Nickname: NateyB

Age: 33

Where are you from originally?  Evanston, IL

What did you do for work? 

I was an actor and corporate event professional. What does that mean? Different freelance event and sales related things to earn money. I was in Las Vegas demoing or debuting a new tech product one week then running an Amazing Race type activity in French Lick, IN for a group of corporate recruiters the next week. I also did voiceover for TV and radio. You wouldn't know it but you probably heard me at the end of an Alka Seltzer commercial in 2014 and 2015. 

Why do this now?  

I agree with Jess: because I'm going to die one day. Of course, the circumstantial pieces lined up well. We were planning to move out of Chicago and thought: "Hey, as long as we are getting rid of everything, why not take a trip in between the two places?" This went from a few weeks to a few months to the now endless trip we seem to be on. 

This world is so big and full and has so much variety and abundant incredible experience in it. I was a Peace Corps volunteer after college and I vowed then to take an international trip every year.

Camping at Mswambweni on Kenya's Indian Coast

Camping at Mswambweni on Kenya's Indian Coast

The following year I went to Morrocco, Spain and Turkey over a month long trip with family. The first day back I was coming out of the subway to walk to work and I started sobbing. I cried all the way to work. Having seen so much and so many different things, it felt like life was slipping through my fingers spending just one more day doing the same old routine. 

Visiting the medina in Marrakech with my dad.

Visiting the medina in Marrakech with my dad.

After that I left my 9-5 and worked pretty much on my own schedule. But I still hungered for that feeling of fundamental difference. Of deep and powerful strangeness and even discomfort. It makes me feel alive. 

I'm also happy to be married and excited to start a family in the future, This trip seems to me like a fantastic way to set the tone and spirit of our marriage and an adventure to help us learn about one another even more and cement our bond.

What do you hope to get out of the trip? 

Hoo boy. So many things. Obviously I hope to have a powerful experience with the person I have chosen and to connect with her more deeply. I hope to reinforce the sense of gratitude and pleasure in simple things that travel has always helped me cultivate. I hope for more time to reflect and a chance to think deeply about what makes my life meaningful.

I also think that being married has subtly shifted my time scale to a longer one and as I think more about how to be productive and happy in a partnership my priorities are in the process of changing. I think this break will be a great opportunity to get perspective on what I and who I want to be for myself, for Jess and for our future family.

In particular I am interested in my relation to work. I saw my mom suffer a lot in her work while I was growing up and I think I prioritized making sure that my work was something I enjoyed. I've done that and so now its time to figure out what's next. Things being fun isn't enough anymore, I want to contribute, to create, to experience risk. I want to create and experience abundance of money, spirit, well being and love. 

Where have you traveled before 2016? 

It feels like I've traveled a lot but look how much more world there is!

It feels like I've traveled a lot but look how much more world there is!


What do you like most about Jessica? 

Jess and I are very lucky to have had initial attraction and pleasure actually turn out to be based on shared core values. We both really believe in and value growth. Personal change is a consistent priority for us. Accompanying that is a real pleasure in and openness to new experiences. She can be counted on to want to try a new food, a new route home or new hobby. We make each other laugh. (I know everyone says that but Jess is seriously funny.) We share a complicated relationship to social and material status; aware of its duplicity but still attracted to its promises. 

Jess is both my project and my teacher on learning to be related to others. Jess has an ease and joy with which she engages in her relationships. My family has strongly held boundaries that has provided me with great self confidence, independent thinking and emotional stability. But I've noticed how much harder it is for me to make friends, join communities or feel connected. Jess excels at those things. So I am learning from her. And as I let her in more and more, I'm able to let others in too. 

I also appreciate her frugality, her natural beauty, her intelligence and business mindedness and her endless plasticity. She really listens and allows things to affect her and change her. I've never had as consistently productive and helpful conflicts with another human; it really feels like our arguments just about always end up with each of us learning something and improving as individuals and as partners.

What's the scariest part of the trip?  

I know that we will be exposing ourselves to more risk by traveling this much. My greatest fear would be having something happen to Jess in the middle of this first real adventure as a married couple. 

I'm anxious about a number of things: managing our money well, not missing anything (which is impossible) and really getting the most out of this singular opportunity.  

What's your craziest travel experience? 

I was in Kenya in 2008 for their first real presidential election in 50 years or so. There was a medium level of civil unrest as the uglier part of colonialism's legacy reared its head. There were people macheted to death on buses and churches burned with parishioners inside.  The New York Times hyperbolically headlined it a civil war, but it was mostly massive elective corruption and long simmering tribal feuds brought to a head. Myself and half a dozen other Peace Corps volunteers were traveling for the holidays when things boiled over. We ended up trapped in tea country in Kericho while riots swept the poorer parts of town. We spent our time experimenting how to make 5 year old dried corn edible, watching the first 4 seasons of The Office over and over again and bribing Kenya military guys to drive us to the only functioning hotel in the area to celebrate New Year's Eve. See below:

This is how far Peace Corps volunteers will go to get some booze.

This is how far Peace Corps volunteers will go to get some booze.

Eventually we were evacuated on a Doctor's Without Borders plane to Tanzania, given emergency visas and put up at a beach resort until they decided to close the Peace Corps program in Kenya and close our terms of service. I traveled for a few weeks with friends before coming home.  

My first private plane ride! You can't see buildings on fire outside but trust me, they are there.

My first private plane ride! You can't see buildings on fire outside but trust me, they are there.

Weirdest thing you've eaten?   

I've slaughtered goats and chickens and ducks. I've eaten grasshoppers and beetles, but probably the most memorable weird thing was snail soup in the Jamaa el Fna in Marrachech, Morrocco. I didn't like it particularly. 

"Don't eat the shells!" they kept telling me. I was like, "Dude. It's not like I've never had a soup made with mollusks before. JEEEZ."

"Don't eat the shells!" they kept telling me. I was like, "Dude. It's not like I've never had a soup made with mollusks before. JEEEZ."