You’ve traveled extensively for the show, Amazing Adventures Of A Nobody. When did you realize that travel should be more about human connection than anything else?
My journey across America on $5 a day, which I called Amazing Adventures of a Nobody, really taught me that travel is the school of life. I’ve learned so much on my journeys; the most important thing I’ve learned is about connection. It’s so important that I see you and that you see me, and that I hear you and you hear me. For some reason, it took me quitting my job, traveling around America on $5 a day and relying entirely on the kindness of strangers to kind of cement that on my soul. That human connection is the most powerful thing we possess. Too many of us don’t think about that, as if it’s not important but I found that truly, the most important thing is to be seen.
In your recent book, The Kindness Diaries,you talk about the false connectivity we feel in our everyday worlds. How can travel help us combat this? Any useful tips to help us connect to what’s important?
I find that when I come home from my travels, I see people on their smartphones and they’re not connecting with each other. They think they are: Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagramming. There’s nothing wrong with that but to me, true connection is face to face. True connection is me having a chat with you; you seeing me, me seeing you. I actually remember this very clearly, I came back from a trip I was on in Oman in the Middle East, and I realized how people weren’t as connected, meaning on iPhones, and iPads and computers and all this kind of stuff. And yet they seemed so much happier.
I came home and I saw everyone on his or her phone, and I had an epiphany: I’m going to go on a connectivity detox. I turned off my phone, I turned off my computer and I started to connect with my friends, with my family, with strangers without the use of phones. What I realized was that true connectivity is not on the phones; it’s face to face. It’s really not just about traveling; it’s about everyday life.
Turn off your phone! Try it for one day! That’s my tip: for one 24-hour period, turn your phone off. I assure you, you will feel in the beginning, a bit stressed out and anxious. But after a while, there’s a calmness that comes through.
What do you want others to gain from your epic global adventure on a yellow motorbike from Los Angeles, across the United States, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Canada, and back to L.A. again?
What I would ultimately want people to gain from my journey across the world is that everyone can live his or her dream. I say that because, as a kid and as a young adult, I was following other people’s dreams. I was working as a broker and I was doing things that I felt other people wanted me to do. I didn’t have the courage to go out there and create my own life. One day, I watched the movie The Motorcycle Diaries, which truly inspired me, and I had an epiphany and I realized that if he (Ché Guevara) could do this and he could go out and live the life he wanted to live, than so could I. If he could live his dream in the movie, than so could I. And if I can live my dream, which is to travel the world and connect with people, bring it back and share it, than so can you.
What has the Salman Rushdie quote, “To understand just one life, you must swallow the world” meant to you?
It’s pretty profound to me and it basically goes back to this issue of connection. Too many of us are an island, but the truth is no man is an island, we’re all one. And when you go out into the world and you experience all these different cultures, you realize that, yes, on one level we’re all different. But on another, we’re all the same. You have the mother in Cambodia who loves her kids; you have the mother in America who loves her kids. You have all these different personalities and all these different experiences, yet they are all one and that, to me, is what Salman Rushdie is talking about. You go out, you experience the world and therefore you experience your own life and other people’s lives.
Name your 3 favorite places you’ve traveled to on solely human kindness?
The first one is America. I think there’s a generosity of spirit in this country that’s truly profound. There’s goodness in people’s hearts and I’ve traveled all across America multiple times and I feel it every day I’m on the road, I feel the goodness.
Secondly, I’d say Bhutan, which is a little country to the northern east of India. They have this thing called gross national happiness, where the success of the country is determined, not based on how much money people make but on how happy they are, and I felt this sense of joie de vivre that they have in their souls. They’re so joyful and so happy and they were tremendously kind to me.
Another place is India. It’s a smorgasbord of culture and colors and sounds and deep inside their souls, the Indians are a wonderful people and I received so much kindness from people who had nothing, really. When I was in India, I thought to myself, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this, these people don’t have a lot.” But I realized they have a lot inside their hearts, inside their souls.
Give us your Top 5 list for one of these destinations like a travel guide of sorts. (could be anything- a landmark, bar, park, etc)
I’m going to choose America; I know it’s a big place, but I’ve made it my home and I’ve traveled probably most extensively in America than I have anywhere else in the world. These are in no specific order.
I’m a history buff so I would say the number one place to visit is Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. where Lincoln was assassinated. You can then go to the house where he actually died and you can go into the room and you can see the bed and it’s a very moving experience to see the history of America basically unfolding in front of your eyes.
Los Angeles, where I live; I love LA! There’s beautiful weather, temperature always 72°… well, sometimes more! When you grow up in England and it’s always raining, LA has this magical draw. The ocean is nearby, the mountains are nearby, there’s great nightlife. If you come to America, try to make a pit stop in LA.
The third place would really be a road trip. If you could do a road trip across America, you’d really get the essence of this country, specifically in the Midwest. I’ve found people in the Midwest to be some of the most genuine people you can meet.
Number four: Las Vegas. Just for two days, two nights. You can’t come to America without going to Vegas. It’s a crazy place but, as they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas… but don’t get too naughty!
I’d say number five would really be Times Square. Yes, Times Square looks like the center of capitalism: you’ve got all these billboards and everything, but it’s such an energetic place. You go there and you feel energized. It’s one of my favorite places, actually. I started my first journey in Times Square and traveled all the way to the Hollywood sign. But Times Square has this magical energy about it.
Your favorite travel movie?
Well, that is an easy one. The Motorcycle Diaries. It’s a romanticized version of Ché Guevara traveling cross South America relying entirely on the kindness of strangers. I watched that when I was a broker in London, totally uninspired with life, totally disconnected and really, to be honest, really depressed. I watched this movie and Ché’s father wanted him to become a doctor and he didn’t want to be, he wanted to travel the world. He made a break with his father and he traveled across South America and he met all these people and he inspired them and was inspired by them and it showed me that he had this sense of freedom and purpose. Again, a romanticized version of the real man but it was such a powerful movie to me. It inspired me to believe in myself and believe that anything is possible. From that moment on, my life changed. If you want to feel a sense of freedom and a sense that anything is possible, I would suggest watching that movie.
Your favorite traveling companion (when not alone)?
I have a little Boston terrier called Winston Churchill and he’s 12 and a half years old now. He loves me very much but he doesn’t love me when I leave him. Because of my job, I have to leave him quite often. When I return home, he kind of ignores me for four or five days, literally ignores me. The only way that I can find for him to reconnect with me is to take him on a little trip. When I come home after the five-day period of him hating me, I take him on a two or three-day trip and we go wherever. We get in the car and we go to San Diego or Malibu or wherever. He’s a traveler in his own heart but he can’t travel as much as his own dad.
Favorite international airline?
I’d have to say Korean airlines. I’ve only traveled with them twice but they were just amazing! I found myself in economy but I felt like I was in business class.
Country with the kindest people?
I’d have to say it’s a toss up between America and Bhutan. I’m not just saying America because I live here and I don’t want to piss you all off! I’m saying it because I really believe it. Like I said, I’ve traveled extensively in America and there’s a generosity of spirit that is pretty much second to none.
There’s also something about the Bhutanese that was truly wonderful, it was soul enriching.
So if I had to choose, I’d say Bhutan, but only by half a millimeter!
Best way to pass the time while traveling?
It’s driving! I love driving in weird and wonderful locations. I drive, I listen to msuic, I go from A to B and I end up becoming a more meditative person and experiencing the local cultures firsthand.
Most exotic place your career has taken you?
I’ve had the good fortune of traveling extensively, I’ve been to over 90 countries and I’ve experienced so many wonderful things. I’d say that probably the most exotic place I’ve ever been to is the Gobi desert in Mongolia. I remember very clearly: it was like 2 am in the morning, I was driving through the desert and I decided to stop and I looked up into the skies and I saw the most amazing sight. It was as if the stars had been Photoshopped, it was so beautiful. It wasn’t just beautiful on a mind level; it was beautiful on heart level, on a soul level. I’d have to say Mongolia because it just touched me in such a deep place.
What are four things you can never travel without?
I’ve traveled so much without anything! J So I would say that when I’m doing my journeys without money, I’m quite able to travel without anything. assuming I’m journeying with some money, I think one of the most important things for me is music so one thing would be my iPod. I think music is the language of the soul.
I would say the second thing is the spirit of wanderlust. If you don’t have that spirit inside you when you travel, then you don’t fully experience the delicacies that you can’t be a part of, and I’m not talking about food; I’m talking about culture and people and connectivity.
I’d say the third thing is my lucky red jacket. It’s actually now pink because it’s been so well traveled but I like to call it red. I’ve had it for 15 years and it’s my lucky jacket and it’s kept me safe. It keeps breaking down but I keep fixing it.
My fourth thing would be my lucky black backpack, which I’ve also had for 15 years and I always travel with. I’m big into luck, or maybe it’s faith.
Your favorite travel quote?
To this day, I don’t know who said this so if you know, please tell me!
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you rich.
What are some ways that all of us can travel more conscientiously, even if we choose to pay our own way?
One thing that I’ve learned on my travels is that when we’re in someone else’s country, we’re in their home; we are part of their community; we are guests, visitors and we have to be respectful of that. When someone comes to your house, they have to behave in a very respectful fashion. (Well, they don’t have to, but you would imagine that they would.) So I think, as a conscientious traveler, try to learn as much as you can from that culture and try to give back as much as you can.
For example, I was in India and I actually wasn’t doing one of my journeys. I was in this really nice hotel and I decided that it was really important that I gave back in that moment. If you’ve been to India, you know what I mean; there’s a lot of poverty. So, I asked the concierge, “Can you send me to an orphanage. I want to go and be of service.” They sent me down the road and I spent the day there.
I’m sharing this story, not because I want you to know that I went to an orphanage and helped out. I’m sharing it because, basically, everyone can be of service, everyone can help. If you go to another country, you can give of yourself. They’re giving of themselves every day you’re there; you’re their guests! What a wonderful way to be able to give back, even in a small way. I spent 7 or 8 hours at the orphanage but you can give back in a small way every time you go and travel. You can take part of that country with and bring it home. It’s such a powerful thing to be able to share your gifts with others and specifically when you’re in someone else’s home, someone else’s environment. Don’t go there and think, “Oh, well, I’m paying all this money.” No, it’s not bout that! They’re there for you and you’re there for them.
What can we expect from your upcoming show, The Kind Way Around?
It’s a book and also a show. I circumnavigated the globe on kindness. I bought myself a vintage yellow motorbike called Kindness One, sort of like Air Force One but a little bit yellower. I relied on kindness: I had no money, no food, no place to stay, nothing. There was a little bit of a twist: unsuspecting good Samaritans received a life-changing treat. I’ve realized that kindness is not a one-way street, it’s a two-way street: It’s about giving and receiving. I wanted to go on this journey, experience all the beauty of the world and, you know, that not so beautiful things in the world because things aren’t always wonderful, as my journey will attest if you watch the show or read the book. But it was basically a trip around the world, trying to inspire people, if I could, to go out and A) to live their dreams and B) to realize that kindness is not weakness. Kindness is power.
Where to next?
Well, I always like pushing myself in my travels. This time, I think maybe I’m pushing myself too far. I’m going to be driving from the southernmost tip of South Africa to the northernmost tip of Finland. There’s going to be a little life changing twist attached to this journey, similar to The Kindness Diaries but a little bit different. I’m not going to share that just yet! You’ll have to wait for me to start my journey.
Truly, travel has changed my life; it’s inspired me to be the man I am today and I hope, in some small way, through maybe The Kindness Diaries or my upcoming Africa journey, it’ll inspire you to go out and live your dreams and realize that you truly can be the best you can be and don’t let anyone stop you from that.