How can I connect with the world around me when I travel? How can I immerse myself in a culture? How can I share my experiences with the world? Yann Ilunga has the answer to each of these questions, and can help guide travelers to their own unique solutions. Yann Ilunga is an entrepreneur, podcaster, consultant, and all-around legendarily cool guy, in Hayden’s own words. He is the person Hayden trusts most with helping start blogs and podcasts, and he visits the Travel Stories Podcast to share his tips, to tell his stories, and to encourages an adventurous lifestyle and a community sharing experience.
Yann Ilunga has always been interested in adventure. He grew up outdoorsy, playing football (or soccer, if you’re in the States), and mimicking Indiana Jones and Jack Kerouac, his adventurous, traveling heroes. One of the most amazing things that ever happened to Yann was that he was able to live how his heroes lived when he traveled. Traveling by car along the Atlantic coast of the western part of Ireland with nothing but the ocean, but nature, around him was so powerful, not because he pictured himself as a character like the ones he wanted to become, but because these were the moments that he really felt that everything was aligned. He experienced this again traveling in California, creating an incredible experience where he could think absolutely nothing and just be. In moments like these, Yann became his passion. He encourages all travelers to reach for this feeling, to belong to that world. The next time you go on a trip, whether it’s by car, by bicycle, by foot, whatever, try to be on the lookout, because in that kind of a moment that Yann experienced, there is nothing but you, the natural elements around you, and feelings of happiness and belonging.
Yann Ilunga encourages you to be genuine and to be authentically yourself when you travel, because that is the foundation on which you can build great relationships when you travel. You can form strong, intense friendships when you travel by putting yourself out there. You have to be vulnerable, to be open, to step outside your comfort zone, in order to connect with amazing people all over the world. Yann shares stories of being in Ireland, where, for no particular reason, he changed his plans, got in a car, and went in the opposite direction from what he planned. What he saw and who he met were incredible and unexpected, because it feels amazing to do something unpredictable, and to take a chance on that experience. Yann is in Finland now, and encourages travelers to immerse themselves in a culture in order to get all the tools that you’ll need to learn everything about that place and to become a part of that culture. Six years ago, Yann camped around Europe for two months; he believes camping is a form of travel that allows you to experience a location at a deeper level. Yann invites everybody listening who has never been camping before to try camping at least once, because camping not only allows you to really be in your own element, but it also allows you to see a different side of wherever you’re camping and traveling to. Yann strongly encourages engaging in the world around you as deeply as you can manage, and maybe even a little deeper than that.
Yann Ilunga is one of the best in the biz when it comes to building travel blogs, vlogs, or anything of the sort. Starting something like that can seem daunting, but it is, in fact, manageable. This is a way to share your experiences with the world. Is there something you’re keeping to yourself that, if shared in a more public form, could be interesting, entertaining, informative, or helpful? If so, Yann encourages you to get started right away, to just get started and do it for your own sake. Publish a blog post whenever you want, record a video whenever you want, but, at some point, try to develop a plan and organize a routine. The more structure you give yourself, the more you help yourself form the bigger picture and the message you’re trying to share with the world, and it helps you overall with building your audience, with marketing, with clarifying your plan. It’s about getting it started and keeping it going. He shares a whole bunch more helpful tips, and encourages everyone to get in touch with him if they want help and, if they don’t, to just get started on their own. Yann also encourages listeners to go back and listen to Hayden’s first episode from his first season and realize that he hasn’t always been this good, and that he’s on a journey just like everyone else.
Can a person sustain their life on their passions? Can you do what you love and live off of it, too? It’s the perfect road to go down, and one that travelers often find themselves seeking. Juliana Dever has found the path. A travel blogger and an actress from the television series Castle, Juliana has thrown herself into world traveling and drawing experiences from her fears. When she’s not acting, she’s traveling, testing her limits. A self-proclaimed Russophile, Juliana Dever has had a fascination with Russia since childhood. She wants to act and travel, and has found a way to maintain this lifestyle, doing what she truly loves. Keeping that life of travel up is possible, and Juliana can prove it. “If you never meet a stranger,” Juliana says, “then that’s all they’ll ever be to you.” The world is your oyster (and to Juliana, Russia is the pearl).
The second time Juliana Dever went to Russia, it was as part of a language class. She was given the option to stay with a Russian family, which she took, it being a great opportunity and all. She had visions of laughing around a dinner table, speaking Russian; her reality, though, was a young man who spoke absolutely no English, herself, who spoke very little Russian, and nobody else. Already in a confusing situation, she was with this young man who was very much immersed in that bachelor lifestyle: keeping to himself, leaving out pasta and ketchup for dinner, which was a rocky start to Juliana’s stay. However, the chaos of the experience culminated in her getting locked in her bedroom one day with no way to contact her host. A bit of WiFi, a well-timed email to her friend Rachel, and some frantic Googling helped her survive.
Juliana Dever is a self-proclaimed Russophile, and it shows in how she talks about Russia and her time there. Juliana is lived in Russia twice, the first time being for a couple of months in the winter, training with the Moscow Art Theatre. Growing up, Juliana was incredibly and inexplicably attracted to Russia, which didn’t make a ton of sense for her as a little girl growing up in rural Missouri. She considered the idea that she might be a reincarnated member of the Romanov family; after she went to Russia, made peace with it, and released it, she felt as though she was able to move on. For Juliana, Russia was like a painting in her head before she actually went. When she got there, though, all of a sudden, it crystallized into a glowing, beautiful, mythical place that hardly seemed real to her. Russia was what dreams were made of, for her. The smells, the sights, the sounds, the tastes - all are so hard to put into words, but they make up what Juliana loves most about Russia and about travel.
Juliana Dever believes that travel is about being in the moment. There is a lot of crossover between her interests - travel and acting - and thinks that these both lend a lot of credibility to that belief. If you can completely open yourself up to experiencing a story, as well as to telling a story, then you open yourself up to travel. Stories are the way that people connect. Juliana exemplifies this by sharing a story of her dance-off with Rolf Potts a couple summers ago in Paris. Juliana loves to travel, to build these experiences, to make these connections and tell these stories. “I’m not selling anything,” says Juliana, “except for embracing the fear and getting out there and traveling.” She tells about how her natural progression from a love of travel led into her becoming a travel blogger, a process that has been about enthusiasm and fear for her. Fear is her motivating factor, because she knows that experiences are better than the fears that try to stop her. She is more interested in confronting fears than she is in conquering them. Hayden and Juliana encourage stepping out of your comfort zone and utilizing your vulnerability; this can lead to experiences that you’re proud of and incredible stories you can share.
Travel changes a person. Adapting to an entirely new culture and people not only alters the traveler while they live in that culture, but also changes them irrevocably when they return home. Getting used to the world around you is an important travel step, and one Amanda Kendle is intimately familiar with. Amanda lived in three foreign countries during her twenties, and is the master of slow travel. During her lifetime, she’s developed a travel mentality that can be summed up in one word: “thoughtful.” She fosters the more cerebral aspect of travel, using her thoughts to rationalize and relate to her experience. Host of The Thoughtful Travel Podcast, Amanda shares her thoughts on reverse culture shock, cultural adaptation, and returning home.
Amanda once lived in the Kansai region of Japan, and, one day, was given an opportunity to visit this old home again. The only downside, though, was that she was sent with a guide who was to accompany her all week, and she was not the kind of person who liked to travel with others, preferring to do her own thing. As it turned out, her guide was a 68-year-old woman named Mariko who had spent thirty-odd years guiding foreigners around Japan. As such, she had amazing stories to tell, and words of wisdom for everyone. When Mariko and Amanda experienced an earthquake together, and visited the earthquake memorial in Kobe, Amanda learned that Mariko was a survivor. She remembers well what she learned from Mariko and her Rincon vegetables that day: “You have to look through to the future, because that’s the only way to get through life.”
There is no one utopia in this world; there are good things and bad things about every place you can travel to. Hayden and Amanda talk about the pockets of the world they enjoy traveling to, and how they prefer to look for the reality of a place, beyond the plastic. Hayden enjoys going over to “the other side” for a day. Amanda discusses adapting your travel style to your life, and Hayden shares a well-executed metaphor comparing travel to experiencing a play on stage with the actors. The two of them explore the main differences between passing through somewhere, and living in the place. Amanda discusses the reactions of people around her. The longer she lives in a place, the better she understands it, and she believes that spending a longer time in one space lets you better understand the nuances and quirks of a culture. Truly, travel wouldn’t be the same without the trial and error of learning new cultural experiences - learning what’s rude, what’s not, what’s the correct way to act. Getting over those cultural speed bumps is the best way to adapt to the realities of different places, and immerse yourself in a new culture.
Adapting to and overcoming reverse culture shock is a major part of experiencing slow travel. Returning to somewhere that you’ve lived before and adapting to the culture again after you’ve been traveling to other places is exceedingly difficult. Travel brings growth; it opens your mind, changes you into a new and different person, with different thoughts flourishing. After all that happens, it’s hard to interact with people who are expecting the old you to come back unchanged from traveling, and to slot right back into your old life again. Missing out on years of shared culture and adapting to your new and changed relationships with one another is a long and bumpy road. However, regaining that feeling of belonging that might be missing when you return from travel is possible. Amanda talks about topics like reverse culture shock on her podcast, The Thoughtful Travel Podcast, where she has several guests per episode talking about one specific travel-related topic. They discuss all kinds of things we learn from travel, and reasons that we should travel. She thoughtfully reminds everyone that, much like she once told her grandmother, that she is not a ballerina, and she shares this pearl of wisdom: “Whatever excuses you are making, get over the excuses, and get out there. Go traveling. Life’s too short not to. The more people travel, the more we can deal with cultural differences. If we all travel, we can all save the world.”
Can a traveler have a home base? What does stability mean to an adventurer? Is the push-pull siren call of the two different traveling worlds surmountable? Derek Loudermilk, host of The Art of Adventure, answers all of these questions and more, unprompted and in depth. Derek is a father, a digital nomad, and a traveler who believes in the power of dichotomy and travels with his infant son, Axel. An adventurer and a businessman, Derek seeks to help others who have the elusive dream of becoming location-independent. Between the jungles of Bali, his wife’s nesting abilities, and his location independence set of skills, Derek is never far from home.
Derek Loudermilk’s story takes place in the jungles of central Bali, in one of his favorite regions - in the central highlands, in a place called Bedugul. This space is very primal for him, and he loves to spend time up there to connect with nature, which he believes can make a person more creative, confident, and self-aware. During one afternoon walk in the jungles, Derek experienced a surprising connection with nature: upon entering a clearing with an ancient, massive tree, and placing his hands on the tree, he got an electro-emotional shock. He says the tree was trying to tell him something. When he put his hands on the tree again, it happened a second time, with Derek experiencing a flood of emotions, sweating, and crying. What happened when he was given time alone with the tree would change Derek’s life from thereon out, as well as his work and his further wellbeing.
Hayden met Derek Loudermilk when they both guested on The Budget-Minded Traveler, and Hayden realized how interesting, curious, and unique he was. Derek has lived on four continents, and he values traveling slowly and getting to know the culture. Derek is a wholehearted believer in the power of music. He and Hayden share their stories on the topic, with Derek giving a bit of insight into his father and different ways to make music on the go. In regards to his father and the rest of his family, Derek remembers the time he spent camping and traveling as a child. His family wanted to travel somewhere new every year when he was young, which led to his love of exploration, which he now wishes to pass onto his infant son, Axel, whom he travels with now. Axel is a zen child who likes to travel, which leads Hayden and Derek to explore the effects of traveling from infancy on a person. Derek believes in showing Axel the best of both worlds. People’s lives can change in a single moment and take them on a new track in life, a new direction, and traveling can help people discover their own self-identity. Saying yes to opportunities can open doors to potential paths, but saying no can create a permanence that allows you stability; this dichotomy, Derek says, is an interesting push-pull that can be necessary to create the life you want to live and to get stuff done. Going on your own hero’s journey and experiencing and learning and growing is a path only you can take for yourself; nobody else can take it for you.
Derek is the host of The Art of Adventure, being an adventurer himself. Hayden believes adventurers are the types of travelers with the best stories. Derek remembers a bit of advice he once received: “You’re an adventurer, just do it.” Opening yourself up to new opportunities and thinking outside of the mundane can create an adventurer out of you in seconds. Looking at options outside of the box, taking these ideas and making it so, will give you journeys you never could have anticipated. Nothing is impossible; everything that exists has come from someone just giving some odd idea a try. For example, location independence, which Derek lives, is its own unique idea and path in life. It grants him location freedom, letting him work from wherever he wants, and so travel wherever he wants. If you want this, too, you can make location independence your business. To learn more about anything, you just need to find someone who is in the place you want to be in and ask them for guidance. In regards to location independence, Derek offers free thirty-minute strategy sessions. If you send him an email (his address is listed below, in Links and References), you can schedule a time to jump on a call with him. Location independence and a new path in life is just a phone call away.
Letting the path ahead of you lead the way is a degree of control that some people struggle to let go of. Amie and Matt Leichtfuss encourage this degree of trial-and-error, though. On any adventure, letting the details reveal themselves as your journey unfolds can bring the most authentic experiences a traveler can experience. In telling their story, Michoacán: Don't Go There (You'll Die), they prove just how valuable that can be. Traveling with their dog, six surfboards, and a travel vlog, Amie and Matt let trial-and-error dictate their path, the details revealing themselves each step of the way.
In their story, Michoacán: Don't Go There (You'll Die), Amie and Matt tell of a time when they were traveling over a long bridge when they first saw the sign: Bienvenidos a Michoacán. Michoacán is a Mexican area known for its heavy drug activity; because of this, it is often avoided by travelers. Amie and Matt, however, wanted to experience the area for themselves, as they are not ones to let anyone stop them from doing anything. Inspired by In Search of Captain Zero, they were looking for some good waves. They started to run out of fuel, though, which wracked their nerves; they hadn’t found a station to stop at, so they pushed on through the jungle. They saw something on the road ahead that completely threw them for a loop and began to terrify them, but what would actually happen was something they could never have anticipated.
Amie and Matt Leichtfuss are from The Traveling Together Journal, a travel vlog which some of you may have seen on YouTube. The two of them are travel bloggers, travel vloggers, surfers, and amateur engineers. They are presently in Central America, because they saved up to do a big road trip together with their dog. They started in Maui, then to California for a full-size pickup to drive all the way to Panama - along with their six surfboards, their masseuse table, their spearguns, and a collection of other odd objects. They travel with Jaeger, their mixed lab dog, who has been an interesting addition and brought them to a strange little Mexican town when he needed a veterinarian. Powering them on their voyage is solar power, which provides them with the power to keep their refrigerator running, to run a fan at night, and to run LED lights. Their idea of trial-and-error, which helped them hotwire their solar power, sustains them throughout their trip.
Deciding on a trip is not an easy task. It was overwhelming for Amie and Matt to think of everything they would want to do and everywhere they would want to go before they left, so, instead, they decided to play it day-by-day. While they’re maybe a couple of spots ahead, they’re always winging it. Amie recommends that, if you’re thinking of planning any big, long-term travel, don’t overplan; just give yourself the basics, because the details come as you go. She and Matt give a few helpful tips on what to do along your trip to take care of business. They do trial-and-error in this regard, as well, as they take their time making it to Panama. Their travel vlog, too, deals with trial-and-error, this visual record of their travel memories. They started it because, if nothing else, it would give them watchable home videos, and possibly a way to generate income to allow them to follow their dreams and continue traveling - and maybe share some trash with the world as they went. The decisions found themselves along the journey.