Derek Earl Baron has travelled continually for nearly 13 years. After leaving his US home for a post-graduation trip to south-east Asia in 1999, he has worked on cruise ships, been kidnapped and acted in a Bollywood movie – all while visiting 83 countries. He has no plans to stop just yet.
When you first set out, could you ever have envisaged the journey you’ve had?
Never… it was never my goal to see so much of the world and I never once thought that such long-term travel would be appealing to me or even possible at all.
What made you pursue a life as a permanent nomad?
I was celebrating the Millennium at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, just sitting on the wall of an ancient temple in the middle of the jungle, eating and drinking and dancing with 40,000 Cambodians around me. That’s when I realised that travel had the potential to provide me with the most incredible, life-changing education possible. And I suddenly couldn’t imagine living a life that did not involve such a fist-hand education, so that’s when I decided I needed to travel for a very long time.
Everyone will want to know how you can afford constant travel. Could you give them a brief?
All of my income comes from online projects that include my travel blog – such as small amounts of advertising and sponsorships – as well as the sales of several travel-related eBooks that I have written and are available on my site. I also run several other websites and I am constantly starting new projects, such as personally leading small group tours to various countries around the world, with the first excursion taking place in India this November.
What kinds of places have amazed you the most?
To me, the actual destination is not so important because the most amazing experiences almost always involve meeting people that I would otherwise never have met in my life if I wasn’t traveling. So whether I’m in Mexico or Romania or India or Fiji, as long as there are new people to meet, which there always are, the chances are high that I’ll have an amazing experience. With that said, I do have some favourite countries, with my absolute favourite being India.
In your experience, what are the rewards of visiting authentic local places as opposed to mainstream tourist attractions?
Local places offer travellers a more direct insight into a particular culture, a chance to interact with people in a setting that has yet to be tainted by the lure of tourism dollars. Such places therefore give us the best education we can possibly receive which helps us grow as a person in ways that are not possible if we stick to the main tourist attractions everywhere we go.
What are the challenges of spending so much time on the road?
The biggest challenges are not having a ‘home’ that you can go back to, with your own bed and completely familiar surroundings as well as being away from family and friends for such long periods of time. However, the fact that I am constantly meeting new people everywhere I go, people who often become new friends, makes this challenge much easier to handle.
Have you ever been in serious danger? We’ve heard about a certain taxi ride in Bangladesh…
I’m not sure I would say I was ever in serious danger but yes; I was kidnapped in Bangladesh by a gang of taxi drivers. They kept me locked up in a couple of different rooms for a couple of days, trying to get me to take out all of my money from an ATM machine. Luckily, they weren’t the most experienced of kidnappers and in the end, they got almost nothing from me at all and I managed to escape when they started to be careless.
In what ways have these travel experiences changed you?
Travel has made me more aware of the fact that we should never believe anything until we see it with out own eyes and as a result, I no longer accept anything as truth until I’ve witnessed it myself. And travel has also made me infinitely more open-minded, especially upon realising that the overwhelming majority of people on this planet – regardless of race, religion, nationality and social class – all want to live a simple, happy, safe life. As soon as I realised this, I started to view every human being on this planet as part of the same community, a community that we should all work hard to protect.
We realise travel can be an addiction. How long can you see yourself go on?
I have no idea. I always say that if I wake up tomorrow and suddenly decide that it’s time to change my lifestyle and stop traveling, then that’s exactly what I’ll do. But until that happens, I plan to continue living the lifestyle that excites and interests me the most, which is a lifestyle that involves constant travel.
Tips to other would-be nomads?
Just get started, it’s as simple as that. Pick a destination that you’ve always wanted to visit and go there as soon as you can. As long as you keep an open mind, aren’t afraid to get creative and are willing to meet as many people as you possibly can during your travels, you’ll find a way to keep your travels going for as long as you desire.
Read Earl’s blog at www.wanderingearl.com
Photos: Galina Mikhalishina, Pius Lee [both via Shutterstock.com], Derek Earl Baron