Roobens is a black travel blogger from Paris, France. He runs a bilingual blog (English and French) called Been Around The Globe. He realized there was very little information on the internet regarding black people so he decided to focus his blog on traveling as a black person. Roobens is also a freelance writer and a freelance translator (English to French). With his experience acquired on the road, Roobens wrote a book, Traveling While Black, available on Amazon.
Here’s an intimate (and inspiring) look at the ups and downs of his adventure. If you’re looking for insider advice on how to escape the rat race and build a location independent life, this is for you.
How long have you been traveling? Where have you traveled?
I’ve been traveling for three years now, although Covid put a halt to my travels. I don’t know how many countries I’ve been to (I don’t count) but I’ve traveled all over the world: North America, the Caribbean islands, South America, North Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, Caucasus, Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, Oceania… I’ve also traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, I love this area!
What was your life like before you started your adventure?
I had what I would call a “normal” life before I started my adventure. I was working as a key account manager for Groupon, the website with all the discounts and coupons. A regular 9 to 5.
I’m not gonna lie, the job was interesting at first (it was a startup when I joined the company and all of us were multitasking!). But it got boring after a few years, I hated the corporate politics and I realized the rat race wasn’t for me.
This is when the company made some redundancies, the business wasn’t going well. I had to leave.
That was a blessing in disguise!
I decided to take a gap year. I sold my stuff, left my apartment, bought my backpack, launched my blog, and started traveling!
What inspired you to start your life of travel and/or build a location independent lifestyle?
At the time, I had already heard about travel blogs and digital nomads. I already knew that was a new lifestyle and some people managed to “make it”, making money while traveling.
Moreover I had read “The 4-hour workweek” by Tim Ferriss where he clearly states that depending on your job, it’s not impossible to work from anywhere in the world.
I was sold.
I always loved traveling and writing. But how could I mix the best of both worlds!?
By launching a travel blog, of course!
And that’s what I did! Later on, I also started doing freelance writing, freelance translation and a bit of SEO consulting.
What struggles did you face when deciding to leave the security of your old life behind (emotionally, financially, relationally, etc)?
Telling my mom I was about to leave for a long time wasn’t easy. That was probably one of the hardest things to do.
When leaving the security of my old life, I knew I didn’t want to go back to the rat race, but I didn’t know exactly how I would make it work. That was a bit stressful because I couldn’t fail, I didn’t want to go back home to find a 9 to 5 again.
I was like “I’ll have to figure it out on the road”. It put a lot of pressure on my shoulders.
After about a year on the road, I also realized being far away from friends and family for a long time was harder than expected. I missed weddings, babies’ birth, etc.
How did you overcome those struggles?
Fortunately, thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with your loved ones, even if you’re far away from them.
Video calls through Facebook, Skype and Whatsapp are common and regular when I’m traveling.
Regarding the financial part, I had to figure it out.
I took online courses, read many articles on the internet, and joined numerous travel bloggers Facebook groups. That was so useful.
Exchanging with like-minded people was crucial in my success as a digital nomad. I’m still learning, it’s a constant learning process.
How have you supported yourself financially throughout your journey?
First, I had savings.
Remember, I was laid off for economic reasons and the company gave us money.
But I didn’t want to spend all of it!
I quickly started freelance writing and then freelance translation.
I was still publishing articles on my blog but it wasn’t making any money.
Over the months, the traffic on the blog grew and it started to generate income, mostly thanks to affiliation and display ads. Nowadays my income comes from my blog, freelance gigs, and the book I wrote, Traveling While Black.
How has your life improved since quitting your “normal” job?
Oh yes! I wake up when I had enough sleep, no more annoying alarm clocks! It does feel good!
I can work from anywhere, as long as I have my laptop and decent Wi-Fi connection.
I can work in the morning if I want to, early in the afternoon, in the evening or nighttime, depending on when I’m motivated and/or inspired to work.
You get the point—having the freedom and flexibility to work when and where you want to is a huge improvement since quitting my normal job.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
As a black traveler, the fear of racism when traveling is real.
I’m no exception, it’s very common among black people on the road. The thing is, most black people face racism on a regular basis in their hometown. Therefore it’s quite logical we’re also afraid to experience racism again, but this time far away from home.
But I manage to overcome this fear.
First I had to be brave enough to go explore the world on my own. After just a few weeks, I started to realize 95% of people mean you no harm. The vast majority of people are not hostile towards black people.
It gets easier when you realize that and stop being on the defensive.
I traveled solo extensively, and nothing really bad happened during my trips (although I’ve been denied entry to the Philippines partly because of my skin color).
Publishing your travel life online can also be frustrating.
From the outside, it looks like you’re living the dream life, working on the beach while sipping a cocktail. But it’s a lot of work to build an online business from scratch and manage to make a decent income off it.
What’s more frustrating is people don’t always take you seriously. They assume you’re always on vacation, or that it’s just a cool hobby. They don’t realize you’re working non stop to make it work.
People started to take me more seriously when I appeared on French TV.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you would’ve known first starting out on your adventure?
Don’t rush. When you start traveling, you want to see it all and you travel way too fast, hopping from one place to another.
Don’t do this.
You’re embracing a new lifestyle, you’re not taking a two-week vacation. This means you have time. Move too fast and you’ll burnout.
Anything you would’ve done differently?
I would have written my book a bit earlier. Creating your own product is the best way to go if you really want to make money when running an online business.
What’s the biggest life lesson travel has taught you? How has it affected your life?
I know it sounds cliché…but although I talked earlier about the fear of racism when traveling, at the end of the day, we realize people are inherently good.
In Iran, people stopped me in the street to get a picture with me, asking me where I was coming from and if I needed anything.
“If you need help, feel free to ask! We want to make sure you’re having a great time here!”.
In Uzbekistan, locals were inviting me to have dinner with them, to meet their family and their friends. I was even invited to a wedding there!
In many countries, the locals ask if you need help when you look lost (at a train station, in the street, etc.). It does feel good!
What one piece of advice would you give readers thinking about leaving behind the 9-to-5 to build a location independent lifestyle?
Follow your heart, but take your brain with you. Don’t quit your day job without a plan. Start planning early, while you still have a salary.
Read books, take online courses, join Facebook groups to exchange with other people just like you. This will make the transition smoother.
Any final words of wisdom?
As the youth say, YOLO (you only live once!). Design your own life, don’t make decisions just to please other people. On your deathbed, you’ll regret all your missed opportunities. You don’t want that, so whenever you have an exciting and daunting idea, give it a go! Even if you fail, you won’t regret it! At least you tried!
***Do you have a successful “escape the rat race” story? Wanna be featured in an upcoming case study? Shoot me an email for more information.***