In the past, Journeys and Travels featured backpackers on his travel blog to connect them with my readers and provide a glimpse of those whose lives are very well spent on the road and with a backpack on their backs, travel to inspire.
For this segment, Ladies and Gentlemen, please meet the globe-trotter and dashing debonair Johnny Ward. He is Irish and have lived in Australia for a while and currently, on his jaunt all over the world.
The following are his answers to our wonderful interview.
- What are the best and worse experiences you have had while travelling as a backpacker?
The best experiences, wow that’s tough! I guess sumitting Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa’s tallest mountain, was certainly one of the best! The worst was probably in western China, Christmas day 2007,worse food poisong I ever had, sitting in an outdoor toilet, in -5 degree temperatures, for 8 hours trying not to die!
- Do you go solo or in a group? Why?
I’ve never travelled in a group actually, I’ve travelled with 2 friends, and one friend quite a few times as well as on my own but I’d never want to travel for any length of time with more than 3 people total. Decision making is tough, there can be spits within a group, personally I think 3 people or solo is best.
- Can you share to us what is meant to you by travelling light as a backpacker, in the context of both literally and figuratively?
I travel with a 55 litre backpack, it normally weighs around 13kgs. I also travel with a small daypack for my macbook, kindle, iphone and SLR camera. I know I’m a flashpacker these days but with my businesses online I need to stay connected so I finance my lifestyle! I think firstt-ime travelers often pack too much, guys should stick to 65 litres and girls to 55 litres on their first trip, and try to downsize from there.
Figuaretively speaking, although I have some expensive gear in my bag, it’s almost my entirely worldly possesions. I try not to get attached to ‘stuff’ so I can maintain a level of freedom, keeping up with the jones’ is something I actively try to avoid, although sometimes we can all stumble along the way.
- How far have u been to your journeys as a backpacker, in terms of those insights you have gained?
I’ve been on the road for almost 6 years so I’ve backpacked in expensive cities like Tokyo, New York, Sydney or Beirut but also very poor cities like Calcutta, Dhaka, Nairobi and Damascus and the one thing I always learn is that people are the same the world over. Skin colour, religion and culture only mask so much, deep down we all laugh at the same jokes, have the same desires in terms of family and happiness. We’re not as different as the media likes to portray.
- Were there instances you find yourself in the middle of nowhere?
I remember once I crossed the border to East Timor, from West Jave in Indonesia. This place has no foriegners, I crossed the border around 8pm only to find there were no buses to Dilli, the Capital, until the next day. I was stranded on the side of the road, completely alone until a local guy came and picked me up on his bicycle, took me to his ‘house’ and let me stay until the morning. Then he put me on the right bus the next day. Gotta love the kindness of others.
- How is travelling as a backpacker to you in relation to your obligation to yourself and those who follow you, perhaps in this aspect, how does your travel inspire you?
The one thing that concerns me sometimes is that this traveling lifestyle can be a bit selfish. People want lasting relationships, and constantly uprooting and moving on removes the possibilty (or certainly makes it a lot more difficult). That being said, I hope through my TEFL business, and my websites that I’m inspiring people to explore the world themselves, open their minds and not necessarily be stuck in a life that may be expected of them, as opposed to choosing their own path.
Travel inspires me every day, I love new adventures, learning new cultures and religions and it really allows me to appreciate how fortunate we are to have passports that let us travel. Not to mention our potential to earn enough money to allow us to see the world.
- What tips can you give to those who wanted to fill the earth by travelling?
I always try to tell people not to be afriad, the world isn’t dangerous. Also, travel isn’t as expensive as people think so once they have a couple of thousand dollars together, they’re good to go! Take the plunge, the first step is always the hardest, after that it’s all beaches, new friends and great experiences.
- As a backpacker, what was your most reflective moment?
I struggle to think of one specific incident, but I certainly have been affected by the abject poverty I’ve seen around the world. And then comparing that to the wanton consumerism that we’ve been force fed doesn’t sit well with me at all. That’s why travel is so beneficial, it really helps open our eyes to issues around the world.
- Looking back at where you had been for the last 5-10 years, how has travelling shaped you?
It’s comepletely changed my life, in every way. I now make my living online, effectively from travel related stuff, my social network is huge thanks to the places I’ve been, I’ve got so many projects in the pipeline and ideas for so many more all thanks to seeing the world.
I’m much more patient, less selfish, calmer and certainly more appreciative now too. I know how lucky I am to be where I am now, and I’m always grateful for that.
- Where is the best place you had been to recently that you have left your footprints (inspiration)?
It might be a disappointing answer but my biggest footprints are online. When I get emails from fans saying my sites inspired them to travel, live overseas, teach english etc that’s the best feeling I can ever imagine. I just hope I can do more of that in the future.
*Johnny Ward has been on the road since 2006, living, studying and traveling through more than 50 countries around the globe. He uses his website, onestep4ward.com, to help travelers and inspire people to travel. His TEFL Business, Teach Dot Travel, allows people to study in Thailand to become internationally qualified English teachers. And his more recent site, Aspiring Backpacker, is a one stop site for would-be travelers.