Hometown: Bossier City, LA
Quote: “Without good people, even the coolest place can look a little dim. On the other side of this though, even the dullest place in the world can still be fun in good company.”
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?
Back in my sophomore year of college, a friend spent a couple of months in Europe and gave me his copy of Vagabonding when he got back. Between looking at his pictures and reading through the book, I realized that there was nothing stopping me from making a similar trip. The next summer I spent a couple months in Europe capped by the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and I’d been wanting traveling long-term ever since.
How long were you on the road?
My current long-term travels have lasted nearly two years, and are still going for now.
Where all did you go?
Mostly countries throughout Asia (South East, East, Central, and South) with a few stops in Europe and N America as well. I’ve skipped between regions quite a bit, as budget airlines come up with good fares going to places I haven’t been, but somehow still haven’t made it to half the continents.
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
Initially on leaving the US in mid-2008, I worked as a teacher in China for three semesters before I started exclusively traveling. Especially the last semester after I had decided I was going to leave, I did as much private tutoring as I could schedule and lived on as little as was practical until the year was up.
Did you work or volunteer on the road?
I’ve done a little of both, though mostly I’ve just been roaming since leaving China.
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
Uzbekistan and Mongolia have are both at the top of the list, though China is by far the place I return to most often. This is a really difficult question, though, as each country is so dependent on who I happen to meet or what crazy side-streets I happen to turn down at the right moment.
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?
Snoul, Cambodia. Even the name still makes me wretch a little. A bad mindset and a bad map and some bad street food all combined to leave me sick in bed for about three full days without seeing daylight. Not one of my more pleasant experiences!
Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true? Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated?
I had been living in China for a while before I took off to travel long-term, so other than running out of money (not yet, thankfully) I didn’t have too many worries.
I didn’t anticipate how difficult visas could be at times. Central Asia, once again, is giving me headaches as I prepare for a trip through there early next year.
Which travel gear proved most useful? Least useful?
Never leave your (guest)house without a headlamp and a compass. I find myself reaching for those two just as often as things like cameras and water bottles that everybody thinks to bring. Least useful, by far: I bought a hookah in Dubai and carried it with me for a few months beyond there, which was just dumb. While it was kind of nice in Indonesia when hanging on the beach at the end of the day, it was so heavy and bulky that it took up an unreasonably large part of my backpack. I finally ditched it at a friend’s apartment in Hong Kong three months or so later, glad to be rid of the weight.
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
The freedom of movement (or not) is by far my favorite part of my lifestyle. Being able to pick up tomorrow for a spontaneous festival/flight/meetup with friends is one of the greatest feelings in life. Also nice is the opposite, the ability to show up in a place that just feels right and explore it in depth instead of having to run through one a one-week visit.
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
Lots of goodbyes to lots of cool people that you meet on the road. Visits and meet-ups later are awesome when they work out, but in my experience a lot of friends from the road are only around for a short time until you part ways.
What lessons did you learn on the road?
Life is all about the people. Without good people, even the coolest place can look a little dim. On the other side of this though, even the dullest place in the world can still be fun in good company.
Beyond this, that people are pretty similar all over the globe. Whether in those little initial questions (Where are you from? Married? Children?) or the deeper desires that people have in life, there’s definitely one current of humanity that runs all around the world.
How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?
When I started traveling long-term, I thought of it more as just ‘a trip’ whereas now I would define the idea as a mindset and even lifestyle. This is a small but, I think, important shift in perspective.
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
Pack less. Even now, quite a bit of what I have in my bag isn’t entirely necessary. I just finished a 35-day trek up to and around Everest Base Camp, and all I carried was a small daypack with the basics and a camera. Realistically there’s no reason I couldn’t travel all the time like this, because everything else I have in my big pack is just some sort of comfort or convenience.
Move less. Most of my favorite places have been locations that I’ve spent more than just a few days in, and I this is not coincidental. The longer I spend in one location, the more I usually start to feel like I know my way around and belong a little to the local vibe.
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
Always stay open to new opportunities. Some of my best experiences have been completely unplanned (4 weddings in 5 days in Uzbekistan being perhaps my favorite) and only happened because I was able to accept invitations that were extended on a moment’s notice. Though at times it can be impractical to not have any plans (visa concerns, reward flight redemption, or cool upcoming festivals as just a couple of examples) sometimes the best idea is to lock yourself into as little as possible and just see what happens. As Rolf says in Vagabonding, sometimes the best travel experience is just to wander.
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?
I’ll stop back in the States for three weeks to spend Christmas and New Years with family for the first time since 2008, then I’ve got airline rewards flights booked through Palau and Micronesia and on to Central Asia with a month stopover in Europe to visit friends. In particular I’m excited about getting back to Uzbekistan for a second visit, as well as checking out some of its neighboring countries for the first time!
|Website: monkboughtlunch.com||Twitter: slioy|
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