Backpacking For Beginners: Travel the World on $10 a Day With Will Hatton – Episode 138

Backpacking for Beginners with Will Hatton from The Broke Backpacker.
Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

Budget travel is not only possible but can lead to incredible adventures. A backpacking for beginners guide, learn how to travel on a tight budget, the best destinations for backpacking and first time backpacking tips and tricks with Will Hatton.

Interested in backpacking but not sure where to start? Curious about the backpacking lifestyle and wondering if you are best suited for it? Will Hatton, an experienced broke backpacker turned serial entrepreneur shares his incredible journey of traveling the world on a tight budget of just $10 a day for over a decade. Learn how backpacking helped Will grow as a person, the differences between backpacking and flashpacking, backpacking for beginners tips, mistakes that can ruin a backpacking budget, and whether it’s really possible to travel cheaply.

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In this episode, we chat about: 

  • [11:11] How backpacking fosters personal growth.
  • [17:58] The key differences between backpacking and flashpacking
  • [28:26] The importance of following your intuition for safety
  • [34:45] Mistakes killing your backpacking budget 
  • [36:15] Is it really possible to travel for only $10 a day, if so, how?

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00:00 Danielle Desir Corbett At the last time we spoke about backpacking was in episode 90, where Jemma Thompson, the host of A Girl's Guide to Traveling Alone, walked us through how she quit her job, gave up her apartment, and left her boyfriend to backpack around the world. Jemma spent three months backpacking across Southeast Asia and Australia. For those of you curious about the backpacking lifestyle, I want to introduce you to someone. Hey, financially savvy travelers, welcome back to another episode of the ThoughtCard podcast, where affording travel is just as important as building wealth. I'm Danielle Desir-Corbett, and per usual, I am so thrilled you're here. Please hit the follow button so you never miss a new episode. Adventurer and vagabond, a broke backpacker turned serial entrepreneur, Will Hatton traveled the world on a tight budget of $10 a day for over a decade. Yes, that's right, Will traveled on only $10 a day. Today, he runs Bali's Coworking Hostel for aspiring entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and remote workers. In this episode, we chat about how backpacking helped Will grow as a person, the key differences between backpacking and flashpacking, mistakes killing your backpacking budget, and I ask the important question, is it really possible to travel for only $10 a day, so how? I mean, yo, what am I doing wrong? But honestly, this is a really great conversation, and I'm really looking forward to bringing on more guests who can share different perspective in terms of at least a budget travel angle. So I'm really excited for you to learn about Will's story and glean so many insights. But first, I wanted to share three resources that you should all know about. Number one is Dollar Flight Club. You can get domestic and international cheap flight email alerts of up to 90% off of flights leaving from your home airport. You can sign up for free today using the link in our show notes, or visit thoughtcard.com slash dollar flight club. Again, that's thoughtcard.com slash dollar flight club. Secondly, my book, Affording Travel, Saving Strategies for Financially Savvy Travelers, is a great read for step-by-step instruction and guidance on how to save money to travel. You can read this guide in under two hours, some people even say under an hour, and have a clear laid out plan for how to make travel a financial priority in your life. And lastly, I just got another cash back check from Rakuten. So this is your reminder to start using Rakuten to earn cash back at your favorite shops and outlets. In episode 115, I broke down how Rakuten works, so go back and get all of the details. But if you're ready to start earning cash back right now, then head to the link in the show notes. At the time of this recording, when you sign up for Rakuten and spend $30, you'll get a $30 sign up bonus. I'm talking free money, financially savvy travelers. And to give you context, $30 covers entrance to the Palace of Versailles in France. And let me tell you, the Palace of Versailles is absolutely stunning and amazing. So one of the things I like to do is like, okay, how much money does this cost? And what is this going to actually equate to when I'm traveling? So $30 of free money can definitely get you entrance into the Palace of Versailles. So don't worry. Also, I'm going to have an episode all on Paris coming up very soon. So just hang tight. All right. Again, all the links are in the show notes. So be sure to look in your podcast player for the links mentioned, or you can just simply visit our website, thoughtcard.com, for all of the resources. And with that, cue the intro. Welcome to the Thought Card, a podcast about traveling money where planning, saving, and creativity leads to affording travel, building wealth, and paying off debt. We are the financially savvy travelers. So Will, as the broke backpacker, you started traveling to far flung lands on just $10 a day. Did you do this out of necessity, or are you a naturally frugal person?

05:04 Will Hatton So honestly, I'm not a naturally frugal person. I'm actually someone who, if they have some money, I tend to blow it all immediately, very quickly. But I found myself needing to have a pretty severe change in my life. So I hit the road at the age of 19, and I found myself in India for a couple of years with pretty much no money. I was hitchhiking, camping, couchsurfing, picking up weird jobs, selling colorful t-shirts, doing whatever I needed to do just to stay on the road because I was so enamored by the opportunities for personal development, this crazy, huge country with so many cultures and languages and ancient sites and new traditions just all kind of swirling together. It was a really, really exciting time for somebody who had never left England. So I wouldn't say I'm a naturally frugal person. I was a naturally poor person who had no money and was just desperate to continue the adventure.

05:59 Danielle Desir Corbett Okay, so that's very interesting because I do feel like there are people who are going to be drawn to budget travel because they're naturally frugal. And they're like, for me personally, I think I would consider myself frugal, but on the higher end. I do really enjoy splurging. A lot of, for me, is gamifying. Like, why spend more when I can technically spend less in a way that is ethical and feels good?

06:29 Will Hatton So do you feel like you have to be like a naturally frugal person or you have to be naturally like, I'm cheap, for example, to be successful at budget travel? I think it definitely helps if you're someone who's already quite savvy. At the end of the day, if you're someone who's good at making plans and planning ahead, that is usually the best way to get the best value out of your travels and to score the best deals. But I think also it really comes down to being willing to get uncomfortable. And during that time, I was sleeping in train stations. I had a tent. I was really living on the edge, put it that way. And that was an amazing experience to me that I wouldn't trade for the world. I also wouldn't do it again now at the age of 34. I think there's a middle ground and everything in between. There's a few real broke backpackers out there who are living on the edge. And then there's plenty of people who, like you say, they enjoy the thrill of the haggle. They enjoy finding the best deals. They enjoy figuring out what is the most logical way to crack a destination and see it in the best possible way, at the best possible price. And I hands down respect that. For me, I literally just had no money.

07:40 Danielle Desir Corbett So I was just trying to stretch everything I could as far as I could and stay on the road as long as possible. Understandable, understandable. So what about India that drew you as like your first destination to start as a backpacker? And when you started also 10 years ago, was the term backpacker already commonly used or were you a pioneer?

08:02 Will Hatton Tell us a bit about that backstory. That's actually a really interesting question I haven't thought about before. Are you term backpacking? And when it first came into being, I think it definitely was a less common term back then. I mean, back in the day, there was no hostels in India. It was all like a locally run guest house or much more expensive hotels aimed at like Western package tourists. The reason that I found myself in India was very simple, which was that I was able to get a two year visa for India. So I knew I wouldn't have to spend any money on another visa for two years. That is literally the reason I went to India because it was big and I wouldn't have to spend money again on the visa for a while. So I don't know. I don't know if backpacking was as common a term, but I definitely don't think I could claim that I was the pioneer of backpacking. Because before I was in India, there had been hippies trail out, blasting their hippie trail all through like Iran and Pakistan, Afghanistan, and making their way down to go since like the 60s and 70s. So there was already that kind of backpacker culture there. Things have definitely changed culture wise, big time over the last 20 years, especially over the last 10 years. I mean, when I was in India, I had a physical map of India. I didn't have a phone. I had a road map. And that's how I was figuring out what direction I was going in. Yeah, it's definitely changed a lot these days for sure.

09:26 Danielle Desir Corbett So I know that you've been backpacking, like you've backpacked for over a decade, which is a really long time to have this type of lifestyle and to be on the road. So what about this lifestyle kept you going for so long? I know you've hitchhiked, you've camped, you've haggled, you've milked goats, you planted carrots in fields. Amazing just adventures, you know. So like, what about the lifestyle? Just like you're like, I love this and I want to keep staying on the road.

09:57 Will Hatton To me, there was so many incredible sights and experiences that I was getting to see on a daily basis. I was meeting, you know, weird and wonderful people from all across the globe and experiencing points of view that I had never considered. And every day was a surprise. I'm quite an optimistic, grateful person who quite enjoys being uncomfortable. And I just like the journey. Like it's an incredible journey. I feel like when you are on the road like that, you have a lot of time to introspect. You have a lot of time to journal. You have a lot of time to think about, you know, you want to be where you want to go, what's important to you. But I was pretty lost, shy, anxious kid. And having the opportunity to get out there and to prove my mettle to myself, it was very intoxicating. It was a very empowering experience. And I just didn't want to go back to England, really. I didn't feel like there was anything for me in England, whereas there was always, you know, new countries, new frontiers, just around the corner, new people to meet, new weird animals, to milk and jobs, to attain the growth that I was experiencing on the road was just unparalleled to anything that I had experienced before.

11:11 Danielle Desir Corbett And, you know, I really hear all the time that people talk about how travel changes them or they impact them in a way. But I love when you were explaining, you mentioned that there's so much growth that this style of travel, backpacking, helps you to grow so much as a person. So what are some of the, I guess, lessons, not the travel lessons, but like the personal growth, things like working hard, you mentioned you were shy, putting yourself out there, being uncomfortable.

11:45 Will Hatton So what are some of those things that you feel like backpacking really helped you to develop as a person? Definitely like empathy and fostering like a sense of positivity and optimism and hopefulness. Like, you know, when you're standing by the side of the road and it's chucking you down and you're soaked and you're cold and you maybe haven't eaten since yesterday, I'm totally aware that this doesn't sound like everyone's idea of fun. And it often was not that much fun. But you have the opportunity to try and find a humor in the situation, to try and foster a positive attitude, to really think about what you want your value system to be. And like for me, I very much moved away from any interest in religion. And I was trying to figure out what my guiding principles were. And being on the road and coming into contact with kind people who picked me up, who welcomed me into their houses, gave me some way to sleep, fed me, like made me feel like part of the family. It was just an amazing experience that really made me believe in the overall goodness of humanity and question how I could be a good part of humanity. Sounds like pretty deep. And I wasn't really thinking about it until you asked the question. I think it just really gives you the opportunity to reflect on who you want to be and where you want to go. And I think that a big part of that for me was that I didn't have a phone. And I see definitely these days, if you are traveling and you're on your phone all the time and you're like experiencing things through your phone, it's very easy to kind of shield yourself from having the kind of immersive, deep experience that you could be having. And when you're traveling broke versus traveling in a more flashpacker style, you have no choice but to get into proper contact with people. You can't. There's no such thing as personal space in like a third class train carriage in India. And if you're the only non-Indian in the train carriage, everybody is very interested in you. There's a trial by fire and you find out what you're made of for sure. And if you're able to try to foster that sense of positivity, optimism and humor along the way, those are skills that can honestly get you through any situation.

13:58 Danielle Desir Corbett I think a lot of times when we're traveling, we're like, we're going to go see the sights and we're going to absorb all of this like external. There's like so many external things going on stimulus, right? But it really sounds like through your backpacker journey, it was a lot of internal work that was happening. Would you agree?

14:18 Will Hatton Yeah, I've been to countries where I haven't seen the sights and I've spent my time hanging out in parks, meeting local people, journaling under a tree. And I do think that when you are traveling in this way, which brings you into a lot more contact with local people, because you're ultimately you're kind of relying on people for some hospitality one way or another. You just have the opportunity to see things in a different way and to really kind of peek behind the curtain and to really get a feel for a local culture. And some of the best experiences I've had, some of the coolest things I've seen have been things that locals have shown me in their own like backyard, so to speak, when I'm passing through their town. They're like, hey, come check out this thing. It's not on Google Maps. It's not on any blog post online. And I've seen some really amazing things that way. I prefer that. I prefer to be a bit more serendipitous when I'm on the road for sure.

15:12 Danielle Desir Corbett I love that. I recently went to Paris with my mom and my 15-month-old son. And I had this moment where I was like, should I bring my camera, like my big DSLR camera? I mean, like I'm going to Paris, you know, like, oh my gosh. But I decided like not to because I just felt like this isn't a work trip. I just want to not be attached to my cell phone. So any tips for people who are looking to disconnect and not be so take like all the pictures and all the videos and just like living vicariously? Like you're in a destination, but you're also like in your phone. It's just a weird thing. But like any tips for like disconnecting and for really immersing yourself in the experience without having to document things, you know, for social media and all of the like.

16:10 Will Hatton Yeah, I think it's definitely a case of trying to find a middle ground, right? You know, I run a travel blog. I fully understand the desire to want to document your adventures and to share information, to share experiences with people. But every year I take a whole month off like no laptops, no phones, no nothing. I go into the mountains and I wander around and I've got a battered iPod touch in my pocket that doesn't have any social media. It's just got podcasts and all of all. And that's it. That I fully appreciate. Nobody has the opportunity to do that, but perhaps it's something that you try and carve out for one weekend a year. Perhaps if you're going on a trip for two weeks, you decide that one day of the week you're going to go out without your phone and maybe you're going to get lost. And that's fine. You'll figure it out. It'll be an experience. I do understand the desire to want to share, the desire to want to document. And I think that's important, but I think that it can be addictive. Social media is addictive. You can get like I went down there being addicted to social media rabbit hole big time a few years ago and everyone was just like, you know what? I'm not going to do social media anymore. I just can't do it. But that's another story. I think finding that middle ground and scheduling in time where you're like, I am going to go out and I'm going to eat this meal by myself. I'm going to be totally fine with being by myself without my phone. And if I'm not fine, I'm going to take a journal. And there you go. I've got something to do. But like I'm not going to take my phone because otherwise it's far too easy to not be really experiencing tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing what's in front of you. And to instead, it's just kind of the background to endless scrolling. And yeah, again, like no judgment. It's something I've had major issues with and have like tried hard to cut out my life.

17:58 Danielle Desir Corbett But I think that calling that time in where you're like today is a no phone day is really smart. I love that. I really do. And I think I'm going to definitely give this idea a chance and a try. You know, like, especially when that para story is telling you, I didn't have any like negative feelings towards bringing my DSLR. I just questioned at the moment if it was going to take me out of the experience of being at a destination with my mom, who's never been to Paris with my small child who, you know, instead of looking at a screen, I can see it through his eyes. You know, so I do think that there's something special with just, like you said, taking a journal and even having just a couple hours or a weekend or a day. So I really do love that. Now, one of the reasons why I really was excited to have you on today is to talk about backpacking. I believe we've had a previous guest who talked about backpacking around the world, but we didn't talk about the fundamentals and this lifestyle. So I want to start off and kind of take us at the beginning to see if there is a distinction between a backpacker and a budget traveler. And you also mentioned flash packing too. So what is that? So just really kind of level setting, letting us know, like, what are these different types of travel styles? Let's start there.

19:26 Will Hatton Yeah, so I mean, it's definitely interesting because it's a spectrum and they all kind of bleed into each other. In the past, backpacking was something that maybe not that many people wanted to do. But now, thanks to social media, it's very popular. And you get folks who are working traditional jobs in London, in New York, in Paris, in Berlin. They only get four or five weeks holiday a year. And they want to take that out to have a backpacking experience. They want to go somewhere far flung, like maybe Pakistan. For a while, I was running expeditions to Pakistan and we got a lot of people from London who are earning real good money. But they wanted to come and slum it in Pakistan on an organized tour. They didn't have to figure out the logistics, but they wanted to have a real rough, ready adventure. And that was what I was doing for a little while. Flashpackers, you know, are obviously the higher end, the more visible backpackers who are spending quite a lot of money a lot of the time. And it's definitely like an expanding segment of the market. I live in Bali when I'm not on the road. And Bali is a very special, very interesting, very crazy place because it attracts all manner of folks. You've got people who come here to make a name for themselves as influencers. You've got professional surfers. You've got it's just it's a crazy spot with a very interesting energy. And because of that, we've got the full spectrum. We've got broad backpackers here who are really like living cheap. We've got online aspiring entrepreneurs who are trying to build their dropshipping businesses. We've got remote workers who work for other companies but can work from wherever they want. We've got people who are traveling on big budgets. We've got people who are like influencer stars and like staying in these thousand dollar a night villas, surely so they can post on social media. So there really is a spectrum. I think that like budget traveling at its core is people who, like you say, are just kind of savvy, want to get the best deal, want to make the best plans. And I very much resonate with that. Like I think that it's smart to do that. I've now moved more from being a broke backpacker to a budget traveler in that I'm no longer traveling on a budget of $10 a day. But I still prefer to travel in a way where I'm using mostly like local guest houses and coming into contact with local people and getting behind the scenes a little bit. I'm not so much into the flashback of lifestyle. I've done it a little bit here and there. And it can certainly be fun, but I feel like it adds an extra degree of separation between you and the place that you are traveling through. I like the hostel vibe. I like meeting people from all around the world. I built a hostel in Bali specifically for Digital Nomads and aspiring entrepreneurs and remote workers. And we're the first one here, first hostel that's been built specifically for this group. And we're like fully booked all the time. So we get a lot of people coming through who are in this interesting space where they're travelers, but actually they're not carefree. They're trying to build a name or a business or a brand for themselves. And they're trying to tread this quite unclear path of how to be on the road and enjoy the best of the backpacker lifestyle, as well as also how to walk the online entrepreneurship first two, three years where either you make it or you burn out. You've got two, three years. And I see a lot of people burn out and I see some people make it. Usually the ones that burn out are the ones that aren't able to get the balance right. So they come out here and they love the look of the lifestyle that they think that working online is working on the beach or the cocktail. And it isn't. It's just not accurate. Unfortunately, again, social media is kind of skewed what it actually is to build an online business. Maybe there are some folks out there who are able to work four hours a day in the first year of building their business, but I don't know any. So, yeah, sorry, that's a bit of a ramble there. I guess what I'm saying is that there's a real spectrum of the kinds of people who hit the road and how they manage to stay on the road, how much they spend. It does kind of all bleed into each other. And you've got this whole new section right in the middle, which is this category of people who are traveling and they want to have the option to travel forever or to at least choose when they work and where they live. These are digital nomads, the remote workers, the online entrepreneurs.

23:48 Danielle Desir Corbett And this is the group that I'm the most familiar with at the moment. And it's very interesting observing this group as they come through Bali for sure. Oh my gosh, that's so like I love that you mentioned it being a spectrum because I've been running my brand of thought card for the last eight years. And I introduced this concept of financially savvy travel, which has elements of the budget. It can have elements of the backpacker in there. But I think for us, what distinguishes us is the financial responsibility of building wealth. So it's not only like a travel, like, okay, I'm a traveler. Yes, I want to explore, but I also want to maybe purchase a home or I want to save for retirement. I want to start a business. So it is part of the spectrum. And I love that you mentioned that because we're using terms like backpacker, flash packer, financially savvy traveler. But there is like a bleeding like you mentioned. There's just elements that you could say, oh, I vibe with this. I vibe with that. This may not be as relevant to me. Do you feel like the name that you use is kind of like, okay, like you could use one name versus the other, but it's more of like your ideology or like how you want to live your life like lifestyle design, I guess, which is what I'm really thinking about.

25:08 Will Hatton Yeah, absolutely. You've hit it on the head there with lifestyle design and choosing like what appeals to you, what you are pursuing, how you view your goals and your travels. Are you traveling because you are really into exploring other cultures? Are you traveling because it's cheaper to travel in some of these countries than it is to live in the States or in the UK or in our parts of Europe? You can have a better lifestyle now, parts of the world just by being there. So I think trying to like nail down why you're on the road and what it means to you and how you're going to stay there.

25:43 Danielle Desir Corbett And if you want to stay there and if you should stay there, these are all the questions that are best answered in a journal whilst waiting on the side of the road. I love that. I love that. Okay. So I think that offered like a really good like level set to let people know, okay, the differences. Now, who do you think backpacking is best suited for? I know you mentioned getting outside of your comfort zone. So is this type of lifestyle for everyone? Are there things that they should be aware of? Who is this for really?

26:17 Will Hatton I definitely think that like pure broke backpacking, that the start of travel that I started with, it helps to be younger because you're more comfortable being uncomfortable in your quest for personal development and to have the option to see somebody's amazing places. Saying that, I think that elements of broke backpacking, you can weave it into your travel. You could try hitchhiking. You could try taking a tent. You could try going on a hike. You could try, if you're normally someone who does guided trips, maybe you take a less guided trip. I think that taking more of your arrangements into your own hands and then allowing some of it to flow organically rather than over planning is something that causes everybody anxiety. And if it causes you anxiety, it's probably good for you because then you push through that anxiety, you realize you can do it. And for me, that's always been like a very validating experience.

27:22 Danielle Desir Corbett Okay, so I, moment of honesty, I told my husband this so I could share it all here. I did hitchhiking one time with friends and it was like we said a prayer. We're like, okay, we're doing something crazy. We're doing something crazy. But like, it felt unsafe. So how do you balance this feeling of like, okay, I'm pushing the limits, right, my comfort limits, but I also want to stay safe, especially also as a female, you know, females, we have to think. So any thoughts on safety and just what you're seeing in terms of any suggestions for women or what you've seen out there that our women are doing to stay safe as they're broke backpacking?

28:11 Will Hatton Absolutely. So my girlfriend is this absolute badass and has been hitchhiking all across Central America like by herself. She's very beautiful, gets a lot of attention. And she and I had a conversation about this the other day. And I was like, so what is your number one tip for hitchhiking safely as a female? And she was like, it all just comes down to using your intuition and trusting your intuition and being able to recognize intuition versus anxiety masquerading as intuition. And the more that you trust your intuition and allow that muscle to grow and to flex, the better it will get. If you're friendly and non-threatening, usually you can tell if someone is a good person. It helps if you're a woman to seek out other female drivers. If you are at like a gas station, then you are less at the mercy of seeing who stops and you can be more selective as to who you ask for a ride. It's always a good idea to strike up a bit of a friendly banter with the driver and to take a friendly selfie, which is going to immediately forward to someone else along the license plate. And if you do that, you've kind of put some kind of safety net in place. I definitely understand that hitchhiking can seem scary and pretty out there. And it is certainly there is an element of like throwing caution to the wind. But I think that when you throw caution to the wind, that's when you're going to have the experience, have the opportunity to have somebody who's just like amazing experiences. So she's even more passionate about hitchhiking than I am, has hitchhiked more than I have. She hasn't had a negative or very negative experience thus far. She's always encouraging other ladies to hit the road. So I think, you know, it does depend on your personal preferences. Hitchhiking is obviously, it gets some negative press. It is obviously out there a bit further than some people might want to take on that first stepping out of their comfort zone on the road experience. So maybe take some baby steps, head out the door without your phone, go for a wander, see what happens.

30:17 Danielle Desir Corbett Maybe try camping, maybe try going for a bit of a hike. You don't have to go from zero to 100 straight away, I guess is my point. But yeah, my girlfriend, she's a zero to 100 kind of lady and she's made it work. I love that you said you don't have to go to extremes all at once, right? And we're definitely going to be talking more about tips for folks who are just getting started. So I'll save that question for a little later. Well, you have this beautiful quote on your website, thebrokebackpacker.com. And I'm going to read it out loud and here it goes. You say that being a broke backpacker isn't about skimping on fun. It's about savvy adventuring. And of course, when I saw savvy, I was like, oh, yeah, that's like me, you know, it definitely resonated with me.

31:09 Will Hatton So what does this statement mean to you? Being a broke backpacker isn't about skimping on fun. It's about savvy adventuring. Yeah, I think it definitely comes down to like finding your own fun, making your own fun. Maybe you're not able to afford to see all of the attractions in the place you're passing through. But like the opportunity for you to have like just more serendipitous experiences. I was in the Philippines, very broke indeed. And I was wandering around and just playing chess with random Filipinos on the street. That was a ton of fun. I've had a lot of experiences whilst couchsurfing. I've couchsurfed well over a hundred times across the world where I've like used to couchsurfing website to meet local people and come into their homes and cook with them and play guitar and play some cards and play some board games. And that's so much more fun to me than some of the more like paid versions of fun. Like, I want to say museums, museums can be fun. Museums can also be free. Maybe museums aren't the best example. Just plenty of expensive fun bucket list type activities. There you go. So maybe it's like jet skiing or whitewater rafting or paying entrance fees to stuff, which often I just couldn't do any of that. And I would make my own fun. And yeah, I think that when you are on the road, you get quite adept and quite smart at finding the joy in the little things. And also you'd be amazed at how much bigger joy just randomly comes around the corner when you're traveling in that style.

32:36 Danielle Desir Corbett And, you know, I 100% agree because I feel like oftentimes we feel like because of travel marketing, you have to spend money to have fun. Right. And that is 100% not the case or always the case. And I love that you mentioned serendipitous experiences. Okay, so I know we're running out of time soon, but I definitely want to give folks some tips to keep in mind for their first backpacking trip. Any things you can think of to share?

33:06 Will Hatton Yeah, for sure. I think definitely it does make sense to do a little bit of planning, a little bit of research into where you want to go to kind of figure out some of the maybe hidden gems. I like to tap into local Facebook groups. I've been to Pakistan a lot. I've been to Iran a lot. I've been to places like Venezuela, Myanmar, Borobo, parts of the Philippines, local Facebook groups are a great way to make local connects and to get recommendations on cool experiences and what to do and how to get there. So I really like doing that. I think if you're traveling cheap, if you're traveling on a low budget, be prepared to go somewhere like Pakistan, somewhere like India, somewhere like Nepal, maybe Nicaragua, maybe Colombia. There's a lot of fantastic countries out there that aren't going to break the bank. Perhaps stay away from Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, these places are expensive. I've done them cheap and it's hard. It's really, really hard. It's possible. But I would say choosing your location wisely is like my number one tip. Actually, no, it's not. My number one tip is to take a journal, take a journal and use it every day because then you're going to look back on that journal and you're going to have the opportunity to enjoy your travels and enjoy those lessons that you're going to learn in like a whole new way. If you are traveling for a long time as well, I think like it's kind of irresponsible to not start some kind of side hustle or hobby on the side because you're going to end up with quite a lot of time waiting around in bus stations, train stations, whatever. You're going to end up with quite a lot of spare time on your hands. So start a hustle, start a website, start a business, write that blog post, learn to play the guitar, write poetry, do something with your time. Otherwise, you're just going to end up scrolling.

34:45 Danielle Desir Corbett Oh, I love that. That like brings us like full circle, but I want to continue pushing a little bit further because I also feel like from like the decade of experience you have, like there are some mistakes that you see backpackers making that are like going to kill their budget. Is there anything that we should be aware of to financially stay sound?

35:07 Will Hatton I think you can over plan. I think that you can over plan and not leave enough time in your schedule to make changes and like changes happen. Changes definitely happen where suddenly you can't make it to the next place and you can't change that hotel booking so you lose out. So I think that especially if you're doing like a style of trip that's like a road trip or a more like longer adventure, I would try to be more flexible and not overbook stuff. I myself have lost money on overbooking stuff that I just couldn't make. So I think that's an important tip. I think also I don't want to harp on about it, but again, making sure you're getting time off your phone and making sure you're really getting time to experience things. I know that your audience are people who are interested in personal development and being healthy and moving forwards in like in that direction. It's really easy for that to go out of the window when you're traveling. The best example is fitness. I'm like a really fit guy. But when I'm traveling, it doesn't take long for me to forget to run, forget to stretch, forget to go to the gym. And if you're on the road, I think it's really important to try and maintain whatever foundational practices you have in your life so that you're happy, healthy, and things are easy.

36:15 Danielle Desir Corbett I love that. That's the foundation I think is really important. I was listening to a podcast episode recently where they were talking about like when you are home, right in your home setting, you have these routines that you build that it's easy to maintain because you kind of do the same thing over again. But on the road, there's just so much unpredictability and yesterday may impact today, right? So I love that you're just saying maintain your guiding principles and your foundations. So I'm going to leave us with this question because I'm wondering if it's still relevant. So 10 years ago, you were traveling the world on $10 per day. Now 10 years later in 2023, when we're recording this, is it still possible to travel the world that cheaply?

37:03 Will Hatton Yeah, it absolutely is. It definitely comes down to a few factors. There is a free book on my site, so you can go and download that. I wrote it myself. It took absolutely ages, so please enjoy. But yeah, it's absolutely possible to do that. A big part of it does come down to location. I think as well, if you get quite good at tapping into local connects to find opportunities to make some money whilst you are traveling, then you can kind of bring that overall budget up and you can stretch it further. There's a lot of volunteering opportunities around the world where you can work three or four hours a day on an organic farm or on a moshav. There's so many opportunities in exchange for food and accommodation. So you do a few hours work in the morning. It's quite good fun. You get a community of people. Maybe you learn some skills and in the afternoons they're yours. So yeah, definitely like it is hard to travel on a budget of $10 a day if you're not willing to do some kind of work or volunteering. It is challenging. Still possible, but the number of countries that you can do that in is limited to about 10. So I would say that like go with the attitude of being willing to volunteer to contribute to help out to work and you can absolutely make it happen. Yeah, for sure. And I will absolutely make sure to leave a link to your free book in the show notes in the company blog post. So financially savvy travelers definitely go and check out Will's book. Will, what is next for you? How can we connect with you? Are you still backpacking? That's like the big question. Are you still backpacking too? Yeah, so I am very much still backpacking. COVID slowed me down. I got stuck in Pakistan a couple of times. I was in and out of Pakistan a lot because I was riding these tours there. I'm now in Bali where I've got five dogs. I'm running the first co-working hostel on the island and we're looking at building a second one over in Lombok. So that's kind of my focus at the moment. I also, you know, I'm expanding my team. We've got 16 riders at the moment all out on assignment around the world, making sure that all of our content is up to date. So that we've got these incredibly detailed backpacking guides on how exactly you can travel around Costa Rica on the cheap. So I'm really at the helm of this business and the hostel business and several other businesses. And I'm writing another book and I'm very inactive on social media. But if you come to Bali and you come to my hostel, which is called Tribal, you can have a coffee with me and play a game of pool. I'm normally down there.

39:27 Danielle Desir Corbett I love that. Listen, financial side of travelers, if you make it to Bali, okay, and you listen to this episode, make sure you tell Will that you're like, I found you from Danielle. Okay. So, Will, I appreciate it so much. Thank you for coming on. I think my biggest takeaways from our conversation is the serendipity, the importance of journaling and really experiencing a destination versus just hitting the sites, right? Going off the beaten path. So this mindfulness, I think, is so important. And it's something that we typically think about saving hacks and strategies and not thinking about it from a professional development sort of standpoint. So your presence was so appreciated. And I'm looking forward to hopefully meeting you one day, sometimes when I make it over to Asia. So it's so great to have you today. Thank you so much. I look forward to receiving you in Bali. Thank you.

Backpacking Fosters Personal Growth

Will Hatton, known as The Broke Backpacker, left his home in England at the age of 19 and set sail for India. Not wanting to return back home, he desperately wanted to keep traveling.

To fund his travels, he picked up odd jobs, volunteered and relied on the hospitality of strangers. Admittedly, Will started backpacking out of necessity rather than being naturally frugal.

Embracing an extremely frugal lifestyle, Will stepped outside of his comfort zone. Living on the edge, he stretched his money as far as possible traveling around the world for a decade.

Emphasizing the personal development and cultural experiences he gained through backpacking, Will proves backpacking is more than just a form of travel; it is a catalyst for personal growth.

He mentions having a lot of time to journal, think about his goals and values, and prove his mettle to himself. This self-reflection and self-discovery were instrumental in his personal development. Will describes himself as a shy and anxious kid who found empowerment and a sense of purpose on the road.

Will emphasizes backpacking on a tight budget is not about being cheap, but rather about making the most of limited resources. It requires careful planning, resourcefulness, and a willingness to embrace alternative ways of experiencing a destination.

Why should you go backpacking?

One of the key backpacking lessons Will mentions is empathy. Through his travels, he came into contact with kind people who offered him hospitality and made him feel like part of their family.

These encounters fostered a sense of belief in the overall goodness of humanity and made him question how he could be a positive part of it.

By immersing himself in different cultures and meeting people from various backgrounds all around the world, Will was able to explore and shape his own beliefs. This highlights the transformative power of travel in helping individuals define their own identity and moral compass.

Another aspect of personal growth that backpacking helped Will develop is a sense of positivity and optimism.

He recalls moments when he was soaked, cold, and hungry, yet he found humor in the situation and maintained a positive attitude.

This ability to find joy in challenging circumstances is a valuable skill that can be applied to any situation in life. It teaches us to adapt, persevere, and maintain a hopeful outlook, even in the face of adversity.

Additionally, Will stressed the importance of disconnecting from technology and fully immersing oneself in the travel experience.

While he acknowledges the desire to document and share experiences through social media, Will cautions the need for balance.

He suggests taking breaks from technology, even if it’s just for a weekend, to truly appreciate and engage with the present moment.

Backpacking Tips For Beginners

Travel marketing often promotes the idea that spending money is necessary to have fun while traveling.

Will shares his personal experiences of finding joy in the little things and encountering unexpected moments of happiness while traveling on a tight budget of $10 a day.

Traveling on a budget is not only possible but can also lead to unique and fulfilling experiences. By embracing a mindset of curiosity, flexibility, and resourcefulness, travelers can find joy in the little things, connect with locals, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

It is a reminder that travel is not solely about the amount of money spent, but rather about the willingness to explore, adapt, and appreciate the beauty of the world.

Prefer to listen to this podcast episode on YouTube?

Backpacking vs Flashpacking: What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between a backpacker and a flashpacker?

Will Hatton: It’s a spectrum and they all kind of bleed into each other.

In the past, backpacking was something that maybe not that many people wanted to do. But now, thanks to social media, it’s very popular.

You get folks who are working traditional jobs in London, New York, Paris, and Berlin. They only get four or five weeks holiday a year. They want to have a backpacking experience. They want to go somewhere far-flung, like maybe Pakistan. They wanted to come on an organized tour without having to to figure out the logistics and have a real rough, ready adventure.

Read Next: Traveling With a Full-Time Job (How to make the most of your limited time)

Flashpackers are on the higher end, who are spending quite a lot of money. And it’s definitely an expanding segment of the market.

I live in Bali (Indonesia); Bali is a very special, very interesting, very crazy place because it attracts all manner of folks. You’ve got people who come here to make a name for themselves as influencers. You’ve got professional surfers.

We’ve got broke backpackers here who are really living cheap.

We’ve got online aspiring entrepreneurs who are trying to build their dropshipping businesses.

We’ve got remote workers who work for other companies but can work from wherever they want.

We’ve got people who are traveling on big budgets. We’ve got people who are influencer stars staying in these thousand-dollar-a-night villas, so they can post on social media. So there really is a spectrum.

And you’ve got this whole new section right in the middle, which is this category of people who are traveling and want to have the option to travel forever or to at least choose when they work and where they live.

These are digital nomads, remote workers, the online entrepreneur.

At its core, budget travelers are people who are savvy, want to get the best deal, and want to make the best plans.

I’ve now moved more from being a broke backpacker to a budget traveler in that I’m no longer traveling on a budget of $10 a day. But I still prefer to travel in a way where I’m using mostly local guest houses and coming into contact with local people and getting behind the scenes a little bit.

I’m not so much into the flashpack lifestyle. I’ve done it a little bit here and there. And it can certainly be fun, but I feel like it adds an extra degree of separation between you and the places you are traveling through.

Who is backpacking best suited for?

Will Hatton: For broke backpacking, the type of travel I started with, it helps to be younger because you’re more comfortable being uncomfortable in your quest for personal development.

Saying that, I think there are elements of broke backpacking you can weave into your travels.

You could try hitchhiking. You could try taking a tent. You could try going on a hike.

If you’re normally someone who does guided trips, maybe you take a less guided trip.

Taking more of your arrangements into your own hands and then allowing some of it to flow organically rather than over-planning is something that causes everybody anxiety. If it causes you anxiety, it’s probably good for you because then you push through that anxiety, and realize you can do it. For me, that’s always been a very validating experience.

You don’t have to go from zero to 100 straight away.

Different types of travelers exist.

Overall, choose a travel style that aligns with your goals and values, whether it be exploring other cultures or seeking a better lifestyle in a more affordable part of the world.

While Will suggests pure broke backpacking is best suited for younger individuals who are comfortable with being uncomfortable, elements of broke backpacking can be incorporated into your travels regardless of age. This could involve hitchhiking, camping, connecting with locals, or taking less guided trips.

You have a great quote on your website: “Being a broke backpacker isn’t about skimping on fun. It’s about savvy adventuring.” What does this mean to you?

Will Hatton: Backpacking comes down to finding your own fun or making your own fun. Maybe you’re not able to afford to see all of the attractions in the place you’re passing through. But perhaps there are more opportunities for you to have serendipitous experiences.

I was in the Philippines, very broke indeed. And I was wandering around just playing chess with random people on the street. That was a ton of fun.

I’ve had a lot of experiences while couchsurfing. I’ve couch surfed well over a hundred times across the world where I meet local people, go to their homes and cook with them and play guitar, cards, or board games. And that’s so much more fun to me than some of the more paid versions of fun.

Museums can be fun. Museums can also be free. So maybe I missed out on jet skiing or whitewater rafting or paying entrance fees to stuff, which often I couldn’t do any of that. However, I would make my own fun.

When you are on the road, you get quite adept and quite smart at finding joy in the little things. Also, you’d be amazed at how much joy randomly comes around the corner when you’re traveling in that style.

I’ve been to countries where I haven’t seen the sights but I’ve spent my time hanging out in parks, meeting local people, and journaling under a tree.

When you are traveling in this way, it brings you into a lot more contact with local people, because ultimately you’re relying on people for some hospitality one way or another.

You have the opportunity to see things in a different way and really peek behind the curtain and get a feel for the local culture.

Some of the best experiences I’ve had, some of the coolest things I’ve seen have been things that locals have shown me in their own backyard, so to speak, when I’m passing through their town.

They’re like, hey, come check out this thing. It’s not on Google Maps. It’s not on any blog post online. And I’ve seen some really amazing things that way. I prefer that.

I prefer to be a bit more serendipitous when I’m on the road for sure.

Any first time backpacking tips you can share?

Will Hatton: I like to tap into local Facebook groups to make local connections and get recommendations on cool experiences, what to do, and how to get there.

If you’re traveling on a low budget, be prepared to go somewhere like Pakistan, India, Nepal, maybe Nicaragua or Colombia.

There are a lot of fantastic countries out there that aren’t going to break the bank.

Perhaps stay away from Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand, or Australia, these places are expensive.

I’ve done them cheap and it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. It’s possible. But I would say choosing your location wisely is my number one tip.

Actually, no, it’s not. My number one tip is to take a journal.

Take a journal and use it every day because then you’re going to look back on that journal and you’re going to have the opportunity to enjoy your travels and enjoy those lessons you’re going to learn in a whole new way.

If you are traveling for a long time as well, consider starting some kind of side hustle or hobby on the side because you’re going to end up with a lot of time waiting around in bus stations, train stations, whatever.

Start a side hustle, start a website, start a business, write that blog post, learn to play the guitar, write poetry, do something with your time. Otherwise, you’re just going to end up scrolling.

What are some mistakes you see backpackers making that kill their travel budget?

Will Hatton: You can over plan and not leave enough time in your schedule to make changes.

Changes definitely happen where suddenly you can’t make it to the next place and you can’t change that hotel booking, so you lose out.

Especially if you’re doing a road trip or a longer adventure, I would try to be more flexible and not overbook stuff. I myself have lost money on overbooking stuff that I just couldn’t make.

Again, make sure you’re getting off your phone and getting time to experience things.

Lastly, when I’m traveling, it doesn’t take long for me to forget to run, forget to stretch, or forget to go to the gym. Try and maintain whatever foundational practices you have in your life so that you’re happy, healthy, and things are easy.

Ten years ago, you were traveling the world on $10 per day. Ten years later, is it still possible to travel the world that cheaply?

Will Hatton: Yeah, it absolutely is. It definitely comes down to a few factors.

A big part of it does come down to location.

Get good at tapping into local connections to find opportunities to make some money while you are traveling, then you can bring that overall budget up and stretch it further.

There are a lot of volunteering opportunities around the world where you can work three or four hours a day on an organic farm or on a moshav. There are so many opportunities in exchange for food and accommodation.

You do a few hours of work in the morning. It’s quite good fun. You get a community of people. Maybe you learn some skills and in the afternoons are yours.

It is hard to travel on a budget of $10 a day if you’re not willing to do some kind of work or volunteering. It is challenging. Still possible, but the number of countries that you can do that in is limited to about ten.

Go with the attitude of being willing to contribute, help out, and you can absolutely make it happen.

Listen to this podcast episode on Spotify.

In summary, backpacking on a tight budget can be a transformative experience for many travelers. It allows you to explore new destinations, immerse yourself in different cultures, and challenges you in ways you likely never thought possible.

Will’s story serves as inspiration for anyone who may feel limited by financial constraints, showing that with determination and resourcefulness, it is possible to embark on a journey of personal growth through travel.

Noteworthy Quotes by Will Hatton:

  • [7:01] It really comes down to being willing to get uncomfortable.”
  • [12:37] It was just an amazing experience that really made me believe in the overall goodness of humanity and question how I could be a good part of humanity.”
  • [28:26] It all just comes down to using your intuition and trusting your intuition and being able to recognize intuition versus anxiety masquerading as intuition.”
  • [31:55] When you are on the road, you get quite adept and quite smart at finding the joy in the little things. And also you’d be amazed at how much bigger joy just randomly comes around the corner when you’re traveling in that style.”
  • [34:02] My number one tip is to take a journal, take a journal and use it every day because then you’re going to look back on that journal and you’re going to have the opportunity to enjoy your travels and enjoy those lessons that you’re going to learn in a whole new way.”
  • [37:49] It is hard to travel on a budget of $10 a day if you’re not willing to do some kind of work or volunteering. It is challenging. Still possible, but the number of countries that you can do that in is limited to about ten.

Backpacking For Beginners Resources

  • The Broke Backpacker Manifesto – guiding principles for traveling the roads of life.
  • Travel the World on $10 a Day (eBook) – find out how to travel longer for less.
  • Affording Travel – the ultimate guide to breaking free from the limiting belief that travel is financially out of reach. Learn how to take control of your finances, make travel a lifestyle, and confidently plan your next adventure.

About Will Hatton:

Will Hatton started traveling more than a decade ago as a shy and penniless youth, but his years on the road quickly turned him into an expert backpacker and budget traveler.

Will is passionate about the power of budget travel as a personal development tool, and about teaching others to ditch their desks, embrace adventure and build an online income.

Will is currently based in Bali, where he just opened Tribal Hostel, the island’s first dedicated digital nomad co-working hostel.

Website: www.thebrokebackpacker.com

Instagram: @thebrokebackpacker

Facebook: @thebrokebackpacker

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2 replies
  1. Lise P. says:

    This podcast episode totally got me thinking about the whole travel thing.

    Will Hatton’s story from pennies to savvy backpacking guru really hits home. His take on savoring the little moments and connecting with locals? That’s gold, and mostly lots of souvenirs for me. His safety tips and keeping those personal routines intact while on the move also deserve their notebook page. But what really got me?

    The whole spectrum of travel styles he talks about. Are we just chasing Insta-worthy shots, or are we really soaking in the culture? Makes you wonder, right? This episode isn’t just about packing light; it’s about packing wisdom for life’s adventures.

    Thanks again for sharing, Danielle ! :)

    Reply
  2. techylist says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post on backpacking for beginners. It was very informative and I learned a lot. I think it would be a great idea for anyone starting out to read it before they go out on their first backpacking trip

    Reply

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