Journeys and Travels once again feature an awesome backpacker with the best travel video and the best travel blog by far. He is Steve Hanisch of www.back-packer.org . He has a commanding prose on his travel stories and a jolly disposition as he inspires us endlessly.
Hereunder are the replies of Steve to our interview.
What are the best and worse experiences you have had while travelling as a backpacker?
It is hard to divide best and worse experiences as both of them go together when travelling – for example I’ve been to this situation when I arrived at night in a village in the middle of nowhere totally exhausted after a tiring 30-hours bus trip: nearly all hostels have been booked out or were already closed but somehow I found one that was not recommended by anybody – at the end I stayed there for one week, had funny chats with the owner and had a whole 5 bed dorm for myself.
Do you go solo or in a group? Why?
Most of the time I prefer travelling solo for different reasons: I’m totally free in all of my decisions, i get in touch with locals and other travelers much easier and i love challenging myself (sometimes its tough travelling with me e.g. I walk through a city for hours and I have no problem sitting in a bus/train for hours if it’s far cheaper).
Once in a while it is also fun to travel with a group to enjoy discovering a place together and share those experiences -especially when it comes down to activities like snowboarding or trekking (for safety reasons you should never go alone for hiking/climbing/trekking in an unknown area!).
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’m travelling with a daypack and a 44l big backpack – all important equipment (camera, phone, mic) is inside of the daypack, everything else goes into the big one. It’s good to be limited like that – so i only carry the stuff i really need: basically clothing for one week and some camping equipment.
The other side of light travelling: i quit my job, i sold most of my possessions, I rented out my apartment and I quit a lot of useless contracts. With this i travel more lightly because I don’t have to care about a lot of stuff and can enjoy the travelling itself: I’m open for new experiences and I’m not bound to a certain place.
How far have u been to your journeys as a backpacker, in terms of those insights you have gained?
Compared to the times when I was travelling to resorts and luxury hotels with my family or friends a few years ago I’ve gained a lot more insights between that time and now. I traveled solo through Europe, backpacked Chile for a few weeks and i was hosting a bunch of people through Couchsurfing the last 2 years: I got to know so many different people, so many different stories and places – together with practicing the languages (english and spanish in my case) I got a much better idea of the big diversity one can find on this planet.
Were there instances you find yourself in the middle of nowhere?
Oh yeah – but this is part of the game! I remember standing in the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile or in the area of the Teide National Park on Tenerife: at both places you feel like walking on the moon, completely alone. I use those moments to take a deep breath, enjoy the calm and open up a can of beer 😉
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?
To travel that way I’ve to be focused on the budget to be able to travel for a long time. Therefore I try to live like a local (in a way) because everywhere you are going it’s the cheapest way to live: eat the local food, take the public transportation etc. With that I also get a much better ‘real’ picture of a place, I get in contact with locals and come to do stuff I would not do if I would be on ‘vacation’.
What tips can you give to those who wanted to fill the earth by travelling?
The worst thing one can do is: searching excuses not to travel. There are a lot of people who dream of making a round the world trip – most of them never do because the time is not right / they don’t have the money / it’s to dangerous / they are too young or too old. Skip that, check if your passport is valid and buy a ticket – there will be always a way to get from A to B if you really want to do it!
As a backpacker, what was your most reflective moment?
Of course there are a lot – it’s hard to name just one. I guess for me it is the experience of discovering the nature and the landscape of a country: jumping through the geysers of El Tatio near Bolivia, looking into the crater of a volcano in the south of Chile after 7hours of climbing with crampons and ice picks – you suddenly realize that there is more to do than just watching TV every day 😉
Looking back at where you had been for the last 5-10 years, how has travelling shaped you?
I would say that travelling became a big part of my life but I realized that it is not the most important one – it’s the people you get to know along the way, the friendships and the realization that most of the people are just great. Furthermore I learned to appreciate things at home much more – somehow you feel a much stronger connection to your family and friends if they are not around, the same goes with places, food and…Bureaucracy. A few years ago i was complaining about a lot of stuff – now I’m much more relaxed.
Where is the best place you had been to recently that you have left your footprints (inspiration)?
My latest trip took me to the Iberian Island where I visited Portugal and Spain: I’ve been to Spain a lot of times and i love the diversity of the country from the Canarian islands to Catalunya – the food, the lifestyle and the mood is just inspiring (especially if you are a blogger). Portugal surprised me a lot: it’s one of the best country to travel on a budget in Europe – great hostels, warm people, awesome wine and big history.
After working as an Usability Expert and Social Media Consultant for 9 years Steve quit his job to travel the world. Instead of writing concepts and attending meetings he is now producing travel video blogs and provides tips to travel the world on a budget on his Blog back-packer.org. Currently Steve is preparing for a 6 month lasting trip through South America starting in November – follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube!