Wade Shepard interview: Inspirational Travelers

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ May 6th, 2010. Updated on May 5th, 2012. Published in: Travel blog » Great Modern Travelers.

I am about to introduce you to someone who runs one of the best travel blogs today. VagabondJourney.com is the creation of 10 year travel veteran, father, and husband Wade Shepard. Vagabond Journey is a rarity in today’s world of flash travel blogging. It’s a mammoth resource of all things travel. What’s more, Wade’s writing is excellent. Straight to the point, honest and well structured.

However, just last year things changed monumentally. Wade got married to Chaya, and they had a lovely baby daughter, Petra.

Is this the end of his 10 years of travel. Wade’s got a lot to say about this, I encourage you to read on to find out more …

Tell us about the roots of your travels, how & why did you start traveling like this?

Photograph of Wade Shepard

10 years of travel & still going

It was always ingrained in me that life was suppose to be a fantasy, an adventure, something to remember, an event that is great and larger than even my imagination. I believed in my boyhood adventure stories as a youth, and have not grown out of them yet. My mother would always tell me the words that her mother would tell her: “If you set your mind to it, you can do anything.”

I found that I wanted to have adventures, to be the main character in my own story. So I began traveling, as it seemed to be the most expedient way to obtain my goal, and have not stopped yet. From a survey of our western assemblage of folklore, fairy tales, cartoons, and story books, the act of traveling is often the driving force behind the plot line. I believed these stories to be true, and have continued to be too dense to learn otherwise.

Now that you are no longer a solo traveler, but rather husband and father, have your reasons for traveling changed?
No, my reasons for traveling are still the same: I feel as if this is the best way to live. The daily challenges of traveling are sharp and immediate — you always stand to learn something new — but it is my impression that it is a far easier life on the road than tending to a stockpile of fodder that inevitably builds up in the garages and attics of a sedentary live. Travel is, perhaps, a constant shedding away of the layers of life that you no longer need, and a grasping at those which you desire.

Have you drawn any inspiration from other travelers, past or present, and if so who and why?
Harry A. Franck is the first and last influence upon my traveling life. The man made a LIFE based on traveling. He did not take a journey, go home, write about it, and live off the memories his entire life, no, he continued traveling, continued writing books all the way up until his 80’s. He was a traveler, he was the complete package: he was athletic, he was a good writer, he wrote daily, and he did this all with a large family. What makes Harry Franck stand out in my mind is that he lived a full life while traveling.

I became more interested in Harry Franck when I got married last summer and had my first child, so I began making phone calls to his surviving family members to see if they would be willing to talk to me about what he was like behind the books, and, more pertinently, how he managed to travel and write over thirty books with a wife and five children. I was then at a turning point in my life and I needed some guidance, and I again found it in Harry Franck. I met with one of his daughters and talked with a grandson over the phone and they told me what I needed to hear.

In 10 years of travel, what have you seen change the most when you return back home?
When I return home for visits, it is now clear that life goes on as usual, but I am not part of it. I am now a visitor in my family’s home, a rare apparition on the horizon. I would have to say that missing the nuances of the temporal progression of my family is the biggest downfall to traveling. Though I do keep in good contact with my family, and they read the blog.

This entire Vagabondjourney.com publishing fiasco began as a way to let my family know a little more about me and what I do, as I realized around 2005 or so that they really had no idea. I was just gone — invisible perhaps — out lazing in leisure and loafing in the world. I wanted to make sure that they knew that I took the work ethic and skills that they taught me and apply them towards traveling: I wanted them to know that I work, too.

What has been the worst day for you during your travels?
Probably the day that I realized in Patagonia in 2002 that traveling is a pretty boring thing to do. I became a little lost for a few moments. I was young then and was just walking around, reading books at night, drinking wine, hanging out as I traveled. I did not have any projects, nothing substantial to do, no mission, no goals, no purpose really. I had yet to discover the “project.” I realized that my mother’s lessons were correct: people need productive things to do in order to be happy.

So I went to Japan and began a 4 year study abroad program called the Friends World Program (now Global College), which would enable me to travel to pretty much any country in the world I wanted and study language, culture, and do any little project that I could imagine. It was somewhere during my time traveling in this university that I began blogging and eventually started VagabondJourney.com. This project became my main motivating force in travel productivity, so to speak — it gave me a mission, a daily to do list, and something to build and fully occupy myself with each day of traveling. Without these projects I probably would have went home long ago.

What has been the best day during your travels?
Probably the day that I was napping in a hammock on Nicaragua’s Ometepe Island when a girl in a polka dotted dress woke me up by knocking on my head. We would be married three years later.


Vagabond Journey website

Wade's great website

Social media, travel blogs, travel TV, do you think the age of great travel exploration is over?
No, no way. While 99% of these internet information sources merely skim the surface, just regurgitating sections of guidebooks, and have little lasting redeeming value as far as I am concerned, but some of this media is pushing the bounds of world travel, getting information out to people, allowing travelers to travel farther, cheaper, and better.

If you turn on the Travel Channel today it becomes quickly apparent that it has little to do with travel, it is all about food and eating. It should be called the pig out around the world channel. It is funny that an entire television channel can make a living by sending three or four jackasses around the world to eat the testicles off of various animals.

Where did Alby Mangels go, I must ask, and why was he replaced with gangs of walking cliches?

But there is a 1% fringe of online travel writing and media that stands way above the fold. There are travelers who maintain websites who really push travel deeper, further. They write about the thicker side of where they travel — cultural nuances, the personal side of politics, the faces behind news headlines — and these sites really serve to document the world “as is,” they are the chroniclers of our time. The mainstream journalists must find either the worst or best of planet earth to sell articles, and they lie through omission. A travel blogger is responsible to nobody, and can write exactly that which is in front of them without fear of censure.

If you look at online media from a historical perspective.

There are travelers who are writing about more than the basic art of traveling, but about what they see, feel, experience, and their opinions on a world culture in constant flux. It is these travelers who are recording the song of our times, documenting the ebbs and flows of the people on a planet that has rarely seen such intercultural cross roads before. This is important.

While some fat guy is making loads of money going to some seemingly remote location to gorge himself on pig penis for the Travel Channel, there is a legion of travelers out there documenting our times without much regard for advertiser interests, corporate regulations, or even reader expectations and the status-quo. These people are the chroniclers of our times.

The works of corporate journalists and the propaganda of NGOs act as subterfuge over many people’s perception of the world they live in. The groups that are providing the images of the world that get stuck in our collective psyches have special interests and ulterior motives for doing so. Newspapers, magazines, and NGOs are businesses, and they are going to report on the world appropriate to their ends.

An independent online travel writer has more lee way to write what they, themselves, observe.

That piece that you wrote about observing that rare flower in the Phillipines was perfect: you found something rare, said where it was, told us how you got there, photographed it, and left a document in your wake that will stand for years to come. Now if some eco devestation occurs and someone wants to study that flower, they will find your webpage and say, “Well, on this date, this guy Dave found this flower right here.”

This may seem innocent or insignificant, but it is information like this that really means something.

The Vagabond Journey eMagazine, how did this come about? And what does it offer that other “traditional” travel blogs/sites don’t or can’t?
Vagabond Journey.com is, more or less, a way for me to fulfill my traveler responsibility by sharing my travel notes, providing

Great travel articles on vagabondjourney.com

Great travel articles on vagabondjourney.com

advice, an show a way that can, hopefully, help people travel better and cheaper.

A traveler often lacks many of the social responsibilities that more sedentary people have, but there is one obligation that I feel I should not sidestep: I should share my maps with other travelers, try to show the path that I traveled, as well as how I got here.

It is also a way for me to fund my travels not only while traveling but by traveling. I could not do this website if I did not travel, and the information that I try to provide, particularly on the Wiki Vagabond and Travel Help portions of the site, is that which may be able to help other travelers make the most of their resources, to find work, and, ultimately, to continue traveling.

This is a timeless idea, as it is my impression that travelers have always felt this responsibility.

Vagabondjourney.com is also the mechanism through which I process my impressions, opinions, and experiences of traveling through the world. It is a grounding point, a major constant, and a medium through which I try to understand and figure out this planet that I live on.

Financing solo travel is hard enough, but now that you are three, how are you doing this? And, how tough is it?
It has been really difficult during these initial stages. We now need three times as much money, and expenses like visa fees, entry and exit taxes are now tripled. We are living right now off of the earnings of VagabondJourney.com and the ends are not meeting, we are not keeping our income/ expense fractions constant. Though readers have been more than helpful, and often offer us donations for publishing the website — which, in the end, is what enables us to continue publishing. We ask regular readers for a $1 a week contribution, and if we really got this from everyone we would be able to just concentrate on publishing content full time rather than struggling with making money.

Though I suppose the struggle is part of the journey.

There are now three people traveling in my group, but there are two people who can work, and, hopefully by the time she is four or five, Petra will be able to start taking pictures and putting content up on the website. Just so that we all earn our keep, we should be alright. But, right now, only one person is able to work, as the other needs to care for the baby, so that means three people are traveling off of a single income. Our next move from El Salvador is going to have to be a location where Chaya or I could work a formal job to re-provision our travel funds.

Do you envisage traveling with all your family for the next ten years, or will you stop for a while, for example during Petra’s high school education?
We are probably going to continue traveling. It is my impression that life on the road is usually the best teacher, and being able to go to the places and meet the people that most kids only read about in books, in my opinion, is the best instruction. Studying foreign language, experiencing many cultures, knowing first hand how to navigate through the world you live in, not believing the socialized myths of any one culture, and observing the rounds of geo-politics in action is, in my opinion, the best education for any child. If Petra wants to go to formal school, then that is her choice, and we will stay for the specified durations in countries whose languages and cultures would be good for us to learn, though the idea of a permanent base has not yet arisen on our horizon.

Thanks to Wade for taking the time to sit down and introduce us to his incredible journey.

As I mentioned at the start, Vagabond Journey is one, if not the, favorite travel sites I read every week. It’s a unique perspective on travel from a great writer.

What do you think of Wade’s methods, and style of traveling?

This interview is an additional entry exploring how other travelers are inspiring and can help us all learn

Coming Soon:

Inspirational Travelers – The person behind the most incredible, travel journey ongoing at the moment, a traveler I respect more than any other – a must read!

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9 Great responses to Wade Shepard interview: Inspirational Travelers

  1. Mike Crosby says:

    I enjoyed the interview. Wade’s blog is indeed one of my favorites.

    A criticism if I may. I would subscribe to your blog, but it’s too difficult to read. Yellow writing with a black background makes me work too hard, and I have to strain my eyes to read what you write.

  2. What a fantastic interview! Especially Wade’s opinions on corporate *travel* entities and NGOs. It’s easy to assume that all travel mediums are open and untainted, but Wade has caused me to realize the opposite. How a country is portrayed may not be what it is. So much to ponder here.

  3. This is such an awesome interview — what a fascinating guy! I really like his thought that life is our fantasy and we are the main characters of the stories of our live. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mundane details of life, so it’s really cool to hear someone thinking so big picture like that. What he’s done is really admirable to me.

    • -Emily @ Maiden Voyage- Glad you found the interview interesting. Wade’s an amazing traveler that’s got a lot of knowledge that he’s willing to share with everyone. Not only that, but as you can see, he’s an excellent writer too. I think you’ll enjoy the final interview up next!

      -Nomadic Chick- Yes, Wade’s got many opinions based on his 10 years of travel experience. Something those corporate travel types can’t touch. Glad you found it good.

      -Mike Crosby- Happy to hear you are a reader of Wade’s blog.

      Thank you for your feedback on the color of the text writing. My original blog site had white on black. I found the white too strong on the eyes. Looking away from the screen one could still see white lines. For me, I found this color easier to read. However I do realize there are some people out there that do not like it. Some others again, do like it. It’s the old adage of you can’t please everyone.

      However, I appreciate your feedback. I plan on making some changes to some back end areas of the site in the coming weeks. During this time I will write an article here and ask the readers what color writing they would prefer to read! Based on the feedback, I’ll look at the possibility of making a change. If anyone else in the mean time has an opinion, please feel free to leave a comment about it.

      Thanks again for the feedback!

  4. Fantastic interview! I have to say that solo traveling is so much easier and then you have this: “It has been really difficult during these initial stages. We now need three times as much money, and expenses like visa fees, entry and exit taxes are now tripled. We are living right now off of the earnings of VagabondJourney.com and the ends are not meeting, we are not keeping our income/ expense fractions constant.”

    Family travel is not cheap at all.


    • -David @ Malaysia Asia- Hi David, Glad you enjoyed it. Yep, traveling with 3 can be very difficult and expensive. Not only that, but when you are doing it through the earnings of a website, it takes something special!

  5. Erik says:

    Let me start by saying great interview! I read pretty much all of Wades stuff, and this has been my favorite interview. Wade has been my best friend since 5th grade. I have had the pleasure of traveling with him on a couple occasions, and plan to again. I have seen first hand the work and dedication he puts into travel. Where I was there for the pure enjoyment of seeing, meeting, and experiencing a different culture. Wade was like a scientist. Observing, dissecting, and digesting all. He was always taking notes in one of a series of small black notebooks, which I’m sure read like an encyclopedia of travel(that is if you can read his chicken scratch). I can honestly say that I admire my friend. He is truly a master of his craft, and has refined his skill making travel a true profession.

  6. Wade sounds like a cool guy! I like his description of the Travel Channel… spot-on ;)