Michael Ivan Skye is a transformational travel guide, permanent traveler and digital nomad, who left his cherished Austin, Texas in 2009 to explore new cultures, challenge his assumptions, experiment with new ways of thriving, and fulfill his dream of deep world travel. Every few years Michael can be found leading transformational safaris in Africa, is currently leading the Carpe Diem! World Traveler course and is currently planning visionary journeys for men around the world. As he slow travels the world, Michael enjoys introducing himself to locals as a crazy viking from Texas.
1. How and why did you choose to go nomadic?
There are many reasons. I’ll give ya the 4 biggies:
1 – Austin, Texas is a great city for entrepreneurs and creatives with lots of live music, beautiful nature and beautiful Southern women; but after spending 8 out of 12 months living abroad (2 months in Europe, 1 month in the Rockies, 3 months in Australia and 2 months in Africa), I returned to my hometown of Austin, Texas and my heart hurt. The reverse culture shock going from Africa to Austin was painful. I had returned with my heart so open, so full of joy, having spent so much time in deep connection with my people abroad that I noticed how closed the people were in the US by comparison. I realized to live in the US, I was going to have to close up my heart a bit more and get used to less connection. That was reason number one.
2 – As a single man I discovered the bountiful blessings enjoyed by world travelers. Everyone wants to get to know the traveler, hear his tales of adventures in far off lands, and maybe enjoy some private moments with him before he travels on. I’d always dreamed of traveling the world and dating beautiful women from exotic cultures, and once I got a taste, there was no way I was going to settle for a non-traveling lifestyle. Then there were the beautiful African women who cried and kissed me goodbye–I just hate leaving damsels in distress. I knew I’d have to go back for them. 😉
3 – Witnessing the ever-increasing heavy-handedness of the US government made me angry. I lost 2 friends to the “War On Drugs” and had personally been assaulted and violated by cops on a number of occasions. The post-9/11 wars, the Patriot Act, the loss of rights, Obama’s drone wars–it just seemed like an endless rise of authoritarianism and loss of liberty. And after a year of traveling, patriotic Americans chanting slogans like “America is the freest country in the world” and “Muslims hate us because we’re free” embarrassed me. I knew this wasn’t true. Freedom to me has nothing to do with blind patriotism.
4 – The trigger to my leaving was a business conflict I had with a man who failed to uphold his end of a deal. I lost $50,000 and realized that fighting it out in court was not going to bring justice as he could still avoid payment. I realized first-hand the flaws in the American justice system, and just decided it was time to take a break and re-think my life.
2. What was it like leaving your home country?
At the time of the business conflict I mentioned, a Belgian friend invited me to house-sit her flat in Brussels for a month. It was the perfect opportunity to GTFO. I put my things in storage, paid off debts and got a one-way ticket to Europe with just $200 to my name. The city was dark with very few days of sunshine, and my mood was similar. I was judging myself and feeling in some ways like a “quitter,” and a “failure,” for not fighting on with my business.
A month later I got invited to Kuwait by a woman I’d met on CouchSurfing. She invited me to stay with her for a few weeks in her high rise apartment overlooking the Persian Gulf. There was almost nothing green in that city, and things like meeting girls in public and drinking were against the law. They even blocked out kissing scenes at the cinema! The dullness of that place matched my mood too. I was still feeling shame.
A month later I was invited to tropical Brazil, and that’s when everything began to radically change for me. Inspired in part by Brazilian culture, I decided to just let go of all my plans for my business and my future, and to start living in the present moment, giving and receiving in the “gift economy.” Magical things started happening. People gave me their beach houses for months at a time, I was invited to private Ayahuasca ceremonies, doors were opened left and right. It was 6 years ago now that I first arrived in Brazil and it has become like a second home for me.
3. What are your biggest struggles? Fears?
Struggles. There have been a few times I’ve run out of money, lost a debit card, had a laptop stolen, etc. I am traveling without any savings, any credit cards, and without a job or official business. Most of the last 7 years I’ve been trying NOT to be productive, but rather to slow down and enjoy “not doing.” So, yeah, running out of money a few times has been tough, mostly because of the shame. As an American, not being completely independent and successful is shameful. But those times have also been blessings, as I’ve been given to so generously by people the world over. In many other cultures things happen through relationships, and discovering how to thrive in other cultures has been a true gift.
Fears. In 2015 I had to make a special trip to Uganda to deal with some guys who’d screwed me in a business venture. I knew I wouldn’t get any justice unless I played the game the way it’s played there, which meant “hiring” some cops and driving across country by night to apprehend the guilty parties. Later the tables were turned and I found myself at the mercy of the most corrupt governmental department in East Africa. I felt my life might have been in danger a few times, but I’m glad I stood up for myself.
4. How are you funding your lifestyle and what projects are you working on?
Every 4 years I lead a transformational safari in Africa, but I’ll likely start doing that as often as yearly soon.
This year I created an online course called Carpe Diem that helps people get free for a long restful and rejuvenating sabbatical overseas, even if they don’t think it’s possible. I show them how to make sabbaticals and world travel transformational and sustainable throughout their lives. I offer them the course overseas as well, and invite them on journeys where we can practice what I teach in the course.
The project I’m most excited about is for single, entrepreneurial men who desire to enjoy all of the great benefits of life as a world traveling free man. I’m planning month-long immersions into fascinating cultures with beautiful women, interesting business opportunities, majestic nature and endless intrigue and adventure. The first one is in the popular digital nomad hub of Chiang Mai, a great place to beta-test the digital nomad lifestyle. I am planning the next immersions for my favorite locations in Africa and South America.
Imagine spending a month In Kenya, for example, climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro, staying a few nights in an elephant dung hut with Massai friends on the Massai Mara, going on inexpensive safaris the way the locals do, all while making African friends, building your digital nomad business, gathering for mastermind sessions with your digital nomad brothers, meeting the beautiful local women, and learning how to thrive there for months at a time with ease. I’ve spent a year in those parts, have many great friends there and know how to thrive, and I’d love to share it all during a month long immersive adventure there. Anyone interested in this project is welcome to check us out at www.freemanchallenge.com
5. What is the estimated monthly cost of living for one of your favorite locations? What lifestyle does that afford?
I love Africa and one of my favorite places is Uganda. It’s easy to live on less than $1,000 per month there, enjoying yourself.
I’m good friends with a group of African nuns who run a school on a beautiful hilltop in the tropical countryside, just next to the jungle. I always stay at least a few weeks with them. They take me in, give me my own room, feed me, do my laundry and cook for me. I’ll typically leave them with a donation. It’s not barter or trade, it’s just mutual gifting.
The food is harvested fresh daily from the fields. When we eat meat, it’s from a chicken, goat or cow that was slaughtered the same day. Life is slow there, and incredibly peaceful. Dinner with my large African sisters is always loud, boisterous and full of laughter. I get a kick out of speaking their local language and speaking English with their accent. Sometimes we enjoy a few beers together (don’t tell the local priest).
I’ll typically change towns/cities every few weeks or months, as I have friends and girlfriends I enjoy visiting in multiple locations.
When I go to the towns and cities, I’ll rent a nice private room for between $15 and $25 per night. I can spend a lot on Internet there, as you pay per megabyte of data. If you like to watch hours of videos on YouTube, you could easily pay $300 a month for Internet. But there are plenty of ways to use less data, and in the cities there are plenty of cafes and restaurants with great food, coffee and decent free wifi. If you want to eat like the locals, you can do it on as little as $2 a day. If you want to eat like a Westerner you can spend as much as you like.
6. What is your top tip for someone who aspires to earn money online and travel?
I’ll share 3 quick ones:
1 – Get your base expenses as low as possible (back home, for your business, and for your life and travels abroad). When your costs are incredibly low, you have more freedom to work less and travel longer, and you’re not under as much pressure to earn money with your business. This might mean liberating yourself from some of your addictions.
2 – Get experience in the sharing economy, the gift economy, the gray economy, the digital (bitcoin) economy and perhaps even the “black market” (bringing an extra smart phone or laptop across the border to sell, for example) and more, so you don’t feel you need to depend on your business for everything.
3 – Get experience creating win-win proposals for short-term money projects on the fly, even outside your realm of expertise. You might find yourself on a whim being paid to do some very interesting things that you never imagined. That’s what I call adventure!
Any final thoughts?
If you’re thinking of becoming a digital nomad, 1 – make friends with other digital nomads, world travelers and people overseas, 2 – see how you can support them and their projects, and, 3 – share with them your desire to explore their culture and/or their lifestyle. If they invite you to come meetup overseas, jump on the opportunity and try it out for yourself. That will be far easier, more fun and less expensive than trying to do it all yourself. That’s how my 7+ years of world travel started.