Nomad (n.) is a Latin word that describes someone who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.. And for the last 14 months, I have absolutely fallen under this definition.
I have stayed in 11 different countries on 3 different continents. Even in the USA, my home country, I’ve bounced around to 18 different states. For 14 months, I haven’t had a permanent home.
That’s not to say I haven’t stayed in some pretty comfortable accommodations, from a high rise suite in Buenos Aires to a personal flat overlooking the Vltava River of Prague (Praha for you sophisticated folk).
In the past 14 months, I have dived 20 meters into the ocean and trekked 5,000 meters up into the high sky. I have made incredible friends–some that I would even call family–and I can say I wake up every day excited to live in new experiences, soaking up what the world has to offer.
So, how have I come to hold this mindset? What have I learned along the way?
The biggest lesson of the past 14 months is the importance of a smile and a “hello.” Multiple times a day, I commit 100% to truly engaging and smiling at people, strangers or not.
Early in my travels to South America, I had to force myself to smile and greet every person I saw. Soon enough, I started seeing incredible benefits, and it quickly became a habit.
The 5 benefits of the Sonrisa* y Buen Dia*:
Receiving A Smile in Return.
One of the first pieces of advice a friend gave me in Argentina was to always greet someone with, and I quote quite simply, “Buen Día, Qué tal?” They said to accompany this with a true smile and an actual interest in the person, and to do this before trying to dive into any actual conversation.
And it was a great tip indeed. For one, Argentinians are very social creatures—talking is their culture. At a bus station, I stood in line for half an hour, because the only person in front of me started talking to the woman selling tickets, and twenty minutes later, finally bought his bus ticket. And that wasn’t the only time this happened.
So I stuck to my friend’s advice. From Argentina to Chile to Bolivia to Poland to Hungary to the United States, I found I almost ALWAYS got a smile back in return.
Getting What You Want.
In most instances, it was a bus ticket or an item of food. But understand this. While in South America, I was speaking to everyone in Spanish, which was a far cry from my native tongue.
Up to that point, my only Spanish experience was from high school, when Señora Lawrence would constantly shout “Menos puntos” in my direction for my poor español performance.
Increasing Your Confidence.
Because people would smile when they saw me, and would readily help me, I felt great about myself.
But what about the outliers? What would happen when people responded negatively to my smile and “hello”?
Even today, when that happens, I don’t question myself. Why would I? I’m being friendly!
This carries through to other conversations and everyday interactions. I don’t question my choices or lifestyle, even if others do. I have become grounded, and my smile and “hello” have gotten me there.
Creating Small Connections.
When you smile and say hello, you’re engaging and taking interest in someone, creating community and a sense of togetherness. You are connecting with them on a small level.
And connection is a fundamental thing that people desire, something that makes people happy. Everyone feels better.
Giving and receiving are magical things, especially when the thing you’re sharing is as simple as a smile, or sonrisa. And through this feeling of community and sharing comes the fifth benefit.
New Opportunities Find You.
Now that I make a habit of being open and friendly, people are attracted to me—maybe not always physically, but in the “togetherness” sense.
Once, I was looking for a bus stop in Mendoza when I asked a lady in a shop where one was—but first I came in with a big smile and said hello, “Como está?”
We talked for about five minutes, and then got around to the bus stop location. It turned out she didn’t know where it was, but she took me to a man who did.
30 minutes later, the man himself was driving me to the bus stop! Along the way, he gave me his phone number and email address, and told me I had a place to stay in Mendoza or Santiago anytime I wanted!
That’s one of many situations I’ve encountered over the past 14 months. At one point, I was asked to be a scuba diving instructor, and another time, a pack trip outfitter at a horse ranch. Just recently, I started a company, ShoobyUSA, a resource for traveling the USA—and the only reason I could do that is because of a compilation of opportunities. You never know where a “Buen día” and a smile can take you.
In fact, next time you find yourself in line at a Starbucks, or calling customer service for an Amazon product that hasn’t been delivered, or just standing next to someone at an intersection, say hello, and give them a genuine smile. You don’t have to live a Nomadic life to benefit from these actions too.
Sonny Hughey – Energetic, living in new experiences, attracting others and sharing success. Sonny holds a degree in Physics, captained his collegiate baseball team to a Conference Championship, has touched down in 3 continents, 11 countries, and 40 of the 50 states. He owns his own business ShoobyUSA and works as a Test Engineer for MTS Systems. Sonny is 25 years old.
*Buen Dia in English translates to Good Day
*Que es una Sonrisa? A Smile 😉