While chatting with Celinne via Skype, the thought that immediately crossed my mind was Cavafy’s epic poem “Ithaca”. This nomad of the world seemed to me like a female Odysseus. But unlike Homer’s intrepid hero, who was thrust into his adventures despite his will, Celinne Da Costa was circumnavigating the globe with a clear purpose and conviction.
This Brazilian-Italian storyteller-writer sounded in complete control of her destiny. Our female Odysseus had chosen to leave a promising corporate career in New York City, where she worked for 3 years after receiving a decent education in college, and pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a global nomad and travelling around the world, connecting with people.
Listening to her talk passionately about her own “Odyssey”, I could not help but think that Celinne’s Ithaca is and always has been the journey itself, the experiences that she embraces along her path, not the final destination. She was the personification of the message of Cavafy’s poem: “Hope that your journey is a long one. May there be many summer mornings when, with what pleasure, what joy, you come into harbours you’re seeing for the first time; Keep Ithaca always in your mind. Arriving there is what you’re destined for. But don’t hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years”.
Celinne has faith in herself, but most importantly in the people she meets. “As I asked myself how I could jump into the unknown and travel the world, I wondered whether it was possible to weave these threads together to create a safety net of human connection strong enough to support anyone within its folds. If we stood at the edge of that cliff and knew that there was an entire network of people willing to catch us… would that diminish the fear of taking a leap? I believe yes. And I plan on testing this theory myself”, she wrote in Forbes, one of the media outlets she contributes articles to. After leaping from country to country via couch surfing and connecting with a multitude of people in her adventures, she now knows that her theory does indeed work. She shares her experiences on her blog, The Nomad’s Oasis while posting photos and news of her journeys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Here is our brief talk with Celinne Da Costa, the Italian-Brazilian story-teller, brand coach and life architect.
Can you remember that moment when you said to yourself “Ok I have had enough of the rat-race. I am out. I am going to start travelling the world from now on”? Was it a moment of realisation, or was it more a gradual process, something that slowly matured inside you?
Both. The desire to travel full-time and do this social experiment was born out of a culmination of various events that happened in the two years prior, but I did have one moment when I snapped and decided to change my life. For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to travel the world. And also for as long as I can remember, society has told me that uprooting my life to do so would stray me from the path of success. And so I settled for the responsible path to adulthood: attend a good college, get a decently paying full-time job, and build a stable, comfortable life. I did exactly what I was told. And all the while, I felt this strong dissatisfaction growing inside of me: I was completely unfulfilled in my corporate job, I felt like I was living someone else’s life, that there was something wrong with me but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Long story short, a series of events happened in the two years preceding my decision to redesign my life: I was laid off from my first real job, started The Nomad’s Oasis as a creative outlet for my passions, was chosen by an author and media personality to volunteer in Cambodia and document my experience, didn’t get a promotion that I wanted at my most recent job, broke up with a boyfriend, and had my rent price increasingly go up. Basically, I got to the point where nothing in my life was going as I wanted, I was lacking purpose, and I had a burning desire in my heart to do more with my life. One day, I asked myself – am I going to do something about this? The answer was a resounding “yes.” So, I decided to take my life apart and reassemble it.
What did your relatives and friends think of your decision to leave it all behind and become a “global nomad”?
It’s funny because I expected my friends and family to resist and talk me out of my decision to leave my corporate life in New York City behind. But they didn’t – most of them supported my decision right away, and I suppose that’s a sign that I am surrounded by people who truly care about me and wish me the best. The people who are close to me witnessed how much I was miserable living a life that didn’t “match” who I was. When I told them about my idea to travel the world and conduct my social experiment, a lot of them thought it was perfect for me and, even though some of them had reservations about the logistics, still supported me through my dream.
Have you regretted your decision at any time during your travels, and if so what might have prompted it? Nostalgia for home, your old life? The uncertainty of the unknown? Or is it that uncertainty that spurred you on?
I’ve had no regrets so far. Of course, I’ve missed my family and friends, who I don’t get to see often, but I don’t miss home. Perhaps this is because for me, “home” has always been people rather than places. I’ve been moving around since I was a little girl, so I’ve never really had a strong concept of one physical place being home. I am frequently scared of the uncertainty of the unknown, but at the same time I believe in its potential. Every time I’ve followed my heart and taken a leap of faith, it has worked out well for me. My journey helped me to understand that freedom is not necessarily making away with commitments, being location independent, or having the ability to travel whenever. True freedom, I realized, is being okay with not knowing where you’re going – but taking the steps forward anyway. Those who hold onto that inherent need to “know” are ultimately enslaved by it. Not needing to know what’s next – that utter comfort and acceptance of uncertainty – is what truly untethers us.
Have you found any kindred spirits that share your passion on your “Odyssey”? Is it an “Odyssey” in the conventional reading of you looking for your Ithaca, a final destination? Or is it the journey itself that matters along with the experiences you collect?
I’ve met so many kindred spirits, that I’m literally writing a book about it! I’m currently working on a book that documents my journey around the world, and how certain people I met along the way completely changed me with their unexpected wisdom, kindness, and guidance towards my dreams. One of my favorite encounters was with an older gentleman that I met who was a hotel manager in Myanmar. After some conversation, I found out he smuggled cows to Thailand for a living when he was younger, and was a commander in the guerrilla fighting movement against the oppressive regime alongside a monk who later became famous for his humanitarian efforts towards orphaned children. What a story! Then, there is the Italian-American host I fell head-over-heels in love with (spoiler: we broke up). We grew up less than an hour away from each other in the U.S. yet I found him while he was living in Australia. How ironic that I found “home” on the other side of the planet! Lastly, I’ll never forget asking my host in Bali whether she knew of a spiritual healer and her telling me that she lived with one. That week, I spent most of my evenings sitting on their porch in an Ubud village, discussing the meaning of love and happiness as they proceeded to school me on life with their wise Balinese philosophy. As for my “Odyssey” – I think in the beginning, I believed I had a final destination, only to realize that the experiences I am living are part of a much bigger life journey. I thought I’d travel for six months, get it out of my system, and go back to my old life with a clearer mind and a bigger paycheck. Once the six-month mark arrived, though, I realized I could not go back. I was designing the life I always dreamed of. I woke up every day with a renewed appetite for life and excitement for who I would meet, where I would go, and what I would learn. My dream was no longer a far-away land.. it was the present! THIS is the journey. As Buddha said: “There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.”
In your life story on your website, you write “I harnessed the power of human connection and kindness to stay with 70+ strangers in 17 countries”. How did that process work on a practical level? Did you rely on word of mouth and recommendations? Who was the first link that started that chain?
There were no websites involved! Only sheer human connection. All the interactions were initiated by me, and were enabled by my phone (texting, voice notes, calling) and social media (mostly Instagram and Facebook). I reached out to everyone I knew telling them about my project and asking whether they knew someone they could connect me with. I kept moving from one connection to the next until I found someone willing to host me. As my project grew and people started finding out about it, hosts started to reach out to me through Instagram. I began my planning a few months before my departure, although that’s a loose term for it. I planned my finances (saving at least 20% of my salary, taking on freelance gigs, cutting out unnecessary expenses, etc), roughly mapped out which geographical areas I wanted to cover (I listed out my top 10 countries I always wanted to visit, and made sure I’d be passing through each one), and started reaching out to potential hosts as well as building up my online presence.
Would be it fair to say that by meeting with different people around the globe and sharing in their unique cultures up close you are searching to find yourself? Is it a way to do some soul searching?
I strongly believe that every person you meet holds a key. If you really want, they are capable of unlocking something in you: this could be a quality you didn’t know you had, a life lesson, a reminder of who you want or don’t want to be. Everyone has something to teach you. I wouldn’t say I am searching to find myself. I’m here. But I do think that life is a process of rediscovery, of uncovering who you already are. That’s why I love to interact with as many people as possible, and open my mind to unique experiences that come my way!
How long would you generally stay at your temporary hosts?
Depends. I always ask them what is okay and comfortable. I’ve stayed for as little as one day or as long as a few weeks.
How discomforting was the “discomfort of unfamiliarity”? Were there times when you literally feared for your safety? And if so, in what ways did that affect your next stop on your journey in terms of opening up to people? Is there a specific example you can remember?
I get this question frequently, and oddly enough, I can’t think of a time where I truly, in my heart, feared for my safety. Sure, I had some moments of uncertainty or concern, but I always felt taken care of by the Universe. I trust people. I trust that at their core, people are good, kind, and want to do better if given the opportunity. Call it naive, but I do think the Law of Attraction works in my favor in this department. Of the 100+ people I’ve stayed with in the past two years, I’ve only been concerned about 1! That’s a 1% weirdo rate! I’d rather trust everyone and get hurt once, than not experience love a thousand times.
How do you earn a living?
Over the course of the past year, I’ve created three separate streams of income: brand identity and storytelling coaching (primary), social media influencer work (partnerships, brand collaborations), and writing (articles, my own).
Have your travels affected your relationship in any way?
I’m not in a relationship and right now, I honestly don’t think it’s sustainable for my lifestyle. For the first time in my life, I can say I feel truly comfortable and happy on my own. I have a lot of dreams and goals I am working through in the coming year, and although I am open to a healthy and supportive relationship, I am not actively looking to fill my time with someone. I have a lot of standards when it comes to what I want and need, and I am okay waiting for the right person to come along.
What would you recommend to someone who is also considering making such a radical change in their lives? What is the first practical thing they should do?
Big change always starts with small steps. People look at their dreams and think they’re impossible because they feel so big and unmanageable. I often get this from my clients, they are so scared and concerned that their vision is not possible. This is what I tell them: start with what you CAN do. Make a list of your dreams, of what goals you need to accomplish in order to get there, and then take those steps and break them down into bite-sized, actionable steps. Then – this is the most important part – DO something about it every day. To give you an example, one of my initial obstacles was money. I needed to save up enough, and quickly, to get me started on my journey. So, I automated my bank account to save 20% of my paycheck every week, I closely tracked my expenses for a few months to make sure I was on track, and I applied every week to at least 10 freelance jobs so I could make more income on the side. Take it step by step – you will get there!
How long do you see yourself living like a global nomad?
I’m not sure, for as long as it takes until I want to change direction. Since leaving my old life behind, I flow in the direction that life takes me and listen to what my heart wants. Right now, my heart tells me to keep travelling the world, create meaningful experiences and human connections, share my story, and empower others to share theirs. When the time comes to make a change, I’ll know it instinctively. If I’ve learned anything on this journey, is that my heart will not lead me astray.
Follow Celinne’s adventures here: