Monday Meetings – Frankie ‘Free Range’ Bird
For the first of our Monday Meetings in the New Year, allow me to introduce you to a genuine diamond that goes by the name of Frankie Bird, aka The Bush Birdie, aka Frankie Thompson. Frankie flew her London nest just over a year ago and has since been living a healthy free range lifestyle. So for some good advice and wisdom from the road… listen to the Bird-song.
|I am thirty years young. Believe me when I say things get good after 30.|
Can you tell us a little about yourself – who you are and where you’re from?
|I’m Frankie, also known as Bird. I’m originally from south London, UK but have been nomadic – or homeless, if you like – for 15 months now. I used to work in the City with lots of frowning souls in suits but for the past 15 months I’ve been working remotely as a freelance copywriter and researcher while I travel full-time. In that time I’ve travelled to SE Asia twice, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and across a huge chunk of Europe. I also used to be a hyperlocal London blogger, writing about life in Shepherd’s Bush, a noisy, dirty, busy corner of London that I loved but when I flew the Bush I started a travel blog.|
When did you first go abroad, and what did you do? Did anything prompt your current travels or were they spontaneous?
|When I was less than a year old my parents took me to Bordeaux in France to visit some of their friends who also had a baby girl. There’s a picture of us as beached babies lying and giggling together on a picnic blanket in the French sunshine. From an early age I don’t think I’ve ever not wanted to travel or venture further afield whenever possible and I always loved to go on at least three holidays a year… at least. That said, it really wasn’t a plan of mine to travel long term – that was my boyfriend’s fault. We met snowboarding in Austria in March 2010 and he was already a location independent freelancer running his own business as a web developer. As an Australian who’d moved to London before the recession he was half planning to leave UK when he met me to travel or try a new city but I think I sort of put the brakes on that. Then after a year we started to talk seriously about how we could travel for a long period of time and not compromise our careers and his business. We initially embarked on a five month RTW trip to test if we could make it work and we did. That sort of set the tone for our approach to travel – if we could, we should. On a side note that baby girl from Bordeaux and I are still very good friends – in fact she was the last flat mate I had before I left London.|
Could you describe your personal travel philosophy? Are there any rules you stick to or ideals you try to follow?
|As a working, travelling couple it’s hard to summarise my own personal travel philosophy because it is so closely connected to that of my boyfriend’s and vice versa. We also have to put work first to a certain point, i.e. wherever we go we have to have a good internet connection and not be too remote or travelling for too long a period of time. That all sounds a bit boring and practical but that’s the way we have to be; full-time travel isn’t always as glamorous as you think when you’re also running businesses on the road! There have been places that I liked more than NewMan (what I call my boyfriend) and could have stayed longer but he wanted to move on, and at the same time he has tagged along with me when I’ve wanted to go somewhere that he didn’t. We don’t always get it 100% right, but compromise is a regular feature in our relationship. We do, however, like to stay in self-catering accommodation wherever possible and we try to keep our travel as sustainable and environmentally responsible as possible; for example, in Europe we try to travel by train as much as possible and we love cities where you can get around by bike. We also now know that slow travel works well for us; 2-3 months in a place is the ideal time to put down a few small roots, seek out the best things to see and do and also complete work and personal projects. I should add that in the simplest terms, my travel philosophy is to find places where we are happy. This world is a wonderfully big place, it seems silly to stay anywhere where you are unhappy.|
Have you had any journeys that made a big impression on you? How did it change your outlook?
|This perhaps isn’t the answer you were looking for but I think it’s one that’s worth highlighting. This summer we planned to spend 2-3 months in the south of France, a part of the world we’d visited on holiday together before and loved. We were so excited to find a little gite in the French countryside and enjoy balancing our work with wine, cheese and late summer days on the beach. However, we found it very (very!) difficult to find short term accommodation in the area we wanted and we also realised we’d need a car to get around and this was an expense and a hassle neither of us wanted. In short, the dream we had didn’t exist and that is something that I am now prepared to accept about any of our future destinations. If you’re going to live this lifestyle you have to accept that sometimes it will work out and sometimes it won’t, the important lesson for us to remember as a couple is that we are lucky that we can just pack up and move on again. Without wanting to sound too soppy, I think the reason we can do this is because I realised while travelling away from NewMan for 3 weeks earlier this year that home is wherever I’m with him, as opposed to a physical place.|
What do your friends and family think of your lifestyle?
|I have been bowled over by the positive and encouraging response by so many of my loved ones seeing as my lifestyle is unusual and is such a change from the life I led before. My parents are fantastic and all my life I’ve been encouraged to follow the road less travelled (though perhaps they didn’t envisage this extreme!) and I know that they’re incredibly proud of me. That said, not everyone fully understands why we do what we do, because it’s a lifestyle that isn’t for everyone, especially at this time in my life when so many of my peers are “settling down”. The ironic thing about it is that I’ve never been more settled; after being single for many years I’ve now got a great fella, a great job that I’m in control of and I’m actually saving money because I’m not living in one of the world’s most expensive cities anymore. We’re certainly not on one long holiday like some people think we are. So while I understand why people don’t “get” what we do, I would be silly to even think about this stopping us from doing what we are doing. We’ll stop when it stops working for us. Of course, it is definitely hard when I don’t see my friends and family as much as I’d like. They’re cool dudes. I miss hanging out with them.|
What is your number one tip for the potential nomad?
|Be flexible and be disciplined. The flexibility with which you approach life has to be deep rooted in your soul and then flow through to the every day decisions you make about work and life. Don’t pin your hopes on things that could change or not work out how you want; you’re living a life of fewer constants and while this does bring more freedom – a wonderful gift – you have to be ready for things to not work out so keep an open mind and always have a Plan B. As for being disciplined, if your work is also financing your lifestyle you have to be prepared to put it first when you don’t want to. During the last two months in Thailand, there were days when I didn’t step outside into the blissful 30 degree temperatures until 8pm at night because I had many projects on the go and they took priority. I’m resigned to this and am happy about it as it means that I make the most of the days and time I have off. We also don’t do a lot of the things that non-nomads take for granted – we rarely watch TV, I’m regularly the victim of bad haircuts and eating foods I don’t like, I buy on average 1-2 new items of clothing every few months and we often work weekends and late nights to catch up on different time zones. So I’d also say you have to be prepared to sacrifice things too.|
What does the future look like for you at the moment? Do you have travel plans or other goals in mind?
|The future looks white! We’re headed to the snow for 2 – 3 months of snowboarding in the new year in a selection of great locations (to be confirmed soon on my blog) and then I want to be back in Europe for spring. Last year we lived in Amsterdam for four months and we were very happy there. We keep talking about going back so maybe we will…|
If there’s one experience you could go back and have again, what would it be?
|I would go back to all the places I’ve travelled before I got a decent camera. I only recently took an interest in photography and so I sadly didn’t take any photos of great places like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Greek islands, Cairo, Naples and New York. Thankfully my memories stay strong.|
Thank you for chatting to us Frankie Bird! Or as they say in London ‘it’s good to (s)tork’. Looking forward to seeing more of you and NewMan’s snowy winter travels on the blog soon!
Keep up with Frankie’s travels on As The Bird Flies, like her facebook page or follow @bushbirdie on Twitter. She is also active on Pinterest and makes mixtapes that you can listen to on the web (and I have done!) with her 8tracks profile. Despite calling herself an amateur, Frankie is quite the snapper too, with great shots on her Instagram feed and on her blog, including recent photo’s from her current location in Helsinki, Finland, like the two sepia-tone shots in this post (sepia colour added by me).
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