Vagabonding Case Study: Chris Backe

Chris Backe headshot

Chris Backe

Age: 32
Hometown: eek… Let’s call it Chicago, Illinois.
Quote“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain 
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip? 
I really had no idea what vagabonding was until I started thinking of life beyond the US. In 2008, I left the US and haven’t looked back.
Now, 6 1/2 years on…? Vagabonding means living life as I choose, not being limited by geography, and choosing proactivity and deep connections over being passive or shallow.
How long were you on the road?
I’ve been on the road since March 2008, and with the exception of a week or so for Christmas, I’ve been living abroad ever since.
Where did you go? 
I lived in South Korea from 2008-2013, where I met my wife, then moved to Thailand in March 2013. I’ll be in Thailand until March 2015 or so, then we’re off to Europe!
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
I taught computer classes while back in the States, although I really didn’t have much in the way of savings when I left.
I currently make money from my books and itineraries, and am always looking to partner with businesses.
Did you work or volunteer on the road?
While in Korea I taught English – kindergarten or elementary schoolers most of the time, though I also taught adults at a couple of schools. I’d travel on the weekends, and the arrangement worked out pretty well. I also did pro photography in my studio.
After moving to Thailand, I dedicated to get more serious with my blog, writing, and otherwise making money from my books. I’m working on a new book about offbeat Thailand, due out mid-2015.
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
Probably Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Comfortable, pretty clean, great networking, and a lot of stuff to see around northern Thailand
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?
Sukhothai, Thailand. There’s a UNESCO World Heritage site in-town, which helped to put it on the map. Unfortunately, it’s also created plenty of opportunities for locals to regard tourists in a negative light… It’s one of the very few crappy experiences I’ve had in 6 1/2 years, which is saying something.
Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?
I LOVE my smartphone (if you must know, an iPhone 4S) – it’s served as camera, GPS coordinate-getter, direction-giver, and other general productive stuff. My LowePro bag (AKA my daybag) has survived two motorcycle accidents and protected the multi-thousand dollars of investment inside.
Least useful? Some GoPro accessories – beyond being overpriced, they’re rather specific in their use.
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
FREEDOM! My Facebook feed is full of people like you and I – people that are living their life their way. I’ve learned not to rub it in with my friends still working in the corporate world – not everyone wants the vagabonding lifestyle, after all.
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
I feel exceptionally lucky to have found the love of my life while traveling. She is part of the journey, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have such a smart, sweet, and weird lady to travel with. I did feel pretty lonely for years in Korea – even with good friends and tons of acquaintances to make life interesting, it took a long time to find somebody I wanted to travel with for the rest of my life.
It’s rather hard to invest too much in material things, which is a mixed blessing. Every move means culling what we have to fit in suitcases and boxes… I’d also submit that vagabonding / ‘slow nomading’ can mean leaving a place just as you’re really beginning to find your stride.
What lessons did you learn on the road?
Many. You learn what you’re capable of. You learn what mentally strong means. You become less able to justify racism, less able to tolerate narrow-mindedness, and less interested in listening to prejudice.
How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?
Your definition of ‘home’ changes. ‘Home’ is no longer ‘where I was born’ or ‘where my parents live’. Home, right now, is simply ‘where the Wi-Fi connect automatically.’ It’s where I am right now. ‘Home’ is not a place to return to, it’s a place to be, and be happy.
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
Get serious with blogging and writing sooner. English teaching was a job that paid the bills, but getting serious with writing would have allowed me to get even more experience in the field.
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
Find your niche. Whatever it might be, find it, and make it work.
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?
We’ll finish 2 years in Thailand next March (2015), and from there are off to Europe for 3 months. After that, we’re off to South America for the long-term.

Read more about Chris on his blog, One Weird Globe , or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


WebsiteOne Weird Globe Twitter@oneweirdglobe

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Posted by | Comments (1)  | September 19, 2014
Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

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