Being Kidnapped, 16 Years of Travel, and Writing Practices with Wandering Earl

Being Kidnapped, 16 Years of Travel, and Writing Practices with Wandering Earl

Hey Gang! I’m excited to bring you an interview with Wandering Earl. Earl started off traveling in 1999 with $1,500 and planned on returning home to launch a career. As it turns out, 10 days in he decided to say screw the career and he has been traveling ever since.

Earl is an inspiration who has accomplished major feats, including an impressive 89 countries visited! I hope you gained as much insight and joy out of this interview as I did. It’s jam-packed with stuff that travelers go crazy in excitement over.

Clay: Hi Earl, thanks for joining us! To start this off, can you tell those who are unfamiliar with your writing a little bit about yourself?

Wandering Earl: I basically went on a three month post-graduation trip to SE Asia back in 1999, with only $1500 to my name. The plan was to travel around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and then return home to start my career. But about ten days into that trip, I suddenly decided that I wanted to try and travel indefinitely and so I gave up all my plans for a career and tried to focus on turning traveling into an actual lifestyle. Now, over 15 years later, that trip has still yet to end as I’ve traveled to and lived in over 88 countries during this period. Since 2010 I’ve worked as a full-time travel blogger, trying to show others that a life of travel is not a crazy fantasy but a realistic lifestyle option instead, while also organizing and leading my own small group tours to various countries around the world.

Clay: You’ve been traveling for an impressive 16 years. What advice could you give people who want to do the same thing?

Wandering Earl: The main piece of advice is that there are a lot of people out here traveling the world and all it takes is a few minutes of online research to find plenty of examples. Contact some of these people, ask them questions and before you know it, you’ll be hearing about their own experiences, how they overcame certain challenges, how they were once in the same position you’re currently in. This will undoubtedly give you the confidence and inspiration you need to follow through with your own plans. Also, when it comes to achieving long-term travel, having money or a particular skill set is not as important as you might think. It’s far better to have a combination of determination, a willingness to be creative and a desire to network with as many people as you possibly can. That’s what will lead to the kind of opportunities that can possibly help you travel for as long as you want. Finally, the simple fact that almost nobody regrets having traveled, no matter where they went or for how long, should be enough to convince anyone who wants to travel to at least give it a try.

Clay: After visiting all of those countries, is it even possible to pick out a favorite? You can give a small list of countries if that makes it any easier for you.

Wandering Earl: It’s not easy at all. But some of the countries that really stand out are Yemen, India, Mexico and Romania. All based on different reasons, but it generally revolves around a combination of the people I met and the unique experiences I enjoyed in these locations. When I really think about my time in these countries, I’m quickly reminded why I’ve continued traveling for 15 years now and of how much travel has taught me. Just check out the architecture of the Old City in Sana’a, the craziness of Varanasi, the culture of San Cristobal de las Casas and the beauty of the Transfagarasan and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

Clay: I understand that you were once kidnapped in Bangladesh when you got into a cab. That must have been terrifying! Can you tell us a little bit more about what happened and what was running through your head at that time?

Wandering Earl:  That’s right, for three days I was kidnapped by a group of taxi drivers in Dhaka, something that happened immediately after I walked out of the airport after midnight. After finding a taxi driver to take me to my guesthouse, I quickly found myself locked inside a taxi with five people who basically started demanding money. In the end, they held me for three days, keeping me in some nasty rooms in different buildings and taking me to the ATM machines around the city each day for me to withdraw money to give to them. Of course, I would always enter the wrong PIN number on purpose and tell them that my card was not working so they weren’t very successful. And after the first 24 hours I realized that they weren’t so smart, nor were they violent or armed. So I began to relax a bit and figured that a calm head was going to help me get out of this situation. On the third day, one of the guys told me to go upstairs to my room, grab my backpack (which they never even took from me!) and come back down because they were going to move me to a different place. But on my way back down, I noticed an emergency exit at the end of the hall and so, I made my escape, running along the hall and down the outside stairs to the street. I hopped in a rickshaw and off I went.

Clay: To lighten the mood, what is one of the best things that has happened to you on the road?

Wandering Earl: Having a chance to visit Socotra Island, an island that is part of Yemen, located in the Indian Ocean. Few people get a chance to visit and it certainly lived up to it’s ‘Galapagos on steroids’ description. With its surreal landscapes and mind-blowing plant life, not to mention the most perfect and empty beaches I’ve ever seen, beautiful canyons and massive sand dunes, desert-like plateaus, fresh water springs, remote villages and super-friendly people who are about as isolated from the rest of the world as one can possibly be, this island needs to be seen with your own eyes in order to believe that it actually exists. I will never forget the time I spent there, I can remember almost every minute of that experience and it will always be one of the top highlights of my 15+ years of travel.

Clay: Out of curiosity for myself and for any other writers who are reading this interview, what does your writing practice look like and what have you struggled with the most when it comes to putting words on paper?

Wandering Earl: I don’t really have any kind of writing routine. Whenever I feel like writing a post, I write one. I don’t try to force it. In the beginning, I always thought that I needed to post as frequently and consistently as possible but once I stepped away from that and realized that I should just write whenever I’m inspired to do so, the pressure was removed and writing became much easier for me. I just keep a list of potential post ideas as they come to me and when I do want to write a post, I usually take an idea, play around with a few different styles in terms of how to capture and expand upon that topic, and then I just write away. I do edit my posts dozens of times though which probably takes longer than it takes me to write the posts in the first place! But the key is definitely removing the pressure derived from thinking that you ‘must’ write a certain amount or at certain times. Once you remove it, your writing becomes more natural, you enjoy it more and in the end, your readers will notice and appreciate such higher quality posts.

Clay: I want to be respectful of your time, so to close this interview off is there anything that you believe that few others would agree with?

Wandering Earl: 

  1. The world is much, much safer than we imagine…much safer!
  2. You don’t need many possessions or a great deal of money at all to not only survive all over the world, but to have your days be filled with extreme happiness as well.
  3. Travel can definitely get boring. Yes, wandering around the world loses its excitement more quickly than you would think if you don’t have some kind of focus or purpose for traveling to a particular destination.
  4. Travel blogging is not a reliable way to earn money in order to travel the world. In fact, offline work such as teaching or working on cruise ships will give you a much higher chance of success in terms of achieving your goal of long-term travel than anything you could possibly do online.

Clay: Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse into your amazing life, where can we find you if we want to follow along?

Wandering Earl: I appreciate you having me join this interview series! And I can always be found at my blog, WanderingEarl.com, at Facebook.com/WanderingEarl or on Twitter @wanderingearl. Thanks again and looking forward to communicating with some of you!

Clay: I’d like to give a huge thanks to Wandering Earl for taking part in this interview, he’s a busy guy so cutting a time slot for this means a lot to me. If you’re a travel addict, his website is full of lovely articles and I seem to find myself pouring over his content quite often wishing that I had written it. 

5 Comments

  1. Indeed a great inspiring tale of a traveler.

    Reply
  2. Great interview with Earl – he was actually the guy that got me into travel blogging in the first place. I started off, just like him, by working off of the Pride of America cruise ship in Hawaii. Afterwards, I resigned from my contract, began traveling the world & haven’t looked back! lol It’s a small world. 😉

    Reply
    • Thanks Ron! That’s a great way to start into the traveling world. I appreciate the read. :)

      Reply
    • It really is funny how we’ve had such a similar start! Thanks for reading Ron!

      Reply

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