Please tell us about your background
Firstly I’d like to say thank you for the interview opportunity, it always surprises me when people are genuinely interested!
At school I had an interest in electronics and was even on TV with robots I had built. This interest lead to subject choices and eventually a career in electronic engineering. I finished an apprenticeship and continued employment with a military company testing missile guidance systems.
However this got repetitive and the ennui induced by sitting in a sunlight starved factory all week was enough to prompt my arm to erect and scream “me, me, me” when the company announced redundancies and asked who wanted to volunteer to be laid off. I had dreamed of travel for a while (since the second day I started work actually) and this was the first good chance of me being able to go for it.
Please tell us where you are now?
I am in Perth, Australia at the moment on a working holiday visa. I have been here 4 months picking up odd jobs and spending time developing my personal blog, AdventureRob to a point where I’m happy with it.
What jobs have you had in Perth?
Some typical backpacker jobs; I have been gardening, handing out flyers promoting a gym and taking surveys in a car park asking people what they are doing there (funnily enough, most people are just parking their car). I have no experience in any of these fields before so they were all enjoyable and fresh to me.
How would you define your blog?
I have been ‘finding my writing voice’ recently which is also influencing topics I write about. It started off as typical travel blogs do, documenting what I’m up too with my opinion and sense of humour thrown in. Then I decided it was going to be a travel site, so facts went in and the humour was lost a bit. Then I added my photography and guides/tips but still wasn’t quite happy continuing.
I was unsure on how to evolve the blog further so I did the best thing I could and asked. I got a positive response about the style I basically started out with. Whilst I travel and do the whole lifestyle design thing to an extent, I just consider the blog a personal or life blog. It’s about me, that’s it.
What countries have you been to so far?
I set off in March and my first destination was Malaysia, most of which was on Borneo Island. Whilst passing through there I spent some time in Brunei and then flew over to Singapore. After that I headed north and spent time in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. All this totalled 4 months before heading over to Australia.
How long do you typically stay in one country?
I wouldn’t say I stick to a typical time schedule; I usually keep it in proportion to the size of the place, things to do and cost of staying there. I find 2 weeks is a good amount of time to see cities.
I try not to rush my travels and now try to time them to some event going on there when possible as it annoys me no end when I find I am missing out on something by arriving late or leaving early.
I missed out on the Thai new year celebrations, Kuching’s Rainforest music festival, Singapore esplanade hosting video game music in full orchestra, 2 full moon parties on Thailands Koh Phangan island and more time dating a very nice Cambodian girl all due to bad timing, so I try to plan in advance a bit now. I have some things I’m very interested in coming up in February in Sydney for example.
If you had to choose one place to live for the rest of your life, where would that be?
From the countries I’ve visited so far, I’d have to say Singapore. The place is so well connected, it’s easy to get around the world from there, they encourage and love travel. The people are very nice, generally happy and varied in culture; it’s a true international place. Food is excellent everywhere, it’s clean, gadgets are cheap (I got my dSLR camera from there) and there is always something going on socially.
How much money did you have saved when you started your adventure?
I literally ended last year on no money after spending the year getting out of debt, so I have traveled solely on redundancy money. Before setting off I got a new netbook, motorbike lessons/licence, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification and a few other travel related things leaving me with about £7K (US$11.5k) to start my travels with, that figure is quite lower now though!
How do you earn an income?
Any way I can without soliciting myself! As previously mentioned I’ve picked up some jobs here in Australia which have paid the bills, my fall back plan is to teach English in Asia if funds get dramatically low. However I don’t want to rely on this so am venturing into making money online allowing me location independence, rather than traveling to where there is work. Selling writing and photography as well as some affiliate based websites is the current plan for this future.
Does travel blogging earn you much income?
Only when my parents click on the Google Ads! Really though, the monetising travel blog thing is not working for me to date. My opinion is adverts spoil nearly all attempts at making a website look nice – something I need to get over or around in order to fill my dream of sustaining myself online. Also a lot of people are ad-blind (including myself) and ignore the ads even if something of interest is contained within the ad.
How much are your expenses while traveling?
Whilst I may not be good at the making money game, I am good at reducing costs of travel. There is no need to (on mean average) spend more then $10 a day with a bit of research. However if I had a limit to my travels (like a 1 year sabbatical) admittedly I’d probably be spending more, and wouldn’t be so afraid of using the credit card either.
How long do you plan to travel like this?
Until boredom sets in, and in theory it shouldn’t. I can see myself getting bored of visiting new places just to see famous sites and try local food if I was to see as much as I could within a year, however this is not how I travel.
I take it slowly, there is no rush in seeing any particular attraction, country or continent (with the exception of time specific events I mentioned previously). I hope to space out these visits with more adventurous tasks in between, such as my upcoming drive across Australia in the mystery machine.
How do you access your money?
All my banking is online. I actually have 2 bank accounts and a credit card. The credit card is for emergency if all else fails; I try to avoid using it and if I do: pay it off before interest charges build on it.
My primary bank account holds all my money but I don’t have offline access to it (card is kept with my parents who use it for putting money or cheques in if needed at home). My secondary bank account seldom has more then $500 in and I top it up using my primary account (online), so if anyone clones my card, then they can only steal a certain amount from me. In addition this stops me from spending a lot spontaneously, I need to think about an expensive purchase (such as my camera) before going for it.
I suppose if you wanted to be clever, you could use this technique to feed your budget into your usable bank account (say $10 a day) which would force you to think about controlling finances more on the road.
I have stopped all direct debits and cut all financial commitments since I left to travel. Getting rid of possessions shows how little commitments there actually are in life (car insurance, mortgage payments, etc).
What have been the most and least expensive countries you have visited?
The most expensive is Australia, it really is shocking, even by European standards. But saying that, I got my outgoings down to Oz$10 or US$7-8 a day here now, including food, accommodation and Internet. The cheapest was Laos. My thoughts on finances went out the window and the kip currency takes a few moments to convert so I spent a fair amount of money without thinking there. I was pleased (and relieved) to see how little that added up to be afterwards.
What is your next destination?
I have a year long visa in Australia and won’t be cutting this short, so I’ll be here until June-July next year. After that I’ll be taking a look at New Zealand while I’m close by (I don’t think going back and forth across the world is a great way to travel, moving across it logically and visiting the closest destination works for me). I predict my finances will be almost going in the red by then, so I will likely be looking for work in Asia after that.
Do you have any advice for aspiring vagabonds?
Make a quick plan, get the finances in shape and just go! You learn the most by making mistakes so just get on with it and make those mistakes. Bring toilet rolls too.
AdventureRob Robert Fitzsimmons’ Travel Blog
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