Expert Travel Advice: Michael Huxley, Bemused Backpacker
Today we’re continuing our series of learning from expert travelers. I have so enjoyed the tips I’ve learned from other travel bloggers while we have been on the road that I wanted to bring some of that experience to you. The travel community can be very helpful as we all know what it’s like to be out of your comfort zone, often alone, but usually delighted by the kindness of strangers.
While we are able to offer you one perspective on travel blogging - that is traveling internationally with your family, there are countless ways others are making a living while traveling the world and telling others about it. So whether you are learning how to take your first international trip or you are interested in becoming a full time traveler, learning from those who have been there before can be very insightful.
Today, we are learning from Michael Huxley of BemusedBackpacker.com. Michael’s love of travel started with a gap year that changed his life. After becoming a nurse he discovered he could combine his love of travel with helping those in need. He volunteered as an expedition medic in treks through the jungles of Borneo and Malaysia and into the Sahara and the great Thar deserts. Since then, he has become an expert in travel health and safety while also running an online travel clinic where he gives backpackers travel health advice and information before they set off on their gap years.
Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website Bemused Backpacker. He has been featured in some of the worlds largest print and TV media including the BBC, The Guardian, USA Today and many more. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is independent travel and adventure and he has been traveling the world on his own terms for 15 years. Find out more at BemusedBackpacker.com
1. How did you get into travel blogging?
A little bit by accident, I was an author before I was a blogger and had written a novel which has now turned into a series of travel books. The website was started as a way to promote the travel books and pretty much just grew from that into the business it has become today.
2. How do you fund your travels?
Well I have been traveling the world for over fifteen years now so it has changed a lot in that time. At first I did what everyone did, saved up for my first gap year then came home, saved up some more and travelled again. I kept doing that for a while as well as doing the occasional bit of work abroad whilst I was traveling on longer trips, nothing major, I would teach self defense and martial arts classes in hostels, things like that, to get some pocket money for meals and accommodation bills. It wasn't much but it helped extend my travels. Then, when I qualified as a nurse, I would work a portion of the year and then take time out to travel as well, and as I went through the ranks and my salary increased I got to travel much more often and much easier too.
When the Bemused Backpacker became a business I started traveling for work as well, getting paid for deliverables and to travel on promotional campaigns. Eventually the blog became profitable and my sole source of income, the funds I get from the site allow me to travel wherever and whenever I like too. As well as paying my bills of course.
3. Do you make a full income from your blog or do you supplement with other work?
My website is my full time business and of course it has various income streams but I earn a good full time income from it, far more now than I ever did as a nurse. Of course it took years to build up to that and for the first few years I was working part time as a nurse too.
4. What’s one of your favorite destinations? What makes it so special for you?
There are so many favorites for so many different reasons! Singapore is my favorite city because I have so many great personal memories there, it is where I proposed to my wife for starters! But for general travel I would probably have to say Malaysia, just because it is such an amazing and diverse country to travel through and isn't as touristy as Thailand has become.
5. What is your travel style?
I have always been a backpacker, which essentially means I travel slowly, independently and usually on a budget. I will carry my life in my pack, get a flight to any given country and figure things out once I am there. The journey is as much a part of the travel experience as the destination is. But, as I have gotten a bit older I do switch to flashpacking from time to time as well, which means I still travel independently but in a bit more comfort. I'll get myself a private room instead of staying in a dorm, splurge on an airport lounge instead of sleeping for 12 hours on the airport floor or eat at a fancy restaurant from time to time. Of course backpacking is still far more my comfort zone!
6. What’s your favorite travel tip or travel hack?
My best tip is slow down. Travel slowly. I completely understand the urge to rush around and try and fit as much as you can into your trip but trust me you will end up exhausted and seeing far less than you think you will! Take your time, spend longer in each place, soak up the culture, the atmosphere, the experience of the place you are in as well as seeing the touristy spots. There are always other trips to see other countries and destinations.
7. What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to take their first international trip?
Be flexible. Having a rough itinerary or plan is essential. Don't get me wrong, it is important to have a rough idea of where you want to go, how long you want to spend there and how much you need to budget, but leave huge chunks of your itinerary open for spontaneity too. You will come across places that you fall in love with and want to spend longer in, discover new places that you want to spend some time in, or you may find that you don't like a place as much as you thought you would and want to leave early. You will absolutely have days where you want to do nothing and rest or you will get ill and will need to spend a day or two by the bathroom. And to do all that you need to be flexible. Having a packed, ultra tight itinerary is the antithesis of what backpacking is supposed to be!
Wow! Thanks Micheal for so many great tips and ideas. We wholeheartedly agree with slowing down. It’s hard for us Americans when we only get 2 weeks vacation, but traveling with our daughter has taught us that we all need breaks throughout the day and some of the best things are model trains that deliver your drinks at restaurants or the novelty of bunk beds in our rental apartment.
I hope you are enjoying this series too. Drop us a line to let us know your thoughts or if you would like to be featured.