For my second nomadic interview i have talked with Will Hatton about cheap escapades, pushing oneself to feel uncomfortable and being a travel writer
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do. What attracts you about travelling?
I’ve been on the road for nearly seven years, gallivanting all over the place, breaking hearts, mine included, and taking names, such as the Dalai Lamas (I got his autograph). I first hit the road when I was eighteen, I went to climb Kilimanjaro, the highest volcano in the world, in Tanzania; the culture shock was like being slapped in the face with a frozen fish; I was left gasping, stinging and really unsure of myself. I eased into it though and, years later, think nothing of going to very off-the-beaten path destinations such as Palestine, Myanmar and Venezuela; I quite like going to places that are in the process of opening up, where there aren’t too many backpackers yet. When I was in Myanmar I met maybe half a dozen backpackers in a month… I lived in India for a year, travelling deep into the centre of the country and often not seeing another traveller for weeks at a time; it was sometimes lonely but I also found it kind of romantic; I felt a bit like the English Gentleman explorers of a hundred years ago who tried to climb Everest in coat-tails and top-hats! I guess, for me, the biggest draw of travelling is that I get to try and improve upon myself, I have plenty of character faults and travelling has enabled me to try and bash a few of them out by putting myself in situations which make me uncomfortable; basically, my philosophy is that if your not at least a little bit scared once or twice a year, your not really learning. I like to meet new people, to see new sites and to find out the truth about a country - often the perceptions which I have are, despite my best intentions, drawn largely from the media and from what others tell me - more often or not, my "first impression" of a country is totally god-damn wrong due to all the information and mis-information out there, if you want to really understand the world, you need to visit it, not just read about it.
During your adventures what is your relationship with food? Do you rely on what the city has to offer or prepare your own? Do you carry cooking gear?
I went through a stage of carrying cooking gear, especially when hitchhiking through Europe but no, in general, I don’t do that any more. I tend to scrimp and save on everything I can but food is the one thing which I don’t mind spending a bit of money on; I try and eat at least one proper meal a day, the rest of the time, I stick to street-food. I couchsurf a lot and whenever I do I try to cook for my host.
A common assumption is that the blogger life is not as easy as it sounds, is that true? Did you ever have any problem by being a nomadic writer? Any regret?
Oh my god but being a travel blogger is NOT easy! To write anything good requires hard-work and the competition in the blogosphere is fierce; if you want to stand out, you need to be different - this is why I focus on visiting countries nobody else really blogs about and by travelling on an extreme budget. There is money to be made in travel blogging but, in the beginning, most of that money involves selling out and letting companies advertise on your site. I have some ads in place now but I’ve carefully vetted them so that they are travel-related. Even then, if your going to make money from ads you need some serious traffic and traffic is extremely unpredictable - some days I can have 10,000 visitors to my site, the next it will be just 200. One good thing about travel blogging is that there is a real sense of community so if you make friends with a half dozen good bloggers, you tend to help each other and pass on tips on where to get sponsorship or how to get in touch with an editor. I do have some regrets with travel writing; namely, I wish I had started a lot earlier! I found that once I had made the decision "I am going to be a professional travel writer" it only actually took six months to get to a point where I was making enough money online to fund my lifestyle. One of the best things about being a travel writer is that I get a lot of freebies; equipment, accommodation, tours, sometimes even flights, so my costs are pretty low.
If you could only carry five things with you in your next adventure what would you choose? Why?
This is a pretty difficult question as, due to being a travel writer, I kind of HAVE to take my laptop and GoPro. For a while, I was running my blog exclusively off of an ancient iPod touch somebody gave me as a gift, it was damn hard work and I wish I had invested in the proper equipment earlier. So, if we’re not counting the travel blogging gear… I always carry a baselayer, no matter where I am headed, as well as a really good pair of trekking shoes - I love to take off into the mountains. I never travel without a knife of a multi-tool, sometimes I take both. A head torch is also a pretty much essential piece of kit for any real explorer - you can’t exactly go into dark holes in the ground if you can’t see what your doing! And a kindle, I love to read and although I prefer paper books, I read 3-4 books a week so a kindle is a bit of a life-saver for me!
What would be the most important advice you feel comfortable giving me, adventure-wise?
If you feel like your out of your depth, you might well be. Carefully analyse your surroundings and realise that going on a proper adventure is a truly incredible experience but how you define adventure is very much up to you. Some full-time nomads may sneer at the idea of going to Europe for a long weekend but heck, if you’ve never left home, that’s a big god-damn deal and congratulations to you for taking that first step and getting out of your comfort zone. There seems to be some really unattractive ‘competition’ going on between long-time travellers at the moment, the whole ‘my adventure is more hardcore than your adventure’ kind of thing or the even worse ‘I’m on a spiritual journey, your just here to have fun and therefore your trip is inferior to mine’ - seriously guys, grow up. Be supportive of everyone you meet on the road, everybody is on their own journey… Ok, rant over, a more practical piece of advice; always travel with a good pair of shoes; something you can walk, run and trek in is ideal. Do not travel without insurance; seriously, just buy it. I had to claim nearly £10,000 once after an adventure went wrong, if I didn’t have insurance, well, that would have bankrupt me and I probably never would have been able to hit the road again!
Author, photographer, adventurer and nomad. Expert of the handstand pushup, victor of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for shoddy ventures. A faithful acolyte of the High Temple of Backpackistan and inventor of the man-hug, Will is an ardent drifter, sofa surfer and deal seeker that writes over at The Broke Backpacker about his undertakings around the world.
Take it sleazy and rock on,