Published on: May 19, 2015
Yesterday a good friend of mine said something to me which got me thinking…
‘I get what you do and I respect it but why do you travel, what’s the actual reason that keeps you on the road with no desire to settle?’
I stumbled, never before having to justify my choice to travel. Most people just assume I travel because it’s fun but actually, it’s more complicated than that.
The short answer; when I travel I can do whatever I want.
The long answer; when I travel I can be whatever I want.
My first foray into travelling was an unhappy one, I came back a broken kid, desperately sick and with my dreams shattered into a thousand pieces. Everything I had wanted was snatched away from me. As a young lad, 19, I had just been getting to grips with the kind of person I had wanted to be and suddenly, without warning, that person was killed in action.
My dreams of joining the marines, fighting for a cause (I didn’t even care what) and exploring the world with a rifle slung over one shoulder? Done. Gone. Over.
A lonely year passed whilst I leant heavily on my parents and a few bored friends for support. Gradually, my injured leg began to heal but it would never be back to normal. Mentally, I was in trouble – paranoid, depressed and down-right miserable. I continuously put myself in dangerous situations for no reason other than to feel something a bit different. One day, I woke up and something had changed. In a moment of beautiful clarity, a single thought entered my mind ‘start again, build something new or give up and die’ – within an hour I had booked a one way ticket to India. Why India? It was big, far away and cheap…
I hit the road, unsure of myself but certain that if this did not work, that would be it. This was a redeeming shot, a chance at something new; I would give it my all, I would grab it by the throat, charge in all guns blazing, it was do or die. The time had come to make a change, my current plane was crashing and burning; now I had to jump out of it and steer myself towards something new.
But what was it to be? What did I want out of my life? In truth, I still wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be inspiring. Before I could inspire anyone however, I would have to inspire myself. I began to make a list of the qualities I admired in others and the actions I needed to take. I scrawled the following in my notebook.
Positivity; the most important thing on my list and the hardest to fake; everything had been so shit for so long that my knee-jerk reaction to anything new, anything unexpected, was to be negative. This needed to change. I began simply by pretending. Before I made any remark, before I responded to any situation, I thought about how my alter-ego would handle himself.
Quickly, far quicker than I would have imagined possible, I become a positive person – sure, I still got annoyed by things but my tolerance was way higher. In general, I smiled, laughed and just got on with it. People started to gravitate towards me, I was approachable, friendly, fun… Now, I needed to be inspiring.
How do you inspire? You put yourself in situations where you are scared, uncomfortable or in danger and then, you conquer your fear. You complete a challenge. I headed into the mountains, alone. I crossed deserts. I bagged peaks. I traversed jungles. I got stoned with wandering holy men. I faced down a robber armed with a 10 inch knife. I taught myself how to ride motorbikes, I scraped myself off the road. I scrambled up waterfalls and threw myself from cliffs. I lived alone, with no contact with the outside world, for weeks at a time. I snuck past border guards, drank tea with rebels, I camped in abandoned temples, I fired a Kalashnikov into the sky, I made new friends and found a new purpose.
My travels spanned years and continents, I survived by picking up odd-jobs, by hitching rides, couch-surfing in unlikely countries and buying and selling trinkets. I felt like a Victorian-era explorer; I headed to countries many people had never even heard of, the more extreme, the more off the beaten track, the more I was interested.
From Venezuela to Palestine and Myanmar to the Western Sahara, my adventures have taken me on one hell of a journey. The end result? I became a person I like, most of the time. Every now and again, I even inspire others to shake up their lives a bit – for me, this is my greatest accomplishment.
So, why am I still travelling? Originally, it was for me – I wanted to become something new.
In 2015, it’s because I want to continue to learn.
I travel not to tick off passport stamps but to explore new cultures, new vibes and new points of view. Only by continuing to challenge myself physically and mentally, can I continue to evolve. Would I change how things have panned out? Would I reverse time and undo my injury. Never.
This is who I am.
From my greatest adversity came my greatest opportunity.
2017 Update: I’m continuing to learn cool new shit on the road and to meet inspiring new people. My goals have changed a bit as I am now focussing on building a large online income and recording everything over at Ditch Your Desk to provide newbie digital nomads with plenty of free information on how they too can earn money online. Eventually, I hope to delete social media and take a break from this website so I can hit the road and travel without a phone; a luxury that I miss. For me, travelling is about really connecting with people and places and that can be tough whilst running an online business – on the other hand, this is hand’s down one of the best jobs in the world…
Writer and entrepreneur. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will has been on the road for thirteen years, travelling to far-flung lands on a budget. Today, he runs a number of online ventures, including The Broke Backpacker – the world’s largest budget travel blog. He is passionate about solving the plastic problem and cleaning up the oceans. Currently, Will is based in Bali where he plans to open his first Tribal Hostel in 2020.