By Liz Durnan, on March 27, 2015

The Rich Life of the ‘Homeless’ CEO

Nearly 200 flights a year, 15.7K Instagram followers and no jet lag? Meet the ‘homeless CEO’.

Cillin Perera spends his life flying from one country to another, documenting his travels each day on Instagram. Despite studying visual arts and cinema at Harvard, he hadn’t picked up a camera for about 10 years before starting the project that involves posting photos taken exclusively on his iPod touch 5.

A director of two companies, with clients, staff and freelancers all over the globe, Cillin divides his time between meetings, conferences and personal travel. He’s pretty much always on the move.

Since being ‘discovered’ by BBC World Service producer Nigel Doran through this short video, Cillin has been inundated by Instagram followers and queries from world media. We caught up with him between flights.


What gave you the idea to start photographing your travels?

It started as a way to explain to friends and family what I was doing. It was really hard to explain to my mother that I was on 168 flights in one year, for example, so I just started photographing them.

Why the iPod? And why Instagram? 

The iPod is basically my substitute for an iPhone; I can’t carry an iPhone as I need a dual SIM and there is no dual-SIM iPhone. Therefore, it’s a $40 Nokia and the iPod! The iPod camera is almost as good as the iPhone’s, and it basically functions as an ‘iPhone without the phone’. In other words, I have OSX, a full range of apps and Wi-Fi all in a smaller and lighter unit to carry. It’s also good to have two separate batteries.

Instagram is great because of the reach it offers; it’s also ideally suited to the ‘photo a day’ type of project this is. It’s important for me to get the photos out daily – it is what makes me go out and take a photo every day, which is the whole objective of the project.

What are the sorts of things or places you prefer to photograph?

As you’ll see from my photos, I’m quite a fan of perspective shots at the moment. This is due in part to the capabilities of the iPod camera – I find it has quite a near vanishing point so these type of photos are well suited to its technical capabilities.

Also, given the fact that I take a photo of the day every day while maintaining a full-time job and a busy travel schedule, I tend to seek out landscape and architectural shots as I find these are easier to produce consistently than, say, portraiture. I very rarely feature people in my photos unless they contribute to the composition of the shot, so you’ll often find me lingering around a scene for quite some time waiting for that clear shot.

Do you ever long for a permanent home?

Not really, not yet. I do think I may find myself back in Australia at some point, but for the moment I’m happiest when on the road and moving between places, known and unknown.

What is it about the travelling life that appeals to you?

I’m born to it in a sense – my mother is Irish, my father is Sri Lankan, I was born in the UK, grew up in Australia, went to university in the US and have lived as an adult in Germany, Switzerland and now the UAE. I have friends and family all over the world, both from my time at university and my travels, so it’s only natural for me to keep everything stitched together by moving between places constantly.

Of course, this works well with my job, as I have customers, freelancers and employees worldwide as well. It’s hard to say which came first, the travel or the job. The truth is that there is quite a synergy between the two, as it was my willingness to jump on a plane at the slightest excuse that gave me the opportunity to grow my business so quickly, which in turn has led to more travel.

What are your favourite kind of places?

I’m actually a bit of a quiet-place guy at the end of the day, I guess; I do love cities but I find that between the planes and airports and business trips I get enough of them. When it comes to choosing somewhere to go I most enjoy the far-flung places; for example, recently the west coast of Scotland or a few years ago Ethiopia. I like isolated landscapes (Iceland) and exotic places as well, of course.

Do you suffer jet lag? If so, how do you manage it?

Not really! There are a couple of things that help, one of them being business class flat-beds, of course, which I almost always travel in on the long-haul (six hours or longer) flights these days. Owning my own business I’m not actually too happy paying for business class, but I’m lucky enough to be top tier on three frequent flyer programs, so I can almost always upgrade from economy. Timing your sleep on the way to somewhere like Australia can have you waking up right on time and straight into that time zone without skipping a beat.

The other thing is not actually adjusting to time zone. If I’m in a place for a day or so, I might break my sleep up into four-hour blocks, which will get me through the day and whatever meetings I might have, while keeping me on the time zone of where I came from, so I can fly right back with no issues.


You spend most of your time living in hotels. Can you mention one or two of your favourites?

When I’m in Basel I stay in my apartment there, when I’m in Melbourne I stay with my parents, and when I’m in Turin I stay with my partner, who lives there. Other than that, it’s hotels, yes! They are mostly business hotels, usually nothing extra special, just a solid guarantee of a good bed, late check-out where necessary and decent internet connection. There are some favourites though – Raffles in Singapore and Hilton London Syon Park spring to mind.


Is there anything you particularly miss about a more conventional lifestyle? 

I guess it’s hard to catch up with friends regularly; on the other hand, I do see many of my friends more than they see local friends. There’s something about travelling that makes one make the effort to catch up more often! I miss having an enjoyable way to exercise­ – I dislike the gym and used to really enjoy tennis but it’s difficult to find tennis partners (let alone carry a racquet) when on the go.


Check out Cillin Pererra’s website and Instagram feed for his inspiring nomadic snaps.  

Cillin Perera’s Website

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