Sometimes the desire to travel grabs you and never lets go. That’s exactly what happened to Stephen after he took his first journey to a foreign country. His trip to Ireland sparked that flame inside that all travelers are familiar with. After that, he just didn’t want to go home. So he took off again and started a travel blog and made his passion a priority. We asked Stephen to fill us in on some of the details about his life, how he travels, where he’s been, and what motivates him to keep going after so much time on the road.
What motivated you to take such a big trip?
Haha, I think the right word is obsession. When I was 22, I took my first overseas trip. I was immediately hooked and quickly made traveling a yearly tradition.
Each time I traveled it was harder to go back to my small hometown in Ohio, and easier to leave. Then it dawned on me to start a travel blog, and use it as a platform to get freelancing jobs. I wanted my passion as my life, not my hobby.
Where have you gone and where are you going?
Oh man, where have I gone! Normally I don’t like to discuss my travel stats because I don’t want to seem like I am bragging. But since you asked, at the moment I’ve been to 45 countries mostly in Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, and Oceania. I’ve spent a total of about 3 years on the road.
In November, I’m leaving Asia and heading home for a brief holiday visit. Then I’m going to start exploring South America. I’m flying to Columbia early next year.
How much have you planned of your itinerary and how much is spontaneous?
One of my favorite things about traveling is the spontaneity. I love the randomness of life on the road, so I never plan too much. I like the freedom of meeting people and traveling around with them if I want, or just heading my own way.
However, I do read travel tips, and things to do in a country before arriving. It gives me a rough plan, which I never end up sticking to.
How did you decide which places to go?
I do minor research, and planning before I arrive at the destination. I am a firm believer that the best way to find the unique places is by talking to locals and other travelers. It also lets you change plans at a moment’s notice and follow whatever path presents itself before you. I try to spend at least a month in every country I visit. This lets me get a decent grasp on the culture, and see a lot of the country.
How do you travel around?
My personal favorite mode of travel is Train. You get to view the landscape, meet people, and it is not as cramped as a bus. Throughout my travels I have taken planes, cars, motorbikes, trains, and ferries.
A lot of people get confused on the best ways to travel around. Every mode of travel has it’s pro’s and con’s. Some of the cheaper ways to get around Europe may actually surprise you.
What have you learned about yourself or what do you think you will learn?
Oh completely! I’ve learned so many life lessons traveling the world in my 20’s. I’ve become more confident, learned how strong I am. Overall, travel has given me a richer and deeper understanding of the world, traveling helped me discover my personal legend, like Paulo Coelho says in The Alchemist.
What’s the most surprising place you’ve been so far and why?
Turkey was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t really expecting much, and I completely fell in love with the country. Istanbul is still one of my favorite cities. East meets west in Turkey, and it is a perfect introduction for people wanting to explore the Middle East.
I first went to Turkey because I was running out of money, and Turkey was cheaper than Greece. Now I can’t get enough of the country.
How did you determine (or manage) your budget for your trip?
A lot more carefully than when I first started. I think it is a skill you learn the more you travel. You guys also have some amazing resources for determining and managing your budget.
In today’s world there are a lot of useful apps that help manage your expenses and track how much you are spending a day. My favorite app is Trail Wallet from Neverending Voyage.
What’s the craziest story you have from your trip so far?
Too many. Totaling my car is Russia was pretty crazy, which I only realized was totalled after reading this guide to camber angles (initially it just stopped working and we couldn’t figure out why – which got scary for a little while). We just crossed the border that night so we hadn’t bought car insurance for Russia yet. I was with Norbert from Globo Treks and our buddy Alex. We hit a small semi-truck, and were all expecting to be spending the next couple weeks in a Russian prison cell.
The cops came, and once they discovered we didn’t speak Russian had to pull the English teacher out of school to interpret. Instead of throwing us in jail they took us out to lunch, helped us find a hotel, and we ended up in the local paper.
I’ve also come face to face with a grizzly bear in the Alaska wilderness, and been stranded in Kazakhstan.
Do you have any advice for other travelers?
Don’t let fear define your life. Dream big, chase after those dreams and defeat any obstacle that gets into your way. When traveling you have rough days, and a lot of people get intimidated and want to go home. Don’t do it! These moments help you grow as a traveler and a person!
Keep up with Stephen and his adventures on his website: A Backpacker’s Tale.
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.