(CNN) – He set out on a world tour in December 2012, and nearly a decade later, traveler Tom Grond is still traveling the world.
A Dutch blogger who previously worked for the Dutch government now calls himself a nomad and says he has no plans to return to his old life.
Grond has traveled to about 130 different countries, including Syria, Jordan, Colombia and Burkina Faso, and once made 58 flights a year.
Before embarking on his permanent journey, he saved up enough money to travel constantly for about three years and set himself a budget of $30 a day.
Like many tourists, Grond, known as “Traveltomtom”, stayed in hostels and lived as modestly as he could to keep costs down.
“People assume that you must have come from a wealthy family,” he says. “Yes, I am very privileged. I am from the Netherlands so I have a really good passport.
“And I saved up a lot of money to travel. But I limited myself to a limited budget. This is what really kept me on the road for so many years.”
Tom Grond has been traveling the world for almost 10 years, but he says his trip to Syria in 2019 had the biggest impact on him.
As social media took off in the 2010s and platforms like Instagram gained popularity, Grond realized he could make money posting articles about his adventures around the world.
“I have already traveled and posted photos of cool places,” he notes.
Grond launched an Instagram account in 2014 and quickly amassed a significant following, accumulating around 30,000 followers in a relatively short amount of time.
At the time, while travel blogging was definitely not a new phenomenon, there was a growing notoriety for “travellers” who make a living by sharing their experiences of traveling the world on social media and personal blogs or vlogs.
As a result, Grond was approached by hotels and organizations offering free accommodations and experiences in exchange for promotions.
“I couldn’t believe my luck,” he admits. “At first I liked it. People recognize me and it’s really cool.”
But Grond began to struggle with the need to constantly create social media content and found that this particular lifestyle wasn’t right for him.
“Blogging is the secret to being a full-time nomad. [for me] true,” he admits. – I’m very happy”.
Ultimately, this means that he has gone from being a backpacker to what he describes as an “intermediate traveller,” and his days of being in crowded hostels are behind him.
“I did it for three or four years, I guess, and I loved it,” he says. “You meet so many interesting people, you are inspired by other travelers.
“It’s a great way to explore countries. The most amazing adventures are waiting for you. I miss those days a little. But I don’t want to sleep in a dorm room anymore.”
Grond has visited almost 130 countries, including Myanmar.
Now his home may be more luxurious, but Grond says his approach to travel hasn’t really changed.
“I still want to explore and meet the locals and see what their life is like,” he says. “Without that passion, I would have stopped doing it a long time ago.”
Of course, during the tour Grond has changed not only the landscape of social networks. The global pandemic has brought the world to a large standstill in 2020, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought even more uncertainty about international travel.
But while restrictions meant he was finally forced to stay in one place for more than a few weeks, Grond hopped on a plane as soon as he could and traveled to places like Mexico and Turkey where Covid-19 restrictions were less strict.
Despite living a nomadic lifestyle, Grond notes that one of the downsides of constantly moving is that relationships can be difficult, acknowledging that he has become more conscious of it as he has aged.
“It’s impossible to maintain a relationship,” he says. “Of course, now everyone is available through WhatsApp and social networks, but I move to a new place every couple of weeks, and sometimes every couple of days.
“It can be difficult if you meet someone you enjoy spending time with. You basically always say goodbye. Every few days I say goodbye to people. It was a fight.”
And although he had mostly positive experiences during his travels, there were a few setbacks along the way.
Grond says he was recently detained by immigration police in Gabon, a country on the west coast of Africa, through a misunderstanding, and the ordeal made him even more aware of how far he is from his loved ones.
However, he emphasizes that the positives far outweigh any negatives, and he is constantly in touch with his family and friends back home, as well as the friends he has made during his travels.
“I don’t have time to miss people,” he says.
Change in perception
Grond says he has no plans to go back to his previous life sentence and considers himself a “nomad”.
Grond says that of the many places he’s been to, Syria has been his biggest influence.
“It was a very expensive trip,” he explains. “I had to pay for security and all that, but it was worth it. Some cities were completely destroyed.
“There was nothing left but a couple of buildings. Everything was just in ruins. But to see the determination and confidence that the locals we met still had was just insane.
“They had nothing left, but they were determined to build their lives again and were confident that everything would return to normal. It was a journey that changed me in many ways.”
After his visit to Syria, Grond traveled to Pakistan and Iraq and was amazed at the reaction to his online posts from those who had preconceived notions about those particular destinations.
Although he had been traveling for seven years, it was at that moment that he decided that he wanted to visit all the countries of the world.
“It’s really great to visit these places and change perceptions,” he explains. “So that inspired me a lot. I wanted to go everywhere to show people what it really is like in these places.”
But Grond is in no hurry to solve this particular problem. In fact, he plans to take his time and becomes frustrated when he runs into other travelers who seem to be racing around the world to check off countries on their wish list.
“I left the rat race in terms of graduation, work, career and family,” he says.
Grond visited his 100th country, Jordan, in 2019.
“But when I see how all these people on the Internet are trying to visit every country in the world, it seems to me that it is about the number [to them]. Each person asks, “How many countries have you been to?” I don’t want to be in the rat race again.”
He says he has traveled to at least 71 of the nearly 130 countries he has visited more than once and will often return to places he particularly likes.
“I have been to Pakistan four times,” he says. “I have been to Thailand 17 times and go to Turkey a couple of times a year. I love Istanbul.”
Grond tries not to plan ahead and often has no idea where he will be staying or where he will be in a week or so. He is currently in Panama but will fly to Bogota in the coming days and then on to Paraguay.
“The rough plan is to spend a couple of weeks in South America and some time in Central America. [in the Netherlands].”
He will also travel to West Africa in the coming months and plans to spend eight weeks touring places like Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Equatorial Guinea.
“I am very happy to be back in Africa,” he says. “This has been a very, very interesting part of my travels over the past two years.
“People always ask me when I will go home. But I don’t have a home, and I don’t know when I’ll stop traveling.”
Grond will officially celebrate 10 years of touring in December, so will he celebrate this day in a special way?
“I didn’t really think about it,” he says. “I don’t even know where I’ll be staying for the next couple of days. Soon I will cover 3333 days of uninterrupted travel. In fact, they may have already passed. I’m not entirely sure. no matter the number.”
Top image: Grond in Burkina Faso. Credit: Tom Grond