There are certain people in your life that you will only see every so often. Despite your best intentions, life just sometimes gets in the way, and time can run away on you. Consider them your once a year (maybe) friends. When you eventually happen to cross paths with each other, it will be when and where you least expect it. These encounters are always memorable, entertaining and uplifting, and they will always leave you feeling like “why the hell don’t we do this more often.”
All too fitting an introduction for a good friend of mine, Cameron Brown from Ceduna... are you scratching your head trying to place where that is? That’s because It’s in the outback of Australia. And as if the stars aligned, it is even more fitting that as I sit here to pen this piece, it just so happens that Cameron is coming to Vancouver, Kosan’s home base. Problem is, we’re heading to Argentina where he has just been, and it’s likely we will miss each other this time around.
Cameron is a man on a mission to make the world a better place, and I can say without much doubt at all, he is probably going to do just that. Dead Serious. So we don’t hold it against him when our paths don’t cross, he’s got bigger fish to fry.
But let me tell you, he is not an easy man to get a hold of either. We received several bounce back e-mails from Cameron that read something like the below -
“I am currently in Uruguay after spending time in the Interior Atlantic rainforest in Northern Argentina, filming a story about a remarkable sustainability project happening there.
I will have very limited access to technology while here and am then in Australia, Canada and the US for speaking engagements before the end of the year, so I'll reply as soon as I'm able."
You get the idea!
But we finally caught up with him. It was a perfectly sunny day in Vancouver and he was at an Airbnb in Argentina that housed a Grand Piano (a prerequisite for him as he’s also recording music all over the world). So although this was originally supposed to be a Q & A for our A Beer With Series, we need a bit more time (and space) to tell the whole story.
Cameron is an entrepreneur. A Musician. A Speaker. A guy who makes sustainability & travel films for a web series “A Place Called Earth”. He’s also a digital nomad, but more on that later.
Until about two and half years ago Cameron had never left his home of Australia. He claims he didn’t even know how to dial a US phone number.
Then BOOM. Out of nowhere, Cameron and his long time girlfriend break up. He questions his life, catches a common cold, goes for a walk, and low and behold he has an epiphany. Of course it’s not quite that simple, nor as eloquently described as he was able to. As I repeated my notes back to him to describe this phase of his life, he flashed me a knowing smile over Skype. That’s one thing you should know about Cam, he’s pretty much always smiling and pretty much always in a good mood.
Cam responds stilling smiling, “ You know when you get that nagging feeling that something isn’t on track? I knew I needed a shift. Then I thought...I wonder if I could stay in places where there are grand pianos all over the world.”
Turns out it was a thing.
“Originally,” Cameron continued, “ I had no intention of getting rid of everything….And then I looked at all this stuff (I owned) that was just sitting at home wasting away. This stuff would serve someone else so much more.”
Cameron paused again, with a twinkle in his eye as he put his hands gesturing as if he was typing on a computer.
“I wasn’t going to leave until April 2017. I was going to go to Costa Rica for two weeks for a Sea Turtle Project.”
He began to hit the imaginary keys with force and vigor. He was pretending to search for flights. “I could see myself typing in the details for the flight (to Costa Rica) and I just booked 3 months. I thought to myself. Dude are you really doing this. I think you are. Holy Shit I’ve just done that.”
Cameron is as eager and joyful as a puppy as he recalls this great moment in his life.
He’d also just booked the 3 month trip not for April...which was months away at the time, but for 45 days later.
Alas as I sat there, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of envy for Cam’s impromptu journey. The greatest adventures always seem to be born from spontaneity. Born of some ordinary circumstances that have somehow become extraordinary. What if she’d never left him I thought. Shit, I assumed she had left him. Probably not important. What if he’d never had that man cold? Shit, I just assumed he had a man cold - my wife always accuses me of "man colds" but maybe they don't get man colds in the outback.
Of course, as I thought these things, I realized he was well into his journey now. Costa Rica, Colombia and now Argentina. Sounding like a badass seasoned traveler. But of course it never quite starts that way.
“I knew,” Cam said, jarring me back to his presence, “when I arrived in Costa Rica I’d have to be focused. Webinars. Podcasts. Coaching.” Then unexpectedly, it came as almost a relief to the high energy that Cameron always brought, his voice cracked...
“The first couple of weeks were really tough. It was really a shock. Having to work. I was feeling lonely. People didn’t speak English. I’d never been to a non english speaking country…”
As my friend went on, I realized I needed to bring him back from that difficult place. We’d all been here. Clearly he’d survived, if not thrived. What happened, happened, and he made it through.
“So you love turtles?” I asked.
Genuine laughter! Perfect.
“No, it was just a thing I thought might be cool,” Cam responded with his signature ear to ear grin.
“Okay, so you didn't have a fascination with turtles. I envisioned you’d swimming with turtles down under as a kid and deciding it would be your life’s work to save them,” a noble mission no doubt, I thought.
“I had a pet kangaroo growing up but no turtles,” he returned. I could sense my friend was about launch into something a little more serious.
“No, it was a way of just inspiring people to make an impact. It turned into one of the most magical experiences of my life. There was no internet (referring to his work with turtles). It was really about understanding projects like that. How they support our planet; whether that be rainforests, animal sanctuaries or working with indigenous communities. I see animals and plants the same as humans, we’re all part of a collective here on earth. And I wanted to expose people to different environments and experiences that create change”
I asked, “This is essentially your ‘A Place called Earth’ project, right?” He didn’t even really acknowledge the question, but instead launched into the answer.
“Here’s the thing, we can make an impact on three levels. Our lives, the lives of others and the planet. The self - being exposed to different experiences - gets you out of your comfort zone where you can learn so much about yourself. Others - You’re being exposed to different people which increases compassion for those from different parts of the world. The Planet - You’re exploring and experiencing nature and animals in a way that gives you a new level of understanding that we are all connected“
No doubt all experiences I and many I know would associate with travel, I thought.
“So how do we actually apply these things to places we go?” I asked
“A lot of travel is marketed as living a great life and having whatever you want to have. Now, that impacts all three levels, but not always positively. Medellin for example has grown like crazy… People should really focus on how they can experience other parts of the country to be nomads. Take the Petroglyphs for example that have been discovered recently. Up there, they’re still recovering from war times. They’re rapidly cutting down rainforests for farms when sustainable tourism could be a viable alternative income source… People in general need to take a good hard look at themselves and ask why are you really here.”
The floodgates had opened. And said ‘man on a mission’ started to unravel his mission.
“In Costa Rica on the Osa Peninsula, the locals receive no benefit from all the Cruise Ships that port there. I thought, are you fucking kidding me? We have a responsibility as travelers. If we’re not supporting these locals by being there, then alternative income sources become a problem.“
I listened Intently.
“I was on a trek in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta where people are moving from farming to tourism. The sustainability of that tourism is really shit right now. People who are taking these trips need to take responsibility and ask themselves what impact I’m having on the environment.“
It was a lot to take in. We were talking, essentially, about not just being focused on traveling to a place and living there or working from there, but making a conscious effort to take it to a new level and make a bigger impact.
“Find a reason bigger than just experiencing things for yourself. Volunteer. Help Locals. Buy Local. Find a way you can support local.”
I knew Cameron had a lot of advice to give and stories to tell. They all seemed to be right there dancing at the tip of of his tongue as he rattled off his impassioned views specifically on being a digital nomad and more generally, a citizen of this planet.
Time was ticking on how much of his story I could really share. But as we’re a travel company who’d just written an e-book on being a digital nomad in Southeast Asia I wanted to learn about his experiences with work and travel.
“So tell me about the term digital nomad and how it relates you and what you’re doing?” I asked.
“It was a term I identified with to start but not so much anymore. I’ve met a few who are the same. I see myself as nomadic. But not so much a digital nomad. We’re all born explorers. For me though it’s not just about work & travel, it’s about exploring the world in a way that creates an impact.“
That was it.
“Many digital nomads I know are starting to want a base… others aren’t. But there comes a time when hype wears off and I think there will be a wearing off from the nomadic hype. I also believe though, that a part of it is here to stay, especially for those doing it for the right reasons. Even caveman moved around. They were nomadic. It’s only recent times where we’ve had a actual house.. That nomadic element is within each of us.”
It was probably a mistake to try and put a label on it, and Cam had made that clear. I was just curious because in addition to our little book, I’d recently read about a few of my favorite DN’s changing the lifestyle. Anyways, it wasn't really the point of our conversation.
The endless travel stories rolled on as if he’d been gone forever. An evening of music and deep conversation with a local family in the mountains of Costa Rica. Getting lost in the rainforest of Colombia. I feared I could never properly re-capture the conversation and do it any justice. Thus I relegated to the reality that you’d just have to start following Cameron and his projects. So do it!
And who knows, maybe you’ll cross paths with Cam on this ‘Placed Called Earth’ and find yourself in an inspiring nomadic friendship. Or you can just watch his awesome drone videos… either way you’ll be better off for it - I know I was.
Cam's Key Conservation Projects Worked On In 2017:
LAST Sea Turtle Project - Costa Rica
Rio Claro Reserva Natural - Colombia
Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary - Colombia
Environomica Reforestation Project - Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Yacutinga Conservation Project in Argentina
Places Traveled To In 2017:
Costa Rica, Colombia
Canada & Mexico.
Have your hosts do a Wifi Speed test before you arrive.
Follow Along On Cam's Adventure: