advice for aspiring coders out there is to get into a book or two, it’ll bring you really far.
As for next steps, Trip wants to have a sweet little hotel in Costa Rica or Nicaragua and run coding retreats. “I’ll bring you from zero to hero,” Trip said.
Trip’s next destination is Costa Rica, then he’ll be settling down in Barcelona for 3 months with his fiance. After that, well, we’ll have to wait and see.