A tribe. A family. A twinkling crew of star-crossed humans. A bunch of misfit dipshits.
That is The Broke Backpacker team.
Over the years, many a good human have come and gone from our squad. One generation leads to the next: students become senseis, and the ghosts of senseis past live on in us. But what remains true about The Broke Backpacker is twofold:
- We always grow, and we grow together.
- We have a tendency to attract a certain kind of human.
A stalwart ship of devilish swashbucklers braving the ocean’s tides. A starfleet captain and his dedicated crew venturing amongst the galaxies. The opportunities for verbose allegories are near-endless.
But ultimately, it’s not about poetic waxed: it’s about people.
And these people? Well, they may just be some of the best people.
Homies, thank you for all you do. Sincerely.
This one’s for you. 🙂
The OG Broke Backpacker
There can be only one.
Wild Will Hatton
It all has to start from somewhere, and in this case, it all started from Will Hatton. Will left home at the tender age of nineteen on a quest to reinvent himself following a series of traumatic events. And so, what incredibly intelligent act did the traumatised young man impart upon himself?
He threw himself right into the cavernous jaws of India.
Such wilful stupidity, however, did indeed become his greatest treasure. Budget backpacking taught Will many lessons, but more than anything, it taught him what transformational power there is to be found in travel – in stripping yourself of materialism, stability, and comfort. It taught him what beauty can be found in the little things.
And the budgeteering adventures also gave him The Broke Backpacker; it all has to start from somewhere, right? What started as a simple blog for sharing the tales of madness direct from India later became a method of earning income online before then becoming the Lighthouse of Alexandria it is today – an archive of priceless knowledge and a beacon of inspiration tended, simply, by the team.
That’s a very abridged version of Will’s story: nineteen to now is a long time, and the stories of love lost, mistakes made, and battles fought are what tie the pieces together. But what we have now is simply an older and wiser Will (despite the odd moment of Classic Will). And nothing shows this more than what he says when asked what he is most grateful for:
- My dogs.
- The quiet stillness of a morning whilst journalling.
- Good coffee.
- My team.
- Finding passion within my work.
- My beautiful girlfriend.
- My hard-baked ability to always be optimistic.
- Second chances.
- A clear vision of the future and where I am going.
- A clear memory of where I have come from and the lessons I learned upon the road.
“And many, many more things; there’s so much to be grateful for.”
- Budget travel
- Offbeat Travel
- Writing Manifesto’s
- Pakistan and Iran
- Somehow always scoring weed no matter where in the world he is.
- Good vibes 🙂
- ROLLING GIGANTIC JOINTS
- Reading (a lot)
- Spurning vibrant new ideas
- Swords, mate. Gotta have dem swords.
The Inner Council
Lords of the realm.
Jonathan Arthur Patterson
A long long time ago, a young Florida native named Jonathan (who would much prefer to just be called ‘Art’) worked a summer job at the Dolly Parton-branded theme park: Dollywood.
Perhaps it was here, bathed in the tender sounds of Jolene and 9 to 5, that Art developed the first traces of what would later become his core reason to budget travel: the simple yet whole truth that perhaps where and what you’re born into is not necessarily the perfect fit for your personality matrix.
That in order to become the individual you want to become, you have to make a choice for yourself.
So that was what Art did. He packed his bag, threw his fucks to the wind, and embarked to Peru and Latin America. Here, he followed his own path, embracing the role of a qualified English teacher (with some delightfully ecstatic adventures sprinkled within).
It was here in Latin America that Art met Will. On a balmy Colombian night, mere days after handing over his possessions at knifepoint, Art demonstrated his physical prowess to Will by roundhouse kicking a man’s cocaine straight out of his hand.
And it was fucking sick.
Will was certainly impressed! This handy skill, combined with Art’s ability to get friendly with the police en español, secured him a place in the Council. Fast-forward several years and now he’s our head of admin…The Broke Backpacker, people!
- English teaching
- Latin America
- Traveller finances
- Proper hair maintenance
- The odd bath
The Broke Backpacker’s manager of gear content, Aiden considers himself something of a ‘late-bloomer’ in the travel space, not embarking on his first proper trip until his 30s – something of his own grown-up gap year. He threw himself, alone, with no experience, right into the deep end, embracing the madness of Colombia.
Since the early-late days, Aiden has had his fair share of adventures.
- Surviving 3 months in Venezuela with only $1000.
- Confronting the frosty hostility of Serbia.
- Many, many loose cannon throwdowns in Goa.
- He even saw a dog once!
And above all, the one lesson he’s taken away from travel is that it’s a necessity. Because only by temporarily severing our connection to our “real lives” – anchored and stable – do we realise that we aren’t really who we always thought we were.
Well, Aiden has learnt that AND that he is infinitely grateful to somehow have reached the age of 36 with a full head of hair and teeth.
If asked how he got this job, Aiden might give one of two answers (hinging on how ornery his mood is at the time). Either he met Will in Colombia and then began his (admittedly, very long-serving) tenure by managing sponsored posts. Alternatively, he lost to Will in a Cossack-style dance-off and has been subject to his professional whims ever since as a result.
Also, Aiden travels with a hairdryer. Is that relevant to anything? Na, but it’s adorable AF! (And also probably why he retains his fluffy doo.)
- Backpacking gear
- Travel insurance (and bullshit-worded policies)
- Psy-parties, nightlife, and vibey dive bars
- “Scoring with local chicks, but we can’t write that in 2021.” (Oh wait… I just did.)
- Reading anything and everything
- Philosophical musings
- Black coffee
- Transcendal experiences
- Mixing/producing trance music
- NOT Kanye West
There are many parallels between Ziggy and Will’s journeys. Traumatic events and the subsequent quest to reinvent one’s self. There’s a key difference though: his name wasn’t ‘Ziggy’ until he left.
At the age of 24, Ziggy departed Australia, deleted all forms of contact, adopted a pseudonym, and ghosted everyone who loved him (except his mum) while he traipsed around New Zealand for nearly 5 months (or Australia 2.0 as he likes to call it).
Was this a dick move? Probably. But we can’t learn to help others until we first learn to help ourselves, and that’s what travel is: it’s an opportunity to define who you are before you step into the role you were meant to play.
Besides, the ghosting ultimately meant nothing. When Zig returned to his old life and rocked up on his friend’s porch unannounced, he wasn’t pushed away with scorn as he’d feared. He was instead asphyxiated with cuddles and had the bong shoved into his hands just as if he’d never left.
He was home.
And so, Ziggy learnt that day that all the dazzling sunsets, epic treks, and unfathomable moments of serendipity… They don’t mean shit without the ones you love. As long as you have a family to return to, you have a place you belong.
Years of travel later, Ziggy wouldn’t make it home in time for his final goodbye with that same friend, and that’s a sad story. But there is a silver lining.
Growth begins at the edges of your comfort zone, and the loss of a brother is certainly an uncomfortable thing. Ziggy grew up that day; perhaps ten years too many, but he grew up all the same.
He realised he could spend a life wallowing in flippant sarcasm, aimless dirtbaggery, and an apathetic cynicism to the hospice bed of humanity, or he could start giving a shit.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Strive to be happy. Strive to be good.
He could do what little he could do in what little time we have left. And for now, that’s here, at The Broke Backpacker.
- Hitchhiking, dumpster diving, park sleeping, and the dirtbag life
- Vanlife and vagrancy
- Boogies, flow, and hippy shit
- People love feeding him free drugs on the road. They always come: it’s like a magic trick.
- Bitching about Israel
- Bitching about White Australia
- Spinning toys
- And his uke 🙂
If you’re into poi, I swear to God, these are the last pair of poi you’ll ever own.
Otherwise, buy a goddamn headtorch. For the love of all the is unholy, it’s a non-negotiable backpacker necessity. I’m a fan of $10 Chinese headtorches from Amazon because I’m a cheap asshole, but the BEST of the best is easily the Petzl Actik Core.Buy That Shit!
The Wizards of the Court
Each a sage in their own right.
The PA Goddess
If asked how she ended up at The Broke Backpacker, Clair would say that “She’s just always seemed to be here.” Members of the team would agree. Including Will.
Despite a hazy Joker-esque origin story, Clair is more of a Batman for the team. When there’s a fire, she’s putting it out. When someone needs a speedy response, she’s swooping in with the answer. When our arch-nemeses are plotting our destruction, she’s karate-chopping them into submission on the rooftops of Bangkok.
Much like Batman, Clair isn’t very good at providing pictures of herself, so instead…
A history buff, an architecture nerd, and a sucker for a city’s seedy underbelly, Clair’s fascination with all of the above and travel as a whole began in her early teens on a trip to Europe. But while her time in Europe has been decorated and daring, it’s the madness of Asia that’s really drawn her in.
Thailand has been a third home for her (alongside her two other homes – England and Australia – and her billion others). Bangkok’s bubbling chaos mystifies her. And much like many other travellers, she has an on-again-off-again abusive relationship with India.
But, shit… She always goes back for more.
Expect to see her in Vladivostok sometime soon.
- The hostel life (she’s worked in them a lot)
- Returning to destinations over new ones
- Parts of Asia, particularly Thailand
- All things architecture
- Soviet history
- Places and things with a bit of edge
- HATES holes in her socks (with a passion)
The Empress of the VA Empire
While Rhenz hasn’t backpacked much (per se), she has travelled. More than that, as born-and-raised Filipino, she offers an insight and different perspective that is largely absent from the rest of the team. When asked what she is grateful for most in this word, she simply says:
“That my family is safe, that I am still alive, and that I’m able to provide for my family despite the pandemic.”
Gratitude turns what we have into enough: perhaps Rhenz understands something many of us do not.
Where she has travelled, however, has been divine! Well, except Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s local denizens can be… blunt… to say the least.
Although, well-travelled in the Philippines, coming to Bali in 2019 for The Broke Backpacker team retreat by far remains her highlight. Rhenz finds a sense of peace in Bali akin to that of her homeland.
The queen-empress of The Broke Backpacker’s sterling team of virtual assistants, the work she and her loyal subjects do for the site CANNOT be stated enough. What’s more, ditching her corporate servitude of 10 years to instead chase the dream of digital nomadism has been one of the most life-changing decisions she’s ever made.
Amigos, it’s certainly possible for all. She gonna go far, kid – believe it!
The Whizz Kid
Tomás met Ziggy at a moshav in Israel at which point Ziggy was working as a digital nomad from a legit mud hut. Although initially silent about who he worked for, Tomás had a sneaking suspicion it was The Broke Backpacker (based on Zigz’ general demeanour and lack of non-tattered clothing).
They became fast friends over a shared love of doobies, jamming, and jamming while under the influence of doobies.
Obviously, Ziggy got him the job, but Tomás already came with a decorated career in backpacking. He’s tested his mettle on the likes of India, Israel, Sri Lanka, his home turf Portugal, and Iran. It’s backpacking in Iran, however, that’s secured the deepest hold in his heart.
“It’s the place that taught me the true nature of humanity, kindness, and how one can open themself to strangers without hoping for anything in return. Iran taught me how to love strangers and share with them everything I have without expecting something back.”
That right there is the power of offbeat travel. THAT is what broke backpackers do: they write their own story, ignore the lies we’ve been fed, and create love in all the places you might never expect.
Tomás doubts himself from time to time – I’ve caught him doing it many a time, and it shits me up the wall to no end. Because truthfully, he’s much more of a broke backpacker than he realises.
- Finding musos on the road
- Overthinking things
- Playing music, particularly guitar
- Naughty jazz chords
- Doobies with any of the above
Someone’s gotta write all this epic shit!
Elina says she’s Finnish, but she’s yet to actually provide us with her birth certificate as proof. It’s safer to assume she might actually be a Swede-in-disguise.
Having somehow floated into Bali (like 50% of the team it seems), she
kinda-sorta FULLY adopted a cranky-ass furbaby and now it’s where she stays.
She met Will in Canggu where he promptly recruited her, recognising her grit. Bali has a way of bringing people together like that; maybe it’s mysticism or maybe it’s because it’s a bunch of white people living in the same four neighbourhoods together.
To be fair, Will was right. Dis girl be gold.
Among other accolades, some of Elina’s brightest and downright daftest travel achievements include:
- Hitchhiking solo from Krakow to Thessaloniki (while being devilishly underprepared).
- Accumulating a total of 700 kilometres hiking over one summer with a 40 litre backpack that weighed 20 kilos. Someone needs to sort out her travel packing list!
- Getting lost in a Bosnian minefield.
How Elina is still alive is anyone’s guess…
A bonafide veteran of solo female travel, she’s got a real weird knack for picking country flags, rarely ever returns home to Finland (or Sweden), and is doggedly determined to settle in Spain one day. If they’ll have her.
…And if she’s still alive.
- Travelling as a chick. And alone!
- The life and times of a digital nomad
- Offbeat travel destinations (the Caucasus and Eastern Europe, in particular)
- Any and all cute creatures
- Taylor Swift
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Other nerdy shit
- Writing poetry (she’s real good too)
In a beautiful little village at a charming guesthouse deep in the furthest northern reaches of Pakistan, Samantha met Will. Together, they shared joints, rounds of cards, adventures, many a conversation about SEO, yak burgers, and, of course, a burning passion for the country they were in.
Two weeks later, Ziggy received a voice message from Will. It said,
“Yo, Zigglez, I met this girl Samantha in Pakistan. She’s a badass travel writer; make her write sick content for The Broke Backpacker!”
And so write sick content for The Broke Backpacker she did.
An absolute veteran of South Asia travel, Samwise adores an adrenaline-pumping trek as much as she adores a soak in a twinkling desert oasis. She’s become The Broke Backpacker’s apprentice in adventure tourism (of a kind).
Much like Will, she adores backpacking in Pakistan and any and all things related. It is a second home to her, and she even has some conversational Urdu capabilities. And, much like Will, she also shares a simple core philosophy about budget travel:
“It will completely change your mindset and perhaps even the trajectory of your entire life. You will grow.“
- South Asia
- Adventure travel
- Hunting down the best street eats in a new place
- Epic Mountains
- Collect hippopotamuses (toy hippopotamuses, I presume?)
- Oreo milkshakes
- DISLIKES CORIANDER
Fuck me dead – Indigo has done a lot of cool shit. This was truly unexpected.
In her short amount of years, Indigo has:
- Travelled the seas as a fisherwoman.
- Worked as a commercial diver chainsawing, welding, and blowing up shit underwater in New Zealand.
- Vagabonded around Southeast Asia as a freelance journalist.
- Managed a circus troupe in Nepal and India.
- Spent some time as a pirate-in-training in the Caribbean.
- Drank a Vietnamese grandma under the table on rice wine.
For the moment, she’s based in New Zealand, putting those diving skills to good use and probably doing other rad stuff like having swordfights with mutant super-bears.
Indigo also likes cocaine, enough to purposefully highlight it anyway. To absolutely nobody’s surprise (based on those last few paragraphs), she’s Australian.
Right now, she’s doing a bang-up job revamping old destination content and updating it with her wide berth of global knowledge while entering some tasty new tropical choices into the mix. As the team’s resident boat bum, she’s our in-house expert on the dirtbag-at-sea life.
About visiting places for adventure and the art of budget travel, Indigo rather poignantly states “that you need to know that you are utterly and terrifyingly free.”
When asked if there was anything about herself she specifically wanted to be noted, she felt it important to relay that you can purchase a bottle of rosé from Countdown in New Zealand for $7 NZ. Cheers, Indigo.
- Goddamn, what isn’t her area of expertise?
- New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean
- Sailing, diving, and piracy
- Being nuts and making it work
- Writing poetry
- The little things
- Apart from giant speared fish
- Free breakfasts
A library as epic as ours needs a squad of equally epic humans to maintain it.
Perhaps it was seeing Lu’s core in the gym that inspired Will’s newly-found zeal for attaining that long-awaited six-pack. Awash with jealousy, he couldn’t help but overhear her complaining about spelling mistakes (in a distinctly German manner). He was impressed by her dissatisfaction with grammatical typos (plus the aforementioned abs) and thus offered her a job as an editor.
Deceptively young but mature for her age (1999 – seriously!?), she packed up shop from the wintery north at the age of 18 and travelled to the tropics of Bali. Lu would tell you that she’s never really travelled, but she’d be wrong.
Packing your shit, ignoring the behests of your parents, and moving to the opposite side of the planet to a vastly different culture at the age of 18? That’s the kind of cajones that make a REAL broke backpacker. And the rewards have been well worth it.
A CrossFit fiend, Lu shares a passion for physical and mental development with Will. There have been times of culture shock living in Bali (Lu prefers the much less touristed corners of the island despite being a total digital nomad hotspot), but persevering through those have taught her mental fortitude and given her a trust in herself that she is infinitely grateful for.
She works closely with Art keeping track of basically everything he forgets, and she’s a fan of Switzerland because it’s, quote, “super-efficient”.
- Bali – but REAL Bali
- Switzerland too!
- Staying fit on the road (and fitness-based travel)
- The gym
- Watching baking videos but never actually baking
- Dislikes: sand (which raises serious questions about her choice of expat location)
Editora numero dos, is part-English, part-German, part-Indian, and part-Pakistani, so I don’t know why I introduced her in Spanish. Qué hacer?
Having spent time based in both the UK and Germany, these days Sophie spends her days in Brighton fearing the rare 26° summer days. So why she rightfully feels she should have been born in Australia instead is anyone’s guess.
That aside, Sophie remains a very dependable editor, snappy with our accommodation guides and UK content. Procrastination on her uni tasks and some freelance gallivanting led her here, at which point we told her to ditch her desk and stay here instead. Because she’s just so lovable!
Between surviving an Uber crash in Romania, exploring Australia’s (rather extensive) coastlines sans map, and learning to fly a plane, she’s done her bit of budget backpacking. About her travels, Sophie said:
“You quickly learn you don’t need much to be happy. Really just that moment. That’s the most valuable thing, I think.”
And, well, the adventures led her here. 🙂
- The UK
- Surrounding countries and on to Europe
- Being lovable
- Building shit
- Guitaring shit
- Climbing shit
- But doesn’t like heights
- But has flown a plane?
Laura has done a lot of cool shit in her life as a traveller:
- Teaching English to a Prince of Qatar.
- Meeting a very young Will Hatton in 2014 in Guatemala (when he was legit broke).
- Acid with an Australian astrophysicist while overlooking Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. (Why’s it always an Australian?)
But despite the badass radventures, Laura still reminisces most fondly on her time teaching English in Colombia.
Maybe it’s here she fell in love with slow travel; the idea that stopping the movement, taking a breath, and living in a place long-term breeds the warmest connections. It’s where her second family still resides. It’s where she processed much of her grief – a journey so many travellers must take.
Her connection with Will led her to take a leap of faith and embark on an expedition into Pakistan with his tour company – Epic Backpacker Tours. Courtesy of the resulting mountain-addiction, she asked for a job, received one, and then we went right ahead and poached her because she’s just such excellence!
Completely lacking in any kind of social filter, Laura brings a rare trait in the 21st-century to The Broke Backpacker team: critical incisiveness. With a lifetime of studies, teaching, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Art Therapy to her name, her perspective is keen to say the least. When asked what she is most grateful for, she says:
“My grandmother… But also… the first year of my art therapy studies. They ripped us apart and poked around our minds in the buried recesses of repression and ‘don’t-go-there land’ before sewing us up again and sending us back out into the world every Thursday.
It was hard, but I am a much better person for it. It’s something everyone needs to do once – to be broken entirely so they can rebuild themselves anew.”
- English teaching
- Slow travel and living in destinations
- The life and times of a working traveller
- Competing with Ziggy for who can take the joke too far first
- Pottery and making mugs
- Making mugs with mountains on them
- And then selling those mugs
- Art studies, art therapy, the psychology of art, and just art
The Everything Nice
Initially, it was difficult to draw information from Rose – a leftover tendency of her reserved British heritage. But perhaps that is a valuable lesson in even giving the quietest souls their moment to shine.
Because the funny thing? Rose has more travel experience than ANYONE on the team.
Even more than Will Hatton himself.
Rose has been travelling since she was still pooping in her nappies having even visited Bali in 1995 at the tender age of one (and when a smoothie bowl was much harder to come by). Her parents – renegades in their own right – focused more on giving Rose and her siblings rich cultural understanding and treasured memories rather than toys and a fancy house – something she cherishes now.
“I’m so grateful they did that. Now, I am able to look back and laugh at the fact that I ran away from an Orangutang in Borneo as a kid instead of thinking about some stupid toy rotting away in a landfill.”
Between narrow misses with cheetahs in South Africa, childhood misadventures on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, and pensive days of reflection by the still waters of Lake Maninjau in Sumatra, we’re lucky to have Rose. Her incredible knowledge of the globe lends itself to scouring spreadsheets, stats, and using that data birthing new series.
These days, Rose lives a peaceful life with her loving husband and furry collection of animal-amigos in Bali. She might say she’s a homebody, but maybe she just started sooner than the rest of us. Maybe she was just ready to hang her pack and boots a bit earlier and settle into contentment.
Something most of us dirtbags can only secretly dream we’ll one day be ready for.
- Everywhere else on the planet apparently
- Also pasta
- Cute as mothertrucking doggos!
- Lazing away
- Eating and lazing away while reminiscing on her illustrious travel career
- Topped off with a bowl of steamy carbonara
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I said The Broke Backpacker had a tendency to attract a certain kind of person, yeah? A little spark of madness…
But, well, you’re only given a little spark. You musn’t ever lose it.
Maybe these tripcats have that spark; likely, they have a touch more. But from the tides of the Island of Gods to the urban sprawl of Europe’s capitals… From the dizzying heights of the Karakoram to the sub-aqueous depths of the Pacific Ocean. From one free hostel breakfast to the next…
These misfit dipshits keep this site so damn EPIC. One generation leads to the next, but the essence of Broke Backpackerhood is what transcends those leaps in time.
Well, that and the aforementioned vibrant eccentricity.
There’s a lot to what it means to be a broke backpacker, but it’s not just someone slings a pack and hits the cheapest road available with their thumb out and a pre-rolled zoot in their pocket. Mostly, it’s just someone who realises there’s a bit more to all of this than what we see.
That what we’re told isn’t necessarily true. That you have to experience things for yourself to find the real reality, including that of who you are.
It’s someone who’s willing to let the deadwood burn off so the new can grow, irrespective of whether that’s through vagrancy, life-changing pivots in career, or a re-learned appreciation for what they always had. One way or another, a broke backpacker always goes their own way.
But they do it with a good heart.
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