In this week’s episode, Billy talks with Jason Robinson, a digital nomad, author and Type 1 diabetic. As a working-class kid from Ohio, Jason adopted an “experiment mindset” to tackle the unknowns of long-term nomadic travel and how to make a living while on the road. He eventually transitioned to being a location-independent nomad, earning his income as a freelance designer and writer. He remains dedicated to motivating and inspiring others to push their comfort zones, but now he includes navigating living nomadically while managing Type 1 Diabetes.
Billy and Jason discuss:
–How growing up in small Midwest towns made travel feel so out of reach
–The evolution of his perceptions of the world through his experimentation
–His Type 1 diabetes diagnosis and the challenges he faced as a digital nomad with a major medical condition
–How Jason got out of a $50,000 of debt through intentional action
Grab a copy of his book The Beginner Traveler's Guide to Going Nomad
If you liked this episode, check out these episodes as well:
–Episode 31--Ride the Wave of Healthy Risk-Taking with John Wessinger
–Episode 39--Billy Shares the Lessons He Learned during His Trip to Portugal, Spain, and Dakar
–Episode 51--The Pursuit for Higher Consciousness with Dr. David DeMarkis
–The Summer Sessions
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Billy: Coming up on The Mindful Midlife Crisis
Jason: There really is a matter of just figuring out where the gaps are and filling those gaps in and getting comfortable enough to say, okay, I'm comfortable enough to go do this thing. If I got to get home, if I got to have an out, what are those outs? And shit's going to happen no matter what. At some point in your life, you're not going to be able to script when stuff goes wrong.
You got to be ready to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. I guess.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life’s second half. I'm your host Billy Lahr an educator, personal trainer, meditation teacher, and overthinker who talks to experts who specialize in social and emotional learning, mindfulness, physical and emotional wellness, cultural awareness, finances, communication, relationships, dating, and parenting all in an effort to help us better reflect, learn and grow so we can live a more purpose filled life.
Take a deep breath, embrace the present and journey with me through The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm your host, Billy Lahr. Thank you for tuning in wherever you are. The purpose of this show is to provide a platform that gives people the space and permission to share their expertise and life experiences in order to help others navigate the complexities and possibilities of life's second half.
And remember this free and useful information is helpful to people of all ages. Wisdom isn't about one's age. Wisdom comes from our ability to reflect, learn and grow from our own life experiences while also learning from the experiences of others, regardless of what stage of life we are in. Because you just never know what life is going to throw at you.
So there just might be a conversation or two from past episodes that help you feel better prepared for the challenges you might face in life or that you're facing right now. Whether those challenges be your emotional, mental and or physical health, your relationships with others, including your partner and children, your career, your finances, whatever curveballs life is thrown your way right now, just know that you are not alone in your experience and the conversations I'm having here are with people who have been there before or have done the research to help you navigate these situations with more awareness, openness, curiosity and compassion.
And so you can live a more purpose-filled life. And trust me, I take all of these conversations to heart as well, and I try to apply what I'm learning from these conversations, which is why I do solo episodes the first Wednesday of every month because I think of the show as a running dialog between me and you, the listener because my hope is that you can see and hear the growth I'm making in my own life.
So that inspires you to seek out the connections between our shared experiences so that you too can take intentional and inspired action. So if you're looking for some ways to help, you better navigate whatever you've got going on in your life from someone who's been through it before, check out some of the other episodes at WW dot Mindful Midlife Crisis dot com or wherever you get your podcasts.
This week's episode focuses on lifestyle, travel and taking risks. So if you want more episodes like that, be sure to check out episode 31 with John Wessinger, where we talk about re-imagining your relationship with risk. Episode 39 where I talk about my adventures in Portugal, Spain and Dakar and what I learned from those travels. Episode 51 from Dr. David DeMarkis, where we talk about his pursuit for higher meaning.
Or you can dive into the summer sessions episodes where I walk you through my life transformation to get where I am today with more peace of mind and new found awareness. So with that, let's meet today's guest. Our guest today is Jason Robinson. As a working class kid from Ohio, Jason didn't realize that moving away from his home state was an option until he was in his twenties.
But as he got older, he realized that unless he wanted to end up a cranky old man with twisted second-hand perceptions of the world, he figured he better start traveling solo. So, as a result, Jason adopted an experiment mindset to tackle the unknowns of a long-term nomadic travel and how to make a living while on the road.
He eventually transitioned to being a location-independent nomad, earning his income by being a freelance designer and writer at the age of 42. And during the COVID pandemic, Jason was diagnosed with Type one diabetes. He remains dedicated to motivating and inspiring others to push their comfort zones. But he now includes how to navigate living nomadic early while managing a major medical condition.
Jason also recently published and designed the Beginner Travelers Guide to Going Nomad, a hands-on guide full of tough love tips and strategies to help you finally kickstart a life of travel or go fully nomad. We will link that in the show notes. Welcome to the show, Jason Robinson.
Jason: Glad to be here. It's been a while. We've been trying to do this. Yeah.
Billy: Yeah, yeah. You know what's cool? And we'll probably talk about this too. But one of the ways that we connected is that you spent some significant time in Portugal right after I did, and you were in Porto. And Porto is one of my favorite cities. I can only imagine you also fell in love with Porto.
Jason: Yeah, Porto. Portugal in general. But I spent a lot of time in Porto and I was in Lisbon for about six weeks and then seven or eight other smaller towns. So yeah, you and I were bouncing ideas back and forth. Here, give me some hints on where to go and what to look at.
Billy: And there's just something magical about Portugal. There is no bluer sky in the world that I have ever seen. It's just absolutely fantastic. So I'm glad that you got to experience that. And that's one of the things that we're going to discuss today. But before we get into that, we always ask our guests what ten roles they play in their life.
So, Jason, what are the ten roles that you play in your life?
Jason: I'm a deep thinker, a traveler, artist, student writer, a Renaissance man, a nerd gamer, a tinker, a dream pusher, and, of course, a type one diabetic.
Billy: We're going to talk about the table on diabetes later on in the show. But I want to talk about this Renaissance man for a second right here. I imagine being a Renaissance man lends itself well to being a digital nomad.
Jason: Yeah. So I guess to define for those that might not know that kind of antiquated term, a Renaissance man is defined as someone. I don't think it needs to be a man, but somebody who is multi versed in many different things and many different, I don't want to say talents, but competencies. Yeah, just growing up I had so many influences and they all kind of taught me to do what felt right with my heart or my soul.
And it didn't matter whether that was something that was very masculine or very feminine or, you know, However, those were defined years passed. And what happened was I just became very well-rounded. So I'm just as comfortable going to the opera or going to a musical or getting a bathroom and rebuilding and contracting or, you know, writing some poetry or things like that.
So all of those things do tie in well to being a nomad because especially an entrepreneurial nomad, because you do have to just figure out a lot of different things. And, you know, especially with this kind of experimental mindset, go in a few different directions and go down some different paths that you may have never gone down before.
So yeah, you get a lot of different new competencies and having a lot of in your toolbox also helps.
Billy: We're going to be talking about that experiment mindset too, so we'll circle back around to that because I like that idea of being a Renaissance man, a Renaissance person, making you more well-rounded so that you are more inclined to put yourself out there and experience different things in life. One of the three roles that you're most looking forward to here is Tinkerer, and you already kind of hinted at that.
What are you tinkering with today?
Jason: Literally, lately I've been rebuilding the bed that's in the back of my Ford or Jeep. I built out my Jeep four or five years ago when I started going nomadic in the United States and overlapping a little bit. So I built that out with very little knowledge, just looking at some YouTube videos and figuring some things out. I rebuilt a new bed two years ago and it was like ten times better, but I had some new ideas and I had a little bit of time here in Michigan where I'm hunkered down for a little bit.
And I was like, you know, I'm ready to try something new. I literally just finished my new bed in the past couple of days and getting ready to kind of move everything back into it. I enjoy looking at things and seeing if I can make them a little bit better or a little bit different, or if not just learning from that process.
Billy: So are you fully embracing Vanlife here then?
Jason: Yeah, and again, we'll get in the experiment mindset. One of my experiments four years ago was I literally bought a 1986 Chevy G ten conversion van that was already ready to go hit the road. And I actually went and spent a week or two in national parks camping and working out of my van to see if I liked that idea.
And I did. The van was a piece of shit. It was getting 12 miles per gallon. I didn't know what it was going to get over the next hill. It was a mess, but it did give me enough insight to say I really do like that ability to have my whole life with me and go Boondock and check out you know, places that people don't get to check out when you're just car camping and doing those types of things.
So I will likely own a van sometime in the next five years. But currently, I mean, I own my jeep and that's a good stopgap. And I can sleep in that. I can travel in it. I've built it up quite well to be functional, so that'll do for the time being, especially since a lot of my travel right now I'm trying to get out of the country and experience new cultures and things like that.
Billy: For those who don't know, I used to have a co-host by the name of Brian on the bass, and Brian and his wife bought a bus. You can actually follow that on Instagram. AT We just bought a bus. They got it at all out and they turned it into a camper. They call it a Schooley, I guess. I guess this is just a movement that's out there and it's absolutely amazing just the work that they put into it.
So he reminds me of you. Brian is very much a renaissance man and a tinkerer like you as well. And you brought up this idea of traveler. It sounds like you want to get back abroad. Where do you want to go? What are some places that you want to see? Where have you also been here recently?
Jason: I only saw my third country outside the U.S. three years ago. So 40 years old. I saw my third country and 44 and I might be getting a year or two off there. But but essentially, I bought a one way ticket to Mexico to test the waters of digital nomadism and see how far I could go living out of a backpack.
And that was really my first foray out of the country and then Canada and London when I was 25 years old. So I haven't seen a lot of places. And the way I look at it, I don't care where I'm going if the weather suits my personal preferences and doesn't make me miserable and I can experience some new people and see a new place.
So that said, I've spent time in Middle and Western Europe. I'm just you know, I was back in Portugal at the beginning of this year for three months or in the last year, and then I'm getting ready to head to Spain for three months in a few weeks. Honestly, I want to follow 70 degrees for the rest of my life because I know that that's my comfort zone and as a maybe a privileged mindset.
But in reality, I've just done the work to know where I'm most comfortable, where I'm most productive, where I can get a lot of work done, where I thrive. And it is in that temperature range. And that's kind of how I start to choose where I want to go. Obviously, there's some places that don't have those temperatures and I will want to get to all those places too.
It's just a matter of which time of year am I going to go?
Billy: Yeah, I always look at Iceland. I'm like, okay, what small window am I going to go and travel to? Iceland goes, I definitely want to see that. When we had Dr. David DeMarkis on, he has been there and the pictures that he posts are just amazing. My friend Eric has posted amazing pictures. My friend Elisabet lives in Iceland right now and the videos that she was is like, okay, I need to get there some time.
But what's the 2 to 3 month window? You're sounds like you're living the dream you want to be a dream pusher as well here in the second half of life. So what do you mean by that? What does that look like for you?
Jason: Dream pusher? For me, it's kind of like a better than a drug dealer. It's a dream pusher.
Billy: I was thinking that, too. What? I'm like dream pusher, drug pusher. Ed related.
Jason: Guess it is. You know, I really just. I get inspired when people tell me what they want to do, but then they tell me why they're they're not going to do it or why they think they're unable to do it. And I really try to encourage them to look at things a different way or to problem solve and to figure out how to do those things.
Because I think a lot of people and thinking from my past experience as well as my experiences with other people because my life has seen a lot of different chapters, I think that a lot of people get a little bit tunnel vision. They get scared by financial issues, by medical issues, and they kind of hunker down into a safe space and anything outside that becomes really scary.
But I think once you start to open people up to maybe this experiment mindset where you just chunk off a little bit here and a little bit there and then take a step back and look at and say, okay, what can I do next? I just have so much time left in front of us. Do you think about the fact that I'm 44 years old?
I'm not sure exactly how old you are, but let's take somebody 30 years old. We were told to kind of figure your stuff out and have your picket fence in your house by the time you're 30 or else your daily life or something like that. You know, that 30 year old has only been thinking like a grown ass adult for about ten years of their life if they went to college or didn't, you know, 18 to 24 years old party.
And a lot they're doing these things that are transitional. So really, if you're 30 years old, you've really only had ten years or so of upright thought. That's really pushing you forward and you now have 30 to 40 to 50 years in front of you. The percentage behind you is so much smaller than the percentage in front of you.
So I just really enjoy pushing people to figure out a way to go after these things. So whatever my platform becomes, obviously I wrote a book to try and get people to travel more and to break down those barriers and whatever that comes. One of these days I just want to encourage people to keep pushing their momentum forward instead of when it stagnate, I guess.
Billy: Well, let's do this. We're going to take a quick break and then when we come back, we're going to do a deeper dive into this, exploring it mindset and how Jason has applied this and approach this in his own life and what suggestions he has for you as a dream pusher. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Thank you for listening toThe Mindful Midlife Crisis. If you're enjoying what you've heard so far, please do me a favor and hit the subscribe button. Also giving the show a quick five star review with a few kind words helps others find a benefit from this podcast. Just like you are. Finally, please spread the wealth of free knowledge and advice in this episode by sharing it with the people in your life who may find this information.
And my mission help others live a more purpose filled life valuable. My hope is that these conversations resonate with others and inspire people to live their best lives. Thanks again. And now back to the show. Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Jason Robinson. You can follow him on Instagram at the Nomad experiment. You can also go to his website at WW, the Nomad experiment dot com.
He's got a book there that you can get. It's called The Beginner Traveler's Guide to Going Nomad. You can check that out. And we're going to talk about this experiment mindset. Jason We talked couple weeks ago and you and I have a lot of similarities that you're 44. I'm 45. We've been doing this traveling here quite a bit.
We found out that we're both from small towns in the Midwest and that neither of us started traveling overseas until our late thirties. I was 37 before I got a passport. What do you think it is about growing up, particularly in small Midwest towns that makes travel seem so out of reach?
Jason: Yeah, I can only speak for myself, so obviously there's around opinions, but you know, for me it was two major things. It was financial. We just never had the money to do much. So we were hiking, we were camping and we thought, you know, we thought, we thought we were pigs and shit, you know, that that was great.
But we didn't necessarily know that there was all these options out there as far as travel, because that would just seem too expensive or because my family was a one income household. My dad was working overtime. Every week. He gets us two weeks a year. We go do things during those windows. So, you know, there was that financial aspect of it and those realities.
Then there was also kind of the thought silos that you get into as your sphere of influences becomes smaller, you're only getting the ideas from that level of influence. And I wasn't around a lot of travelers. I wasn't learning about the ability to do travel for what I would consider less expensive and staying here in the United States and doing that.
So it just wasn't factoring into my thought process. We never traveled outside the U.S.. I remember getting a ticket because my sister got to go to Phenix when she was like 16. She got to go on an airplane and go to Phenix, Arizona, and I never got to go on a trip on a plane whenever I'm under 18 years old.
So I think I still hit my dad with that one. Every once in a while. Like, Man, you still owe me a trip to Phenix or something.
Billy: I know for me, I grew up on a farm and my sister's be the first to say you didn't do anything on the farm. It is like I fully admit that because I was the youngest, I just played sports and I got away with everything. But when we would do vacations, a LA family vacation meant that we would rent a cabin in my hometown of Sauk Center so that we could still get to the farm and take care of the cows in the morning and the evening, that kind of thing.
So I feel like that prevented us from ever taking trips. I mean, it was a huge deal. We went to Epcot or whatever when I was in fourth grade, but we went because it was one of those timeshare presentation shows that we went to. So I remember as a kid, sitting through this timeshare presentation, I'm like, Where is Mickey Mouse?
Like, This is so lame right here. And I just didn't embrace traveling when I was younger. And I'll be honest, I was scared to travel. Were you ever scared to travel?
Jason: Well, that was the other probably line of thinking was that travel outside of the United States was dangerous or that other countries just weren't safe for travel. So I think that was another thing that factored into it was the maybe the political bent or just the generational the history of my family passed down to the next people in our family.
And whatever was thought in the previous generations is still thought so Breaking down some of those barriers and rewriting those misconceptions later on in life is what I needed to do. Once I started to open my eyes a little bit more.
Billy: Well, you've talked about not wanting to be a cranky old man with second hand perceptions of the world, and you just said these things get passed down from generation to generation. When you look back on your perceptions of the world, when you were in your twenties and in your thirties, what were some of those perceptions and how have they evolved through experimentation?
You talked a little bit about how the perception that the world is dangerous outside of the U.S..
Jason: That was one of the big ones is, you know, unfortunately we always had and maybe still have these negative, in my opinion, misconceptions of Mexico. And, you know, it's easy low hanging political fodder because they're just to the south of us. So that was one perception, was that Mexico was this dangerous place. And you shouldn't be going there unless you go to a resort.
But I do think that that just extended by default to other countries. You know, I don't know whether that was just the news or whether that was anything that I was hearing around me. But that was what was kind of ingrained in my brain. So it was media, it was the news, it was politics, but they were never my own actual ideas.
They were ideas that I picked up from somebody and I had no proof of. But I started, Oh, no. And I think a lot of people, if you really look at yourself in your twenties and thirties and say, Is this my idea or is this somebody else's idea that I'm not validated? And that's what I did in my mid-twenties.
I started realizing I actually had a friend who he's still a coworker mine, he and his girlfriend in Charlotte, he came in to work and he's like, Hey, we're going to sell everything and go travel Europe for as long as our money takes us. And we're just like, Excuse me. And he was dead serious. And they had a sticker sale at their condo and they literally put stickers on everything and they sold everything.
They got together $18,000. And then they went traveled Europe together for 8 to 10 months, for two of them on $18,000. And they did couch surfing, they did hostels. You know, they met people in bars and stayed at their houses. They and he you know, he was one of those early bloggers about it, but his was a very financial mindset blog.
And they literally detailed down to every single penny that they spent. So I got to start seeing not only these amazing experiences with these people that were foreign, clearly foreign to me, but the misconception that travel costs so much money. And they were having these amazing, amazing experiences on literally 20 or $30 a day. And we've all heard that now as we see bloggers doing that.
But back then that was novel to me. And I had first person experience because he was a friend of mine. He was there in the flesh with me. And then all of a sudden, a week later, he was over in Europe and they were traveling westward. So that was really where I started to see the difference in my reality compared to what reality might actually be.
And then I kind of started saying, okay, on something, and that was when I was 28, 29 years old, I think is when he went so still pretty late that I was even starting to break down some of those mental barriers.
Billy: Well, I think when we talk about an experiment mindset and if people are thinking travel is expensive, yeah, it can be, but it doesn't have to be that sort of thing. There's an approach to managing your money that you can take if you want a bit more experiment mindset, or if you are willing to really be regimented. And that's something that you decided to do because you dug yourself out of $50,000 worth of debt in your thirties through simple but effective budgeting.
So what did that look like for you so that you could embrace this bigger sense of independence and take on more experiments?
Jason: To be clear, this had nothing to do with my future of travel. That said, the reason I got out of debt was I was in a relationship whenever I was 28 years old. I thought that relationship was going to be ending up in marriage and essentially adopting kids or having kids. And that ended and I was not the one that ended that.
So I was kind of like hit by a bus. And I realized that that person was much more financially stable than I was. I realized that had we gone down that path and gotten married and started a family, and then if something would have happened to her, our main financial means or somebody who was financially solvent and I wasn't, if something happened to her, then we would be destroyed.
It wouldn't work. And I realized, okay, if I ever get in this position again where I am with somebody that I want to spend my life with, I do not want to be the one that brings that kind of stress and potential negativity to that relationship. And that was literally the reason that I went out, bought a couple of books on budgeting and very soon after, buckled my life down like nobody's business.
I mean, my earbuds, my entertainment budget was $10 every two weeks. That included beer out at a bar. Like I was locked down. I told everybody around me, Look, this is happening. This is what I'm doing. And buy gifts for people at Christmas. I still don't. That's a whole nother story. That was the start of my end of this consumerism mindset that we tend to get in.
But yeah, I just I literally said, I can do this for as long as I need to do this because I've seen what it's like to be $50,000 in debt and crushed by that stress. And I want to see what it's like to not have that. And by the time I was 32 years old, I paid off everything and I've lived debt free since then.
And that doesn't mean I'm rich. I don't make a lot of money. I never have. It's kind of a point. I was in debt. I wasn't making a lot of money, but now I can actually see both sides of that coin. And you made me think about something a few minutes ago. The experiment mindset is, yes, let me decide to do something.
It's a decision of I'm going to try this thing. What I think is very important before you even get to that point is figure out whether your ideas of something are actually correct. Because we talk about travel doesn't have to be expensive. Well, there's a lot of people that say, well, I could just never do that. I could never say in hostel, well, why don't I just couldn't do it?
Okay, I've been there. I want to take that easy answer. But in reality, unless you have hard facts on why you can't do this thing, why you really shouldn't, or why it's unsafe and you have cold, hard facts from somebody that you know or somebody this experience, this not just some outside source that comes to you one day from the TV or from this other thing.
I think that's the first step in breaking down some of your barriers towards potential goals that you might want is to really look at the hard facts about those things. We spend so much money on things that are wasteful, whether it's for lack of a better example, the coffee that you have four days a week that costs you $6, that's no longer a reward.
Whenever we do it six or seven days a week. Now I reward myself one or two days a week and I say, You know what? You're going to go work. You're going to do in a coffee shop so you can spend $7 because you're going to be making money while you're doing that, not going to go do it just because I'm pissed and I want my coffee and that's a seven hour coffee.
So I think there's just some misconceptions that we have personally about ourselves and then we have about the world that we need to break down and say, Are these real or can I adjust? So I did a lot of those things and kind of took a look at what I was doing and I was like, You don't need this motorcycle.
You don't need this extra things that you justify because of your quarter life crisis or something like that. Get rid of those things, reevaluate what's working. And then on the other side of that, like I said, when I got to 32, that four years of changing the way that I handle my money very much changed the way I move forward from there.
Billy: You bring up an interesting point right there, because if you are thinking about I'd like to live a bit more minimally or I'd like to be better at conserving my money, Does it have to be, Oh, I need my coffee. Okay, okay, fine. You need your coffee in the morning to start the day. That's another conversation that I could have with people.
But do you need that coffee? Does it have to be that coffee or just have you grown accustomed to it because you said maybe that just becomes the treat, right? That's how you treat yourself. So you just get it one day a week and you drink coffee, black or what have you. And I don't drink coffee, so maybe I don't have any stake in this game or anything like that.
But I think about those things where it's like for me, I really don't drink alcohol anymore at all. Like when I was teaching, I would do the entire school year sober. I would do sober school years and in the summer have a drink. It was maybe once every week or two, like it was not a priority for me, and that saved a lot of money.
Now I wish I could learn how to do that with eating out at restaurants, and I think I have to get better at cooking for myself. And I think there's a loneliness component to that that I fully admit to right off the bat. But I think what you just talked about there addresses this other question that I was going to ask you about.
There might be people listening who say, Well, I don't care to travel, I have no interest in that. So then how does one apply this experiment mindset if traveling isn't of interest? But I think you kind of talked about that with digging yourself out of finances. That's another example.
Jason: Let's add to this misconceptions, the word fear. I think those are two things that we battle internally. We battle our own misconceptions. We've got all a misconception about that goal we're trying to get to and how we start filling in these gaps with what we think it would look like or what we think we might have to do.
And once again, when you start to break it down to facts and say, no, these are actual things I do, let me go find somebody who's done this and find out what they did. And then I can say, Oh, now I actually have true facts of what these things are to do. Well, the other side of that is fear.
So I think in writing this book, this book about, you know, it's called The Beginner Traveler's Guide to Going Nomad. But what it really is, is it's breaking down fears of a thing and breaking down hurdles to a thing and saying, okay, let's look at this, let's evaluate it. Let's take the low hanging fruit and start plucking that off the tree.
And then that's going to lead me to the bigger fruit later on because I've gotten more comfortable with that process. So, for instance, there's a chapter in this book about what's stopping you from traveling to other countries. What are you fearful of? And there's 20 or 30 different things. Maybe it's getting murdered, maybe it's getting kidnaped, maybe it's getting your stuff stolen, maybe it's missing your family events back home.
It's all these different things. You write all these things 1 to 10, and then all of a sudden you have this list of, Oh, well, I've looked at all the angles and these are the five things that seem to be holding me back the most, and these are the ones that aren't. So it's a matter of really looking at what you want to get and finding out where the things are, where the misconceptions are, and then starting to break those down and say, Let me pick off one at a time.
It's setting small goals, one step in front of the other, and doing it, but it's also a lack of complacency. We can often get in a funk and we can say, You know what, I'm just going to hunker down for two or three weeks. That turns into two or three months and it turns into two or three years.
So it's also checks and balances, getting people that are around you, trying to accomplish similar things and helping you do those things. So there's there's a lot of things you can do to have this experimental mindset in your life, but it's accountability. It's being real with yourself. There's that tough love aspect to it. You're the one that can call you on your own bullshit, so do it.
That's a good start right there. Yeah, I do it every day.
Billy: So what reminds me of the conversation that we have with John Wessinger? I think that's like episode 31 where he reassesses our relationship with risk and I think you hit it on the head. There is just taking a look at what is it that you fear. I imagine being diagnosed with type one diabetes instilled some fear in you.
So let's do this. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk to Jason about how he manages his type one diabetes while living that nomadic lifestyle. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. New episodes come out every Wednesday to help you get over the midweek hump.
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Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Jason Robinson. We're talking about experiment mindsets. You can follow him on Instagram at the Nomad experiment, or you can go to WW, the Nomad experiment, NBC.com. He's got a book there called The Beginner's Traveler Guide to Going Nomad. You can check that out. So, Jason, one experiment that you had to start managing and living with was being diagnosed with type one diabetes in the last year or two.
So I imagine you talk about tinkering, right? You're tinkering with your health. And that's a precarious thing to be tinkering with. Talk about that process, what you've learned about yourself during this time, what you've learned about type one diabetes. It sounds like you now have an encyclopedic knowledge of Type one diabetes, that your doctors are even impressed with.
And how does that present a challenge to you for your digital nomad lifestyle?
Jason: And that is a very kind way of putting it. I would never think that because Type one is something that my endocrinologist has had for 20 years, and he literally looks at me and goes, Dude, I don't understand why my body was doing those doing yesterday and I've had this for 20 years, so there's so much to learn about this.
But I digress. So quick recap. I sold my house in 2019 to date things, but 2019, in May of 2019, I went over to Europe for two months. I came back home and went to Mexico for two months and I was really starting to live that digital nomad life where I was working on the road and experiencing the countries and really spending time in those places.
So I was in Mexico for two months in one place and I really got to immerse myself and that's the way that I like to travel. And then literally March COVID happened, came back from Mexico in the beginning of that. And then six months later, I was hunkered down in Michigan with some friends and diagnosed with type one diabetes.
So 42 years old and 44 years old now. So in the middle of that pandemic, barely a year after I had sold everything in my life and gone fully nomadic, I got hit with this and my body changed at the beginning of that. So where my eyesight changed, I was drinking a gallon of water a day. I was going to the bathroom every hour, taking four or five naps a day.
I lost £20 In a little over a month. I weigh 165. So There's a lot to lose there. So I was down to 144. One of my best friends said that I looked skeletal. She told me that after I was diagnosed, she didn't say anything. I'm like, Really? You didn't to tell me that I looked that bad like the first £10.
I was like, Sweet. I finally learn how to lose weight. And then the next £10, I was like, There's a problem here. So I was diagnosed and I'm single at the time. I went to the doctor by myself, kind of knowing that it was diabetes at that point. But then that's a really weird thing because I really didn't know at that point.
I left Michigan and I said, Hey, I got some doctor's appointments in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I'm pretty sure it's diabetes. I'm going to go prove it. But I wasn't changing anything. I wasn't looking up What what is diabetes and what should I be looking at? It was really weird. Like there was this suppression of reality already starting before I was professionally diagnosed, where I was just kind of like, I don't know, I was just ignoring it already.
So anyways, I got diagnosed and everything just shut down. I literally lost my shit for like two and a half, three weeks. I couldn't produce anything. I was just lost because I thought that this whole life that I was creating had come to a very quick stop. How can you go travel and do all these things with diabetes and around the world when you're going to be tethered to a doctor, you're going to be tethered to these health issues.
So once again, all these misconceptions about diabetes that I had were fueling this fear and I didn't have any facts at that point. So I spent the next two or three weeks just diving into what is this. And for those uninitiated, I was very ignorant at that point. And so for those uninitiated, type two diabetes is insulin resistance stereotypically.
And I say that strongly if it's not completely true that it typically comes with a larger body style and less active lifestyle. But it has a lot to do with genetics, and it has a lot to do with other things, such as insulin resistance, where you're making all the insulin, your body is just not using it, right? So you might have to supplement that with insulin type one diabetes, which is what I have means my pancreas has stopped producing any insulin.
My body won't process food correctly unless I give it insulin, which is why type one diabetes has to have insulin through needles or through an insulin pump. So as immediately told, you know, you get to manage this thing for the rest of your life and here's all the scary things that can happen along the way. And you could go blind and you could lose your feet and all these crazy things can happen with badly managed diabetes.
The beginning of that, you're freaked out. So two or three weeks, one of my friends let me go down to the beach and watch house while he was away. And that really gave me some time to stop and just decompress and look forward. And then I said, All right, let's figure this thing out, because I just spent two or three years of my life getting to a point where I want to travel and I want to experience the world and I want to grow from that, and I'm not going to let this stop me.
So then it was a matter of just doing the work once again, starting over and saying, All right, what's the first baby step? And what's the next baby step? What's the next experiment? That's the back story. I'm not sure if I answered your question, but you're up to speed now.
Billy: Well, yeah, I've just have my own curiosity. You know, you're working independently. What does insurance look like for you at that time? How were you navigating that? Because I imagine that has to factor into this somehow, too.
Jason: Yeah, I get my insurance through the Affordable Care Act. So to those that haven't used it, you're essentially shopping insurance policies and insurance providers. So I've always had insurance. It was a matter of saying, okay, the amount of that insurance and the amount of money that diabetes costs is going to change dramatically because I wasn't going to the doctor a lot.
I was very healthy. And now this is one of those things where most type one diabetics would right tell you you're going to hit your deductible every single year no matter what, like in January. So I had to learn a lot of new things and switch. That was one of the things I didn't do actually, the first year.
There's some pretty big articles on my website about navigating a major medical condition. The beginning of it, it doesn't have to be diabetes. It's just this mindset, this brain fog, the zombie mode that happens whenever you have that. And there's some tips on there to what to do first. And one of those things is get some help talking about your medical insurance because you don't know what questions you need to ask.
And that's where I ran into trouble was I was like, well, I got good insurance and I'll be fine. And then I spent a lot of extra money that first year because I didn't have the right insurance for that condition and I didn't understand what out it was going to be financially. So to answer your question, I used the Affordable Care Act, and I know I have Lucille to North Carolina at the moment and everything needs to be local.
So I still technically live in North Carolina. I just travel the world a lot. And now that's kind of my home base. So I go back there very regularly to see my doctors and my medications and all those things. But that is a whole nother hurdle for me in the future, is to say, does North Carolina want to be my home base or do I want another state as my home base for another country as my home base?
A lot of that starts with medical for me.
Billy: So then how does I mean, there's a lot of ways you can answer this and you kind of touch on a little bit. But, you know, how does this present a challenge for you traveling, particularly internationally? I when we talked last time, you said that you have to keep your insulin cold, you have to keep it frozen. And if you're traveling on a six hour or seven hour, eight hour flight, that can present a challenge.
Jason: We did speak about this. I have to keep my insulin cold. I can't freeze it. But on my first trip to Portugal, one of the flight attendants froze on accident. Some of my insulin I had literally built up to this Portugal trip. And this is I was on insulin pens at this time. I'm currently on pump. One of the things that I wanted to understand for the first year of my diabetes was how do you manage it manually?
How do you understand the disease enough to where before I automate it with an insulin pump or these newer technologies, I at least know what I'm dealing with. I use insulin pens for that first year and which means, you know, six, seven injections of insulin a day. Whenever I have food, whenever checking your blood and pricking your fingers as needed.
So on this trip to Portugal, I actually had enough insulin pens to last me three months, and two of those got frozen on the flight over. So that was one of the things that we do here about other countries though, is that or let's say we know about the United States is that our medical system and our insurance is very expensive.
And that's an understatement when talking about diabetes and some of these other conditions. So I knew that going over to Portugal, that Portugal has one of the lowest costs of diabetes in the world, literally. But I did the research and the United States has the highest. So I knew that in theory, based on my research, there's also this idea that I think whenever we have a major cataclysmic thing happen in our lives, that we're the only ones having those feelings, we're the only ones dealing with those things.
And we shut down to the reality that every like every place in the world is dealing with these medical conditions. They are dealing with them in different ways, for sure. But I know that there are people living in Portugal with type one diabetes and they're thriving. I assume, and their government gives them their insulin for free because they need to live the novel idea, which the US would work with in finding these things out and kind of getting out of my pity party, Oh, woe is me, You have this thing and now you need to sit in this chair for the rest of your life.
Well, no, there are people over there dealing with it, so no that if I get into any troubles, I can probably figure out a way to deal with it there. It may cost me some money, it may cost me some time. It might be hard, but I know that there are people living in Portugal are dealing with the same condition.
So let's start to see what they do about it. And I started doing that research and figure it out. So I knew when I hit the ground that I was going to and this is one of things I do on my website is kind of talk about these things. And it's a lot of travel stuff too. But obviously diabetes is part of my life now, so that's part of the conversation.
But I just knew going into it that insulin was fairly inexpensive and okay, now how do I prove that? So I started stopping in the pharmacies the minute I got on the ground and just asking questions. So when I got to Porto, I stopped in to find them pharmacies and asked the same questions to make sure that I was getting a valid answer and that there weren't any weird answers, they were all the same.
Oh, you need that much insulin. It's $60 US The amount of insulin that I need to live for a year will cost me $20. In Portugal. It's about $2,000 here in the US and it's a fact. It's frighteningly sad. So, you know, it really does come down to once again getting the misconceptions out of my mind of what diabetes is, what the realities of it are, and then saying, okay, how do other people deal with this other countries and what's your backup plan?
And what's your backup plan for a backup plan? So I always know that if it hits the fan and I need to come home, I might have to spend a chunk of money to come home. That's why I have tribal medical insurance. But more importantly, that's why I have evacuation insurance. If something happens on the ground covered at a hospital I'm at, and if I really need to get home, I evacuation insurance will get me back to North Carolina.
Those are the things that I didn't know three years ago, but I know them now and I encourage other people to get those things. A lot of people won't even know what evacuation insurance is. It really is a matter of just figuring out where the gaps are and filling those gaps in and getting comfortable to say, okay, I'm comfortable enough to go do this thing.
If I got to get home, if I got to have an out, what are those outs and shit's going to happen no matter what. At some point in your life, you're not going to be able to script when stuff goes wrong. You got to be ready for prepare for the worst, hope for the best. I guess.
Billy: So we'll get you out of here on this. What has the diagnosis of Type one diabetes taught you about yourself? What has your experiment mindset taught you as well as you look forward to the second half of life?
Jason: I think one of the things I definitely want to mention about the diagnosis is a major dose of dose is the right word, but of empathy. And I'm an impasse. I feel I feel a lot and I try and take that into my interactions with other people. But the process of losing my eyesight for a couple of weeks and literally not being able to drive comfortably because I couldn't see and I have perfect division like perfect vision.
And I went from being able to see two or three days later, I couldn't see 50 feet in front of me losing that way. You know, not understanding why I was tired all the time. It reinforced the fact that there are so many people around us. Every single solitary person around you is dealing with things that you can't see.
It might be emotional, it might be physical, it might be medical, but they are dealing with something that's affecting their day. It's affecting their mood. It's their actions. And whenever I was going through that initial diagnosis, it really opened my eyes to those types of things. So, for instance, one of my buddies, he wears glasses and he's got two different pairs of glasses because he's got his readers and he's got his other glasses.
And I used to poke in a little bit about it, you know, you got your glasses on or, you know, all guy jokes or whatever you want to call it. Even that little thing now is something that I will not do because that, number one, that was an asshole for me in the beginning. But I realized that, number one, that's not something that he has control over.
It's something that affects his life that I had no idea what it's like to have that vision or to deal with those types of things. So that gave me that perspective. The same thing with somebody who's, you know, dealing with emotional anxiety, depression, like, you know, I went through all those phases with these things and it really opened my eyes to the fact that we need to have a lot more patience with those around us because we they don't need to explain to us why they're having a bad day.
Life can be tough. So I think those empathy is something that I try to weave into my day more than I was before the diagnosis, because I think we're always trying grow and be better people. But my eyes were open to that. As far as moving forwards, things just got a lot more complicated. That's just the way it's going to be for a while.
I want to experience different countries in the world, so there's just a lot more research, there's a lot more kind of give and take. So I travel, carry on. Only that was hard before. I literally have almost a cubic square foot of diabetes, durable medical supplies that I need to take for three months and living in another. That's not realistic.
So there's just all this push and pull and things to figure out. And the other thing is kind of like what we talked about earlier is life is long in front of us. I'm 44 years old. I still like to believe I got another 30 or 40 years on this to go. BALL And what's the rush? So while I do want to get out there and do those things, while I don't want to stagnate, I don't have to be broken mentally or emotionally because I can't do them as quickly as I want to do them anymore, I just got to make sure that I keep doing them.
And I think that's back to that stagnation and progress. Progress over perfection, but always progress idea mentality is keep moving towards that goal. Take breaks when you need it, but don't let those breaks towards that goal become weeks, months, years, because that's when we look back and go, What happened? How did I miss that? Or How did I waste so much time?
Not really pushing myself.
Billy: Before we started talking here, you and I talked about just this idea of slow and steady wins the race. And I feel like if you're going to experiment, it's going to be slow, but it needs to be a steady process as you try and figure things out. And you need to embrace failure and you need to embrace trying new things and putting yourself out there from time to time.
Jason, I really appreciate you taking the time here to chat with us today and sharing your story. For those of you interested in checking out Jason's book, The Beginner Travelers Guide to Going Nomad, you can go to WW dot the Nomad experiment icon. You can check out Jason on Instagram at the Nomad experiment as well. Thanks for being here, Jason I really appreciate it.
Jason: It's been a blast. Glad we finally got to do this.
Billy: Absolutely. Absolutely. Catch you somewhere in the world. Hopefully sometime soon. Maybe you come to Seoul.
Jason: There you go. I'm working my West.
Billy: Hey, if you enjoyed this week's episode, be sure to look in show Shownotes for all of Jason's contact information. Don't forget to subscribe to the show wherever. Get your podcasts. If you're an Apple listener, you can do that by clicking the plus sign in the upper right hand corner. Also, please do me a favor and leave a five-star review with a few kind words.
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Remember, the purpose of the show is to help you navigate the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. And I hope this conversation provides some insight that will help you reflect, learn and grow so you can live a more purpose-filled life. So, Jason, this is Billy. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved.
Take care, friends.