We recently discovered Johnny Ward’s blog OneStep4ward and have been impressed with his tales of super low budget travel and his recent epic journey across Africa: he’s the first person we’ve heard of who has visited Somalia! He’s been on the road for four years and shows no sign of stopping.
1) How long have you been travelling and where have you been?
I’ve been on the road since graduating from uni in summer 2006, so over 4 years now (hard to believe it’s been that long!). I’ve been lucky enough to wander all over the world in that time, traveling through more than 50 countries.
2) Did you plan to travel for so long? What made you stay on the road?
Not at all! Initially I had planned to take one year out and then return to Ireland to work in a ‘real job’ but then I started getting interested in lifestyle design, long term travel etc and began questioning societies assumption that you should spend the best years of your life slaving in an office, saving for a retirement that may never come, so I decided to buck the trend and live the best life I could right now.
3) How do you fund your travels?
I make money from my travel blog, onestep4ward.com, also in the last few years I have ‘worked’ (in the loosest sense imaginable!) in the US, Korea, Australia, Thailand and in the UK. Traveling for a long time and doing the things you want to do is a lifestyle choice I guess so if I re-jig my priorities I don’t have to work too much!
4) What do you enjoy about teaching English?
Although it maybe doesn’t support the essence of teaching, the thing I enjoy most about teaching English is the freedom it allows. You can work anywhere in the world, literally – I think that’s an amazing opportunity and one which I would encourage everyone to consider.
5) What advice do you have for someone wanting to teach English abroad?
To take the plunge! It can really open up new avenues in your life. Signing up for that first teaching job in Chiang Mai, Thailand was a scary prospect but thanks to that, 4 years on I’m still traveling, learning new languages, seeing new cultures – teaching English opened my mind to the possibilities of a life like this so I’d say to everyone – go for it!
6) You seem to be able to travel very cheaply. How do you manage it?
You know what, it’s all about priorities. If I want to climb Kilimanjaro, yeah it’s expensive but it’s awesome, something I’ll look back on in later life and smile. If I want to scuba dive the great barrier reef, it may not be cheap but I’d never pass up the opportunity.
The thing I save money on is the daily expenditures, things that in the long-term you think nothing of – cheeseburgers, milkshakes, luxury buses, better airlines. All these things just eat your cash and, at the end of the day, they’re not necessary (for me anyway). So I would happily forgo those things for a month or 2 if it allowed me to trek with mountain gorillas in Rwanda!
7) You have travelled to some very off the beaten track destinations in Africa. Tell us about some of the most interesting places you have visited.
Wow! I guess the 3 or 4 most obscure places I’ve been are East Timor, Sudan, Bangladesh and Somalia. Somalia (or Somaliland more specifically) was a real experience! It was a bureaucratic nightmare arranging visas, transport, armed guards (really!) but well worth the effort.
8 ) Africa seems like a more expensive area to travel in than SE Asia. What’s your budget there?
Africa is a weird one. Undoubtedly you can travel cheap there, accommodation and food are often delicious and the price is almost negligible but the activities available aren’t cheap at all. Cage diving with great white sharks, bungee on Victoria Falls, safari in the Serengeti – those fees add up fast! I guess in 7 months in Africa I probably spent around $7k or $8k, maybe slightly more if you include world cup tickets too!
9) What is the best food you have eaten on your travels?
Definitely one of the best things about travel is the food! Best ever!? Hmmm, when I use to live in Chiang Mai I knew this local little place down about 5 side streets that sells BBQ chicken, glazed in Thai spicy sauce – amazing!
10) Where are you heading to next? Do you think you’ll ever settle down in one place?
My mum will be reading this answer with vested interest! I’m moving back to Asia for a while in December, I’ll be studying my Masters in Management and Education at Nottingham University, Kuala Lumpur campus so I plan to spend half my time in Thailand and Malaysia and the other half making the most of cheap flights around Asia. Ideally, my website will pay for my travels and then I can volunteer with NGOs around the world redesign education programmes for refugees, disadvantaged kids etc. That’s the dream anyway.
Settling down? Who knows, for now I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. I know how fortunate I am to live the life I’m living so as long as I’m still smiling then I’ll keep traveling. The world is such a big place, with so many amazing cultures, sights, people, activities – settling in one place seems, for me, to waste all that. But just like when I first set out in 2006 for a year abroad, we never know how are lives are going to turn out!