What does it take to be able to live a life of the ultimate modern nomad—someone who’s always on the move, living in a different city every week or month, and spends most of their time flying and passing through airports? This is probably a question every aspiring full-time traveler wants to ask. But for young artists, who are yearning to be able to do what they love to do—music or art—and also see the world at the same time, it can be quite tough to reach that stage of getting the best of both worlds.
For Filipino-Australian rockstar MiG Ayesa, it was a combination of hard work, a lot of sacrifice and boldness to be great and live his passion that got him to where he is now—and we sat down with this Caveman Travels correspondent to get his insights on traveling, the struggles he faces as an artist that constantly moves and performs in different cities, as well as the gratification that comes with it. Stick around as we find out that while the rockstar life isn’t as glamorous as we all think, it’s fulfilling and can take you to places and bring you experiences you will never get elsewhere.
Caveman Travels: You’re an accomplished rockstar. What’s it like living the dream and traveling the world doing what you love?
MiG Ayesa: Living the dream?! It may seem like that and it definitely has its moments, but it may look much more glamorous than it actually is. Jet lag, airport security, long-haul flights in turbulent conditions, recycled air-conditioning, the constant search for Wi-Fi connections, endless hotel lobby waits, language barriers and missing loved ones at home can all play havoc to the vision of ‘the dream’. Sometimes, it could feel like a nightmare, but that’s just me trying to play down the fact that… it’s AWESOME! Traveling, despite all its hassles and hardships, is the single most wonderful thing to do in life that will broaden your horizons, educate you, break down barriers, and give you experiences that need to be lived first hand rather than reading about it or watching it on TV. The fact that it’s part of my job to be doing so much traveling makes me feel blessed that I am able to see and experience so much. The fact I get paid to do what I love doing, which is performing and traveling, is truly a gift and something for which I am so grateful. There are times when I wish I was more sedentary, and not travel so much, and those times definitely come and go, but for now travel seems to be in my cards and I embrace it with all its pitfalls and bleary-eyed mysticism.
CT: You travel all the time. How is it like being on the go most of your life?
MA: I have always loved flying. I wanted to be an Air Force pilot when I was growing up, and still fantasise about how my life would be if I became an airline pilot. So the flying excites me. Airports do not. Having to go through constant security checks and immigration booths and waiting in terminal lounges play havoc with my system, but it is an occupational hazard I accept for all the privileges and ‘freedom’ that travelling brings. It’s hard to stay grounded, literally and metaphorically with this lifestyle. Relationships are challenged and only the strongest bonds survive. I miss out on many opportunities that would have been available should I have stayed in the one spot more often, and I miss having a stable routine. But, one thing is for sure, my life is unpredictable and every day is different to the one before and the one next. Jet lag is a constant companion, and dealing with it is like dealing with any chronic condition: you accept and adapt. My agent gets frustrated with my constant ‘not available’/‘currently overseas’ status, and I am at the point where I want to have some balance, so there is a shift in the MiG-Paradigm. But I do love visiting new places and having new experiences. Life should be like this…an adventure.
CT: What are the five things you can’t live without when traveling?
MA: 1) Cameras: from my DSLRs, GoPros and iPhone… I must document and share! It’s my DNA. 2) Headphones: my haven on the move. 3) Laptop: My MacBook Pro is my office and studio and my connection to my loved ones. 4) Workout Gear: A morning jog in a strange new city is the best way to awaken the senses and explore your new destination. 5) Sleeping aids: Jet-lag will ruin you if you cannot get a good night’s rest!
CT: How do you stay fit while always being on the move?
MA: This is so important. I always make use of the hotel gym or the gyms on board ships. They are usually well-equipped and the constant variety of venue adds to the novelty and breaks any sense of monotony in your routine. I try to eat clean, despite the occasional and necessary sampling of local cuisine (and local wines and sake). One thing that I found that’s a great way of staying fit and making the most of my situation is by going for a morning jog (with my GoPro and turn on my MapMyRun app) as I explore a strange new city or destination. Not only is it a great way to sight-see, take pics along the way, you also get a real sense of your location and places you may want to visit when the place opens later in the day. Nothing is better to make you feel like an instant local and immersing yourself into the culture of the place. And it becomes so mesmerizing and hypnotic that I will have jogged for miles before even noticing how far I’ve gone. It’s also a magical way to drag you into the local timezone, preparing you for the adventure that lies ahead.
CT: Favorite cities you’ve been to?
MA: Rome, Florence, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Dubrovnik, Copenhagen, Berlin, Helsinki, London, Tokyo, Barcelona, Seoul, New York, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Wellington, Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, Istanbul, Geneva, Vienna…
CT: Tell us an interesting story about a local that you met in one of your trips.
Walking the streets of Fukuoka, Japan I stumbled upon this shabbily-dressed man who was selling his silver jewellery on the side of the road on a makeshift table covered by an ornate rug. I noticed this Star Wars ‘Stormtrooper’ design ring, which was exquisitely detailed and beautifully crafted. I asked him how much for the ring, and he told me ¥500. It felt right for me to barter, so I offered ¥300. He counter-offered with ¥400. Sold! So I bought the ring and put it on as I walked away. After a while, I heard this man shouting behind me, and when I turned around it was the same shabbily-dressed jeweller who ran up to chase me. I thought I had done something wrong (and was about to defend myself against this guy, quickly trying to recall any Bruce Lee move I could recall), when he grabbed my hand and gave me ¥100 back. He told me he wanted me to enjoy the ring and that ¥300 was more than enough to pay for the ring. He wanted me to enjoy Japan and have a wonderful experience in Fukuoka. Despite my protestations, he insisted I keep the extra ¥100 and he waved me goodbye and wished me happy trails. I have never forgotten his face nor his beautiful gesture even seven years on.
CT: Late night or early morning flights?
MA: Late night. Let me have my day!
CT: Travel light or travel in style?
MA: Both. I TRY to travel as light as possible and be smart about what I bring, but once I put together the equipment I need for taking photos/videos/editing and music production, it’s not light. If someone else is flying me, especially long-haul flights, I will insist on business class seats to get as much rest as possible. I also make use of the airport lounges whenever available. It makes transit and waiting times so much more bearable. Traveling business or first class is like heaven. Style all the way…
CT: Most memorable performance and which city?
MA: I will never forget performing We Will Rock You in Sofia, Bulgaria. This country was pretty fresh out of being a communist country, and during the Soviet times, rock and roll was a symbol of freedom and self-expression. To Bulgarians, bootlegged cassettes of rock music were treasured, revered and coveted. It was dangerous and exciting to not only hear this music but to be in possession of such contra-ban. So we had no idea that when we played the arena in Bulgaria, it was more to them than seeing a show. It was a celebration of life, freedom, independence and self-expression. The packed arena erupted with every guitar strum and drum riff. People were on their feet and a mosh-pit emerged from the crowd who rushed the stage, taking off their shirts, screaming, singing, shouting, crying… Bulgarians LOVED Queen. It was so wonderful to be a vehicle through which they were able to rejoice in the freedom that rock music symbolized and honored.
CT: A good cup of coffee or an iced-cold beer?
MA: It depends on the time you ask me. Now? Espresso.
CT: What’s your advice for aspiring artists who wish to be able to do what they want and see the world?
MA: Do it. Just do it. First of all, to be paid to do what you love is the greatest measure of success. And then to be able to travel to get paid to do what you love is the icing on a very sweet, rich cake. Just make sure you have an understanding partner, and a frequent flyer membership.
Follow MiG Ayesa’s rock ‘n’ roll adventures on Instagram via @migayesa.