The decision to shove all your belongings in to a backpack, buy a plane ticket, and set off to explore the world isn’t one made in a vacuum. There are always external influences which push you along the way. They are the people, stories, and experiences which fuel our wanderlust.
I’ve had many things pushing me toward the idea of long-term travel. Here are seven notable ways my decision was influenced.
1. “How to Travel The World on $50 a Day” by Matt Kepnes
This is the manual for round-the-world travelers – without any question. I interviewed the author – Nomadic Matt (Kepnes) – a few months back for my Boarding Call podcast, and at the time I knew I wanted to go around the world some day, but I didn’t realize how soon that opportunity would come.
I voraciously consumed Matt’s book before our Skype interview, and page-after-page, I bought in completely to what he was saying about travel. Everything I had gleaned from other traveler blogs, Wikitravel, and magazines had been refined and reframed in an easy-to-understand, simple-to-follow volume which has become my main resource in planning the Gone John trip.
If you are even slightly considering long-form travel (be it a month through Europe or a year around the globe), I highly recommend Matt’s book.
What started out as a one year tour to destinations around the world multiplied in to a three-season, Gemini award-winning, internationally syndicated TV series documenting the travels of three Canadian guys.
Departures was originally commissioned by Canada’s Outdoor Life Network for broadcast starting in 2008. Seven years later, the series continues to find a new audience on Netflix (which is where I discovered it thanks to my friend Christy).
Unlike many travel series, Departures is a documentary about the experience of traveling – not a traditional travelogue series recommending boutique hotels or fine restaurants (like you’d bump in to flipping through TV channels on a Sunday afternoon.) The journey is as important as the destinations in Departures, and the show makes a point of highighting the ups and downs of long-term travel.
Some of the series’ destinations are frozen in time – never to be revisited. Libya – which had a political environment stable enough to host the team during filming of season 2 – has now become a no-go zone for travelers, with the Canadian government telling tourists to “avoid all travel” because of the risk of terror. Images of its beautiful terrain and the stories of its kind-hearted and welcoming people act like a time capsule of an era without the deadly conflict we associate with it today.
The adventures of Scott, Justin and Andre have stoked my curiosity to discover the world, and find a way to tell my travel story – and the stories of those I meet along the way – through video, audio and text.
3. In-Flight Magazines
When you’re stuck in a metal tube, hurling through the air at 900km/h, there’s not much to do. Especially on long trips.
At some point you’ll get bored with your music, you’ll have played more than enough games on your iPad, and you’ll have watched every episode of The Big Bang Theory in the plane’s on-demand entertainment system. Typically during takeoff and landing, I reach in the seat pocket in front of me, and thumb through the latest issue of the airline’s in-flight magazine.
I love being able to read another writer’s experiences, to see their recommendations, and to get a glimpse at destinations I might not have otherwise considered. Good writing in these publications brings to life the excitement of experiencing a destination before even touching down on the ground.
4. Movies + TV Shows
When it comes to pop culture, I put the hard work in early on in life with 40 hour a week TV and movie watching habit. (I was a chunky kid growing up. Truth.) And while I’ve worked off much of the belly I earned from being a couch potato, my brain has retained a litany of useless knowledge about films and TV series – and specifically how they’re connected to various landmarks around the world.
My trip to New York City was punctuated by stops to check out sites I remember seeing on TV growing up. Ditto in London.
A bad Canadian road trip comedy movie fueled my passion to go explore the west coast of Vancouver Island about a decade ago – and I’ve never regretted it.
It’s funny how scripted TV shows and movies can make you want to visit somewhere. The fictional version is almost never the same as it is in real life, but clearly the writer in charge of the script had to have taken a trip there at some point to be able to translate the sense of place. It’s that essence which motivates me to use pop culture as a reason explore while traveling.
5. Friends + Acquaintances
If I had to trace it waaaaay back, when I was 9 or 10 years old, we had a couple of cast members from Up with People! stay at our home when they came to town to perform at my sister’s high school. One of the cast members was from Australia, and I can remember talking with her as much as I could about what Australia was like. It sparked my interest in that part of the world.
Then, in my 20s, another chance encounter with two German backpackers in Tofino – Toby and Felix – ignited my curiosity about backpacking and long term travel. When touring across Canada, Toby crashed at my place for a few nights and I had the opportunity to show him around Regina. He was gracious answering my questions about what it was like for him to live out of a backpack. His go-with-the-flow nature was enviable given how high strung I’d been at that time in my life with work. It struck me that the type of travel he was embarking on might be the break I really needed in my life. But – money and career aspirations got in the way of pulling the pin and hitting the road.
Meeting Chris opened up a whole world when it came to the idea of visiting Japan. He had lived there for six months after high school, and was determined to move there someday (and he has.)
My friend Corey spent 16 months on the backpacker trail after finishing university, and his story is one of my favourite (also featured on Boarding Call.) He’s proven to be an incredibly valuable resource in planning my upcoming adventure.
Finally, and most recently, a friend I had made through Dale Carnegie Training – Mike – had been traveling across the world for the better part of 200+ days. His stories and posts on Facebook have kept my interest in long term travel alive.
All these people have made an impact on my desire to travel. Cumulatively, they’ve helped me form a vision for the type of trip I want to take.
6. Rick Steves’ Europe
While Rick Steves’ style of travel isn’t backpacking, I have always loved the sensible approach he’s taken to the idea of seeing the world (and specifically his series on Europe.) His annual volume, “Europe Through the Back Door,” is stocked full of great travel advice – regardless of your destination, or style of travel.
It’s because of Rick I’ve learned how to pack light, fight jet lag, and live like a local. This trip will put those skills even further to the test.
7. My love of airports
Can I level with you about something?
I love airports.
I adore them.
If I could do nothing but write reviews and guidebooks for airports, I would. (Hey… wait… maybe that’s a thing I should think about!)
While many people disdain the idea of being restricted inside an airport, there are few places I’m happier than when I’ve cleared security and am waiting to board a plane.
I love to people watch – and to get a sense of where others are off to. It’s exciting to see their anticipation of that next big journey. (I’ve become pretty good at editing out the trials and tribulations of those dealing with a cranky toddler.)
Sitting near the international gates at LAX, Heathrow or Narita, I see all these amazing planes from the great airlines of the world, and dream of the destinations the big birds could fly me to.
I know if I’ve stepped foot in an airport, a new adventure isn’t far behind.
What are your sources of inspiration to travel? Who has influenced your adventures? Let me know in the comments below.
(Feature image photo credit – Eric Salard from Le Grand Village Plage. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.)