8 Years on the Road: An Interview With Wade
Wade is a modern-day nomad. Travel is his lifestyle. For over 8 years he has wandered the world, spending weeks, months and years in 25 countries on 5 continents. After a few months in Morocco, he crossed over to Europe in October with his girlfriend, Mira. The intrepid couple are now cycling from Lisbon to France.
TravelBlogs caught up with Wade to talk about travel, life and bicycles.
Eight years on the road… Has the thrill of travel dissipated over time, or is it as fresh and exciting now as it ever was?
No way! Eight years of travel has just taught me that there is always going to be another hill to climb over and another river to cross that will be just as thrilling and exciting as the ones which preceded them. The world is huge, and it is full of an infinite number of little nooks to dig into and crannies to explore. One country just leads to another, one continent just sends you traveling to next, and learning one foreign language just makes you want to study them all. The world is a bountiful place, and I feel as if there is enough raw material out there to build a thousand lives with the richness that travelling offers.
After travelling for a while it becomes a process, a way of living that is ingrained in your general psyche. Travel changes, makes, and builds you as a person, and once the ball is in motion it becomes difficult to stop. As Chatwin once wrote, “Travel does not merely broaden the mind, it makes the mind . . .” So, to answer your question, for me travel is always, and hopefully forever will be, just as thrilling and life changing an experience as it was the day I first stepped foot off the farm.
Do you see yourself ever stopping, perhaps settling down somewhere?
Travel changes, makes, and builds you as a person, and once the ball is in motion it becomes difficult to stop.
Big question! But I must answer that I do not think that I could ever fully settle down. Who knows though? Anything could happen. I have tried stepping off of the Road a couple of times, but it just did not work out; I simply could not do it. I think that I have come to a point where travelling has become a sort of regular experience. You know, if you live a certain way long enough it just becomes your usual, normal, and even ordinary routine, no matter how dynamic of a lifestyle it is. But I have stopped in a few places for a handful of months at a time before, such as: Hangzhou, China, Kyoto, Japan, the Manabi Coast of Ecuador, Buffalo, NY, County Cork, Ireland, and the South of India. I have stayed in these places just long enough to realize that the more comfortable my living situation is, the more restless I become.
I think that I have given up on the fantasy of finding the perfect place to settle down in. I have stumbled into many locales that have been so wonderful that I could not even dream of discovering anywhere better. But the urge to move on is overbearing, and always wins in the end. The more I move about the world, the more I believe that travel is almost purely an internal process that has little to do with the particular attributes of the places you travel through; that travelling is not just an action, but a way of thinking, feeling, and living. Travelling rewires your mind to the extent that you simply always crave the continuity of being in motion. I mean, I would not dream of stopping a great river or the tidings of the sea. Likewise, I do not think that a traveller, once in motion, can ever fully settle down. After a while, travel just becomes a habit, and once set, is one that is almost impossible to break.
How do you afford to keep travelling?
In short, I work on the Road. In the year 2000, I learned the trade of the field archaeologist, and this has been my main source of income ever since. Doing archaeology has allowed me to make a decent amount of bean money and travel at the same time. The employment criteria of the Field Archaeologist fits the traveller’s lifestyle perfectly, as you sign on to a project in some part of the world for a couple of months, and when it is finished you are free to wander on! It is a really good profession if you only want to work a couple of months a year and always be travelling.
But I have worked other jobs on the Road, such as teaching English in China and Japan, gardening in Ireland, various modes of farm labour, and, if the call of Morocco was not so strong a couple of months back, I would have been a commercial fisherman out of Nantucket.
One thing that I really like about travelling is that it puts you in circumstances that you could never previously have imagined, and finding work on the Road opens up exposure to a whole plethora of trades that you would not have learned otherwise. Before travelling, I never would have imagined that I would one day be thrust in front of a classroom of forty Chinese adults with my only directions being to, “Teach them English.” So I very quickly had to learn how to teach the English language.
My only advice to anyone who knows that they will have to work on the Road to fund their travels is to just have faith that some employment opportunity will come up, and pretend that you know how to do everything when talking to a prospective employer. Yes, I am heavily advising you to stretch the truth to its furthest extend. If you have banged a nail into a board with a hammer, then you are a carpenter; if you helped your mother weed the garden a couple of times when you were a child, then you are a gardener; if you have ever duct taped your boots back together, you are a cobbler. Just having the title of traveller means that you are inherently a master of a hundred trades; so don’t feel bad if you falsely tell an employer that you are a carpenter, a florist, a gardener, a school teacher, a plumber, a construction worker, an accountant, and a farm worker, because, when it comes down to it, you could be. Haha. Basically, you can do anything while travelling, and, if you find that you per chance can’t do something, you can always just move on to the next town and be the richer for it in experience.
When you first set out eight years ago, did you expect you would still be travelling now?
I think that I have given up on the fantasy of finding the perfect place to settle down in.
Oddly enough, I did. I suppose my plan was to always have ‘no plan.’ I can remember riding in my best friend Erik’s car in our hometown in Upstate New York just prior to our high school graduation. We were talking about what we were going to do with our lives after leaving school. Erik said that he wanted to be an airline pilot, and I said that I was just going to wander around the world. My crass reply to a rather serious question exasperated my childhood friend, “What do you mean you are just going to wander? How are you going to eat? You are going to be so stressed out from hunger and trying to find a place to sleep every night that your hair will fall out!” he warned me. I must laugh at this conversation now, because Erik really did became a pilot, and I have made a living out of wandering, but we both prematurely lost our hair! So, relatively speaking, I suppose the effects of travelling are not any more harsh on the hair follicles than living a sedentary life! Haha.
What do you think has motivated you to keep travelling for so long?
Because I know damn well that I can’t do anything else. I can’t, I am not joking. I have tried to settle down a few times just to find that I am all thumbs at it. I just don’t know how to do it, or, more poignantly, I don’t know why anyone would want to. Seriously, do you want to work forty hours a week just to have a measly eight days to yourself a month! Who wants to work 252 days a year!?! I find this lifestyle to be a ridiculous way for anyone to live. It is just absurd. I am also far too selfish with my time to sell the bulk of it to an employer for a penance. You are given a certain amount of time on this planet to paint your life, and I just cannot comprehend wasting these precious moments slaving away at something that you do not want to do. My father is a wise old working man who reared a family on the strength of his own two hands; he provided me with a very strong role model of how a man should live in western society. But, rather than taking his example as something to be emulated, I looked at his way of life and sadly realized that it was not for me. I suppose the knowledge that I don’t want to do anything else is ample motivation to keep travelling on.
I remember when I was 19 and living on the Manabi coast of Ecuador, I had a friend who was an old travelling man named Harold. Well, one day when we were eating our breakfast of papaya, friend plantains, and eggs, Harold looked up at me and asked gruffly out of the blue, “How old are you?” I answered that I was 19. Harold then laughed heartily at this and said, “Kiddo, you are young; there is everything under the sun out there for you.”
I am now 26 years old, and I still recite these words to myself everyday. Old travelling Harold was right: There is everything under the sun out there. Knowing this fact alone is enough to keep you ever in fast pursuit of the farthest horizon.
Do you have a vague plan of where you’re going, or do you tend to pick your next destination on a whim?
I usually decide everything in my life based upon whatever thoughts arise in the morning before I eat breakfast. I think that this half dreamy, half awake state is the perfect time to give full reign to your intuitive urges. I just wake up with a feeling to go somewhere, and I believe in it enough to really go. It is a pretty simple process. It is often times like randomly throwing a dart at a map on the wall. I really listen to my basic feelings in all aspects of travel, so when it comes time to choose a destination, I throw all logical thought processes to the wind and just go to wherever I intuitively feel I should. Ha ha, I suppose this is kind of a nonsensical way of living. I also don’t force myself to stick to any plans either. . . . as I have discovered that plans which are made, are only made to be broken. So no, I have absolutely no idea where I am going until I get there; I just go to wherever I intuitively feel I should.
When you set out on your bike trip from Portugal to France a few weeks ago, you mentioned on your blog that you’ve never really travelled around by bike before. How have you found the experience so far? Has it inspired you to do some more bike trips?
Man, the rediscovery of the bicycle has revolutionized the way that I travel. There is simply nothing better than knowing that you can go anywhere you want to at any given time. I mean, when you travel by bicycle you do not have to bother with bus and train schedules, buying tickets, waiting in line, and all of those little annoyances that come with public transport. The bicycle frees you up to travel on your own term and schedule; it is simply amazing how free you feel from the knowledge that you can just hop on your bike and go anywhere in the world that you wish.
Travelling by bicycle also means that you can discover a lot more along the course of your travels, as you can really get a good look at the in-between, no-man’s-lands that you move through. When you travel by bus or train you can only go from point A directly to point B, and you skip the entire terrain in between. The bicycle allows you to truly connect the dots on a map, and experience what is really there. When on a bike you can stop whenever you want along a route to check out an interesting little villages or landscape, eat a meal, use the bathroom, or even take a nap in a beautiful open meadow. You can not travel like this by using public transport. I use to do a lot of walking between places when I first began travelling, because I love the complete freedom that it brings. I found that the bicycle holds all of the same liberating qualities as walking, with the added benefit that you can move at a much faster pace without losing the ability to slow down. I think that the potential velocity of the bicycle is the perfect speed to travel at, as it is slow enough to get a good feel for places and fast enough to make up large distances.
The bicycle is the ultimate travel vehicle!
Check out Wade’s travel blog, Vagabond Journey.