Katya The Accidental Nomad
This interview with Katya from Russia is part a series on real people living nomadic, semi-nomadic and location-independent lifestyles. Sucked into traveling more by accident than design, she started her journey as a sailor on a replica of an 18th century frigate. Nowadays a tour leader for a few months every year, she spends the rest of her time traveling slowly, climbing and paragliding where life takes her.
FF : Tell us a little about yourself.
Katya : I grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Although I’ve been traveling for over ten years, I actually never wanted to become a traveler. At first I didn’t even want to get out of Russia. And the 90s were quite difficult. We didn’t have many opportunities to travel back then. I studied journalism and used to love documentaries. I was a real bookworm.
FF : How did it the travels start?
Katya : I became interested in traditional ship building. So I read lots of books on the subject. And also I found out that we have a wooden replica of the frigate 1703, the first ship of the Imperial Baltic Fleet. I volunteered for the project and started to sail with them. During summer we would go to European festivals and regattas. This is how I got out of Russia for the first time. I made friends along the way, in Germany, Denmark and Norway. And this is how it started. Traveling is like a virus, once you got it you cannot stop!
FF : How long did you sail?
Katya : I lived on board for 3 years, mostly on that frigate. Then I spent one year as a crew member on a private 37 feet boat. We crossed the Atlantic from Italy to Brazil. This is how I ended up in South America. I decided to stay there for a while, living in several countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Columbia and Peru.
FF : What keeps you going?
Katya : It’s complex, it’s a lifestyle. I’ve been on the road for so long I would really struggle to settle down permanently. To me it feels like a necessity to be on the road. From time to time I do stay longer in places that I like. But I don’t see why I should limit myself to a single place when I can have the whole world as my home. And I know lots of awesome people around the world through paragliding and climbing. There are so many things to do!
FF : What is your travel philosophy?
Katya : I grow roots very quickly. And I am confident and comfortable everywhere I go. I enjoy a lot taking my time, making new friends, doing my groceries at the small local shops. To be honest, I don’t particularly like following set itineraries, going to famous museums and sites just to drive in, take a picture and drive back out. That’s not traveling for me.
FF : How do you make a living?
Katya : I work occasional seasonal jobs in tourism. Mainly I’m a tour leader for an Australian company that offers long overland journeys. I lead groups of tourists through several countries during a month or longer. Also, I sometimes do some freelance writing, mostly about tourism and sports. I’m not really making money with that at the moment but hopefully that will change in the future.
FF : How is that enough to travel the rest of the year?
Katya : It’s a tricky balance between having time and earning money. I’m not making a big salary, but I do get to see a lot of places while having everything paid for. Unless you are a big shopper, it’s very easy to save money like that. Indeed, I don’t spend a lot, that’s another secret. One of my friends said when she doesn’t have money she goes traveling. I spend less money when I travel then when I live in a big city like Saint Petersburg. This is partially thanks to the local knowledge of my friends around the world. But more generally the whole lifestyle doesn’t consume that much money.
FF : How did you become a tour leader?
Katya : I started in this line of work again by coincidence. Some friends at university were working for a Finnish company organizing tours in the Baltic states and Russia. So I managed to get a job with them. Then through colleagues I was put in touch with the Australian company. I began as a local tour guide in Saint Petersburg. The pay was bad but I got to practice my English. But very soon they offered me big overland trips.
FF : What skills are required from a tour leader?
Katya : You don’t have to be a specialist about a certain place or country. That’s the job of the local tour guides. I’m like a manager on the tour. I have to organize, improvise when necessary, be a reliable person for the group. Clients typically don’t want to have anything to do with logistics. If something happens they just want to sit and wait while it gets resolved. You have to be stress resistant, good at problem solving. And languages are a big plus. You will constantly be on the road, it’s a gypsy lifestyle. You have to be able to feel comfortable anywhere.
FF : What are your future plans?
Katya : I want to keep traveling. But I don’t have a strict plan. Also I would like to grow my financial buffer. I do lots of sports and I get older, so I need to think about that. But I don’t want to change much. After all, I am living the life I want.
FF : Thank you so much for sharing Katya!