Every now and then you’ll come across someone whom you know there just isn’t enough road on this earth for them to travel. A full-time adventurer, photographer, travel writer, and all around ass kicker, Will Hatton over at The Broke Backpacker is one of those people where Mother Nature herself seeks him out to see what he’s made of. Will is the Chuck Norris of adventure travel, the very embodiment of the adventuring spirit, blazing trails where there are none, and going where danger is a stark reality. When not risking his life scaling peaks, slogging through uncharted jungles, or practicing his round house kicks, you’ll find him over at his blog regaling us with incredibly captivating stories along with actionable advice on how you can also live a life of travel. If you’re not already following him, you probably should…
Tell us a little about the Broke Backpacker. Who are you, what are you all about, you’re first introduction to traveling, and how long have you been kicking ass and taking names on the road?
Hi! My name’s Will and I’ve wanted to be an explorer ever since I first watched Indiana Jones as a kid! I’ve been on the road for about seven years, I first started when I was eighteen and I climbed Kilimanjaro, summiting on my birthday. Since then, I’ve taken every chance I get to explore this amazing world. I first started, very casually, writing about my travels a couple of years ago. 9 short months ago I decided ‘screw it, I want to be a professional travel writer’ – something which is going extremely well at the moment. I’ve been able to make money out of my site for the last three months, enough to fund my lifestyle, and I’ve even been published by news.com.au!
We all dream about dropping everything and traveling. What was your inspiration to leave the 9 to 5, get into backpacking and commit to traveling as a lifestyle?
For me, it wasn’t a hard decision. I never really had a 9-5. Sure, I had jobs, but they were temporary, manual labor, grunt work – I enjoyed some of it but I was never there for long, the aim of the game was to save money up so I could hit the road again. I did have a brief stint working as a travel agent and itinerary designer; this was the closest thing I had to a proper job. I lasted about a year before my itchy-feet forced me to move on!
I know you’ve recently come into some wealth in Venezuela, but when not paying in Bolivars, how do you afford long-term travel?
Wow, yeah – Venezuela is the cheapest country I have ever been; about a third of dirt-cheap India! In general, I try to pick cheap places, such as India, Venezuela, Nepal, The Philippines, Cambodia and Nicaragua to travel; I can last longer and see more but I do tend to just go wherever I want. I hitch, couchsurf and grab random jobs on the road to help keep myself going. Now that my writing is going so well, I’m hoping to fund my travels indefinitely through my website and freelance work.
What are three steadfast rules that you abide by in order to stay on budget while backpacking?
Don’t drink too much! Seriously, the amount of money that some backpackers spend on partying is just insane. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE to party, but have a few pre-drinks rather than exclusively buying expensive cocktails in bars. I also try to hitch wherever possible and I very rarely pay for accommodation; I couchsurf, camp or, more recently, score freebies in exchange for a shout-out online.
You have some seriously awesome adventures stories that certainly can’t be found in any guidebook, what is your trick to really dig into a culture and destination?
Time. On my most recent travels, I met people who were attempting to see ‘All of South America’ in six weeks – that’s impossible. You’re better off sticking to one country and really getting to grips with it rather than going on an international-airport tour. Sure, some people are really addicted to ‘bucket-list’ travel in which they try to tick off every ‘life-changing’ experience and see every world wonder in one fell swoop – I get the attraction, many people don’t have the kind of time I have and want to cram in as much as possible but, seriously, there is so much to do in Colombia, for example, that trying to see an entire continent just comes across as a bit insane, you will lose so much time and money on the crazy distances.
You’ve had some close calls and lived to tell the tale. What is one of the most intense situations you’ve ever gotten yourself into and how did you get yourself out of it?
Oh wow! Well, there are a few for sure. I seem to have a gift for walking away from disasters in one piece. I’ve been stripped naked at gun-point, crashed several motorbikes, had a knife pulled on me, found myself dangling over a 1000 meter drop, been evacuated from tropical jungle and survived a year of Indian food! Probably one of the more intense situations was in Costa Rica; I got badly injured in the jungle and then spent two weeks in hospital, I thought I was going to die; it was a truly bad time, I did get out of it – unfortunately with a life-changing injury – and it made me a bit more aware of my mortality… I still kind of think of myself as indestructible though.
If you could offer only one survival tip, what would it be?
Note the exits; always know the fastest way out of a situation and get away from brewing trouble before it explodes.
I know you’ve got a lot more adventures in that tank of yours, but up until now, what is the most memorable experience/trip?
I very recently climbed Mount Roraima, in Venezuela, the highest table-top mountain in the world and the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Lost World’ … the climb was tough but the stunning views at the top were well worth it.
Aside from visiting amazing places, being on the road is about making meaningful connections with others. And if your blog is any indication, I know you’ve met some really amazing people. How do you go about breaking the ice?
I’m a pretty friendly guy, I’ve met life-long friends, lovers and brothers (from another mother) on the road; I normally just keep an eye out for other solo travelers and invite them for a drink or a game of cards.
How have you evolved as a traveler from when you first started to how you are now?
When I first started I was one of the shyest kids in the world, travelling allowed me to get away from a not-particularly brilliant childhood (I never had many mates in school) and to re-invent myself. The guy who I am today is a far cry from who I was seven years ago, I feel more confident, I like myself; travelling has given me pretty much everything I could ever want; new experiences, faith in my self and a huge network of wonderful friends.
Ok, this is for all the gear lovers out there. What is the one essential piece of travel gear you must have on your adventurers?
Only one? Hmmm… a knife. I also always have a head-torch handy… I like to crawl around in caves.
What kind of trouble are you getting yourself into at the moment, and where will the road take you next?
Haha, right now? I’m preparing to head off to the Philippines for a month of island hopping, mountain climbing, and cave-traversing madness…
Do you have any final advice for those who wish to live a life of travel?
Just do it. If you spend your whole life waiting for the perfect time, the perfect companion or the perfect place to go travelling, you may never go. Book that ticket, shoulder your bag and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.
About Will Hatton
Writer and photographer. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will is an avid hitch-hiker, couch-surfer and bargain-seeker. He is a devout follower of the High Temple of Backpackistan and the proud inventor of the man-hug. Will blogs over at www.thebrokebackpacker.com about his adventures around the world, you can follow him on Facebook and on twitter or, if your really friendly, hunt him down on the road for a cheeky pint.
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