This week I sat down with self-confessed travel freak Jeremy Foster, who many of you probably recognize from his awesome and aptly named blog travelFREAK.
Born in America, Jeremy, an IT specialist by trade, packed up his belongings and left home on an open-ended trip to Australia. Years later, he’s still on the move and exploring other countries. He is now a mobile cocktail bartender and the head writer for travelFREAK! You can usually find him on either side of the bar, acting wanky and pretentious about booze.
Now let’s see how he handles my questions!
Greetings Jeremy. Please introduce yourself and tell us more about your blog, travelFREAK.
Hey there, Derek. travelFREAK is a blog focused on showcasing travel tales of transformation and adventure. Travel is a mind-expanding experience and I like to highlight well-told travel stories from around the globe.
Storytelling seems to be a lost art. Too many travel blogs are filled with nonsensical, drunken jibberish. I want to talk about the real stuff: the topics that really plague and excite us, both as people and as travelers. travelFREAK has become my platform for doing so.
Back in early 2010 as you were saying goodbye to your cubicle and first prepping for your solo travels, did you have any anxiety or fears?
Absolutely! I remember buying my plane ticket online and I literally couldn’t even click the “Purchase” button without my mother standing next to me with her hand on my shoulder. Three years later, I’ve covered some serious ground, entirely on my own, within Australasia. Since then, I’d say I’ve made a significant transition from a 24 year old boy to a 27 year old man. Of course, I still get anxious before I travel, but it’s different now. I’m not scared anymore—I’m thirsty! I want to devour the adventure and everything the world has to offer!
Now approaching nearly three full years of solo travel, what are some of the most important things you have learned along your journey?
I’ve learned to just go with the flow, talk to strangers, and say yes to everything! I like to be reckless and spontaneous because life is just too short to regret something I never did. Of course, this gets me into some interesting situations, but it always makes for a good story! It’s important to take life seriously, and to get where you need to go (literally and figuratively), but life isn’t as grave as so many people make it out to be. Have fun and have a sense of humor.Read More > Two Years on the Road: A Summation At the end of the day, the best thing is to be is happy.
It seems like you spent equal time exploring and working local jobs, to fund your adventures. Aside from the paychecks and the interactions with the locals, were there any big highlights? Any downsides or unexpected complications?
Oh boy. Well, since I’ve left home, I’ve worked a multitude of jobs, and each one, of course, brings with it a certain experience and lifestyle. I’ve served drinks on the beaches of Australia, I’ve worked in the sex industry in New Zealand, and I’m currently teaching English to children in mainland China. I’ve worked for worldwide corporations and mom-and-pop establishments. In a very short period of time, my experience has been expansive and across the board.
This puts me in a very good position, actually, because I now have a distinguished level of real-world knowledge and understanding. Today, I call myself a professional cocktail bartender with a focus in high-end drinks and boutique spirits. If I hadn’t started working as a barback at that dirty backpacker bar two and a half years ago, I never would have found this thing that I love. I have discovered a new profession and I am following a direction in my life that I never would have stumbled across were it not for my travels.
As you’ve mentioned Australia – at least the travelers’ route – is often full of backpackers and not Aussies. During your extensive experiences around Oz, did you manage to find any hidden gems or unique sights off the beaten path that you would recommend for other adventurous travelers?
To this day, I remember Yamba, New South Wales. It’s a sleepy surf town, dotted with beaches, that bleeds all the best aspects of Australia. I was meant to stay for one night, but stayed for a week. I personally know other backpackers who have gone, intending to stay for a couple of nights, but ended up spending a year or more there. It’s inviting, super-friendly, and just totally awesome. You’d have to go there to understand. If you’ve been, you’ll know what I mean.
I know that you are a proud and important contributor of the 2013 Travel Blogging Calendar. For those unfamiliar with it, can you please share more about it and your part, as well as how you first became involved?
It’s a bit of an interesting story, Derek. Just over a year ago I found myself in Auckland, New Zealand, with very little money to my name. After a damaging visit to a chiropractor, my 30 year old sister suffered a stroke and had to go to the hospital for emergency surgery. I didn’t know how I was going to fly to the other side of the world without any money, so I reached out on my blog and asked people to help me get home to see my sister in her time of need. I raised enough money to fly around the world, and I swore to pay this incredible kindness forward.
When the idea for the Travel Blogging Calendar started to take shape, I saw this as my opportunity to give back. So many people have helped me on my journey, and I saw an opportunity to help others on theirs. The idea is to give back to the communities that have nurtured us on our travels. The project has received some criticism, which is unfortunate, but we still managed to raise a nice chunk of money for charity. This year we donated to Mitrata Nepal, a Nepalese children’s home and orphanage, and VSO Bahaginan,Read More > Announcing The Travel Blogging
Calendar 2013: The Calendars for a Charitable Cause the Asian chapter of the largest charity who works to fight global poverty through volunteerism.
I was surprised to see that several of your oldest posts were actually sponsored by some big names. How did you manage this so early on? Any tips for new bloggers out there following in your footsteps?
To be honest with you, I don’t have a clue. There is no science to blogging, and I am by no means an expert. I will say, though, that getting as far as I have (which, frankly, isn’t even that far!), has taken a gargantuan amount of effort and dedication. It has literally taken years for me to reap the rewards.
I think a lot of new people starting blogs have a delusion that they can just write things, and then people will start throwing money at them. It’s not quite that easy, and there are a lot of fields and industries to navigate. A blog requires writing, sure, but it also requires technical knowledge, design knowledge, an understanding of SEO, networking, a social media presence, and a million other things. If you want to blog, just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into!
After a couple years of exploring Australia and New Zealand to get your “travel legs,” just how much of a shock has Asia been to you?
I decided to come to China because I wanted a travel experience that would flip my entire world upside down. It’s easy to travel in places like Australia and New Zealand, because the cultures are still Western and everybody speaks English. Coming to Asia has been eye opening, bizarre, and totally F’d up…but in a good way! After speaking with others about my experience in China, people have agreed that, as a Westerner, I couldn’t be in any place more different. It’s dirty, it smells bad, the food is strange, people stare at me, and I can hardly communicate. But this is mad life experience right here!Read More > Wandering the Streets of China:
An Introspection. Is This Culture Shock? This is the stuff I will tell my grandchildren about someday…assuming I don’t already have any.
So currently you are in China, teaching English. Although you have only mentioned this in passing on your blog, can you tell us more about your experiences thus far?
Going through such a drastic change professionally has been a struggle for me. Now, instead of serving drinks to drunken adults acting like children, I’m serving English to people who are actually children! Ultimately, it’s stressful, but it’s rewarding and fulfilling. I teach 140 students every week, aged 3 to 13, and I love them to pieces. Sure, we talk about food and animals, but no four-year-old is going to get more philosophical than that. I’ve been teaching for about three months now, and every day is new. I learn just as much from these kids as they learn from me, if not more.
All men – but especially us solo travelers – have been known to be talked into questionable things by beautiful women, some of which we will admit to, some of which we won’t. That having been said, are there any interesting dares you’ve been talked into along your journeys?
Brilliant, Derek. Thanks for making me air my dirty laundry! Since you bring it up, I did get talked into a naked bungy jump in Queenstown, New Zealand. The girls behind the desk were cute and, well, maybe I have a hard time saying no!Read More > Bungy Jumping (Naked)
in Queenstown, New Zealand Their giggles certainly weren’t comforting as they scrolled through the photos, though. That’s for sure!
Then there’s the time I ended up naked in a dark alleyway getting my photo taken by transvestites. But I’m not going to explain that one…!
What adventures do you have planned for the remainder of 2013, what can we look forward to?
Well, my plan is to finish up in China towards the end of the year, travel a large portion of Asia, and then make it home to my family for the holidays. I haven’t celebrated a birthday, Mother’s Day or Super Bowl at home with my family or my amigos in a very long time, and a reunion is far overdue.
I have some big travel ideas for 2013, but my ultimate goal is to make it home and reconnect for a little while. After a couple months at home, my future is wide open and uncertain.
Which is just the way I like it.
To find out more take a trip over to travelFREAK or stalk Jeremy: