Interview: Shane Dallas: The Travel Camel

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The Travel Camel in front of Mt Baba Tangi in Afghanistan.

The Travel Camel in front of Mt Baba Tangi in Afghanistan.

Shane Dallas is a world traveler and public speaker. You can hear his voice on The Travel Show on the radio in Dubai or catch one of his many presentations somewhere on land or at sea. Spending much of his time between the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Shane has captivated audiences around the world with his vast knowledge of travel. Connecting over social media has given us a chance to chat about travel, living that unconventional lifestyle and finding happiness on the road. He told me that ‘uncertainty is liberating’ and it is obvious that he has found joy in his choices and his travels. Here he shares some of his wisdom from the road.

1. When did you get started traveling? As a boy in Australia our family traveled between the city of my mother’s relatives (Adelaide) and my father’s relatives (Melbourne) by plane, car and train so that gave me a taste for moving around. The first overseas trip was to New Zealand when I was 22, but my first large solo excursion was to drive around Australia at the age of 24. I wanted to ensure that I saw my own country prior to exploring at length the rest of the world. My first serious overseas journey was just after I turned 27 when I spent nearly 12 months in Europe.

2. What made you decide make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? It was not intentional. I was given a redundancy package from my previous government job of 12 years in Australia with the intention of resettling in the Middle East. Due to not being able to find work immediately, I kept traveling and the more I traveled, the more the idea of working for someone else in an office became less and less appealing. Eventually, I started being offered free travel due to speaking at conferences and media trips. Such a lifestyle meant that I didn’t stay in one place for long. I don’t have a home. Even though Dubai is my base, I’m always staying at different hotels and apartments whilst there.

3. What benefits do you feel you get from this lifestyle? How do you handle the nay-sayers in your life? Every day is an adventure. I’m able to explore and experience far more of the world than in an office job and only taking two, four or even six weeks of holidays each year. Nobody has told me that I couldn’t live this lifestyle. I’m a very driven and positive person, so telling me something cannot be done (especially without strong logical reasons) is going to be forgotten. I remember a few months ago staring out of the plane window as my flight came to land in Dubai after a conference speaking engagement and I smiled whilst thinking “I have a sensational life”. I now travel on one overseas trip every month (most are provided but some I still pay for). It has opened a whole world of opportunities for me, far more than if I had stayed in Australia or chosen to remain in only one place.

4. How did you save money to be able to afford living ‘on the road’/traveling often? How long did it take you to make the jump to a location independent/travel-based life? Saving money was in the form of a redundancy package. From the time I left Australia, I reckon it took me around 500 days to jump to a location independent/travel-based life.

Camel Trek - near Rang-kul, Tajikistan

Camel Trek – near Rang-kul, Tajikistan

5. How do you choose your destinations and for how long you’ll stay? What type of accommodations do you typically choose? Are there any specific resources you recommend? If I’m staying in a place for more than a week and the price allows, I’ll choose an apartment. Shorter term is usually a hotel, and I’m an upper budget to lower mid-range accommodation seeker. I always stay in private rooms with ensuite – not those at backpacker hostels because they usually offer less value for money than similar accommodation (such as budget hotels) that target the local market. I use third party website such as Agoda and Booking.com, but in some places it is cheaper to go directly to the hotel and negotiate your own rate. Recommendations from fellow travelers are always very welcome. How long I stay depends on my work and the cost of living. If the cost of living is cheap I stay longer, if it is more expensive I move once my work has concluded.

6. How much money do you traditionally need annually to support this lifestyle? I have absolutely no idea. I obtain a good portion of free travel due to my blogging and social media work or to speak at conferences, so any figure I provide would not factor in what is provided to me at no cost, and I don’t know the value of what is provided to me in terms of free flights, transport or accommodation anyway.

7. How do you make money on the road and save for retirement? I have a rare talent (especially amongst travel bloggers) in that I’m a very experienced public speaker. I commenced public speaking seriously in 1990, though I was public speaking even before that time. Due to these skills I earn an income through training people in public speaking and social media in addition to speaking fees for speeches at conferences or other events. I have sold a few photos and am currently looking into obtaining other revenue sources. At this stage I don’t save for my retirement. One benefit I do have is that I receive a small pension from my superannuation fund I contributed to during my government employment in Australia. It’s definitely not enough to survive off of in places such as Europe, but it is very handy when I have a long period without receiving income from other s0urces.

Old City of Sana'a - Yemen

Old City of Sana’a – Yemen

8. How do you handle visas, vaccinations, legal documents/passports, taxes and healthcare while living without a home base or an ever-changing one? Long term travel affects each of these differently. Once you are traveling for more than six months, then obtaining visas is just as easy on the road, otherwise you could be told to apply in your home country. There are cases when applying on the road will not work, but I haven’t faced them yet. Vaccinations and passports pose no problems at all, and since I am now based in Dubai, there is no income tax. I take out health insurance with World Nomads and it works for me.

9. If you decide to settle somewhere – where and when do you think it will be? The place I’m most likely to settle is Dubai – it’s an incredible city and in the centre of my favourite traveling destinations – Africa, Asia and Europe. Plus, the Middle East is my favourite region. I’m unsure when that will occur, it could be months or even years away.

10. What advice do you have for others trying to make the jump to a location independent/ travel-heavy lifestyle? Highly advisable to have a job or skill that does not require you to be in an office or the same specific physical location on a regular basis. Best suited to location-independent lifestyle are those that can complete the vast majority of their work from behind a computer in their own home or anywhere else they choose. Since my work revolves around travel writing and photography, travel for me is now work, so the world is now my office. My training work means I need to be in Dubai for approximately one-two months of the year, but the rest of the time is free for me to be where I want to be. Before you make the move to a location-independent/travel-heavy lifestyle, have money behind you and no pressing financial commitments. Ensure that you can deal with uncertainty, are adaptable to different environments, and that you are flexible enough to accept any work or travel offers and move at very short notice. If you fulfill these criteria, than please step forth into the unknown – it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Las Geel - Somaliland

Las Geel – Somaliland

For more details on Shane’s travel encounters around the world, check out his website.

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