Travelling around the world is the dream of many people. On this interview, we had the opportunity to talk with travel blogger Johnny Ward about his impressive journeys. From a student living on a tight budget in Ireland, now he has earned a total of USD1.5 million from online business and travelled to 197 countries on the planet.
Can you tell about yourself a little too? Where are you from? When were you born? Where did you study? What are your parents doing? What dreams do you have besides travelling?
I was born in Ireland, near Galway. Grew up in Northern Ireland until I was 18, most of my childhood we were poor, on welfare payments, with no father. I was happy but we were broke. My mum then got a job as a social worker, and the last couple of years were a bit easier. I went to university in England from 18-22 years old, and the day I finished University, I left the country, I have been traveling ever since.
From 2006 to 2012, traveling on a super tight budget, working jobs in USA, Thailand, South Korea, medical research testing in Ireland, so I could travel. Then from 2012 onwards I made good money online with my blog (onestep4ward.com), since then I have started my charity, the givebackgiveaway.com where we build schools for poor communities, and everything seems to be on the right track, until the next time I do something crazy – hopefully the north pole marathon in April.
What inspired you to travel around the world?
Growing up in Ireland, we couldn’t afford to go on holidays much, I think I went on 2 trips outside Ireland my whole childhood, from being born to 18. Watching my friends and their families going to USA, Spain, Italy on holidays made me feel so trapped. I remember deeply feeling than when I was old enough to be free, I’d make sure to use that freedom as much as possible, and I feel I’ve done just that.
You said that money was not that important. Did you mean between determination and money, the determination is more important?
I know the media loves to use my money making as part of my story, it’s sexy, it gains readers, I get it. And to be fair it is a big part of my story now, but for 29 years of my 33 years I was broke and still traveling all the time. Money isn’t a must, not at all. The choice is to be free or not, once you make that choice, with the courage that takes, the opportunities are endless.
Did you have a budget, a certain amount of money while traveling the world? How much did you spend a day on average? Or did you travel with no money at all?
It took me 10 years to visit every country in the world, averaging around 15 days per country. The first 5 years I was very poor, so my budget was USD10-USD20 per day max. Roughly USD5,000 per year! The last 4, 5 years have changed, as my profile and blog have grown, I’m more free. I’m always careful with my money, investing most of what I earn. I’m not a flash guy so I don’t need to worry about budget but generally speaking I spend as little as possible. When I first set out to travel, I had nothing. I taught English in Thailand then Korea to fund my trips. Now things are a little different.
Did you travel by leaving everything behind? Did you just pack your home one day, leave and never come back?
Kinda yes. But I didn’t really have anything to leave behind, only my family. I was single, I had just graduated from university, I had no job, no debts other than student debt, so that was the best time. But yes, I never moved back.
What kind of a plan did you come with before travelling the world? How was your route?
I worked in continents – 1 year in East Africa, 1 year in South America, 1 year in Central Asia/Middle East. The first 5 years I couldn’t afford to fly much so I had to work in regions like that so I could use public transport. For example I went from South Africa to Syria by public buses, also from China to Ireland by public transport too.
Did you always go travelling by yourself?
I also set out alone, but I love it when my close friends/family can join for little sections. I travel 9-12 months per year, so most people can only join for 2 weeks here or there, but it’s a nice break for us both when they come.
You have your mother with you in some of the photos. Which countries did you travel together? Did she come visit your or is she a traveller herself?
I have a goal to take my mum to 50 countries, and since I started this new lifestyle, I’ve taken her to 44! She supported me emotionally so much when I started this, when I had no money, so now I’ve been more successful I’m proud that I can give her all these amazing experiences. I’ve taken her to crazy places, she loves it from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan, Togo, South Korea, Ecuador, Tibet, all over the globe!
In which country you stayed the shortest and the longest? How long did you stay there?
Shortest was probably the Vatican city, just 1 day. For the longest, I have spent 3,4,5,6+ months in China, Thailand, Australia, USA, South Africa, South Korea, lots of places I’ve stayed a month too. I ran out of money in 2009 and flew to Australia to find a job and make some cash. I stayed there for a year.
How did you travel to dangerous countries such as Central African Republic, Somali?
With a lot of difficulty! Car was a scary place, and Mogadishu, with mortar bombs flying in the city, was really terrifying. But I had my goal, so I had to suck it up and deal with it.
What was your biggest misfortune?
I’m quite a careless person, so I’ve been in hospitals in more than 10 countries! Broken shoulder and knee in Thailand, broken foot in Korea, skin graft in Australia, some African stomach thing in Burkina Faso, so many places! I have been mugged in Ecuador and Paraguay too, arrested in India, Ivory Coast and Ukraine, but it’s all part of the adventure and all’s well than ends well.
In which country you had the best memory?
So difficult to say, travel isn’t a trip for me, it’s my whole life. Of course I love my memories of finishing my 197th country, but finally reaching Yemen on an indian cargo ship was something truly special. It took me 6 attempts and 6 months to get to Yemen, thousands of dollars, so much time, and finally I got there, it was my 2nd last country and I knew finally I was almost there.
Did anyone support you after you started, as a sponsor?
Nope, it’s all self-funded from my blog and online business. I guess you could say some of that is ‘sponsored’; now I have a lot of readers and followers so hotels invite me etc, but that’s only been quite a recent thing.
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