The Backpacker Intern

Giving a Keynote for the Original Nomads in Kazakhstan

Last week I visited my 54th country; Kazakhstan. I was invited by KIMEP University and the Yessenov Foundation to give two lectures about personal branding. The organization created a full week program to discover the city of Almaty, local businesses and the culture of Kazakhstan. I bought an extra ticket as a surprise for my girlfriend to join me on this trip. It was our first time in Central Asia and we already miss the hospitality and kindness of the people from Kazakhstan.

We stayed in Hotel Kazakhstan. Sounds like a simple name but if you think about it, what’s the first thing that people Google if they’re looking for a hotel in a place they’re visiting? Our room was on the 21st floor and had an epic view over Almaty and the incredible mountains.

During the week we got invited to visit so many beautiful sights. Every day a new student buddy from KIMEP University joined us. They were our personal guides and it was really cool to learn from them. All KIMEP students were really wise, driven, and open-minded.

Some of the places we visited:

Checking out Medeo, the highest skating ring in the world.

Being mesmerized by the beauty of Big Almaty Lake

Checking how strong the WiFi is in these Yurts 😉 This original house, a traditional phenomenon of portable Kazakh houses has been recognized by researchers as “the most perfect type of portable shelters and impressed the travelers and merchants, ambassadors of foreign states and medieval historians.” I think it would make a pretty good co-working space for Digital Nomads now.

Wandering around in Almaty City.

The main reason for my visit was to give two talks at KIMEP University. One for current students and one for alumni and business partners. 

My talk was about ‘Personal Branding’ and how you can use that in your life and career. I shared stories of my experience as ‘The Backpacker Intern’, my travels around the world and what I’ve learned in working in the creative industry for 12 years. In my talks, I always try to give different perspectives on how you can achieve goals. It’s not all fun and games. We all go through pain and struggles. I’m still a little bit nervous before I give a talk. Not as nervous as the first time. That was in 2014 at TEDxTeen in NYC. I was seriously exploding from the inside. My heartbeat was going faster than Usain Bolt. Now in Kazakhstan, I feel way more comfortable on stage, since I’ve given more than 100 talks around the world. That was also one of the key learnings I shared. You should: ‘Feel free to fail’. It doesn’t matter if you fail, just get back up and do it better next time.

Favorite part of the lecture? The Q&A. I really enjoyed answering the (many) questions from the students. When I got back in the hotel and connected to the WiFi I got a lot of kind reactions on my talk from the audience via Instagram. Here are a few of them:


The second talk was at the same venue but now the audience was alumni and business partners of KIMEP and the Yessenov Foundation. It was a great international mix because there were people from Kazakhstan, Turkey, China, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Ukraine, Turkmenistan and many more. For this talk, I focused a little bit more on entrepreneurship and how companies can benefit from remote working and digital nomads. This was based on the things I’ve learned from building my company Wanderbrief, the knowledge I gained about the market and trends and from talking with a lot of my friends from around the world who have or work at remote companies.

Again, it was so cool to connect with the audience and learn from each other. This Q&A took even longer. Giving a presentation costs a lot of energy since I channel everything I got towards those 60 minutes. At the same time, it gives a lot of energy because I see people smiling and thanking me for inspiring them. This is what I live for!

On the last day, I got invited for an interview at Business FM Radio. It was a cool experience because they broadcast it in Russian. I don’t know much more to say than “Nazdrave”. Luckily KIMEP arranged a translator to join me. Together with Nora Rozmut, the host of the show, we talked about Travel, Business, Personal Branding, Digital Nomads and Kazakhstan. 

It probably took a bit longer than a normal interview but it was fun to be part of the show. Hopefully, I’ve inspired some of the listeners. Thanks again for inviting me Nora and Business FM Radio.

What I loved the most about this whole week was simple: the hospitality. It was basically impossible to pay for a dinner in Kazakhstan. Everyone was so kind and we had the most wonderful conversations. I learned that it is in their roots. People from Kazakhstan are the original Nomads. Since they traveled all over the place, they had to learn to build trust and connections with strangers fast. On the other side, when other travelers came to visit, they gave them the warmest welcome. Because these people had information about what was going on in the country. It’s so cool that we now live in an age where I work as a Digital Nomad in a country where the original Nomads are born.

Hereby I would like to thank a few people and organizations for making this week unforgettable: Balzhan, Raushan, Diana, KIMEP University, Yessenov Foundation, Hotel Kazakhstan, Restaurant Crudo, the student buddies and everyone else that I met in this amazing week. Spasiba and see you again!

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