In 1999, Earl left home for a three-month post-graduation trip to Southeast Asia and today, over 13 years later, that trip has still yet to end. The non-stop adventure has now involved 83 countries and a mix of backpacking, volunteering, working abroad and living in various destinations around the world. He created his blog, Wandering Earl, in 2009 and ever since 2010, he has been a professional travel blogger, working full-time on his blog as he continues to explore the planet.
You’ve been away for 4, 721 days and say that the idea of going home makes you physically sick. Why is that?
I simply can’t imagine living a lifestyle that does not allow me to constantly meet people, people that I would never have met had I not been travelling. And I know that there would be plenty of people to meet back home as well but I’m referring to people of different cultures, people whose lives cannot be understood or learned about unless I travel there and witness them with my own eyes. These are the kind of experiences that keep me motivated to travel, those moments when I share a conversation or a handshake or a hug with someone who seems so different from me, someone who lives in a land that I know little about. And I just don’t want to give up those moments!
You have an urge to discover. What has been your most memorable discovery so far and why?
I don’t have a single most memorable discovery. There are many fascinating discoveries I’ve made over the years, discoveries about myself, about certain countries or cultures and about life in general. I’ve discovered that nothing puts a smile on my face more than meeting new people. I’ve discovered that the Himalayan Mountains offer some of the most beautiful destinations on the planet. I’ve discovered that travelling doesn’t have to be nearly as expensive as most people think. The list goes on and on and on as such long-term travel is full of new discoveries all of the time!
As a permanent traveller, your job is the dream job for many people. What is the best thing about it?
While this is by no means the dream job that many people believe it to be, the best aspect by far is being able to work from anywhere. As long as I have an internet connection, I can work and that allows me to continue travelling wherever I wish while still being able to earn an income at the same time. This is what I love most about this job.
You’re a New Breed of Explorer and a big reason why you travel is to learn about other cultures and people. What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
The biggest lesson is that people all over the world, regardless of nationality, culture, religion, race, economic class, etc. are all virtually the same. Almost everyone wants to live a simple, happy life, a life without enemies and without hatred. People just want to provide for their families and enjoy their short time on this planet as much as they possibly can…and it really is the same everywhere I go.
You’ve had your share to traveller’s tummy or ‘Delhi belly’. What has been your worst travel inflicted ailment?
To be honest, I haven’t really had many ailments while traveling. Apart from the occasional Delhi belly and the usual colds and fevers that everyone on the planet suffers from every now and then, there hasn’t been any situations that stand out as particularly unfortunate when it comes to my health.
Having travelled to 83 countries, you must have tried quite a few cuisines. Which has been your favourite and why?
My favourite cuisine is Indian and I could eat Indian food for five meals a day for weeks on end! I just love the variety, the intense flavours and the fact that every region of India has their own set of dishes, so there is a never-ending selection of new food to try no matter how long you spend inside this country.
And your worst?
I’m not a huge fan of food in the Balkans as there is a heavy reliance on red meat, which is something that I don’t eat. While I’m sure that their meat dishes are tasty, it’s just not for me and so that’s the region where I have the hardest time when it comes to food, especially because I love to try as many new (non-meat) dishes as possible wherever I go.
One of the hardest things about travel is getting the funding for it. You’ve kept yourself going for nearly 14 years. What is your top tip when budgeting for a trip?
I use something called the “Currency of Pad Thai” to help me maintain a budget. Basically, in Thailand, you can get a plate of yummy Pad Thai noodles from a street vendor for around 30 Baht/$1 USD. So, every time I make a purchase (and this works especially well if you’re at home trying to save money for a trip!), I stop and think “How many plates of yummy Pad Thai would this amount of money buy me?”. Instead of buying another pair of sandals for $50, for example, I could use that money for 50 meals in Thailand instead. And once I make that realisation, I usually hold onto my money and stop myself from buying anything I don’t really need. Of course, you don’t need to use Pad Thai as your reference point…it can be anything that you’d love to do while travelling!
What is your favourite travel anecdote to date?
Even after 13 years of travel, my favourite tale is the one that led to my current lifestyle. It was during my first week of travel back in 1999 when I found myself celebrating the Millennium at the incredible Angkor Wat temple complex in the jungles of Cambodia. During this celebration, as I watched the Buddhist monks release peace lanterns into the sky, as the local Cambodians shared their food and drink with me, as I looked around in awe at the experience that I had somehow stumbled upon, I knew right then and there that my life was about to change. And that’s when I decided that I would not return home after three months as originally planned and that I would not pursue the career I had chosen for myself. Sitting there on an ancient temple wall as the clock struck midnight, I realised that a life of travel was now my biggest goal.
Where to next…?
After my current stay in India I will be off to South Africa for a couple of weeks at the end of January and then I’m not sure where I’ll go after that. I do need to be in Mexico for the month of March but I plan to fill up the time in between with some interesting adventures, perhaps in other parts of Africa.
A huge thank you to the wonderful Earl for agreeing to take part in Blogger BackChat. If his inspiring words have had an impact on you, don’t forget to visit his blog, ‘like’ his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter: @WanderingEarl
All photos from Earl’s Facebook Photo Page