SHS Grad is Now a 'Happy Nomad' on a Mission
Greatest Person of the Day: Adam Pervez leaves a six-figure job to wander the world -- and leave each place a little better than when he got there.
Editor's Note: Pervez has been chosen as Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day for March 13, 2012.
Sure, Adam Pervez had his dream job. He was living in Denmark, making a ton of money working for a wind energy company.
He had an MBA, a nice place to live, good friends, a great future.
But something was bothering him, and after awhile he figured out what.
"It wasn't making me happy," recalls Pervez, 29, a 2000 graduate of Strongsville High School. "I was earning six figures, but I realized I wasn't even spending it on myself."
His solution: The Happiness Plunge, a two-year journey he calls the Happy Nomad Tour that will take him to six continents to learn, teach and help.
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"I don't even know where I'll be sleeping this weekend," he says on a hit-or-miss phone call from a village in Colombia. "But I don't stress about the small stuff anymore -- or even the big stuff."
Taking the Plunge
It's been six months -- and, in some ways, a million years -- since he headed to Mexico, armed with a savings account and a plan to travel for eight to 12 months through Central America and down the west coast of South America.
The path will take him to Vietnam, west across South Asia and the Middle East, then through Africa.
He is staying in rural villages in developing countries, learning the various ways of life and telling the stories of the people and places -- while volunteering with organizations along the way.
"A lot of people think this is a vacation," Pervez says. "But I put in way more than 40 hours a week."
And luxury? He stays in hostels and with families he meets along the way.
"In six months, I've spent $150 on accommodations," he says.
Early on, he learned his first lessons in human nature, when people living in dire conditions would insist he share their home and food.
"The poorest people are the most open and inviting, the most willing to give me food," Pervez says. "They wouldn't have it any other way."
In return, he is using his skills to leave the villages better off than when he arrived.
For example, in Honduras, he worked with a cooperative where indigenous Mayan women and their families create artistic goods, which they sell in a store. He helped design a website so they can sell their products around the world.
He volunteered in an orphanage in Costa Rica. In Guatemala, he helped turn donated bicycles into machines that power farm equipment and household appliances.
His reason is simple. "I'm just trying," he says, "to make the world a better place."
Following A Passion
Pervez looks at his decision to walk away from the American dream this way: "We work because we have to, but it's not a very fulfilling way of living."
He had started to realize that when he came home for Christmas in 2010, three months after starting his job in Denmark. He began reading books about pursuing your passions.
Then he returned to Denmark and wrote down his passions. He started with travel, and built around it. Then, in August, took the plunge.
Yeah, he misses some things, like being able to talk to his family whenever he wants, instead of whenever technology allows it. He also finds he misses watching sports.
But the tradeoff -- meeting amazing people, learning so much about the world, being able to help -- is worth it.
"There are only three things that will stop me from traveling," he says. "If I run out of money, if I fall in love with a woman, or I fall in love with a place."
Inspired by his uncle, Barry Murray of Lakewood, who last week lost a battle with pancreatic cancer, Pervez is now growing out his close-cropped hair to donate to Westlake-based Wigs for Kids, which gives hairpieces to children fighting cancer.
He is hoping to raise $12,000 -- enough for four to eight wigs -- by the time he grows his hair the necessary 12 inches to donate.
"I don't want kids to have to focus on their appearance," he explains. "They should be focusing on getting better."
Response has been great. "Any time I've reached out to the people in Cleveland, they've always responded," he says.
Meanwhile, he'll live his life a step at a time. He plans to lecture at universities to share some of what his journey is teaching him and encourage students to think -- and even live -- outside the box.
Where will he end up two years from now? Pervez doesn't know, and he's glad -- that's part of the joy of the journey. He doesn't even rule out living in the United States again.
"What I've learned in other parts of the world, I could bring back home," he says. "Who knows?"