It starts like the motivational blockbuster film we’ve all dreamt of living, at least once. After a weekend in Iceland, Adam Groffman packed in his job and packed his rucksack for a round-the-world trip. @TravelsOfAdam was born and seven years on has now grown into 30k followers and a Top 10 travel blog.
Although Adam didn’t start travelling until two college semesters abroad, the curiosity and excitement of it was always there in his Dallas childhood. ‘My Dad worked for an airline and was an amateur photographer. There was always his photos from Afghanistan or the Taj Mahal around the kitchen. He taught me about the power of travel. You learn a new culture, a new environment. You learn something about yourself and teach someone about yourself.’
So it’s easy to see why, after a weekend in Iceland, Adam felt his ‘dream job’ as a graphic designer in the quaint city of Boston was no longer his dream. ‘I went back to work on Tuesday and thought why aren’t I travelling? I love travelling! I asked if I could transfer to an international office and spent nine months going through the process, but this was 2009 and the recession meant didn’t happen.’
‘I couldn’t wait any longer so I made the plan to quit and travel on my own. I couldn’t rely on anyone else so I had to do it myself.’ With some good savings, a Lonely Planet gap year book and plans ‘that of course I didn’t use any of’, Adam turned away from the American dream of work, family and retirement. ‘I liked having the stable job and the retirement savings so it required a bit of change in my mind-set. It was scary at first but I intentionally eased myself into it, starting in Spain where I’d been before’.
‘I was alone but that’s the thing about travel. You force yourself into these situations and you have to solve it. Then you come away with these great stories and experiences.’ Anyone who gives just a casual glance to his Twitter feed enjoys those experiences by proxy. Last week his adventures included a drag brunch and marching bagpipers in Virginia.
— Adam Groffman 📎 (@travelsofadam) December 4, 2016
It’s through this social media sharing that Adam’s built his ‘queer hipster’ brand to become a freelance blogger and keep funding his trips. ‘I started the blog almost out of guilt, to show I was doing something while I was away and avoid a gap in my CV.’ 18 months after leaving Boston, he ran out of money in Vietnam and went to end his trip backpacking in Europe. He soon realised Berlin should become his base. ‘I’d met these cool people there. And thought maybe I can stay here. I had an internship job offer, a long term apartment and friends. Berlin has this vibe and this energy, it made me feel like something was possible. Things just fell into place.’
Of course that doesn’t make the freelancing life is perfect. Adam is refreshingly sincere and vulnerable when he tweets about his lonely days, frustrations at chasing up invoices and lessons learnt from Grindr. He’s still stumbling around social media like the rest of us. ‘Twitter has been one of my favourite things ever. The blog has the aspect of meeting and talking with other people who love travelling. But now it’s also become my job and there’s a pressure to make a living with it, sometimes I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. Sometimes it feels like work.’
But he isn’t about to lose the joy of escaping anytime soon. ‘When I go somewhere new, I get that good feeling, being able to experience a new place, people and culture. To really discover it you have to disconnect and embrace the newness.’
As our chat comes to an end, I realise Adam’s smile and coyness is infectious even on a Skype call from his Berlin apartment, and dream up everything I’d show him around London when he visits again next year. ‘I love London because it’s such a big city, there’s so many things going on it’s impossible to see everything. England is a really diverse place and I haven’t seen a lot. ‘
For now, he’s spending the winter exploring more of America, which started with a trip back home for Thanksgiving. ‘Giving myself a chance to disconnect is helpful. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking a step back, and evaluating where I am and I feel special again.’
‘I feel really silly that this is my life! I’m glad I’m still alive and it works.’