Meet the man who's been continuously travelling for more than 9 years – Khaleej Times

Meet the man who's been continuously travelling for more than 9 years – Khaleej Times

Meet the man who's been continuously travelling for more than 9 years – Khaleej Times

Sunday, Jan 09, 2022 | Jamada Al-Aakhirah 7, 1443
Published: Fri 24 Dec 2021, 9:16 AM
Last updated: Fri 24 Dec 2021, 10:49 AM
What’s the longest period of time you’ve spent travelling without a break?
30 days? Four weeks? Six months?
Dutchman Tom Grond, 37, has been continuously travelling for the past more than nine years and he is not stopping anytime soon.
In Dubai for the umpteenth time, the full-time professional world traveller spoke to Khaleej Times about his undying wanderlust that has already taken him to more than 120 countries.
“If I had wanted, I could have visited all 195 countries around five years ago but I am not chasing any milestone. I travel out of passion and for the cathartic experience that comes with it. That explains why I’ve visited the same country multiple times. I want to soak up the many vibes of each country instead of just touching their base,” says Tom, who has been to the UAE 11 times, Thailand (17), US and Indonesia (8) and four times each to India, Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile.
He records his experiences in his travel blog www.traveltomtom.net which is now regarded as one of the fastest growing travel blogs in the world.
Interestingly, the avid adventurer doesn’t have to spend any money to live up his dream. His trips are mostly covered by hotels and airlines, while his blog earns him money as he travels.
But that’s not how it all started, recalls Tom, who grew up in South Holland, a province in Netherlands bordering Belgium and Germany.
“Living close to two borders meant being spoon-fed with different cultures and languages early in life.”
However, the travel bug didn’t bite him until he travelled to the Caribbean Island of Aruba in 2005 for his thesis and was exposed to even more diverse cultures.
“I met people from various nationalities during my six month long stay in Aruba. Their fascinating stories planted a seed of curiosity about their native land. But I was 21 and had no money to visit these countries. So I took up a job in Netherlands. By the time I was 23, I had saved about €18,000 ($25,000) to fund my trip. I didn’t really have a plan. All I wanted to do was travel to as many countries as I could. Over the next 12 months, I visited 23 countries as a backpacker, starting from Cancun in Mexico. I did scuba diving in the Blue Hole in Belize, took Spanish classes in Guatemala and enjoyed the scenic wonders of places like Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua. In total, I spent three months in Central America and then another four in South America.”
The exhilarating trip only went to fuel Tom’s desire to explore more countries. Between 2008 and 2009 he went for his second big trip, travelling to South East Asia, Middle East and the Oceania.
On his return, he worked for the three years before realising that he was not cut for regular jobs. “I never went to work with a sad face but there is nothing better than getting lost in this world,” he says
On December 1, 2012, Tom bade goodbye to his family and embarked on yet another globetrotting journey that continues till this day.
“This time I had saved about $100,000. I remember where I come from and am mindful of using my money. In the beginning, if there was a choice of staying in a $6 room with air conditioning or $4 without one, I would invariably go with the second option,” said Tom, who has not stayed in one place for longer than a month.
In 2013, he took 49 flights to various countries in South America, North America, Middle East and Asia. The following year his itinerary included countries in the Far East. In 2015, he took a road through Europe all the way to the Croatian coast before selling his car and flying to Turkey and then traveling onwards to Iran, eventually landing up in Dubai in time for the New Year celebrations. “I am very impressed by the hospitality of the wonderful people in Dubai,” he says.
Tom said he began posting his travel videos on Instagram in 2014 but didn’t realise its potential until two years later when a five-star-hotel in Thailand offered him free accommodation in return for Instagram posts about the property.
“Back then, I had 40,000 followers on Instagram (he has nearly 200,000 now) which was still evolving as a marketing tool. I could not believe my luck,” he recalled.
In subsequent years the social media platform opened more avenues for Tom as hotels after hotels queued up to host him.
But he still had to cover other travel-related costs. Tom said he overcame the problem in 2017 by launching his own blog and becoming a full-time digital nomad.
“Now I achieved financial freedom. My blog earns me money through affiliate marketing while I travel around the world,” he said.
Tom said the pandemic disrupted his travel plans but he managed to find a way around it. “I went to countries where they weren’t many travel restrictions. In hindsight I think it wasn’t a wise thing.”
Tom, who has had several close calls, including one involving a drug cartel in Mexico, said travelling has shaped his life and made him a better person.
“In 2019, I went to Busra in Syria as the second European tourist after nine years of civil war. It was a humbling experience; Houses lay flattened to the ground for miles and miles. Yet those who lived there remained positive and determined to build the country.”
Tom said he’s been to his hometown several times since 2012 but always as a visitor. “My parents are very supportive of my decision. Saying goodbye to them is never fun, but it’s always the start of a new adventure,” he added as he prepared for this next trip.
mazhar@khaleejtimes.com
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