What Happened to Around the World in 80 Jobs?

Turner Blog, Mental Health

Let me tell you a story.

It’s about sex, drugs, depression, fame-seeking, self-loathing and back again. It went deeper and darker until the depression was all consuming and filled with sleepless nights, greasy hair and clothes crusted in Cheeto dust.

Ad nauseam.

Embarrassingly, this had gone on for years, manifesting in different forms with outcomes differing only in veneer each time. Each iteration got more desperate and isolating and frustrating. Living in fear is a bitch. I remember my rock bottom vividly. It involved siting alone in the middle of the day crying into a huge basket of deep friend fish and an American super sized coke. I think tartar sauce was also involved. Have you ever seen anyone eat whilst crying into their food.

It’s fucking scary.

It is oxygen depriving just to think of it. But that was the state of affairs that I had found myself in. It didn’t happen overnight. It is like the old frog in put in boiling water parable everyone has heard. The slow burn whittles away at your until you don’t recognize yourself.

The details of my story are unique-ish to my weird journey, but probably not unique in the slightest. It feels like almost narcissistic indulgence just to throw up this story. But maybe something good will come of it for someone. Everyone faces life setbacks and all of us operate by means of the “stories” we tell ourselves. Some of us just wake up from our trances sooner than others. Some of us maybe never wake up, or they simply find themselves sobbing staring off in the frozen dessert section at Walmart.

funny tequila harvester

In 2011 I started AroundtheWorldin80jobs.com with no clear direction other than to go abroad, find work, and see if I could put together some vague idea of what I wanted to do with my life. The journey started out humbly, just hawking Christmas trees with undocumented workers in Seattle, and then somehow morphed into studying snake oil timeshare salesmen in Mexico, but it kept evolving. I found myself making Tequila in Mexico and rolling cigars in Cuba, tending to bathrooms at Children’s festivals in the Netherlands. Basically it got weird. But I like weird. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing and how I was going to make money, but, unbeknownst to me, somewhere along the way on my quest to find the perfect job, I invented the perfect job.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Until we don’t. Unfortunately the human mind doesn’t work that way. We always want more and better. The ego is a craven maniac if we let her take over the driver seat of our conscious mind.

Two years into Around the World in 80 Jobs and things were continuing to unfold in miraculous ways. I kept getting help from random strangers on my 80 jobs odyssey, despite the fact that I was just this strange white dude showing up in their country, completely inept at manual labor, yet adamant of vague notions that it was important to give it a go for some higher purpose regardless of the aforementioned ineptness. Oddly, I never learned this growing up. Resilience and endured suffering for purpose was not in my repartee. It did however; resonate with people for some reason. I don’t know why. Maybe they were amused at seeing this gringo struggle with basic tasks. Maybe there was a vulnerable humanness about it. Or maybe people are better than we give them credit for.

I am still astounded at level of generosity of random strangers in far away lands. Blown away actually. But I am also equally amazed at the level of generosity of fellow citizens of the Internet, digital nomads, and bloggers. In mid 2013, when a large multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporation stole my brand and intellectual property for a global marketing campaign, I had no hope that people would rally to the cause. Zero. Maybe less than zero if that is a thing. Point being, the internet and bloggers rallied to cause that actually was important but for a guy who probably they would have thought to be a self-obsessed asshole packing a lot of hubris had they met me in the flesh. I didn’t think highly of my fellow bloggers at the time. There is a certain embedded narcissism inherent in writing about yourself on the Internet – that appeals to a certain soul, and my reaction as always been danced between apprehension to even revolution (see: Instagram), despite my own involvement. Maybe that is/was more a statement about me and my negative beliefs. Maybe I didn’t think highly of myself deep down. It doesn’t matter. The denizens of the web did the right thing and justice prevailed.

With this corporate hijacking in the rearview mirror I turned my sights onto making Around the World in 80 Jobs bigger. I became singularly focused. I had already been approached by a dozen production companies about turning Around the World in 80 Jobs into a tv show, an idea that appealed greatly to my natural indications and abilities, but also unfortunately, to an egoic sense of purpose.

I bought all the video gear a vlogger could ever need and set off to kick things up another level. Some pretty amazing job experiences went down during this time – outing Tiger Temple as a den of lies for one and bringing Christmas to rural parts of the Philippines for another – but I increasingly lost sight of my WHY. Why was I doing Around the World in 80 Jobs to begin with? Deeper feelings of resistance and depression gave way to thinking I just didn’t have enough ‘motivation’. I was a technology phobe after all, and all this trying to make videos…I just needed a little boost. So I turned to what many Americans turn to when the going gets tough: drugs – pharmaceutical grade.

I am not sure of the exact time stamp on how things proceeded from there, but once Adderall and xxanax were the soup du jour, things deteriorated pretty rapidly. Not only were pills in the mix, but also an increasing dosage of those led to slamming on the day drinking gas pedal. When beers are 50 cents in Vietnam and Mexico and the weather is 100 plus humidity – it is easy to pass your days and your deeper feelings into endless drinking. I quickly gave up hustling to find work around the world that I found interesting and convinced myself the whole thing was bullshit to begin with. It is even easier to spiral into negative self-talk and indulgent self-pity when you are alone and isolated. Such is the not often spoken part of the life of a digital nomad.

And to bring this train wreck of a story home, in possibly the most epic of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, I completely belly flopped on a certain mix and mingle party with Travel Channel and National Geographic TV executives in NYC. After wading through the Hollywood production show shuffle for a few years, I had finally signed with Andrew Zimmern’s (the Bizzare Food guy) new TV production company. For some reason, after hustling so hard to break into the TV realm, I thought it would be a good idea to put my best foot forward. I did so by shoveling ADHD meds down my gullet and burning the midnight oil with sleepless cocaine fests the days’ prior. On the night of the event, I was so keyed up on ADHD meds and booze that I ‘lost my voice’ and creepily struggled to lament my plight to whoever would listen to this sad soul at said event.


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Dinner in NYC with one of my fav TV travel show chefs @chefaz Andrew Zimmern. Now I no fear of Korean BBQ.

A post shared by Turner Barr (@80worldjobs) on

It was a true fairytale ending to my journey.

So where did that leave me? Two years later, pharmaceutical free with a couple of familial cancer diagnoses under my belt, I finally have risen again. Maybe not a magnificent phoenix rising from the ashes, but perhaps an adorable blue footed booby ready to stumble on blindly once again. I still feel nauseous and a deep sense of sorrow for my fellow man if I look at Instagram for more than a minute or so, but also see happy babies and normalish people making their way in the world – which feels more real to me.

Anyway, even writing this all out now doesn’t really serve a purpose in showcasing jobs around the world or highlight some inspirational story of why you should travel the world – but maybe it can put into perspective that people can seemingly be living the dream on the outside, yet be shackled to an emotional prison of despair and feelings of worthlessness.

And so for my next act, I will dare to be different.

This time I will exchange the uppers for hallucinogens as I head to the Amazon and see if ayahuasca and the mystique of the jungle can help put me back on the path to enlightenment.

To continue reading…check out the post “How to prepare for an Ayahuasca journey to Peru