I’ve chosen event marketing manager Billy Gallagher for today’s Case of the Fridays. While it’s not his particular industry that I’m fascinated with, what I really *do* find intriguing about him is his lifestyle. He’s been traveling for the past 8 years straight, and it’s led him to have some pretty incredible experiences.
Billy is a great example of someone who has shaped their career to cater to their ideal lifestyle. Flexible scheduling, extensive travel, and a variety of work consisting of meeting some pretty remarkable people. I feel like Billy has packed a lifetime of experiences into just the first decade of his adulthood, and I think a lot of people can benefit from hearing about his approach towards life.
Here’s a portrait I took of Billy out at Anza Borrego desert this past August. That’s the milky way you see below, and I feel this photo is a great representation of his curiosity to explore what the world has to offer.
Here’s a photo of us during the conversation that ensued below. We met up in Pacific Beach to catch up and chat while he was in town for a few days.
What is your name/age?
Billy Gallagher – 30
What is your occupation?
I work in experiential marketing setting up events around the country. It’s all freelance based, so sometimes it’s working for the actual event production team or sometimes it’s working for a sponsor for the event. The whole idea to just be interacting with consumers and helping them engage with what’s going on at the event.
Where did you grow up?
The suburbs of Atlanta, GA
What level of schooling have you completed?
I graduated from UGA with a degree in Public Relations.
How long have you been doing what you currently do?
8 years now.
And where would you say you’re based out of?
My suitcase. I’ve been traveling for the entire 8 years and haven’t had an apartment or a car the whole time..
Did you have a 9-5 job before that?
Nope, I graduated on a Friday and on the following Monday I was on a flight to the first event and I was picked up at the airport by some guy with a sign with my name on it.
Did you know how much travel was going to be involved when you first started?
That’s actually how it all started when I first got involved – some guy asked me if I wanted to drive a BMW around the country and hand out T-Shirts for the summer after I finished college.
And I was like, “Yes. I *DO* want to do that.”
So from then on it was a constant stream of gigs?
Not immediately. I worked as a bartender for a little bit until another marketing tour came along. After that, it caught good momentum to keep me going.
So with these tours, do you work with just one company?
No. I do several kinds of events across different industries. A lot of times I’m in control of some assets with pretty big price tags, so it’s important that I have experience with different kinds of events and have good relationships with well more known companies.
What kind of scheduling do you have, or what does your calendar look like?
Well, right now I’m on a 1 year contract with an agency – so during 2013, I have to fulfill managing 25 different events over the course of these 12 months. So they give me a schedule about 6 months in advance, which allows me to plan for it. I have 3 events in Colorado, some on the east coast and some out here on the west coast. Right now I’m contracted with Gortex which does a lot of work with hunting, climbing, skiing, outdoors type of stuff – so that’s the majority of the kind of scene I’m surrounded by this year.
I’d imagine that you get to meet a lot of cool athletes through your work.
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome to see these people that power through these mulit-day sporting events. They’re in such great physical shape it’s motivating for me to be healthier.
A few years back I worked personally with Dean Karnazes while he was doing 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. We set up an event each day in different cities – and it was funny…his sponsors gave me directions over the phone and told me not to worry about him being able to compete in the races each day…but just make sure he doesn’t attempt to do “2-a-days”. As in 2 marathons in one day. That whole experience was awesome to have gone through when I was just 23, so it helped me off to a great start during my early years.
It’s funny – the whole time I would see people lining up to take pictures with Dean in all of the different cities we were in. At one point, Dean asked if I would mind taking a photo with him for him to have for his own keepsake. That was pretty special.
Some people might think that traveling so much might be a hinderance towards leading a normal life – would you consider it an advantage or a disadvantage?
I think of my lifestyle as one of many opportunities, and the way I see it I’m trying to experience as much as I can. But I definitely make sacrifices – I don’t have my own bed. I can’t have a girlfriend – tried that a few times and it just doesn’t work. I have a lot of good friends but we don’t really hang out on a regular basis, so that makes things a little difficult – always having to “catch up” when I see them. Maybe it prevents me from building really ‘strong’ relationships at times. But the flip-side is that I have a few friends in about every city I go visit, so my network has just grown to be huge.
Out of all of the places that you’ve traveled, have you had any favorites?
I love ancient civilizations and ruins, so going to see mayan temples and places like Ankor Wat & Egypt have been awesome. I recently went to the stonehenge, and that was pretty awesome to see. I’ve seen the great barrier reef, I’ve slept under the stars in the Sahara, I’ve hiked through the Amazon rainforest – I love seeing those kinds of terrains. They’re so unique and unlike anything else.
You mentioned that you almost died one time while scuba diving – can you talk a little bit about that?
Sure. It was my first ‘night’ dive, and I had faulty equipment. Basically, even if I was exhaling – my air would just keep pumping in so it was rapidly losing air from the tank. At first I thought I was just breathing odd because it was my first night dive, but then quickly realized that there was something seriously wrong. It was really scary. And at night, you can only see what your flashlight is looking at – and I had stupidly drifted a good distance away from the dive master…but luckily I stayed really calm and swam up to him – showed him the signal that I was out of air, and it went really text book. He handed me his air supply, and we made our way back to the surface.
Once I was above water, I just started throwing up Caribbean water. But I didn’t care, because I was alive. We went to a bar a few minutes later and I bought a round of drinks for the entire bar because I was just so happy to be alive.
Do you think that had a big impact on how you take risks while traveling, or will it cause you to be more cautious going forward?
You know, I don’t think it will change. Things happen. Gear fails. You can’t let that fear get in the way of experiencing the world and all of it’s experiences it has to offer.
And a lot of people think it’s dangerous going to 3rd world countries. What they don’t realize is that those countries economies depend on tourism, so it’s in their own interest not to steal or harm people that are visiting.
How much longer do you envision yourself working in the field that you’re in?
I don’t know…it’s a pretty high energy job and maybe 10 or 20 years down the line, I think I’ll have to change to something else. A lot of people get burnt out doing what I do, but surprisingly I haven’t felt that way just yet.
What kind of work could you envision yourself doing after you transition away from your current career?
I don’t know…that’s a really interesting question.
Like I said, this was my first job out of college and I just kind of ran with it. I’d be really hard pressed to work a 9-5, have a desk looking out a window knowing that I’ve been out there…on the other side. Kind of like what a wild animal would feel.
Do you tend to prefer to live paycheck to paycheck or with a savings plan accounted for? Is your income predictable and regular, or entirely dependent on what you produce?
I definitely have a savings. Since I’m a freelancer, I don’t have taxes taken out of my paycheck each time, so when April comes around – I have a big lump sum to hand over to uncle Sam. So I usually save a good amount to handle that expense, then put some away for my regular savings, and then spend anything remaining very freefully.
When you’re traveling, do you like to stay in hotels, or stay with friends?
I usually stay in hostels – and cheap hostels at that. I’m pretty frugal when it comes to accommodation. Because when it comes to the experience, I’m exactly the opposite. I don’t think that money should hold you back from having an awesome experience.
I’ve never done the couchsurfing.org thing, but I recently went to Europe and ended up staying on friends couches and avoiding paying any costs for accommodation.
Yeah, you mentioned you had recently taken a trip to Denmark for a music festival – what was that like?
I was in Amsterdam and was trying to decide where my next destination would be. I know 10 people that live in Denmark, so I put them all in a group-chat on Facebook asking them what was going on for the next week. 8 out of the 10 people responded saying that they were going to this festival called “Roskilde.”
What was cool about that was I had met all of these different people in different countries throughout the world while traveling, and almost all of them happened to just be going to this same music concert. So that was that, and I booked my ticket.
It became more apparent that it was a camping festival…and I didn’t really have a place to sleep. So the festival was approaching, and I don’t know why – but I decided to just go out and buy a full-body bunny costume. I checked out the photos of the concert on the website, and it almost looked like Halloween there were so many people wearing costumes. A few years prior I decided that the best costume ever was a full-body animal costume, so the idea just came naturally that it was the time to get it. Everyone knows what you are, it covers you from head to toe, and it’s just a ton of fun.
So I went to the festival by myself with a list of all of my friends phone numbers – under the assumption that people are generally nice and will let you borrow their phone to call your friends, and it worked out just like that. I met up with one friend that let me keep my bag at their camp, and from then on – I just ran loose and met a ton of people. There was 120,000 people there at the festival, and I probably hugged about 5,000 of them. People loved the bunny.
There was actually a photographer from Pitchfork who bought me a bunch of drinks and took me backstage in exchange for taking pictures with people – one of them being Rihanna. I think I made it on a local TV show too.
You mentioned that you were banking on the idea that people would just let you use their phones to call your friends…and I’ve heard you mention a few situations like this – for instance, your plans for an African safari. Do you feel that your attitude has a lot to do with your amount of luck?
Yeah, definitely. People always cancel out on those things though. And I’ve found that some of my best experiences have come when nothing is planned and we figure something out right there on the spot.
How do you imagine your retirement, or lifestyle past 60?
It’ll have to be outside somewhere. Hopefully a beach – I like to surf.
Do you see your career facilitating a lifestyle suitable for a family, or do you have the desire to have a family?
Yeah eventually. I think if I found the right girl and was in the right situation, I’d probably settle down and have kids. But I want to see everything, and people always say to get it all out of your system when you’re young. Do it while you can and there are no other strong obligations or responsibilities weighing you down.
If you had any advice to someone just graduating college or thinking about switching careers, what would it be?
Follow your instincts, play to your strengths. I’m actually afraid of going the other way actually. I’ve had some appealing offers, but I’m just not really to call it just yet.
What did you want to be when you want to be when you grew up?
A basketball player.
If you were a character in a famous movie, who’s role would you play?
If someone wanted to get in touch with you and ask you more about what it takes to get involved in your career, what would be the best way?
They can send me a message on Facebook. That’s the best tool for keeping my network active, so they can find me on there and shoot me a message.