Hometown: Cranbrook, British Colombia, Canada
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?
I first became aquatinted with Rolf’s writing when I read Storming the Beach
while living in Taiwan and struggling to start my own travel writing career. The piece resonated with me. It was not until much later, after having traveled a lot on my own, and after having interviewed Rolf for TransitionsAbroad.com
, that I sat down with Vagabonding.
Since I had already done my share of traveling and had my own style, I was more interested in Rolf’s philosophy about travel than learning how to put together a long-term trip. So, I would say Vagabonding enriched my understanding of the act of travel, more than it affected the way I travel.
How long were you on the road?
I prefer to live in other countries rather than visit. I’ve never actually taken a long-term Vagabonding-type trip. I lived in Taiwan for six years, Guatemala for one, and Mexico for a spell as well. Of course, I also visited nearby countries while living in those places.
So, if living abroad counts, I’ve been on the road for eight years and counting.
Where did you go?
While living in Taiwan I visited Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, the Philippines (numerous times), and Malaysia (Borneo). I’ve also been to Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Guatemala, Mexico, and across much of Canada and the United States.
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
I taught English in Taiwan, which was how I funded my first trips. But, over time, I started earning more and more money from writing and photography, so I later quit teaching to freelance full-time, which is what I do now.
Did you work or volunteer on the road?
Always. Travel is my work now. I would like to make more time for volunteering in the future though.
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
Taiwan is definitely my favorite, with the Philippines coming in a close second.
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?
Although I enjoyed living in Guatemala, it was a bit of a let down for me, not because of any fault with the country, but because after spending so much time in Asia the culture in Guatemala was too similar to other countries in the Americas for my taste. I found the cultures in Asia to be confusing, bizarre, and exotic. Guatemala was too similar to home.
Which travel gear proved most useful? Least useful?
I’m a big fan of keeping a nylon drawstring backpack in my bag. It takes up no space, but an extra bag always comes in handy.
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
Spending time abroad is empowering and enriching. Fumbling through other cultures teaches you self reliance. Learning about other cultures gives you a frame of reference for understanding your own. Travel teaches you simultaneously about your own nature, and that of humankind.
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
The hardest thing I’ve found about extended travel is loneliness. I subscribe to Vonnegut’s ideas about love, family, and community. We are meant to live in small groups of people with whom we develop strong bonds. This is not possible while vagabonding. Although I think extended travel is a valuable experience that will benefit anyone, it’s not a long-term lifestyle that I would choose.
How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?
The longer I’ve traveled, the more I desire to stay in places for longer and longer periods, partly so that I can spend time working, and partly so that I can develop a better understanding of it. A travel blogger friend recently wrote on Facebook that judging a trip by the number of countries visited is like judging a meal by the number of calories consumed.
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
Nothing. Every mistake was a learning experience.
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
Everyone says ‘lay out everything you think you need for your trip, the take half the clothes and twice the money’. I say, ‘plan out every place you want to visit and how long you want to stay, then cut the list in half and double the time in each place’.
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?