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Living the life of an Aussie nomad seems to be pretty high on the bucket list for lots of young’uns these days. And some of the older generation too, not to discriminate there. But there’s a genuine level of stress and uncertainty involved before you bring yourself to jump into the frequent traveller lifestyle.
Aussie Ben McLaughlan decided to set that reticence aside and live the dream, which he now writes about over at Horizon Unknown. He’s all about budget travel that allows him to experience things like running with the bulls in Pamplona. His motto seems to be “try everything once”, which unfortunately includes a cocktail containing a real human (donated) severed toe. McLaughlan left Australia in 2013 and has visited 50 countries since.
He was kind enough to take some time out from his busy life in Canada (at the moment) to answer some questions about Aussie nomad life and how he approaches it.
1. How would you describe your travel style and why do you like it?
I love to pack a lot into my travels. I’m rarely sitting down and relaxing when I’m on the road as there’s always something else I want to see. As I travel in extended periods of time (my last trip was 11 months through Asia), travelling on a budget is also important so the money can stretch out as long as possible.
2. What was the catalyst that saw you travel to 50 countries since 2013?
Before I left Australia, I began to feel as if I was in a rut I couldn’t get out of. Every day I would wake up, go to work, come home, spend a few hours playing games or hanging out with friends, go to sleep and repeat.
3. How do you organise and maintain that kind of travel?
I like to plan some “must see” sights for my travel. Places I really want to see or experiences I need to be a part of. This gives me a sort of framework for my travels and I usually fill out my spare time by things I’m told to see by people I meet on the road.
4. What’s the most difficult part about being on the road and away from home so much?
Family, friends, pets and just general way of life. Homesickness is definitely a thing (for me at least). I feel it slightly different every time it rears its ugly head. Most of the time it’s the worst when there’s a party or get-togethers back home and I see pictures and hear stories of how it was a great time.
Read more: Dealing with sickness or tragedy back home
5. What do you love most about it?
I love experiencing new things. This means talking to people I meet, exploring new places and just learning about a different way of life than I’m used to.
6. Do you return to places/countries/cities once you’ve visited them once? And what is it about them that draws you back?
Usually, I would rather visit somewhere completely new and different rather than revisit a country. However, there have been many times I’ve visited a country again for a different experience.
I travelled to Thailand in 2017 but didn’t have time to visit the northern town of Pai. So when I returned to Thailand in 2018 to get dive certified on the island of Koh Tao, I made sure Pai was high on my list of places to visit.
Read More: Ultimate Three Day Pai Itinerary, Thailand
There usually has to be something new or interesting I didn’t get to experience to draw me back to a country a second time.
7. How expensive is your travel lifestyle and how do you make it work financially?
I like to travel cheaply. Budget hostels, street food, things like that. I usually spend around 3-6 months working as much as I can to save enough money to go on an extended travel journey.
8. What advice would you give others who are thinking about taking the same journey?
If you’re a little nervous about travel (I know I was), pick somewhere similar to where you’re from. This familiar setting will ease you into exploring new places and cultures.
Read More: 10 lessons learnt from living abroad
For example, I’m Australian, and I first travelled to Ireland. An English speaking country, that drives on the same side of the road and everything. This helped ease the nerves before I left because I focused on what would be the same, rather than overwhelm myself with what could be different.
9. Have you ever been in a tough situation that you thought you wouldn’t be able to overcome with travelling?
Solo travel, especially for first-time travellers, can be daunting because if things go sideways, you pretty much have to solve problems yourself. I know that’s how I felt.
The first time I missed a bus travelling Europe (I was incredibly hungover) I freaked out a little. But as it happened again and again (not all from consequences of drinking) travel taught me that things go wrong. Rarely can you plan everything perfectly. But that’s okay, I knew I would work it out and I did.
10. Where are you at the moment and where are you going next?
Right now, I’m living in snowy, windy Edmonton, Canada. It’s cold so I’ve decided to go somewhere a little more sunshine-filled. Where the sun actually warms you, rather than blind you from glare on the white, frozen roads.
Cuba is on my list for this year. I might combine it with another country or two yet, but it’s still in the early planning stages.