Quit your job, travel the world. That’s the dream for many. Corey van der Laan is living it.
The 35-year-old Calgarian is on the adventure of a lifetime. He’s left his job, sold most of his stuff and condensed his life into a backpack and a laptop bag for an around the world trip that will take him from England to Costa Rica while visiting 45-plus countries along the way.
He’s budgeted $75,000 for the year-long excursion — a lot, he admits, but you only live once. “If I’m saving it for retirement, by the time I get to retirement I might not be able to enjoy it as much as I could now,” van der Laan said. “Might as well do it now.”
The travel bug bit van der Laan late. His first big trip after he graduated from St. Francis High School was to Europe in 2003. “I did not have a great time,” he said in an interview before leaving. “I went with my best friend and we fought the entire time, came back and was like, I hate this.”
After another trip with his best friend in 2011, where they again fought regularly, he decided to stop travelling with friends. It was a trip alone to Africa later that year that opened his mind.
“I remember Day 1 being like, this is incredible. I never want to leave this,” van der Laan said. “Part of me feels like I’m making up for lost time now. I squandered my 20s; when I had the time to travel, I chose to work instead.”
He studied computer science at the University of Calgary and worked in IT for 12 years before going back to school to get his MBA at the U of C’s Haskayne School of Business in 2017. Then last year, he took a job in Vancouver. After growing up, studying and working in Calgary, it was a difficult transition which prompted him to evaluate his life.
“At first I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’ve done, this is a big mistake,’ ” he said. “I thought, why not just go travel? For the first time in my life, I realized I had nothing that was holding me back. I didn’t have a job that I loved, I didn’t have a house, I didn’t have a mortgage. I had nothing holding me back.”
He started putting money aside and began thinking what it would be like to travel for a year. He realized that he couldn’t go in without a plan.
“I thought I don’t need a lot of money to travel. If I can find a way to monetize this, this could turn into a business,” he said. “I thought, maybe I could be a travel reviewer.”
So he began researching different travel companies and Contiki, a tour company specifically for 18- to 35-year-olds kept popping up in his search results. He had travelled with them in 2011 and he was curious about a lot of the trips they offered.
“I had a laundry list of trips I wanted to do with them,” van der Laan said. But he was almost 35. “When I turn 36, I’m done. I reached out to Contiki and said, ‘I want to do this marathon of Contiki.’
The company embraced him, offering him discounts on trips and a referral code and promotion for van der Laan’s YouTube channel, where he will be trying to monetize his adventure. In total, he’s booked 20 Contikis of various lengths that will take him from Europe, where he started in May, to his last trip in Central America.
Youth is not only a restriction on Contiki’s trips, it might also be a necessity.
“You’re going to bed at 3, 4 a.m. after partying all night and you get up at 5 a.m. and you go to the next destination,” van der Laan said. “You get off the bus and you’re in the new city, and you’re partying again. There’s also sightseeing in there, too, but there’s a lot of partying. It’s extremely exhausting. The thought of doing, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back trips around the entire world was a bit insane. But I thought I have to maximize the most. I’m someone that always goes all in.”
After saving up for a year, van der Laan left his job — which he says he grew to appreciate — to move back to Calgary. He sold as much as he could and moved the rest into his parent’s basement in the suburbs. His life is now contained within a modular backpack and a laptop bag. He packed as light as he could, with one exception.
“I think I have more shirts than I need,” he said. “I just thought that if I’m going to be on YouTube everyday, I will at least have a variety of clothes. I won’t be wearing the same shirt all the time.”
What won’t fit is any souvenirs, a choice reflecting a new mentality for van der Laan.
“I continue to lose things and sell things,” he said. “This, for me now, is what my life is. I really enjoy that. I think I am becoming more of a minimalist. This makes it easy, not buying things I don’t need. At least I’ll be able to travel longer because I won’t be spending money on things that have no other purpose.”
For van der Laan, the souvenirs will be his photos and videos. Which means his greatest fear is losing his camera gear while on the trip; a fear that was realized when he was doing a trial run to Nicaragua this winter.
“It happened in Nicaragua, but it could very well happen in Calgary,” he says. “I could’ve had my house broken into here. You just have to trust that you’re going to be OK … But not being dumb, not leaving my stuff out in the open, not being flashy about my stuff.”
As he lets go of the physical things he accumulated, he’s also letting go of his earlier life plan. He admits he wanted to have a family when he was younger, but that’s not how it played out.
“I remember getting out of high school and being like, I can’t wait to have a family. I can’t wait to have kids,” van der Laan said. “It just didn’t happen … It’s funny, once I started travelling, there was a part of me that thought, ‘oh, I can have all of that once I’m done travelling …’ And then I thought, ‘I don’t need to have kids. I can just keep travelling.’ ”
Follow along with van der Laan as he travels the world at youtube.com/coreyvanderlaan .