Neil Skywalker from the Netherlands recently completed a trip around the world (“RTW”). He and I had a virtual chat which I’d like to share with you.
Why did you go on a RTW trip?
Like many travelers who are on the road for a long time I’m escaping my boring life back home. I wanted to experience a new life, and more importantly, a new me. I wanted to see something of the world and get as much personal growth as possible. I needed to get more social and easy going.
How long was it, what countries?
I traveled around the globe continuously for 2 years and 8 months. I went through 42 countries so that’s too many to mention. The only continent I didn’t visit was Africa, which doesn’t really appeal to me.
Where did you spend the most time of any one place?
I spent six months in the Philippines exploring the many islands. I had a girlfriend there (well a bit more than one) and I visited a friend for five weeks in the south of the Philippines. It’s a magical country.
What was your favorite experience? Favorite country?
Climbing Mount Fuji in Japan and Mount Doom in New Zealand were both pretty epic. Seeing Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar, Macchu Picchu in Peru, and Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia were great, too. I have many favorite countries. Russia, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Argentina and Brazil are among my favorites. In all of these countries I had some great adventures.
What was your most difficult time and why?
I had a bad time in Australia. The prices were shocking coming from cheap Asia and I didn’t like the hostels there. They looked like backpacker factories with hundreds of backpackers and it felt very impersonal. I had a hard time adjusting to the western world again and couldn’t wait to go to South America and see some actual strange culture. I have been in danger on a few occasions around the world. The worst was when I was nearly stabbed by a girl in Malaysia. Another time I had a very difficult time trying to get my stuff back from a pickpocket in the ghetto of Salvador in Brazil.
Did you try to live like a local at any time?
I can’t really say I that I lived like a local anywhere. Personally I think that many travelers are naive and fool themselves. You will always be an outsider no matter how long you live somewhere. Especially if your appearance is very different from the local people. I have spoken to expats who were living somewhere for 10 or 20 years and even spoke the local language, but they still feel like outsiders. The friendliness of locals often depends a lot on the size of your wallet.
What did you learn about yourself on your trip?
I learned that I can always keep my cool no matter how much trouble I’m in. I also learned that a person can change lot in just a few years. I often didn’t recognize myself and thinking back of certain situations I still wonder how I pulled out of some things. It’s more about putting yourself in the right headspace and being persistent in pursuing your goal. You need to keep yourself motivated.
How did you adjust after finishing the trip? What did you do?
The last five months I have spent behind my desk writing, editing and publishing my book. I can almost say that writing is the easy part and once you finish your manuscript the hard work really starts. Especially the last few months I have been working 100 hour weeks just to finish everything. I can’t wait to start socializing again outside my little circle of family and friends.
Any future travel plans? Anything left to do?
I’m dying to get out of the small country of Holland and hit the road again. I’m thinking of trying to get a job as a tour guide or something similar somewhere in the world. South America would be my first choice to work. I love this part of the world and it’s culture.
Do you have any tips to give?
Just do it! Don’t plan too much and just go with the flow. Keep cool no matter what happens and be patient. Enjoy all of the things of the culture you’re immersing yourself in.
Neil’s new book about his RTW trip is available on his website at Around the World in 80 Girls.