(CNN) – In December 2012, he set out on a journey around the world, and almost ten years later, traveler Tom Grond is still a globetrotter.
A 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 former life.
Grond has traveled to approximately 130 different countries, including Syria, Jordan, Colombia and Burkina Faso, and once completed 58 flights a year.
Before embarking on his ongoing journey, he saved enough money to travel continuously for about three years and set a budget of $ 30 per day.
Like many backpackers, Grond, known as “Traveltomtom”, lived in hostels and lived as gently as he could to reduce costs.
“People assume you have to come from a rich family,” he says. “Yes, I am very privileged. I’m from Holland, so I have a really good passport.
“And I saved a lot of money to be able to travel. But I limited myself to living on a limited budget. It actually kept me going for so many years.”
Tom Grond has been traveling the world for almost 10 years, but says his trip to Syria in 2019 had the greatest impact.
As social media began to develop in 2010 and platforms like Instagram gained in popularity, Grond realized that he could make money writing and publishing his adventures around the world.
“I’ve traveled anyway and posted photos of great places,” he notes.
Grond launched an instagram account in 2014 and quickly built up a significant audience, gaining approximately 30,000 followers in a relatively short time.
At that time, although travel blogging was certainly not a new phenomenon, “travel influencers” came to the fore, making a living by sharing their globalization experiences on social networks and personal blogs or vlogs.
As a result, Grond found that he was approached by hotels and organizations offering free stays and experiences in exchange for promotion.
“I couldn’t believe my happiness,” he admits. “I liked it at first. People would know me, which is really great.”
However, Grond began to fight the pressure of constantly creating content for social networks and found that this particular lifestyle was not sustainable for him.
“The secret is to be a full-time nomad [for me] really, “he admits.” I’m super happy. ”
This ultimately means that he has evolved from a backpacker to what he describes as a “middle class traveler” and has spent days in crowded dormitories.
“I probably did it for three or four years and I liked it,” he says. “You will meet so many interesting people, you are inspired by other travelers.
“It’s a great way to get to know the countries. You’re experiencing the most amazing adventures. I kind of miss those days. But I don’t want to sleep in a boarding school anymore.”
Grond has visited almost 130 countries, including Myanmar.
His accommodation may be more luxurious now, but Grond says his approach to travel has not really changed.
“I still want to discover and meet local people and see what their lives are like,” he says. “Without this passion, I would have stopped long ago.”
Of course, it’s not just the social media environment that has changed while Grond has been on the road. The global pandemic has brought the world almost to a halt in 2020 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought even greater uncertainty about international travel.
But while the restrictions meant that he was eventually forced to stay in one place for more than a few weeks, Grond boarded the plane as soon as possible and traveled to places like Mexico and Turkey, where Covid-19 restrictions were less stringent.
Although committed to the nomadic lifestyle, Grond points out that one of the disadvantages of constant movement is that relationships can be a problem, and admits that he realizes this with age.
“It’s impossible to maintain a relationship,” he says. “Of course, everyone is within reach with WhatsApp and social media today, but I move to a new place every few weeks, sometimes every few days.
“It can be hard if you meet someone you like to meet. Basically, you’re still saying goodbye. I say goodbye to people every few days. It was a fight.”
And although he had mainly positive experiences during his travels, there were several failures on his way.
Grond says he was recently detained by immigration police in Gabon, a country on the west coast of Africa, due to a misunderstanding, and the test made him even more aware of how far he was from his loved ones.
However, he emphasizes that the positives far outweigh all the negatives and he is constantly in contact with his family and friends at home, as well as with friends he has found on the road.
“I don’t have time to miss people,” he says.
Change of perception
Grond says he has no plans to return to his ex-life convict and considers himself a “nomad.”
Grond says that of the many cities he visited, it was Syria that influenced him the most.
“It was a really expensive trip,” he explains. “I had to pay for security and all sorts of things, but it was worth it. Some cities were completely destroyed.
“There was nothing left but a few buildings. Everything was completely ruined. But it was crazy to see the determination and trust that the locals we met still had.
“They had nothing left, but they were determined to rebuild their lives and they were sure that everything could return to normal. It was a trip that definitely shaped me in many ways.”
After visiting Syria, Grond traveled to Pakistan and Iraq and was surprised by the response his online contributions received from people with prejudices about these specific destinations.
Although he has traveled for seven years, it is at this point that he decides he wants to visit every country in the world.
“It’s really great to go to these places and change your perception,” he explains. “So it inspired me a lot. I wanted to go everywhere to show people how it really is in these places.”
However, Grond is in no hurry to complete this particular challenge. In fact, he plans to put in time and is discouraged when he encounters other travelers who seem to be racing around the world to remove countries from their list.
“I left those rat races in terms of title, job, career and family,” he says.
In 2019, Grond visited his 100th country, Jordan.
“But when I see all the people online trying to visit every country in the world, I feel like it’s the number [to them]. Everyone asks, in how many countries have you been? I don’t want to be a part of the rat race again. “
He says he has been to at least 71 of the nearly 130 countries he has traveled more than once and often returns 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 a few times a year. I love Istanbul.”
Grond tries not to plan too far ahead and often has no idea where he will live or where he will be in a week. He is currently in Panama, but will fly to Bogota in the coming days and then move to Paraguay.
“The approximate plan is to spend a few weeks in South America and some time in Central America. Then I will really go to my family. [in the Netherlands]. “
He will also head to West Africa in the coming months and plans to spend eight weeks traveling to cities such as Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and also Equatorial Guinea.
“I’m really excited to be back in Africa,” he says. “It’s been a really, really interesting part of my travels in the last two years.
“People always ask me when I’m going home. But I don’t have a home and I don’t know when I’ll stop traveling.”
Grond will officially celebrate the decade of travel in December, so will he mark that day in a special way?
“I didn’t really think about it,” he says. “I don’t even know where I’ll be in the next few days. I’ll be going to be 3,333 days of continuous travel soon. In fact, it may have passed. I’m not sure. But it’s a great number anyway.”
Top picture: Land in Burkina Faso. Acknowledgments: Tom Grond