Meet The Dropouts: Handsome Hairy Daniel Nahabedian
Meet Daniel Nahabedian, a one-time nine-to-fiver who dropped out of the rat race to chase his dream of being a photographer.
He has long hair and a beard, confirming the 1960s stereotype of a dropout. But Daniel is anything but a stereotype … although he could be your stereotypical Armenian-French photoblogger who found love on the streets of Bangkok … with a kickarse girl from Kentucky!
Daniel has been based in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand for the last few years and I was lucky enough to meet him many times during our seven months there. I began calling him “handsome hairy man” because Miss M was slightly scared by all that hair. And once I started, I just couldn’t stop. “Handsome hairy man” just has a way of rolling off your tongue. (If you don’t believe me, try it yourself!)
Here’s a brief (and very lovely) history of handsome hairy man, a.k.a. Daniel Nahabedian.
In 100 words or less, tell me your story.
I’m an Armenian with a French passport, born in Lebanon during the civil war, raised in the United Arab Emirates, and currently living in Thailand. I’m a melting pot by myself and trust me, it’s sometimes quite confusing. I studied law in France and then worked for five years as an human resources officer before deciding to just quit everything, pack my backpack, walk twice across Spain and pursue my love of art through photography. That is all.
Where are you now and how long will you be there?
I am currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with my wife. I’ve been here since January 2010 and I just fell in love with this laid-back city. How long I’ll be here? Probably a couple of years more before moving to another location that we are still trying to decide.
What are you doing in Chiang Mai?
I am a freelance photographer and I just work on my photo business online while my wife teaches English in a private school here. I work from home (or a cafe) and go out shooting from time to time when it’s not too hot (or too wet). Other than that, we spend a big amount of time deciding what to eat, we walk around, chill or hang out on the balcony trying to get sunset photos or lightning shots.
What led you to ditch your frowny-faced suit job and seek adventures in the non-nine-to-five world?
I was never happy with the life I was living in Abu Dhabi and I hated my job. Working in HR in a country that doesn’t show any respect to workers is a horrible experience. But I also never had the guts to just leave my comfort zone and pursue a path that might or might not work.
In 2008 I visited two countries I’ve always wanted to visit: Ireland and Iceland. And that’s when I got bitten by the travel bug. It’s also the year I discovered photography.
In 2009, I went walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain with a close friend of mine. Walking for a month gives you a lot of time to think and ask yourself questions about your life. By the end of it, I had enough courage to go back home, hand in my resignation, buy a one-way ticket out of Abu Dhabi and follow a new path. It was probably the most ballsy decision of my life since I didn’t really have any plans apart from “I’m going to become a travel photographer”.
Any chance you’ll go back to a “proper” job?
But I have a proper job!!!
Ok, if you mean a 9-to-5 job wearing a suit and a tie… I don’t know. I surely don’t want to, I’ll do what I can to avoid it, but I am not burning any bridges. If my family needs me to get a “proper” job, I won’t hesitate.
You found love after dropping out. Can you tell the story of how you and Lindsay met … and what happened next?
After travelling around Europe and the Middle East, I decided to explore Asia starting with Thailand. I arrived in Bangkok alone and spent a few days on Khao San Road (The backpacker street aka “hell”) since I was waiting for a friend to join me.
On my third night, I bumped into a lovely lady in red sitting alone in a bar. I asked her to join us and that was the beginning of our story.
We travelled together for a few weeks and arrived in Chiang Mai where we both fell in love with the city. A month later we decided to move together and we got married last April in a beautiful resort in our favorite city.
What’s on the agenda for the next few years? Will you stay in Chiang Mai forever?
I’ll continue working on my photography and my website. We’ll enjoy our life in Chiang Mai and explore a few other areas in Southeast Asia.
We probably will move to somewhere else in a couple of years. We still are debating and working on a few options together.
How do you finance your lifestyle? Was setting up this new income/career difficult? Did everything work out the way you expected?
It was hard to actually start making money as a travel photographer, especially when you’re new in the field and don’t have a main income. I spent a year and a half living on my savings until I started making enough money to pay my rent and my food.
Now I live very comfortably with multiple sources of income.I teach photography online, I give workshops in Chiang Mai, my website is starting to bring in some money and I have a few other projects in the future that will enable me to have a steady income and not worry about it.
It worked out better than I had expected.
There you have it. A fabulously inspiring story for any aspiring dropouts. Just note the fact that Daniel lived off savings for 18 month before his new career began generating an income. Dropout life is not all unicorns and fairy dust and magical passive income streams.
9 years ago