Quick background: Ted Willis is one of my favorite people. We grew up together, went to the same college, shared the same friend groups and he even stood up in my wedding. He passes the Awesome Friend and Human Being test with flying colors. He worked the agency life for years shooting videos for companies and their products when he really has a heart for cultures and the marginalized people within them. So when he told all of us that he was plotting his escape to travel the globe and launch a YouTube travel channel, we were stoked. We were bummed he'd be miles away, but we knew it was a long time in the making and that he deserved it.
Many of my peers dream of quitting their job and jet-setting to remote beaches and quaint Italian corners. Ted made it happen and I'm so glad he was willing to sit down and share some of what he learned along the way.
1) Q: Where all did you just travel?
A: United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland), Spain, France, Italy, Turkey (just long enough to be deported), Greece, Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland
2) Q: How long was your Travel planing phase and what did it entail?
A: I started brainstorming what the trip could be about a year and a half before I left. One of the first things I did was figure out how much it would cost to travel around the world for a year. After I saw that others had done it for $15-$20K, I had my financial goal. To be honest, the 12 months after that were spent planning out the storytelling aspect of my journey. I didn’t worry about buying tickets or booking accommodations until much closer to my leave date.
I wanted this whole trip to be centered on capturing stories of local cultures - both for my YouTube vlog and micro-doc series. The thing about telling someone’s story is that it is quite helpful to meet them before just showing up in their country. So, after a few months of figuring out what I wanted my YouTube series to look like, I began the work of seeing where I knew people around the world. That practically looked like me talking to friends and family. I wanted to uncover as many connections as I could. Where would I know the most friends of friends? I allowed those connections to really dictate what countries I would try to visit. I had the most contacts in the Philippines, where I stayed for nearly two months!
The rest of my prep time consisted of discovering all of the ways to travel on the cheap. I had to figure out how to get cheap flights, where to bank, discover free accommodations, and how to cut my expenses at home. I could write a book about all I learned but I would be stealing most of the ideas from Nomadic Matt. Check out his book “Travel the World on $50 a Day.”
3) Q: What was the biggest difference you saw in other countries compared to the US?
A: I went to many countries and they all differ from each other quite a bit. They do all have one difference in common, however. Everyone in the world is far more aware of what is going on in America than Americans know what is going on outside of the United States. It is far too easy in the US to go about our daily lives and forget about the rest of the world. American media permeates the globe. Everything from our pop-music to the latest viral Netflix show is distributed all around. It's as if America is in a giant one-way mirrored room. Everyone can see in but when we look out, we just see ourselves.
4) Q: What was the biggest similarity between other countries and the US?
A: People are people. Sure, we all have different flavor preferences but at the end of the day, we value similar things. Everyone wants to love and be loved. It seems like a central human desire is to find a romantic partner. To support and continue one’s family is at the core of most cultures I encountered. Family dynamics and specific values come in all sorts of variations but the central importance is there.
5) Q: What was the most exciting aspect of world travel?
A: I woke up every day to the guarantee that I was going to see, taste, and do things that I had never before experienced. I can’t think of anything much more exciting than that!
6) Q: What was the scariest Visiting New Places?
A: While it is exciting to wake up every day to new and unknown things, it can also become quite anxiety and fear-inducing. I won’t lie, it was difficult to get out of bed some days when I had no idea who I was going to spend my day with. It is scary meeting new people and stumbling through language barriers. Stepping into that fear was incredibly rewarding.
7) Q: How did you maintain a level of routine On the Go?
A: The lack of routine can be a real challenge. I ended up missing routine to some degree. Luckily, my YouTube channel forced a lot of routine for me. I’m a morning person. My brain works best nice and early in the morning. To take advantage of this, I would wake up early to work on editing videos. If I was ever hanging with other travelers, it was perfect. I could get a bunch of work done before all of the vacationers would wake up. I could then join them for the day’s adventures!
8) Q: What is the biggest Travel myth you debunked?
A: 'Travel is expensive and you can only do it a couple times in your life'. Biggest lie ever! We Americans believe travel is expensive because expensive travel is advertised to us. We also care way too much about staying in our comfort zones. For me travel is all about leaving your comfort zone behind. Without the comfort zone, travel can be so affordable! My monthly expenses traveling were far less than my monthly expenses living in Arizona. Many of the other travelers I met take a couple international trips a year. They find flexible jobs or have more than 2 weeks of vacation every year. The work schedule we allow to be the norm in America is not the only way to live.
9) Q: How did you create a sense of home while abroad?
A: Travel forces you out of your comfort zone.At times my only source of familiarity and comfort was to turn to God. I’m a guy who tries to keep God as the central focus of my life while striving to be more like Jesus. While it wasn’t the most fun, there is something pretty cool about being in a position where the most comforting thing you can do is pray. I felt like I got to know God on a much deeper level through this trip.
One other thing I did to create a sense of home was to cook for myself and friends when I had the chance. The chance to cook my own food was super refreshing and special in new corners of the globe.
10) Q: Anything you’d do differently if you did it all over?
A: While I have no regrets about the places I went, I would not suggest that someone travel as fast as I did.Less is more. 15 countries in 6 months is too quick. I think travel is much more sustainable when you hang out in each place for a couple of weeks. You save energy and money doing this. I’m so thankful for how my trip worked out. I am certain that my over zealous pace led me to get burnt out after 6 months. I'm home now, but this won’t be the last time I travel and the next time I'll take it slower.