Meet Adam Groffman: A Texas-born American living in Berlin who spent his childhood and college years in Boston before giving up his job as a graphic designer to travel at 25. Groffman grew up in an airline family and had traveled often as a child, visiting places all over the USA, but also touring Mexico City, Montréal, London and Paris, all before he turned 18.
I caught up with Groffman, founder of blog Travels of Adam, via e-mail to talk about how his travel-bug slash quarter-life crisis changed everything.
Read the interview below:
Why did you decide to leave your job and start exploring?
It was all because of a trip to Iceland. That was the first trip I took outside of America after graduating college. I only had a tiny bit of vacation time so I just visited on a three-day weekend from Boston. I wanted to go abroad but just didn’t have the time. The fact that I was hurrying around such a beautiful place made me realize I needed to get abroad more often. I quickly discovered the only way to make that happen was to do it myself.
You visited North Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia. Were these places on your bucket list?
I had an initial itinerary that I remember writing six months before I ended up leaving the USA. I spent months and months planning and saving up for “The Big Trip” and naturally tried to put a lot of the countries I wanted to visit on the list. But things didn’t work out that way. I was originally hoping to travel South America, but by the time I’d reached my savings goal, the seasons were aligned right with my timing, so I went to North Africa, instead.
What countries did you see, specifically?
I started the trip with four weeks in Spain, then onto Morocco, Egypt and Jordan. From Jordan I went to Israel and Palestine for what I expected to just be a week or two, but ended up becoming so mesmerized with the history, culture and politics of the region, I stayed four months. Afterwards, I did what many Israelis end up doing—I went to India for three months to gain some clarity. Then it was onward to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In Vietnam, my $20,000 travel savings was spent and I had to make a decision: Go home to Texas and look for a job in America, or take a risk and try to make my dream of living in Europe a reality. I went to Berlin and haven’t looked back since.
You’ve been living in Berlin since 2011. What’s this like?
Berlin is an incredible city — very dynamic and full of special, interesting people and ideas. The city has only been reunified for 25 years so there’s this sense that the city is still being rebuilt—and to be here, a part of it all, is honestly one of the greatest feelings.
Your blog, Travels of Adam, maps out where you’re going and why, where you hope to go and why and what you’ve learned along the way. Where was your most recent trip?
I just returned from a visit home to my parents in Texas. Living abroad, it’s important to get home however and whenever you can!
Where do you hope to go next?
I’ve got a lot of travels planned for around Europe over the next few months
Why are the Canary Islands a maybe on your list?
I’m looking for a holiday to somewhere warm and the Canary Islands are one of those destinations that keep popping up. But I’m not 100 per cent sold on the idea, so don’t know yet where I’ll go for my “winter escape.”
Traditional people might think it’s funny (read: Odd) that you stopped working to travel. How did you make an income while on that first big vacation/adventure?
I didn’t make an income or work while I traveled. I spent over a year saving up money before I left the USA and the goal was to just enjoy it. I wasn’t sold on the idea that I needed to work while I traveled. Instead, I left the USA with $20,000 with the goal to spend it all. It lasted over 15 months.
What did you learn about yourself on your first big excursion? Do you continue to learn more about yourself each time you go away?
I learn new things everywhere I go and whatever I do. Life gets boring if you don’t accept changes or new challenges, so I try to push myself when I can. My first big trip taught me a lot about humanity and humility, about politics and people. For example, while I was backpacking in Jerusalem, I became so fascinated with the regional history, culture and politics, that I ended up volunteering for four months at an NGO dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. I learned a lot during that time—not just about the local politics but also how cultures and peoples can collide, about people and beliefs and the effect of politics. Truly a humbling experience that I’ll never forget.
Do you prefer to travel in a group, with one other person or by yourself? Why?
It varies! Sometimes, I like to travel with my boyfriend, other times, it’s more fun to go it alone. When travelling, sometimes I take tours, other times I prefer to wander.
You’ve now built your website and have a fan base of people that exceeds 7,000 at the very least – how do you make an income without working in a traditional setting?
It hasn’t been the easiest road. My blog makes me an income (for travel blogging tips, click here), but I also work as a freelancer. I write travel stories and occasional guides (most recently for AFAR.com), but I also work as a professional digital marketer. Currently, I’m the Online Marketing Manager for a European tour operator, working remotely while still managing to travel and blog full-time.
How should others react when they get the travel bug?
The travel bug can be tough! I think you have to allow yourself to make occasional gut instinctual decisions, but you should also maintain a bit of responsibility. For example, when I decided I wanted to quit my job to travel, it still took me over a year to build up the savings to make it happen. There was a lot of waiting involved but then once I reached my goal, I totally let loose. I didn’t necessarily track so closely how or where I spent my money, but I let my gut decide where to go. When I showed up in a new place, I either stayed or went depending upon how I felt. Doing so allowed me a lot of freedom to travel in a whole new way.
Is it important to plan trips? Or, do you prefer to just head out on an adventure on a whim?
I don’t mind either, but as my responsibilities grow, it is a bit more difficult to not plan a trip. I try not to plan my day-to-day activities so much, but rather like to discover what’s cool when I arrive. However, hotels and flights are generally booked at least somewhat in advance.
Do you see yourself always staying in Berlin? Or, do you want to move again?
I love this city and don’t really have a plan to leave. It’s got a great environment, amazing people and an honestly unique culture. This city is alive with creativity at the moment, so I just don’t see myself pulling away from that type of environment.
What are the pros and cons of travelling when you’re young?
I’m a product of the millennial generation so don’t particularly care to wait for much. If I want to travel, I’m going to work hard to make it happen as soon as possible. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but I don’t necessarily believe we should have to wait around forever to make our dreams and our goals come true.
Special thanks to Groffman for speaking with me about his travels. Follow Groffman on Twitter for details on his whereabouts and discoveries.
Do you have an inspiring travel story? Get in touch!