The first thing you notice about Daniel Beaumont is his accent, one of the weirdest I have ever heard. A born-and-bred Englishman from Cumbria (the North, for the geographically challenged) with a noticeable Australian twang and an American je ne sais qua lingering on his annunciation makes listening to him a trip in itself.
We’ve never actually met in person, although the circumstances behind how we know each other epitomize backpacking in the 21st century. Every so often I check out the Couchsurfing page for San Diego, my hometown, and offer travelers passing through suggestions on places to go, can’t-miss taquerias, and even the possibility of being hosted by friends who live in the area. A few months back I happened to be in Sweden but was a bit bored one day and decided to see if there were any interesting people headed to San Diego. That’s how I found Daniel.
I immediately related to this rambling Brit hitch-hiking around North America. He had already crossed Canada and made it all the way to Los Angeles when he posted his message looking for a place to stay a couple days. In the end he skipped San Diego for Las Vegas—hey, no one’s perfect —and we’ve been in touch ever since.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that we have shared interests, particularly when it comes to traveling the way we do. I sent him some interview questions—they appear below—and a few days ago we sat down and Skyped for the first time—him back home in England, me in Belgrade. If there is one takeaway I have of our conversation it’s a simple question he asked me: “What is your purpose?” He’s had time to consider it, and it’s driving him towards a better, more meaningful life. We can all learn from Daniel.
So Daniel, where are you right now, and how did you get there?
I am back home in England after more than two years working and living in Outback Australia, cycling Tasmania, camper-vanning around New Zealand, motorbiking across Vietnam, hitch-hiking Thailand, and hitch-hiking across Canada and the USA. Now there’s an Australian girl camping in my back garden.
Well that seems fitting—someone random Aussie chick camping out in your backyard. I’m not surprised. So what drove you to get on the road in the first place?
Travel didn’t ever cross my mind until I finished university. My mind was ill developed (sounds a bit hospital esque haha) and I was focused on the wrong things at the time. Materialism, power, becoming a respected banker—that kind of thing. I was always adventurous as a child though – I’d go out and build tree houses with my friends and go on bike rides not knowing where I’d end up. My dad was also very adventurous and took me climbing up mountains a lot, so I guess the travel/adventurous spirit came from him.
I will say though, as I’ve traveled I’ve kept up with lots of different bloggers and people that I’ve met on the road that have inspired some of my own adventures.
Right—because as we both know, it’s not about the places you go, but the people you meet.
When was the first time you hitched a ride? For me, it was desperation more than anything else that drove me to thumb a ride. What about you? Does your first ride stand out for any particular reason?
My first ride was in Thailand of all places and what a country to start hitchhiking. It actually wasn’t the best experience to start off on as we got held by some Thai Guards with M16 guns on the northern border of Thailand and Myanmar. Myanmar drug collaterals try to smuggle opium over the border so it’s heavily monitored. We didn’t speak any Thai so when we came to the border point, the Thai guards were confused as to why we were there and interrogated us. It all turned out well though as they eventually understood that we were there to do no harm. They fed us and gave us water and sorted our next ride to the next town. Moral of the story: People everywhere are awesome.
If you had to choose one ride as your favorite, which would it be? I remember reading one of your posts about a guy named Richard.
Yeah, that has to be one of my favourites! He picked us up in a large semi-truck from Flagstaff to Las Vegas.
As I was editing this I just realized that if Daniel had in fact gone to San Diego instead of to Vegas he would never have met Richard. I guess it was worth skipping San Diego! Anyways, back to Daniel:
It was a cold wet day and out of nowhere Richard emerged and stopped 400m down the road. We ran down to his truck to be greeted by this pleasant 57 year old Ohio-born man. The reason it was my best ride is because of Richard’s story of transformation. He was homeless for 10 years, a crack cocaine addict and had been in prison 3 times for assault and robbery. This guy had turned his life around though. He was genuinely a lovely guy who had now found God and religion as his higher purpose. It clearly guided him and benefited him and had turned him into this lovely kind person. I had lots of realisations from that ride that I recorded in my journal. One of which was: Never judge anyone and give everyone a chance no matter what their background and past says.
That’s great advice for anyone who’s never picked up a hitch hiker. Let’s talk for a second about the idea most people, including those our age, have about travel. What’s the most common misconception about travel you hear from friends, family, and readers?
That you need money to travel – people use this as a lame excuse to avoid travel. One thing many don’t know is that I left to travel with -$10,000 and still made it work. Yes, of course you can’t deny the fact that you need some money to travel, but it can be in fact cheaper to travel some really beautiful places in the world on a tighter budget than one would spend at home. You need to be creative. You need to use means such as hitchhiking, CouchSurfing and learn the art of living resourcefully to make your money stretch. I think the statement “I can’t travel because I don’t have enough money” roots down to the fundamental premise of FEAR and the uncertainty attached to doing something that extends beyond people’s usual comfort zone.
Since accommodation is something everyone worries about when planning a long-term trip and you’re working on a project to build a grass-roots hostel, why don’t you tell us how Podstel will be different from other backpacker hostels?
Podstel will be a place where people can nurture themselves and others in some way or another. I’m really interested in turning the hostel into a place of creation where backpackers can meet and work on their radical dreams with each other. I want to see other people’s crazy project’s come alive and assist them in doing so. We’ll have white boards and markers everywhere, space for dance classes, concerts, meditation, everything imaginable!
And what about WiFi? I think that’s the single biggest killer of sociability in hostels.
Well obviously it’s good to have internet to check in with friends and family, but then I see people in hostels who are in a totally different part of the world and they detach themselves for even a moment. So I’d like to turn the WiFi off at certain times during the day; maybe hang up a sign that says “Fuck your Twitter account! The WiFi will be off for the next two hours—talk to each other!” or something like that.
That’s the spirit! In terms of planning this out, Podstel must be a big project. This being a collaborative hostel I expect you’ve got quite the team assembled.
I know a lot of destination marketers, bloggers, digital nomads and solid adventurers that I’m good friends with. We collaborate on different projects and some of them are helping me set up the first Podstel hostel. It’s amazing that you can have all these friends all over the world that are willing to lend a helping hand.
Your dream hostel is located where, and has what sort of amenities?
My dream is to create a chain of hostels, first across Europe and then further afield. I’m going to be starting my first one in Berlin sometime after Christmas. The amenities at the first Podstel hostel will be different than traditional hostels. I want to create an environment that embraces creativity; a place where people can come and self-develop and meet like-minded people that they can collaborate with. To do this, we’ll gear the hostel up in a creative way: there will be instruments to jam with, whiteboards, quotes on the wall, a stage for performers, a utility room to host seminars/workshops/presentations as well as sports such as yoga and karate. It’s a really interesting concept and something that hasn’t been explored by anyone else before. Here’s to creating the future!
Would you rather be attacked by 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
Haha nice question – definitely 1 horse-sized duck – it’ll be far more satisfying defending myself against something bigger than myself.
Alright, that’s it on my end. Anything else you care to share with the class?
A little bit of wisdom that I gained from some great souls whilst I was traveling in the last 2.5 years:
Be where your feet are and embrace the moment.
Everyday is a good day but some days are better than others.
Be proactive, not reactive.
Take full responsibility for everything that happens in your life.
Drop expectations and you’ll never be disappointed.
Do the things other people aren’t willing to do, to get the things other people don’t have.
Create more than you consume.
Surround yourself with people better than you.
If it’s important enough, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.
To anyone who wants to know more about the Podstel project, collaborate or help inspire others to pursue their dreams and do what they love then get in touch with Daniel at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also be sure to check out the Podstel website, and don’t forget to like their facebook page!