The Found Vagabond

How to be Inspired, Driven and Fulfilled by Travel


A few excerpts from the new book The Found Vagabond

On reasons to travel:

I’ve learned that the benefit of traveling goes well beyond simply expanding your horizons and discovering new places. Travel forces you to question your beliefs. Travel takes you out of your comfort zone and brings you back to the basics, where you have to rely on your instincts and can no longer trust the societal rules you believe to be true. Travel brings a heightened sense of awareness as you abandon your everyday, monotonous rituals. Instead of living on perpetual auto-pilot, you actually think about what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Days are not predictable, and though you may know where they will start, you never know where they will end. Travel brings your senses to life – you notice the smells in the air, the textured flavours of the foods you eat, the sensations of the sun and wind on your face, and the tiniest details of the sights before you. You meet people and actually look at them, in their eyes, and listen to what they say. And they listen to you. The conversations you have are significant, and interesting, and you rapidly develop strong bonds with others.


No matter where you live, there are always new and interesting places to explore not far from your home. Often, when my family and I have a few hours to spare we will jump in the car and go for a drive nowhere in particular to see what we find, and we are rarely disappointed. For example, have you visited all the museums and public spaces in your own town or city? Take a day, pretend you are a tourist and look around for things to do to help you understand what your town is all about. You can probably learn more about your town and its history in a day than you have during your entire lifetime. If you live in a larger town or city seek out a travel guide that a typical tourist would have and check out some of the recommendations. When we travel, we tend to try and see and do as much as possible in a short amount of time, but when we are at home, time seems unlimited and there is no urgency to explore, which usually means you will never get around to doing it. Making a conscious decision to learn more about your local surroundings can be a fascinating experience.


On the people of travel:

New Zealanders, or “Kiwis”, as they call themselves, love to have fun and don’t seem to have hang-ups about anything, even being called Australian. All Kiwis go through this seemingly mandatory rite of passage where they leave New Zealand and go wandering around the world for a few years before returning home and staying there. They have a love/hate relationship with Australians that is actually quite fun and not at all toxic like it often is between some other neighbouring countries. Kiwis are often pudgy, love to drink beer, say “sex” when they mean “six” and are the kindest, craziest and funniest people you will meet when traveling.


On traveling with children:

When it comes to food, children can be very picky if allowed to be – just like adults. Being in another country can be an excellent learning experience for both kids and parents as it puts you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to new types of food. As I've always told my son, the first time you try a new unfamiliar food you will hate it. The second time you definitely won't like it. The third time it will be tolerable. The fourth time it won't be too bad. The fifth time it will taste okay. The sixth time you will like it and the seventh time you will love it. If you don’t believe me, try toast with Marmite. I think it actually took me ten attempts to finally develop a taste for that particular British culinary delight, which is a black, gooey, sticky yeast extract derived from the beer brewing process, and a standing item on our grocery list. If you approach every new food this way, there is no way you can go wrong.


On the finances of travel:

I have traveled on a shoestring, I have traveled with unlimited funds, and I’ve traveled on every budget in between those extremes. I can honestly say that most of the best and worst experiences I’ve had while traveling had almost nothing to do with the sort of budget I was on, so you can never assume that an expensive trip will be more enjoyable than a frugal one.


If we can save a hundred bucks by taking an overnight flight we will take it. If we can buy cheap, economy train or bus tickets we do. If we can pack into a small rental car to save some money on rental charges and gas, we always do. These minor discomforts can save you a lot of money, and we’ve found that the transportation itself is rarely an integral part of the trip – the scenery you pass looks the same when viewed from a sub compact, a luxury sedan, a bike, or a camel.


On the spirituality of travel:

Now imagine you are away from your regular life and job, by yourself, on a beautiful day and you are standing on the banks of the Amazon River, or at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or in the Valley of the Kings or at Ayers Rock. You have three hours to yourself to explore the area with no interruptions, no commitments, nothing to fix, nothing to review, no phone calls, no email and nobody else to think about besides yourself. You can bet those few hours only reluctantly pass as you stand in awe at the wonders before you, noticing the fine details of the objects you see, the textures of things you touch, the smell of the air you breathe and the sensation of the sun on your face. Nothing else in your life is more important than that exact moment and you become truly aware of where you are, who you are and what you are. Your normally racing mind will slow down and focus on one thing at a time, and in the process, slowing down your perception of the passage of time. You might decide to sit down on a rock for a while, pick up a leaf and look at the shape of it, noticing the veins running through in such an organized pattern and wonder how it is possible for a leaf to be so perfect. You may wonder why you’ve never taken the time to pick up a leaf before and really look at it.


Spirituality is something different – it is something organic that grows, develops, is unbound by rules and dogma, and is profoundly affected by the people you meet, the places you visit and the decisions you make. I would define a spiritual person as one who is introspective and thoughtful, one who naturally feels empathy for others instead of judging them outright, and one who is able to draw meaningful insights from simple occurrences, which many others would simply disregard. As we all know, there are many people who claim no particular religion yet are profoundly spiritual while others we know may be deeply religious and dogmatic but not at all spiritual. A clear example of the latter are religious terrorists – people who are so overpowered and controlled by religion that they are unable to make a spiritual connection with anybody who lives outside a rigid set of rules. Any person willing to kill others in the name of religion is clearly not a very spiritual person.


On the risks and dangers of travel:

Humans have a built in tendency to fear the wrong things, mainly because we are very bad at calculating risk. This is often driven by the way information is presented to us, such as the daily news articles that alarm us with grim statistics on your risk of contracting cancer, Hepatitis B, Parkinson’s, MS, AIDS, Alzheimer’s or being swept up by a tornado. It seems that anything we breathe, eat, drink, participate in or fail to do, is proven to cause some sort of dreadful affliction. The fact remains that the most dangerous activity you could ever do on a daily basis is getting in your car and driving somewhere, as a person is much more likely to be killed in a car crash than die of whichever rare disease is currently making headlines.


The time we have spent living, working and vacationing in such a wide range of countries has drastically altered our approach to safety. Growing up in Canada means not having to lock your door when you leave home, going out in public wearing expensive jewellery without a second thought, leaving expensive items clearly visible in your vehicle, opening your door to strangers without a security lock in place and being able to forget your wallet on the table of your local coffee shop and have it returned with nothing missing. We grow up to be trusting, but careless and this approach simply does not work in most countries of the world where people are much less well off and thievery more widespread.


From the story How to Miss Your Own Bachelor Party:

We were talking in Spanish and because my Spanish medical vocabulary leaves much to be desired, I didn't know exactly what organ he was talking about, but it may have been spleen or liver perhaps. Once we left the place and got to an empty part of the street he pulled up his shirt to show me. What came next seemed like a hallucination, and I watched as he displayed the previously concealed plastic bag protruding from the side of his body, which protected a pink pulsing organ. He told me he had been hit by a car and for some reason they had to remove the organ from inside his body, requiring him to wear these medical plastic bags to protect it. Before the situation slipped any further into the macabre, I bid him adieu, returned to the seedy hotel and fell asleep in about half a second.


From the story The Plural of Platypus:

“Great, my name is Emma and I’m the guide. Jump aboard and find yourselves some seats, we have to be at the next hostel in three minutes!” Emma said. Our bums hit the vinyl, Emma’s foot hit the accelerator, the rubber hit the road, and the pedestrian ahead of the bus hit the dirt. Three minutes and several two wheeled corners later we were in front of the Pirate’s Cove backpacker hostel. I felt pity in my empathetic heart as I looked through the hostel kitchen window to see some poor sod pour his coffee down the drain then head out to the bus.


From the story Mount Botox:

The green, spiny arms of the giant cacti reached up for the hot rays of the sun while the roots somehow feasted on the salty soil below. I could imagine a giant icebreaker ship crashing towards us through the salt, with the sailors wearing board shorts and shades instead of parkas and woollen hats. I could imagine bikini-clad Inuit sawing holes in the salt looking to spear seals or catch fish. But instead of these things I saw my wife and new friends sweating from the heat and huffing from the high altitude as they hiked all over the island marvelling in the beauty of this natural wonder.

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