“I won’t tell you how to get from point A to point B but I will tell you about what happened to me between point A and point B,” Andrew explains in the “About Me” section of his website: beatthegrind.com. He travels the world, with the self-appointed mission of avoiding his comfort zone en route.
In other words: he’s left his fish tank to swim in the ocean. That’s how he words it in the biography section of his Instagram account, @beatthegrind, anyway. And a quick glance at his gallery of photos — with images from Mostar to Melbourne, from Myanmar to Mexico City — seems to confirm the claim.
Could it be true, then? Has Andrew really figured out how to “beat the grind?”
Wit, Depth & Daring
I personally first came across @beatthegrind, aka Andrew Schultz, on Instagram. What made me a follower? He’s an adventurer and a good photographer, for sure. But there are plenty of adventurous folks who take nice pictures on IG. Therefore I’d say it was something extra.
If pressed in a hostage situation to give a more concrete answer, I’d say it was his wit. Plus his daring. Sprinkled with a dash of depth.
Andrew’s a funny guy. I don’t mean that in a sarcastic sense. I mean it in a he’s-constantly-cranking-out-some-funny-shit sort of way. Entertaining, pointed, or otherwise interesting photo-commentary — that is his forte. Each picture in the @beatthegrind gallery is accompanied by a witty or astute observation, helping it stand out. Kind of like captions on crack.
Here are a few favorites that have tickled my fancy:
Moreover, at times his words betray a depth not always apparent in this arena: the frequently shallow world of Instagram. A medium where look-at-how-beautiful-awesome-and-well-traveled-I-am self-promotion can dominate, and finding content with more substance takes some digging.
This dog looked so adorable sitting on top of a remotely controlled bike. It attracted quite a crowd, passers by would squeal with delight at the cuteness overload of the dog mimicking human behavior. After joining the herd in taking a few photos, I continued down the path to the market, reviewing the photos I'd just taken as I strolled along. As I flicked through more and more of the photos, it dawned on me, this was animal cruelty. Normally I'd associate this kind of cruelty with the image of a bear being chained up, an elephant being ridden, but this dog perched on a bike was still a form of abuse. My senses had been shrouded by a veil of ignorance, it had blinded me to the nature of the ruse. The enjoyment I had experienced from watching the dog had overwhelmed my ability to see this scene for what it was. I think a lot of people, like myself, don't realize the true nature of the beast that masks itself as entertainment. This is not a cute dog, it's a dog that's being forced to do something unnatural. This is animal cruelty, look past the facade and see it for what it is! #BeatTheGrind
Exhibit D, for Dung:
Spent the day feeding and bathing elephants at a nature conservation park near Chiang Mai. There are about 70 elephants, 400 dogs, 200 cats and a hundred or so buffaloes. I asked how much a month the food bill was and I almost fell off my chair, around 1 million baht ($30k USD) a month! The place was awesome, washing the elephants in the water was fantastic until I noticed these huge floating balls bobbing past us. The packages were courtesy of the elephants upstream, one girl squealed when one of the football sized poops bumped into her leg 😝 #BeatTheGrind
Exhibit D might not be an obvious example of depth, but I couldn’t resist including it here anyway. Dung aside, I mentioned wit, depth AND daring, so let’s get to the daring.
No Pants Are The Best Kind of Pants
In order to put together this blog post, I did some light stalking of Andrew’s social-media accounts. And “Get your tush out!” seems to be a reoccurring theme. At least of the past year or so of his online presence.
To put it in other terms, if you scroll through @beatthegrind’s IG feed, you won’t get to the bottom without seeing his bottom. Peruse through his gallery, and you’ll see lots of interesting travel photography interspersed with shots of his face, his friends, and — his fanny.
In the North-American sense of the word fanny, OF COURSE. After all — clearly — he’s not a woman. (Though he has been known to put on a dress.)
A Winter-less Existence
Andrew grew up in Adelaide, Australia, but moved to the UK for a couple of years after earning a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Adelaide. He’s visited about 40 countries so far, but has yet to visit the African continent. These days Andrew’s touring around the Balkans. But he plans to return to the southern hemisphere shortly, as the European summer has ended.
His aim? To live life in an endless summer loop. “I never want to endure another winter!” Andrew told me.
Left His Fish Tank to Swim in the Ocean
Sounds like a splendid plan to me! In order to get to know him better, I’ve asked Andrew a few questions. Below are my Q’s and the answers he humored me with.
Q: When, how, and why did you start traveling?
I worked for the government for 10 years after returning to Australia [from the UK] but after spending 6 months travelling through South America for a holiday I decided to quit my desk job and work as a freelancer. I thought to myself, why am I working an entire year for 4 weeks holiday when I could be doing it the other way around! I’ve been living the lifestyle of a digital nomad since February and hope to keep doing so for an unforeseeable time into the future.
Q: What do you do? How do you afford your travels? Do you have any advice or tips for other travel-minded people?
I’m a freelance web developer specialising in WordPress websites. This is how I can afford to constantly travel by working at the same time in between sightseeing. If you work in the IT industry then being a digital nomad is the perfect job to enable you to travel and work in tandem.
You're never alone, there's always someone out there experiencing the same problems as you. Although you may feel like you're in the dark, I assure you, you're not the only one going through what you feel is a dire circumstance. All I can say is thank you Google!! In a professional sense it's provided me with so many answers to problems in addition to validating my theory that there's always someone else out there banging their heads on their computers, trying to solve the same programming problem! I can't remember what I used to do before Google… This is not a Google sponsored advert although if Google is watching, which it probably is, can I have some money please? 😊 #BeatTheGrind
Q: What’s at the top of your bucket list? Do you have any upcoming trips/recent travels that you’re excited about?
Visiting Iran and the Middle East, as I hear the people are super hospitable and the photography opportunities are fantastic in that country.
Further to that, any kind of mountain hikes that Andrew hears about he also adds to his list of places to visit — as he says that’s one of his favorite things to do. And, at my nosy prompting about memorable experiences, Andrew also shared another story:
When I travelled through South America I went skinny dipping in a lagoon at the bottom of a glacier in Peru. A Canadian guy that I’d only just met that morning and I decided we should do it regardless of the audience on the banks of about 20 people. We ran and dived into the lagoon, the water was so cold from the melting glacier it took our breath away. After resurfacing we both quickly ran back to shore as the water was unbearable. Funny thing was that there was an English girl swimming around not bothered by the cold at all, she taunted us from the lagoon saying that it was not cold at all and that we should come back in!
Cross-Dressing & Baring It All
That brings us back to a point I started off with: @beatthegrind’s drive to get outside of his comfort zone. How exactly does he do this?
Well, you may recall that I’ve been stalking Andrew’s online presence — a research method I prefer to call “investigative journalism.” And my investigation has turned up specifics on Andrew’s escape from the comfort-zone doldrums. One example is the previously mentioned birthday-suit business. The bum baring and the skinny dipping. Others include cross-dressing as well as a year of saying yes.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” Andrew wrote of the latter experience. “I’m not quite sure if the Romans ever thought that cross-dressing would fall under this umbrella!” He said before launching into a tale of how his first-ever Couchsurfing experience ended in his donning a shimmery blue halter-top cocktail dress that exposed his nipples every time he reached for his drink.
Well what shall I say about that? It’s tough being a girl.
Now my new question is, has Andrew learned to take comfort outside of his comfort zone? Upon reading up on the aforementioned antics, I pressed for more details in a follow-up “Dear-Andrew” email:
When did you first start taking your clothes off in public and in pictures? Sorry about the very direct nature of this question. I assure you I have a valid and non-smutty reason for asking. Basically, I was wondering about your goal of "getting out of your comfort zone." It seems that now you've gotten to the point where you are quite comfortable getting down to your birthday suit in public. Were you comfortable with that off the bat? Or has it become more comfortable with practice? I'm wondering the same about the cross-dressing. And, if these are things that are more comfortable for you now, where does the boundary of your comfort zone lie these days? Can you name something you haven't tried yet that seems daunting to you?
Andrew politely evaded my questions with the following reply:
The whole idea of getting out of your comfort zone is that it exposes you to new experiences and people you might not have ever met. I believe that accepting opportunities leads to doors opening to other adventures. It’s extremely easy to brush off an opportunity because it sounds daunting but if you start with smaller challenges and slowly gain confidence achieving those then the sky is the limit! At the moment I’m looking for the next challenge and travelling is a great way to discover these.
Well, we might be no closer to knowing where Andrew’s boundaries currently lie, but all I can say is, follow @beatthegrind and you might just find out along the way.
Or you might not.
But at least you’ll be in for an entertaining ride! #beatthegrind
Thanks for reading the very first entry — the virgin feature! — in my new Spotlight Traveler series. (Andrew wasn’t actually the first traveler I asked to interview, but he was the first to follow through! So, thank you, @beatthegrind, for being such a good sport!)
In the Spotlight Traveler series, I’ll be shining the limelight on travelers whose stories I find interesting, inspiring, noteworthy or downright delicious in some way or other. To catch the next story in the series, be sure to follow Postcards from Stef!
Spotlight Traveler is off to a good start! I’ve already got a few intriguing features lined up for the series. One’s on a guy who gets paid by the likes of Lonely Planet and Rick Steves to travel the world snapping pictures. The other’s about an Australian woman who’s not a nun but lives in the Vatican City. You heard me right! She’s neighbors with the Pope. So stay tuned for more!
Also, if you’d like to put forward a traveler who has a story worth telling, LET ME KNOW! I’m taking suggestions for Spotlight-Traveler features on my Instagram account. Simply follow and tag Postcards from Stef using the #spotlighttraveler hashtag to suggest a feature. Recommend a friend, a foe, or even yourself by leaving a short description of the story idea, and I’ll direct message you to follow up! Thanks for participating!