Here are the most frequent questions that Adam receives…
What did you pack?
One’s packing list on a trip like this is objective. Maybe you have a completely different trip in mind than the one I took, so maybe your pack list will be completely different than mine. A few things are important, but everything else (that you forget or think you can go without) can be bought on the road. From the onset, I packed:
- Minimal clothes and only those that would wash in the shower and dry quickly (which included just three shirts and two pairs of convertible pants)
- A week’s worth of drawers and socks
- A quality pair of walking/hiking shoes
- A sleeping bag (which I ended up discarding at the halfway point after using it just twice)
- A towel
- A washcloth
- A water bottle
- Diarrhea medicine
- Tweezers to keep my eyebrows tidy
- A toothbrush
- Dental Floss
- A laundry bag
- A journal
- Three pens
- A headlamp
- Extra batteries
- A digital watch
- A pocket knife
- My debit card to keep on me
- A credit card to keep separate in case of emergency
- A Kindle
- My passport
- A copy of my passport to be kept separate with my emergency credit card
- My immunization record (which I never had to show to anyone)
- A camera
What kind of souvenirs did you bring home?
Basically none, and you can read about my reasoning in the book. The two most important items I had in my pack when I finished that I didn’t have when I started were the red cape/tablecloth from bullfighting and one more.
What is your biggest regret about your trip?
That I didn’t take it sooner in my life.
How old were you when you left home to embark on this journey?
One day shy of my twenty-ninth birthday.
How much did your trip cost?
Wow. That is crazy expensive. How did you afford it?
Well, it’s really not that expensive if you consider all of my expenses from flights to food to lodging to entertainment, etc. I did A LOT on this trip, and it cost me less than it would have cost me to stay home in the States.
I wrote an entire essay in the book about the financing and budgeting of my trip, but essentially, after I decided I was going to take this trip, I busted my butt for two years to work and save. I worked as a bartender. I ate out, but not regularly. I drove an older-model car. I lived with roommates. Etcetera. But none of these were real sacrifices. I had a happy life during those two years, and I still was able to save up for the subsequent greatest year of my life.
What kind of recommendations do you have for first-time travelers?
Everyone’s travel tastes are different. You can read all you can about your upcoming adventure, but then it’s time to actually get out there to experience it and learn along the way.
Two tactics worked well for me:
- 1. Spend money where it is important to you and skimp in other places. This is an vital tactic. You don’t want to be miserly in every category and you likewise don’t want to let your wallet loose everywhere. I spent as little as possible on accommodation, so that I would have money to spend on zip lining or hang gliding or any other can’t-miss tourist trap. I cooked my own food, so that I could indulge on fancy eateries once in a while.
- 2. Recognizing that this was a jog and not a sprint. If I spend a week or less in each place, I would have burnt myself out. The ideal scenario is to settle down for a couple or few months and then move along from place to place for a while, and then settle down somewhere else for a couple or few months. Combine the sprint with the jog. This served me well: I volunteered for a while in Honduras and then I went sightseeing in Central America. I volunteered in Nicaragua and then I went sightseeing in New Zealand. I worked in Australia and then I went sightseeing in Asia. Etcetera.
Any precautions for first time travelers?
Well, as I said, everybody has their own tastes, and any traveler you talk to will have many words of advice.
There is one precaution, though, and I wish more people would listen to me: traveling through Europe on a bus or Eurail pass isn’t as much fun as the advertisements suggest. If you’re young and single, you’re going to end up bouncing from bar to bar meeting other single tourists with an occasional stop at an historic church or castle. This will be fun for about 72 hours, but then you get tired of sharing stories of “Oh, man, last night was crazy. I got so fucked up;” at the end of the three months, you’re going to be bloody exhausted and you’re going to regret all of the time you spent getting wasted and sleeping until lunchtime. If that is your thing, change the setting to New Zealand where you can at least fill the gaps between pubs and meaningless romps in bed with memorable experiences jumping off a bridge, hiking the most scenic country in the world, and swimming with dolphins.
And if you want your dollar to stretch (which it doesn’t in either Europe or New Zealand), go through Central or South America. Again, beautiful places, fun adventures, and still plenty of bars to terrorize.
Europe has great food and lovely cities and pretty landscape, but it can wait. Go everywhere else first.
What did you miss the most about home?
Bojangles’ fried chicken and my family and friends. (Friends and family first, but Bojangles’ a very close second.)
What was the worst thing to happen to you during the year?
I got robbed in Nicaragua.
Also, I got fat. I lost five pounds of muscle and gained twenty pounds of fat, most of it on my belly. It’s hard to go on a diet when you’re gorging on the delicious food of this world, and moreover, it’s not always easy to find the discipline to work out when you lack a routine. From the beginning, though, I reasoned I would get back in shape upon my return.
Who was your favorite person that you met along the way?
What was your favorite place?
You’ll have to read the book for that answer.
How many women did you sleep with?
Did you do any drugs?
No, although I drank absinthe in Slovakia. That shit punches you right square in the face. I recommend that everyone try it one time, but you’re an idiot if you go back for a second night with it.
How do you feel volunteering shaped the overall experience of this journey?
Well, in a word, it is what made the trip for me. It was fun to muster cattle and fight bulls and ride elephants and hang glide and eat delicious street food, but volunteering added a degree of enrichment that I hadn’t necessarily anticipated. To sit at home and read about poverty is one thing, but to actually walk among it is another thing. And for me to be able to lend a hand, even if for only four months (two in Honduras, two in Nicaragua)…that left me with the sense of satisfaction that, “Anything else I do during this year is a bonus at this point.”
Some have drawn comparisons of this book and your first book, Scratch Beginnings. In what way are they similar?
Well, I think they’re similar in that they are both yearlong experiences that have shaped the person I am today.
But they’re more different than they are similar. I left home to live Scratch Beginnings with the motivation to investigate a very complex social issue, and I ended up having a wonderful experience and meeting wonderful people. I left home to live One Year Lived with the motivation to have a wonderful experience and meet wonderful people, and I ended up falling into the study of a complex social issue.
What is that social issue?
You’ll have to read the book. I can’t explain it a paragraph or two.
How long did it take you to write the book?
The year I was gone, basically. There’s no way for me to know exactly how many hours went into its production, but it was quite an undertaking. I wrote in my journal and worked on the manuscript while I was out in the world, which was very important as I didn’t want to have to go back later on and attempt to recall the details and dialogue of certain actions or events. Then, when I got back from my year abroad, I put my editors to work to splatter what I had written with red ink. I am eternally grateful to them—Stuart Albright and Chris Hays, especially.
It says in your author bio that you tour the country delivering your keynote address What Will You Do Next? So, I’ll throw the question back at you: what will you do next?
Find a career that I love. Eat tasty food. Drink delicious wine. Take weekend trips to the mountains. And make love as often as possible.