Interview with World Traveler and blogger "Expedition Evan"
I recently had the opportunity to speak with "Expedition Evan" about his travels past and present. Below is his story, a young man who set out to seek adventure and found a whole new world...
1) Could you give us a little background on yourself and what made you first think of leaving the U.S. to live in another country?
I'm 24 years old and grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. I graduated in 2008 from UNC with a degree in Philosophy (the most marketable major known to man). My first taste of international travel was when I graduated high school, and I've been hooked since. My friend, his older brother and myself spent two months biking around Europe over the summer before college. It was absolutely fantastic, and was such a formative experience for me that I knew I would want to go / live abroad again after college. When I decided to move to Buenos Aires it was actually at the suggestion of two friends who ended up not being able to come. So the group trip became a solo trip, and I haven't looked back since.
2) What made you choose Buenos Aires as a destination to live in and how did everyone around you react to this big decision?
Buenos Aires was a choice my friends made, but it made perfect sense. I had a very good friend and an ex-girlfriend that studied abroad there who had always sung its praises, and South America had been on my hit list for a while at that point. It also made very good economic sense since the exchange rate was very favorable and I had limited savings. Reactions to my decision were mixed. I had a good job offer on the table, and with the uncertain economy some people couldn't understand why I would turn that down. A lot of people thought I was insane for going, asking how I would support myself, what possible reason did I have for going, why go alone, etc. My parents were initially skeptical but eventually came around when they saw I was serious about it, and their support meant a lot to me. Most people were fine with it after they saw how excited I was for the opportunity.
3) You started your blog "Expedition Evan" to document your travels. Do you ever go back and reread old posts to remember the times you've had traveling the world?
I do enjoy going back through posts. I also keep a personal journal that I write in daily, and it's similar to my blog in that it provides a snapshot of my head space at a certain time in my life. My blog has the benefit of pictures to go with the posts. I also like to use my blog as motivation to keep traveling; looking back at posts about my plans keeps me honest in pursuing them.
4) What was the biggest obstacle in your way choosing to travel for so long and how did you overcome this?
My biggest obstacle had to be money, and how to support myself while living abroad. My initial plan in South America was to teach English, but I found the money made and hours worked to be unfavorable. By a stroke of luck, my blog had garnered interest from friends and online strangers, so I figured writing might be a way for me to make some cash. Not a week later I interviewed for a position as a staff writer at www.MiniHostels.com, and it was a perfect fit. I wrote hostel and tour reviews, itineraries, and blog posts marketing our hostels and offerings. From there the other writers at the office provided me with links and contacts for additional work, and I moved from teaching to writing full-time. Eventually I was working for a wide variety of websites that paid in USD, so my earning power was very strong while living on the Argentine peso.
5) What was your favorite thing about living in Buenos Aires and what has been your favorite thing so far about living in Seoul?
Buenos Aires has such a unique vibe that it's hard to tease out just one thing, but I'll give it a whirl. For a significant portion of my time there I lived in a barrio called San Telmo, a really wonderful spot known for harboring hippies, artists, and general vagrants. I gravitated toward it immediately. It had wonderful dive bars and restaurants, lots of street musicians, and art galleries galore. The whole area is very old, so the architecture is crumbling and faded, but covered in graffiti and interesting additions. I wandered around with my camera all the time, just snapping interesting stuff. It was my favorite area of Buenos Aires and I'd love to live there again in the future. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the fantastic steak and wine that Argentina is known for. All the acclaim heaped on Argentina for these two staples is completely deserved. I defy anyone to find another place where the parillas cut your lomo with a spoon and a great bottle of wine costs roughly $3. Buenos Aires will always have a special place in my heart as the first place I lived abroad, and I still feel a tug every once in a while to return. Seoul is a polar opposite of Buenos Aires. Modern, glistening, and fast fast FAST. It's the most connected city in the world, and at times I feel like I'm living in the movie Blade Runner. My favorite thing about Seoul so far has been experiencing an Asian culture. Buenos Aires was very different from where I grew up, but there were still similarities I could find. Seoul and Korean culture in general is like oil and water to what I'm used to. It's so different here that I find it endlessly fascinating. The motivations people have, family obligation and honor, their incredible work ethic, the food and drink, it's all very exciting! When I travel I like to immerse myself in local culture, and Seoul is a wholly novel experience.
6) Any other destinations in the future planned or are you just playing it by ear?
I do have plans. Right now there are options, but the front runners are Colombia (teaching at an international school on the Caribbean coast), Australia / New Zealand (taking advantage of a working holiday visa to travel / work my way around both countries), and staying here or maybe trying China next year as an English teacher. New plans enter into my head every day, but I think one of these three will end up being the plan after my contract here is up. Long-term, I am seriously considering opening my own hostel. I was always struck by how shoddily some hostels in South America were run, and I think I could do well addressing that niche there. A small place near a beach somewhere is like music to my ears. I've been speaking with hostel owners that I worked with in South America, and I'm crafting a 'plan of attack' at the moment.
7) For a young person who might be looking for some advice or inspiration to make a leap of faith, what piece of knowledge can you pass on having been in a similar situation yourself?
Planning is an important aspect of living abroad, but at some point you just have to say "screw it!" and make the jump. Yes, things will be hard, and sometimes infuriating, but the experience is incredible. I've found that if you really want to make something happen, things tend to work themselves out. I only had a hazy idea of how I would make things work in Buenos Aires, but when I found out how much I loved the place I did everything in my power to stay there. If you're young and considering this, remember that there's no better time than now! Fresh out of school, unmarried (generally), no career or family to consider, what's holding you back? I know the situation is different for everyone, but I feel like there are attractive options for whatever place you're coming from. I can say that living abroad has been THE best choice I ever made. I wouldn't trade my life right now for anything.