No matter how much (or little) you have traveled yourself, it’s always interesting to hear other travelers share from their journeys and the insights they have gained from them. I think that a world traveler, whether it’s someone like Marco Polo or your next door neighbor, who leaves everything behind and takes the time and effort to go out into the world, always has something interesting (often a lot) to share. Either about the trip and the destinations but even more the things he/she has learned about him/herself and about other people.
Or as Wade says in this Interview: “Simply listening to an old traveler share their thoughts on traveling and life is perhaps the greatest of gifts” and he continues “what is interesting is the wisdom and insight that you gained from these experiences…” We really think he has a lot of wisdom and insight to share and are happy he agreed to do this interview with us, so do read on!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your travel history.
Wade: I grew up in the farm country of New York State, and began traveling at the age of 18 when I was kicked out of high school in ’99. I went on tour around the USA with a musical group, then found myself in Florida for a short stint then Connecticut, then Florida again. In 2000 I traveled abroad for the first time, going to South America. For the next two years after this — 2001, 2002 — I found myself traveling in South America for most of the year, going to Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay.
In 2001 I began working as a field archaeologist in the USA, which is the profession that would make me my travel funds for the next eight years. The pattern was thus put in place: I work for a few months in the summer, traveling around the USA from archaeology project to archaeology project, then travel abroad for the rest of the year.
In 2003 I went to Europe without much money and plans to work. I picked up a job as a gardener in County Cork, Ireland, and collected enough funds for a round of vagabond travel through England, France, and Spain. Somewhere while hitchhiking on this trip I went broke.
2004 was the year that I traveled to Asia for the first time. I went to Japan, studied Buddhism and Japanese tattooing with Global College for a while, then stopped studying Buddhism, went on a hitchhiking trip around the country, traveled the 88 temple pilgrimage around Shikoku Island, returned to Kyoto, tried and sort of failed to build and live in a little hut in the northern hills that surround the city (rainy season, not a good time for trying to sleep in a structure that has a construction tarp as a roof — my hut making skills were not very highly honed at this time haha). I soon ran out of money and returned to the USA to make up another season of travel funds as an archaeologist.
In January of 2005 I traveled to Hong Kong with plans to tramp overland to India. I went through Southern China, Laos, Thailand but took a flight to Calcutta. This was my first time in India, it blew my mind — as could be expected. Went up to Darjeeling and hiked pretty deep into the mountains around the Nepal border, then returned south and traveled across the north to New Delhi.
2006: Returned to China, traveled to Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras) returned to India, then returned to China again. Met up with my parents in Hunan Province as they adopted a Chinese baby, went to Zhejiang University in Hangzhou to study Chinese.
2007: China to Mongolia then hitchhiked back across China to Vietnam, then went to Thailand. Worked in archaeology in the USA, and then traveled to Morocco, Spain, rode a bicycle down the coast of Portugal, then stayed for a month or two in the south of France.
2008: Returned to Morocco, then Central America (Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico). Worked as an archaeologist at great site of Copan in Honduras. Traveled to Eastern Europe, rode a bicycle through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary. Went to New York City, got together with the woman that I would marry and make a baby with.
2009: Traveled back to Hungary with my pregnant girlfriend, went through the Balkans to Turkey, went to Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt. Returned to USA, got married in Maine, had our daughter, Petra, traveled out to Arizona to continue archaeology fieldwork. Now we are looking at returning to Central America and traveling to Cuba, the Dominican Republic etc . . .in early 2010.
Q: Why do you travel (in the sense of, what kind of needs or desires does traveling satisfy?) / Why did you start to travel in the first place?
Wade: I have no idea. If I knew the answer to this question then I would probably have no reason to travel any more. Or, more simply, I travel because I enjoy it. I love the stimulation, I enjoy concerning myself with my daily existence. A person can go through an entire life in a developed country like a zombie: if you need something you just pay for it, you go to work to get the money to pay for it. Traveling strips down the living process to its bare elements: you concern yourself with finding food, shelter, and water. It is a basic way of living, a simple way of life. Perhaps I am a relatively self centered person, but I really enjoy placing myself at the sharp end of my existence, thinking about myself and what I need to survive (or maybe any other way of living that is more complicated than obtaining food, water, and shelter just confuses me).
Q: What do you think are the biggest advantages with having traveled or with being a traveler? Has traveling influenced your life in any major way?
Wade: After traveling for a while it becomes a process, a way of living that is ingrained in your general psyche. It becomes a serially processional way of life where one place leads to another, one knowledge skill set leads to learning another, one type of experience becomes the driving impetus to seek another. The stimulation that traveling provides is endless: you will never run out of places to go, things to learn, or people to meet. In this way, the traveling life is a futile one to lead, as you will never get to the end of it — it just keeps going on and on and on.You will never arrive, so enjoy the journey.
Travel changes, makes, and builds you as a person, and once the ball is in motion it becomes difficult to stop. As Chatwin once wrote, “Travel does not merely broaden the mind, it makes the mind . . .” Traveling is a process of building the self. The external landscapes through which you roam is just the kaleidoscopic backdrop to the real action — the real action is the changes in perception and first hand knowledge that happens within you as you travel. It does not matter an ounce if I am in the jungles of Amazonia or riding a bike in Portugal or working on an archaeology project in Arizona, the travel process — the internal process of blending observation, impression, and experience, figuring out yourself and the world you live in — is the same. The place is merely the background, the map is merely the impetus for finding those empty moments for pondering which can really make a life thick.
It is my impression that this is the benefit of traveling.
I often have difficulty answering people when they ask me what I saw when traveling to a certain place — “Did you go here? did you see this? did you do that? — as I am usually just out walking around daydreaming and talking to people in the streets. What can I say, “No, I did not go and take pictures at the UNESCO site, I just talked to some old guys playing cards.” As far as I am concerned, travel has little to do with seeing places, it has to do with living places.
Q: When we travel around as a family, the absolute most common question we get from people is about money and how we can afford to travel and live the life we do. So if we ask you the same question, what would be your answer?
Wade: I work. But I try to get into professions that would allow me to travel full time while making up the bean money to travel some more. So I work in archaeology, teaching English, farming, and I have been on the verge of being able to live and travel off of the proceeds from my website, www.VagabondJourney.com.
Now that I am traveling with my family — a wife and a baby — I need to make three times as much money. One parent needs to be with Petra at all times, so that leaves one parent to earn most of the income. As Petra is breastfed, I do the working. I put in 6 months of working this year on an organic farm in Maine and on a couple archaeology projects in Arizona, but I fear that the money I saved will not last as long as it usually does. I think that if we travel slowly, or funds should last us for the entire next year, but I cannot be certain.
My new traveling circumstances call for much more money than I have previously needed, but I also have additional help for Vagabondjourney.com. We aim to convert the website into a family business of sorts, and hopefully it will soon be able to completely fund our travels. My wife now writes a travelogue at, www.vagabondjourney.com/mommytravelblog and also handles the publication of travel photos, and maybe someday Petra would like to take photos and write as well.
Trying to live off of a website is always an uphill battle — 5 to 8 hours a day, everyday — but I have been slopping through the muck and am beginning to get to higher ground. I hope that by this time next year, my family’s travels will be completed funded by ad revenue, reader contributions, and product sales from VagabondJourney.com
Q: What do you experience people are most interested in learning from you as a traveler?
Wade: Honestly, I have no idea. If I did I would probably not be struggling to make a living off the website haha.
It is my impression that talking about traveling is a futile endeavor when in conversation with people who don’t travel. It is just a good way to get a few blank stares and to be regarded as an arrogant dipshit. For some interesting reason traveling seems to be held as a higher way to live, and I fell as if am preceived as being priviledged because I travel. This is nonsense, I make less money than just about any sedentary person that I know in the USA. The only difference is that I choose to live frugally and travel.
It seems as if some people are interested in learning about the rudiments of traveling — how to save money, how to travel cheaply, how to find work when traveling, how to trade labor for free accommodation — so I began the website to simply explain how I travel. I am unsure how many people really take these tips and use them, but I do know of a few. The how to’s of traveling is probably the most practical and beneficial contributions that I can make as a traveler, though the deep knowledge that comes from traveling is also good to be shared.
Read more about how to travel at, www.vagabondjourney.com/how-to-make-money-for-traveling
I cannot say how much I continually benefit from listening to the the thoughts and philosophies of the old salts that I occasionally meet on the road. Simply listening to an old traveler share their thoughts on traveling and life is perhaps the greatest of gifts that I have been given while traveling. Part of the advantage of traveling is meeting other travelers and observing how they live, how they carry themselves, what they talk about.
There is no quicker way to annoy your conversational audience than by beginning every statement with “Once when I was in . . . .” or “One time in . . . ” A friend of mine named Motorcycle Bob www.whereisbobl.com/journal once wrote something like “Nobody is interested in anyone’s travels, they are interested in their travails.” Nobody really cares about the great eco resort that you found in Costa Rica or what happened one night when you were drunk in a bar in Thailand, what is interesting is the wisdom and insight that you gained from these experiences, and these insights very rarely begin with “One time in . . .”
It is my impression that traveling is not only an action that takes you farther, but also further, deeper. Deeper into yourself, perhaps, further into building the blocks of a life well spent: a life of memories, learning, understanding. A life of decoding the riddles of what makes you happy — this is the prime directive of travel.
Q: We like to talk about the “But’s” – obstacles that show up when people are considering to travel extensively. What we mean by But’s is the little voice inside your head that starts telling you that you don’t have enough money or time, you can’t leave your job, the kids have to stay at home and go to school, that it could be dangerous or something else. Is this something you are familiar with for your own part and if so, how did/do you overcome your own But’s?
Wade: I don’t think that I have ever really had any of those “but’s.” I wanted to travel, so I began traveling. If someone really wanted to travel, I would hope that the desire would be stronger than any doubt — if it is not, then I must question the strength of the desire. When a child wants a puppy, there are no “but’s” because they know that they really want a dog. No matter how much warning you give them — “puppies are messy, they are a lot of work” — none of it will register, because they really want a puppy, there is no question about it. This is the same with the desire to travel: if you really want to do something, no matter what it is, there are no but’s. If you really want to travel, it is my impression that you will automatically create the pro-active logical mechanisms necessary to erase all doubts, like a child who wants a puppy.
It is my impression that when you really want something there are no “but’s,” you just do it — somehow, someway, you see the paths rather than the obstacles.
Q: To a lot of people, the dream of a long journey remains just a dream. In what way do you think you are different from all the people who haven’t made it a reality?
Wade: Because I really wanted to travel. It is my impression that if someone really wanted to do something, that they would do it. If you really desire something, you will find a way to get it. I don’t think that I am any different than people who don’t travel, I just really wanted to travel whereas other people seem to place things like having a home, job, an education, health insurance, a car, retirement, security in front of their desire to travel. This is OK, there is nothing wrong with this. It is probably a much better decision to want some sort of life security than to tramp around the world with no thicker safety net than what you can fit into a rucksack and the paltry assumption that you can take care of yourself.
I have a hard time believing people when they say that they really want to travel but they can’t because . . .
If they really wanted to travel, they would be doing it. There is nothing extraordinary about traveling or people who travel. The traveler is just the cheap ass hermit who decides to save his money rather than hanging out in bars, going out with friends, buying smart phones, or doing anything that requires money. The traveler is the jackass who is eating rice and beans rather than the fellow sitting in Starbucks drinking super espresso lattes and eating $5 pastries. It is simply a matter of priorities, a question of mutually exclusive possibilities:
If I want to travel I can’t go out to the bar with friends, I must find a way to live rent free, I must work all the time to save money.
If you really want to do something, if you really want to travel, you would sell your house this very minute, divorce your couch potato husband, quit your job, and go. The world is a plane of infinite possibilities — you can do anything you want — and it is my impression that most people in the first world fringe, at a deep level, are doing what they really want to be doing — whether it is traveling or having a sedentary sense of security.
Q: Do you have any advice to people who want to, but are still only dreaming about going out into the world for a longer journey?
Wade: Everything always works out. The great thing about leaving is that you can usually return to the same place where you are standing right now. Have faith that you will figure everything out when you need to, and rest your mind about planning. Nothing ever works out according to plan anyway, so why waste the mental energy bothering with it. The adverse consequences of traveling that you may foresee are merely illusions. You are not nearly wise enough to foresee the future, so stop trying — go forth and see what happens.
It is my impression that the human capacity for planning for the future is a very rudimentary development that usually only serves to provoke fear and to hamstring any desire that we may have for change. If anyone thinks about their future they get scared — “what if this happens, what if that happens.” You know what? “what ifs” rarely ever really happen. Humans tend to be intelligent enough to make the most of their situations when they are in the moment, and often have the ability to sidestep any “what if’s” when they need to be sidestepped. You will be alright.
Fear is an emotion that is reserved for the potential occurrence of future adversity. When in a moment of adversity, fear is rarely ever felt. I know that I have often felt fear about future possibilities — about being robbed, about getting lost, being cold etc . . — but every time I have been in such a circumstance, fear is the last thing that I felt, as I was much too busy focusing on how to get out of the bad situation to be scared. Fear is a survival instinct only in the fact that it keeps you sitting where you are, it keeps you way out of danger. When in a bad circumstance you automatically figure it out, and usually leave the moment saying, “Wow, that was not that bad after all.”
When given free range, fear will keep you sitting right where you are forever and ever and ever. It is amazing that many people would rather be comfortable, hemmed in by fears of future occurrences, than to really find out what the future may hold. There are no “what if’s” in a moment of adversity, so why leave yourself hampered with “what if’s” when the horizon is clear and the sun is shining?
Q: What is happening next? Are you traveling at the moment or do you have any travel plans?
Wade: I am traveling in the American Southwest with my wife and three month old daughter. We should be going to El Salvador in early 2010 and then over to Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and on and on in early 2010. If you are interested, you can read about these travels at www.vagabondjourney.com/travelogue or my wife’s blog at www.vagabondjourney.com/mommytravelblog