I talked to Tarek Kholoussy, an ex-corporate strategic leader, digital nomad, and a social entrepreneur, who traveled to more than 100 countries and ran more than 25 marathons to enrich both his body and soul. Here’s his story.
Tarek Kholoussy, before becoming a full-time social entrepreneur and digital nomad, provided strategic leadership within world-leading healthcare and financial service organizations such as Goldman Sachs in New York and London. However, he felt like an office setting had always limited his capacity to achieve his goals and restricted his personal freedom. That was exactly why he left the corporate world to travel and see the world. After a few years of ceaseless exploration of ‘cultures and natures,’ he became the sixth person ever to run across Bali, visited more than 100 countries, ran 25 marathons, and established his own social enterprise to contribute back to the community, the organization he named as ‘Nomads Giving Back!’. Tarek was visiting the Running Remote conference in Bali this June. Soshace has helped Running Remote in conducting the interviews with the speakers and attendees.
Hello Tarek, and welcome to the interview with Running Remote! Please, introduce yourself.
I’m Tarek Kholoussy and this is my story… The story of my new life looks a whole lot different than the story of my old life. In my new life, I’m a social entrepreneur living a nomadic life in exotic places like Bali while prioritizing personal growth over professional growth and going after my own dreams. In my old life, I was a corporate director living the suit-and-tie life in big cities like New York City while prioritizing professional growth over personal growth and going after someone else’s dreams.
I’m currently a social entrepreneur with a BSBA from Georgetown University and an MBA with honors from New York University. I focused my advanced studies primarily on Finance and Management and additional certifications in project management and six sigma. I originally pursued an MBA as a way to strengthen my capabilities and ability to advance my business career up the corporate ladder. I was fascinated by the field of business even as a kid. I would invest in imaginary stock portfolios and read stories about the business legends. And I look back fondly at my days studying in business schools because I really enjoyed learning the art and science of business as a field. I loved to develop creative solutions and find ways to create win-win value for all involved. Earlier in my career, I provided strategic leadership within world-leading healthcare and financial service organizations such as Goldman Sachs in New York and London.
While the corporate world had its benefits, I increasingly felt compelled to explore the real world not only to find myself but also to create myself.
Throughout my journey, I chased three big goals that I wanted to achieve before my 40th birthday:
- First, I sought to explore 100 countries to fuel my soul.
- Second, I set out to run 25 marathons to challenge my body.
- Third, I wanted to create a social enterprise to expand my mind as well as my heart.
I just passed this milestone birthday, having achieved my three dreams just in time! Now, I’m focused on scaling the impact and sustainability of my social enterprise, Nomads Giving Back!, with the vision to inspire other nomads, expats, and travelers to give back to the communities we call home away from home.
What was your first and last job before you embarked on a social entrepreneurship journey?
My last job was with the top hospital in New York City called New York Presbyterian Hospital as the role of Director of Business Development leading the department responsible for growing corporate relationships. My first job out of college was as a Business Consultant with one of the original Big 6 Accounting firms called Arthur Andersen. That is until the firm was caught up in the biggest corporate scandal of our lifetime!
People often say entrepreneurship is too risky and that it’s safer to work in a more traditional career path for a big company. I beg to differ based on my professional journey. I’ve lost my job several times due to reasons outside of my own individual performance multiple times… corporate scandals, financial collapses, mergers and acquisitions, budget cuts, etc. So now I believe if you might fail at something you don’t want to do — might as well take a chance at something you love to do!
Why do you think many people find themselves unhappy in the office setting?
People are looking for freedom — the type of freedom that allows them to do what they really love. I think the office setting limits one’s capacity to achieve his or her personal dreams, goals, and ultimately to grasp their freedom. When I was living my corporate lifestyle, I felt stuck in a self-perpetuating culture that felt like a rat-race. On the surface, I could have convinced myself that I had it all, yet if everything was so fine, why was I so unhappy?
I found myself focusing my energy on work that didn’t resonate with me. Eventually, I began dreaming of a life that had more meaning. I wanted to feel alive! That urge is what motivated me to embark on a journey around the world, and to seek out my dreams abroad and live the life I imagined.
What is social entrepreneurship? How is it different from regular and ordinary entrepreneurship?
Social entrepreneurship is about making this world a better place for everyone everywhere. Typical business models focus on revenue and money, and they exist primarily because they seek to create a profit.
I believe the magic in social entrepreneurship is the core business ethic to move beyond the singular goal of making money, and instead be centered on improving people’s lives. It is about recognizing alternative business structures that seek first and foremost to make a positive impact on people’s lives and change the world for the better.
A sustainable revenue model is also very important for the success of a social enterprise in order for it to optimize its sustainability, scalability, and ultimately, social impact.
Being a social entrepreneur has given me the most fulfilling experiences and has filled that sense of purpose, and I think that is what makes this so worthwhile for me personally.
Why did you decide to set yourself three goals before 40? 100 countries, 25 marathons, a social company. Why did you think it was important for you to quantify your goals before that particular age?
My goals were created with the purpose to nourish and inspire my soul, to challenge and cherish my body and to open and expand my mind as well as my heart.
These were the guiding principles in the creation of my goals, and by extension, the guiding principles by which I choose to live my life. Setting these goals before the age of 40 was less about turning that age in particular than about locating an important milestone in my life mentally and spiritually. It was a transient time for me and these three goals that encapsulated my values formed the ideal compass.
Tell us more about your company, Nomads Giving Back!, what’s behind the name? What’s your company’s mission or what do you plan to achieve?
Nomads Giving Back! is the product of the nomadic lifestyle I have been living over the last five years as well as my dream to create a social enterprise.
During my travels, the experiences that resulted in the most meaning, sense of purpose and personal growth were the experiences with volunteer work, advocacy, and fundraising at their core.
After years of traveling, I was grappling with the same set of questions over and over again. I wanted to give back more, but often wasn’t clear, how, where and with whom? These are the questions Nomads Giving Back! answers for those with similar questions.
It seeks to inspire other nomads, expats and travelers to give back to the communities we call ‘home away from home.’ We want to create opportunities for other nomads and travelers to connect with locals and to feel inspired to live a life with purpose and full of experiences that will open their eyes and hearts in many different ways.
How can people support your organization?
People can get involved with us in so many different ways. We are open to collaborations with individuals as well as with established social enterprises. Right now we are looking for volunteers to join the ones we already have to help us build Nomads Giving Back!. Everyone is welcome and can get involved in all kinds of ways that utilize their skill sets and passions.
Anyone who is interested or wants to learn more can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m very open to exploring various ways of collaborating to expand our impact around the globe.
Can you show off some of the things your enterprise has already accomplished? What are you most proud of?
In only six months we have led or collaborated on 14 social impact events in six different countries, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Indonesia, Portugal, and Spain, where we have promoted a variety of organizations that support different causes, generate awareness and inspire people to give back. The magic is not only what happens at these events, but in what happens afterward.
We are so proud that our events connect people together who take the spirit of giving back and run with it.
They go on to create incredible projects that give back to their communities in their own way. That Nomads Giving Back! can be the first domino in the line of making a real change around the world is what makes us most proud and special.
What are the biggest challenges you face while managing your company?
Like all young start-ups, there are still many things we have to figure out. Currently, we are focused on refining our strategic process for impact, sustainability, and scalability. We are working persistently at our business model to ensure that social impact and solution-oriented is within our crosshairs with absolute clarity. At the end of the day, it is our ability to become more creative, collaborative and innovative that will determine the growth potential of Nomads Giving Back!
Do you have any hobbies? What are they?
My hobbies used to be traveling and volunteering. When I worked in the corporate world in New York, I would use my limited vacation time to explore the world and sometimes volunteer in developing countries such as building homes in China and Zambia or business consulting in Kenya and Sri Lanka.
Now I am so blessed to say that I have turned my two main hobbies into my career and lifestyle.
I also have developed a passion for long-distance running… My favorite runs include the highest marathon in the world at Everest Base Camp, a 65 km ultramarathon through Madagascar and an 84 km double-marathon across Bali to raise funds for children’s education becoming the sixth person ever to run across Bali! In the past year, I completed my personal goal of running my 25th marathon in one of my favorite cities — Medellín, Colombia. These days, I’ve been traveling and running less and instead — spending a lot of my free time reading about personal growth, philosophy, and spirituality.
Why do you think it’s important to organize events such as Running Remote? What do you think is the ultimate purpose of those events?
These events are the most ideal setting for people engaged in their own remote-work lifestyles to collaborate.
In my opinion, the most fascinating communities are found among the digital nomads and at these events, people from all walks of the working-world are united under a common goal.
The events provide the setting for uniquely driven, visionary and worldly individuals to share, discuss, debate and learn. The relationships fostered at these events whether between companies, individuals or ideas is without question the ultimate purpose of those events. We are stronger when we work together, and that’s what these events are all about.
Nomads Giving Back! sets out to capture that energizing dynamic between individuals at events and direct that spark towards social impact. That’s what we’re all about.
What did you like most about Running Remote?
I was very excited about the conference in Bali. Conferences foster so much inspiration, energy, and potential. I was inspired by the people I meet, and hopefully, I inspired others… to give back to the communities we all call our ‘home away from home.’ I’m thrilled that Running Remote has created a few significant potential collaboration opportunities that could offer a lot of growth potential for Nomads Giving Back! and ultimately a greater social impact around the world.
You may listen to Tarek’s story here:
Ep 17: Riding a rickshaw 4000km across India, running the world’s highest marathon and creating a…It takes guts to go against the advice of all your friends and quit a high-paying corporate job to pursue a life of…nomadpodcast.com
17: Running the World’s Highest Marathon, Racing a Rickshaw Across India, and Finding Your Purpose…Matt Bowles: Hey, everybody. It’s Matt Bowles. Welcome to The Maverick Show. My guest today is Tarek Kholoussy. He…www.themaverickshow.com
I am a copywriter at Soshace.com, a hiring platform for web developers: hire a developer or apply for a remote job. Soshace is a media partner of Running Remote, the World’s Largest Remote Work Event. If you have an interesting story to tell, please ping me on Twitter @ MaryVorontsov I would love to hear from you and share your story.