A traveler who has been traveling for nearly 10 years

(CNN) – He set out on a round-the-world cruise in December 2012, and nearly a decade later, traveler Tom Grund is still taking his cruise.

The Dutch blogger, who previously worked for the Dutch government, now describes himself as a nomad and says he has no plans to return to his previous life.

Grund has traveled to about 130 different countries, including Syria, Jordan, Colombia and Burkina Faso, and takes 58 flights a year.

Before setting out on his continuing journey, he had saved up enough money to sustain a travel life continuously for about three years, and set himself a budget of $30 a day.

Like many backpackers, Grund, better known as “Traveltomtom,” stayed in a hostel and lived as frugally as he could to keep costs down.

“People assume you’re from a rich family,” he says. “Yes, I am very lucky. I am from Holland, so I have a really good passport.

“I saved a lot of money for travel. But I was limited to living on a tight budget. And that actually got me on the road for so many years.”

Bedouin lifestyle

Tom Ground has been traveling the world for nearly 10 years, but he says it was his 2019 trip to Syria that made the most impact.

Tom Ground

When social media started developing in 2010, and platforms like Instagram gained traction, Grund realized he could make money writing and posting about his adventures around the world.

“I was really traveling and posting pictures of cool places anyway,” he notes.

Grond launched an Instagram account in 2014 and quickly built a large following, gaining around 30,000 followers in a relatively short period of time.

At the time, although travel blogging was certainly not a new phenomenon, “travel influencers” who make a living by sharing their travel experiences via social media and personal blogs or vlogs were getting more and more prominent.

As a result, Grond found himself being contacted by hotels and organizations offering free stays and experiences in exchange for an upgrade.

“I couldn’t believe my luck,” he admits. “At first I loved it. People were getting to know me, which is really cool.”

But Grund began to struggle with the pressure of having to constantly produce content for social media and found that this lifestyle was not sustainable for him.

He launched his blog Traveltomtom, where he shares updates on his adventures around the world, in 2016, and is now able to fund many of his travels with the income he generates.

Blogging is the secret to being a full-time nomad [for me] Really, he “confesses.” I’m very happy.

However, he still uses Instagram, as well as TikTok, to post about his travels, and has around 300,000 followers combined across the platforms.

This ultimately means that he has evolved from a backpacker into what he describes as a “mid-range traveler,” and that his days of staying in crowded lodgings are behind him.

“I’ve done it for three or four years, probably, and loved it,” he says. “You meet many interesting people, and you get inspired by other travelers.

“It’s a great way to explore countries. You have the most amazing adventures. I kind of miss those days. But I don’t want to sleep in a bedroom anymore.”

non-stop goodbye

Grund has visited nearly 130 countries, including Myanmar.

Grund has visited nearly 130 countries, including Myanmar.

Tom Ground

His lodgings may be more luxurious now, but Grund says his style of traveling hasn’t really changed.

“I still wanted to explore and get to know the locals and see what their lives are like,” he says. “Without that passion, I would have stopped doing this a long time ago.”

Of course, it wasn’t just the social media scene that changed when Grond was on the road. The global pandemic brought the world to a grinding halt in 2020, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought more uncertainty about international travel.

But while the restrictions meant he was finally forced to stay in one place for more than a few weeks, Grund hopped on a plane as soon as he could, and traveled to places like Mexico and Turkey, where Covid-19 restrictions were less stringent.

Although he adheres to a nomadic lifestyle, Grund points out that one downside to being on the move is that relationships can be a struggle, admitting he’s become more aware of this as he gets older.

“It’s impossible to maintain a relationship,” he says. “Sure, everyone is on hand through WhatsApp and social media nowadays, but I move to a new place every two weeks, sometimes every two days.

“It can be tough if you meet someone you like to hang out with. You always say goodbye. Every few days, say goodbye to people. It’s been a struggle.”

And while he’s had mainly positive experiences during his travels, there have been some setbacks along the way.

Grund says he was recently arrested by immigration police in Gabon, a country on the west coast of Africa, over a misunderstanding, and the ordeal made him more aware of how far he is from his loved ones.

However, he maintains that the pros far outweigh any cons, and he is in constant contact with his family and friends back home, as well as the friends he made on his travels.

“I don’t have time to miss people,” he says.

Changing perceptions

Grund says he has no plans to go back to his previous life, and considers himself

Grund says he has no plans to return to his previous life, and considers himself a “nomadic”.

Tom Ground

Grund says that of the many places he visited, Syria had the most influence on him.

While he is currently advised not to travel to the country due to the ongoing conflict, he was able to visit in 2019 after finding a tour agency that was willing to arrange a visa and pick him up.

“It was a really expensive trip,” he explains. “I had to pay for security and all kinds of things, but it was all worth it. Some cities were completely destroyed.

“There were only two buildings left. Everything was in complete ruin. But seeing the determination and confidence the locals we met still had was just insane.

“They had nothing left, but they were determined to build their lives again, confident that everything could return to normal. It was that journey that definitely shaped me in many ways.”

After his visit to Syria, Grund traveled to Pakistan and Iraq, and was astounded by the reaction his online posts received from those with preconceived notions about these specific destinations.

Although he had already been traveling for seven years, at this point he had decided that he wanted to visit every country in the world.

“It’s really cool to go to these places and change perceptions,” he explains. “It inspired me so much. I wanted to go everywhere to show people what it really is like in these places.”

But Grund is in no hurry to complete this particular challenge. In fact, he plans to take his time, and is frustrated when he encounters other travelers who seem to be racing their way around the world in order to tick off countries off their bucket list.

“I left the rat race in life in terms of getting a degree, getting a job, getting a job and a family,” he says.

Ongoing adventures

Grund visited his 100th country, Jordan, in 2019.

Grund visited his 100th country, Jordan, in 2019.

Tom Ground

“But when I see all these people online trying to visit every country in the world, I feel like it’s about the number [to them]. Everyone asks “How many countries have you visited?” I don’t want to be part of the rat race again.”

He says he has been to at least 71 of the nearly 130 countries he has traveled to more than once and will often return to destinations he particularly likes.

“I’ve been to Pakistan four times,” he says. “I’ve been to Thailand 17 times and I go to Turkey twice a year. I love Istanbul.”

Grond tries not to plan too much in advance and often has no idea where he’s going to be or where he’s going to be in a week or so. He is currently in Panama, but will travel to Bogota in the coming days and then move to Paraguay.

“Rough plan is to spend two weeks in South America, and a little time in Central America. And then I’ll go see my family [in the Netherlands]. “

He will also be heading to West Africa in the coming months, and plans to spend eight weeks traveling to places such as Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea.

“I’m really excited to be back in Africa,” he says. “It has been a really, really interesting part of my travels in the last couple of years.

“People always ask me when I’m going home. But I don’t have a home, and I don’t know when I’m going to stop traveling.”

Grund will officially celebrate a decade on the road in December, so will he celebrate the day in any special way?

“I didn’t really think about that,” he says. “I don’t even know where I’ll be staying in the next couple of days. I’ll soon be spending 3,333 days of continuous travel. In fact, it might have already passed. Not really sure. But it’s cool. No. Anyway.”

Top photo: Land in Burkina Faso. Credit: Tom Grund

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