During one of my travels I ran into Michael from Denmark who has traveled the world either on a bike or with a backpack for the last 5 years. He kindly agreed to an interview. Each interview will be unedited and delivered just the way people answered.
As part of my interest in people and why some have an easier time to get off the hamster wheel than others I am going to ask similar questions to people I come across that have left the hamster wheel. I hope that by doing so I can either find a similar pattern or a way to connect the dots that can help others that are on the fence about following their dreams but that may need a little inspiration or ideas on how to get started. Each person has a story and we can always learn something from every person we meet.
You can also follow Michael or learn more about him on his website: http://www.worldtraveller.dk
Q: What one thing or event made you decide to travel around the world when you did vs. a few years later?
In my case the relevant question is: What made you quit your traditional life in Denmark and travel permanently around the world?
A: The answer is many different events over a longer period of time:
– My father died of cancer just when he retired never getting to do all the things he had dreamed of doing. In addition I’ve experienced my brother (aged 9), friends and colleagues dying much too young. Our time on earth is limited so we better the most out of it.
– Taking an Executive MBA 10 years ago sparked a big personal development. For many years I was a workaholic who didn’t know myself (or understood others). Becoming aware I realized my whole identity was founded in work and that there was much more to life than that.
– Becoming intrigued by people I unsuccessfully tried to change career from finance to human resource. Then I unsuccessfully applied to study psychology and getting involved in voluntary work.
– Not being able to find a new purpose in life in Denmark, I went back on the road hoping to find it along the way – however, the more I traveled the more I distanced myself from the Danish society, so now my home is everywhere and nowhere.
– My current 5 year bicycling/backpacking trip around the world is a means to finding a new purpose in life. Consequently, I’ll only continue travelling as long as it’s fun and giving. The day the scale tips over and something else becomes more important, the trip is over.
Q: What is your #1 advice for people that don’t know where to start?
A: Wherever you decide to go there is only one way of finding out if you like it – try it out in practice; not by reading books. You can read a guidebook for inspiration and advice on practicalities but you’ll experience that reality is much different. The more you read the higher the expectations and bigger the risk of being disappointed. Make a rough plan and improvise once you’re at your destination – you’ll be surprised how easy it is (ask the locals for advice) and the best and most memorable experiences are often based on spontaneity. Also it’s common to experience prepaid transportation, accommodation, etc. as a constraint. If you feel uncomfortable arriving in a foreign country without a hotel room book a couple of nights to settle in – I never make reservations and always find a place to stay. By paying in advance you pay much more and you risk being disappointed because you can’t inspect the room or negotiate for something better.
If you feel insecure the first time you travel (whether bicycling or backpacking) visit an easier (and safer) region first e.g. North America, Europe, Oceania or Asia. Experience comes over time and partly from meeting other travelers That said, I never had a bad experience anywhere in the world. Be open-minded but don’t be naive and be particularly careful when using public transportation (in the stations and on the journey).
Quality equipment is expensive so borrow the first time you travel until you know if you like it. If you do, start buying high quality equipment – it might be more expensive but it lasts longer and there’s nothing as annoying as damaged equipment while travelling.
When travelling to places with other cultures be open-minded and respectful. We tend to judge others based on our own values and beliefs but nobody is right or wrong – we’re just different. Curiosity and openness is an opportunity for being inspired and learning something new.
Q: Do you follow travel blogs and websites of other world travelers? If so, any you would recommend?
A: Not really. I read the blogs of people I meet when travelling, but I don’t search for travel blogs.
Q: How do you finance your trips? Work along the way, live solely on savings or go back to Denmark to work and save up?
A: I live on my savings, but my way of travelling is cheap as I live like the locals wherever I go. Especially time is of essence when travelling cheap – you can get great deals on transportation particularly if you are flexible.
In cities I usually couchsurf (free) and when bicycling in the countryside I just knock on a door and ask if I can pitch my tent – I hardly ever have to ask twice. I have only experienced kindness, helpfulness, hospitality and generosity wherever I go.
Q: Do you meet families that travel the way you do or do you only meet singles/couples?
A: I have never met a family cycling long distance and rarely couples. Most often it’s solo trips or two friends travelling together. The vast majority are men – only once I have met two women bicycling and never a single woman.
I have backpacked extensively around the world for decades and have hardly ever met families with children (and when I do the children are usually very young). Living like the locals, my traveling is fairly simple/primitive which makes it unlike to run into families whom I presume prefer more comfort/facilities. Besides that I have met people in all kinds of relationships and of all ages – one couple were 85 and had only started backpacking 5 years previously… it’s never too late.
Q: How would you want your eulogy to be read? And do you feel that you are living your life in a way that fits that?
I honestly don’t care about my eulogy as I’ll be dead – and what good is a legacy when you’re dead. What is important to me is living in the moment; not in the past or in the future. Adversity is a learning opportunity so I focus on staying positive and on possibilities – as well as finding the good things in everyday experiences. If everyday for the rest of my life is a good day it’s a good life.
The easiest way to happiness and success is doing what I’m passionate about (at any given time). Success implies more success and happiness implies more happiness – a positive spiral emerges. Success and happiness are decisive for my self-esteem and well-being and these are decisive for how I look at myself (my identity) and eventually how I treat others – unless I love myself I can’t love others.
I never stop reflecting upon the purpose of my life and what I want to achieve in life before I die. I have limited and unknown time on earth, so life is all about making decisions and prioritizing. If I’m unhappy with something I take action instead of complaining – blaming others for my problems and unhappiness solves nothing. Besides doing nothing (which is not a solution) there are only 3 possible solutions:
– Either I accept what I’m unhappy about and let it go (in my heart, mind and stomach)
– I change it or
– I walk away from it
Michael at Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina