You probably only get to meet a travel master like this once in a lifetime.
Derek has spent 18 years traveling the world, in nonstop motion. He’s visited 101 different countries across the planet, and shows no signs of stopping.
He’s made sharing his experiences his life and his work, running WanderingEarl.com, and making it onto TIME Magazine’s Best Blogs list, into TheExpeditioner.com’s Top 5 Travel Blogs, and was awarded for having the Best-Designed Travel Blog and the Best Travel Writing during the Travel Blogger’s Unite Bloggy Awards.
What tips does he have for you, dear reader over 40 (…or under 40!)? Let’s get stuck into our Q and A, where all the juicy and wise nuggets of gold lie.
How has travel changed you on a personal, deeper level?
When I was younger, I didn’t think too deeply about the world, mostly focusing on what I wanted in terms of a career.
But as soon as I got that first taste of travel, I realized that the most rewarding thing in life is human interaction, getting to that deeper level with people, and the fact that those interactions could teach me more about the world and about life in general than any other form of education I had experienced.
The idea that travel allowed me to meet so many new people that I otherwise would never have come across completely fascinated me. That is what made me want to continue traveling indefinitely and dedicate my life to the education that travel provides.
Is that what makes your lifestyle so fulfilling?
Yes. These days, you can almost drop me anywhere in the world and there are always new people to meet and interact with. This fact ensures that my travels are always fulfilling.
What sort of things do you do to get that deeper experience of the world as you travel?
For the most part, I like to keep things simple. I don’t do much research or planning as I prefer to simply arrive in a destination and let the experience unfold on its own.
Recently, I was in Budapest, and apart from booking accommodation, I had nothing else planned. I simply went outside each day and went from there. In the end I didn’t go to the main tourist sites. I never made it to the famous bathhouse.
But that’s perfectly okay because I explored in my own way, I went out there and met people and I ended up in all kinds of interesting neighborhoods.
When I just let the experience guide me, it’s an amazing feeling.
How do you manage to talk to people in foreign countries? Do you speak a lot of different languages?
If I spend significant time in a country, I study the language to an extent. This was the case when I lived in Mexico and in Romania.
Apart from that, I try to learn the basics of the local language for places I’m just passing through, and I now know enough of several languages to get by almost anywhere.
With that said, English is spoken in every corner of the world these days as well.
How do you think things will change as you get older – say in 20 or 30 years?
I honestly don’t know and I don’t think about it too much. Being open to anything has always been important to me so if I woke up tomorrow and felt it was time to stop traveling or live in one place overseas, then that’s what I’d do.
As I get older, I’ll just keep paying attention to my needs and goals and go from there, doing what’s best for me at the time.
With that said, I’m sure I’ll slow down somewhat in the future. After 18 years of nonstop travel already, it’s definitely becoming harder to continue bouncing around the world at the same pace. It’s harder both physically and mentally.
But I’m confident that I’ll always find that sweet spot whatever happens.
You have experienced a lot of the world. Does anything scare you about the way the world is changing?
I would say that things aren’t changing as much as people think they are—overwhelmingly, people all over the world want the same things: to have a simple and happy life. They don’t hate people, they don’t want enemies, they don’t want wars. So the world still feels like the same safe and welcoming place that it’s always felt like to me.
But it’s indeed an interesting time. There is more negativity to read about, endless stories focusing on that negativity and so many questions about where the world is headed as a result.
I think it’s therefore important for more people to travel as early as possible and more than ever so that, at an early age, people can realize the same thing I have realized – that people all over the planet are good, open-minded human beings.
What tips do you have for older people who’d like to travel and have an authentic experience?
It’s really easier than ever to travel these days. In a few minutes you can go online, get on the couchsurfing.org forums, and you’ll find local people that will be more than happy to meet you and show you around a destination. Authentic travel experiences don’t require extensive planning. It really just involves meeting local people, learning about their lives and sharing their daily experiences with them. And again, doing this is so simple now with all of these websites designed to connect travelers with locals around the world.
What mistakes have you made along the way that you wish you hadn’t?
For people who want to travel long term, it’s good to have somewhat of a plan. I’m not talking about a 10-year plan, but a rough plan to ensure that you don’t end up aimlessly floating around the world.
I get a lot of emails from people saying they’ve left their home country, started traveling and then ran out of money because they couldn’t figure out how to make it all work while on the go. Planning will help you avoid the sort of panic that comes from that kind of problem.
Before you leave, if you figure out how much you’ll need to sustain yourself, where you can work legally, visa options, which countries provide the experiences you’re interested in and so on, you’ll have a much higher chance of achieving your travel goals.
WanderingEarl.com (Earl is Derek’s middle name!) is also a hugely popular resource for budget travel and independent travel. Check it out!
And if you’ve been missing out on the goodies that our subscribers are getting right now, don’t leave it any longer. Sign up, and you could get my up-coming and eagerly awaited ebook for free (the pop-up on my site is for you!).
Images courtesy of wikimedia and vincentraal, NeilsPhotography and Greenland Travel on Flickr.