BootsnAll indie travel guide

Stu Thompson – Round-the-World Traveler

  1. When did you go on your RTW trip?
    September 2005-February 2006

  2. How old were you when you took this trip?
    35

  3. Including your air ticket and other expenses (from accommodation to souvenir-buying), about how much did your trip cost?
    $8000?

  4. Nationality
    USA

  5. Where do you live now?
    Zürich, Switzerland

  6. Occupation

    Before your trip: Unemployed IT Manager

    Now: Programmer

  7. How did your travels affect your career when you got back?
    Mixed. Finding a job was more difficult than I anticipated. Many recruitment firms and candidate employers did not see my time away positively. They were not hostile but were focused only investigating candidates with recent, relevant experience. Their attitude towards my travel was coupled with my decision to not reenter IT management but rather go back to programming.

  8. What is the route you took/places you visited?
    I flew into HK and spent a few days there. Next I flew to Bangkok for a few days then took a train up to Chiang Mai. After a few weeks of volunteering with a Children’s charity I went down to Koh Payam (near Ranong) by bus for two weeks of relaxation and working with an animal charity. Then it was back up to CM for a week or so for more work and then back down to Bangkok by train where I caught a flight to HK. After a few more days there I left for China by train, flew domestically from Guangzhou to Nanning. After a few days in Nanning (and waiting for a visa for Vietnam) I took a return bus trip to Yang Shou for a few days. Then it was off to Hanoi by bus via the ‘Friendship Pass’. During my two weeks in Hanoi I (along with a fellow children’s charity volunteer and a travel buddy) went up via a chauffeured SUV to Xin Man just a few kilometers from the Chinese boarder which required special travel permission. Next my new travel buddy and I headed for the northern most Laos boarder crossing (Na Meo) via two busses, a 120km motor scooter ride and the final hour in a minibus taxi.

    Next it was onto Sam Neua via a communal taxi truck. After a few days there we left for Muang Ngoi Neua via two busses, an hour long boat ride, and a nights stay each in Muang Vieng Thong and Nong Khiaw. After a several days there we headed south to Luang Prabang via boat. Five days later I flew back to Chiang Mai to do some more volunteer work. I used CM as a base so I could make some lightly packed trips to the eastern part of the Shan State in Burma, Cambodia and Mae Sot (Burmese boarder in middle of Thailand.) To get to Burma I hitched a ride with an employee of the children’s charity. That got me to Mae Sai where I spent the night. Christmas day I headed into Burma and took a communal taxi station wagon to Kengtung where I spent two days. Then, with a new travel buddy, we headed to Mong La in a taxi pickup truck where we spent one night. The next day the same driver took us back (with a dozen people sitting on 2-3m of cargo) for one more night in Kengtung. Then it was another communal taxi to the boarder and two busses back to CM all in one day.

    A week later I went return via bus to Mae Sot for a few days. I crossed over into Burma for the day by foot. Also from CM I flew return into Phnom Penh. After two days there I took a bus to Sihanoukville for five days of relaxation. After my return to CM I headed to Krabi via two busses and a nights stay in Bangkok. Five days of diving and meeting up with friend I headed for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I spent two days before flying onto Macau. Two days in Macau was enough and I then fly via helicopter to Hong Kong. And after a few more days I then flew back home to Zürich. Whew! It all sticks in my mind so freshly!

  9. Why did you decide to take this trip? What got you into this type of travel, and/or influenced you to go?
    There were a couple of factors that led to my decision to make the trip. I’ve been traveling on shorter term trips for years and living abroad for eight years. For the previous year I had been considering going back to university and maybe slipping an Asia trip into it. Five months before leaving I was laid off from my job as an IT manager and was strongly considering a career change of some sort. (I was definitely not happy with how things were going.) While searching for a job last summer I came across a charity in Thailand that needed the help of a programmer. So last summer I just said ‘fuck it’ and bought tickets with the intention of working for the charity, contemplating my career in IT, considering going back to Uni for a master’s degree, and other career options like travel journalism. (I put a lot of effort into a blog during my trip.)

  10. Out of all your experiences traveling around the world, what was the:

    • Best Moment

      The 120km motor scooter journey

    • Worst Moment

      Making ‘what if’ plans when my travel buddy was nearly arrested in Wa clan-controlled Shan State for not having the correct travel documents

    • Biggest Hurdle, Obstacle or Difficulty?

      Managing my finances and other responsibilities back home

    • Biggest surprise?

      How much I loved Laos.

  11. Who is the most memorable person you met on your trip and why?
    My fellow volunteer, Pamela from Singapore. While working together in CM we got to know each other really well and became good friends.

  12. How much planning and preparing did you do?
    Just Enough

  13. What was your favorite piece of gear?
    My laptop (!)

  14. What did you bring, that in hindsight you could’ve left at home?
    The SW radio, the camera to iPod transfer device, the packsafe, the expensive travel wash cloth, and all that damn expensive malaria medication that made me ill so I wasted it all.

  15. How did your round-the-world trip change your life? How did it affect and change you as a person?
    The trip opened up the possibility of working and living in a non-Western country. It has also made me a much calmer person…something many people have remarked on since I’ve been back.

  16. If you had to sum up your round-the-world trip in one sentence, what would it be?
    A well timed sabbatical.

  17. Are you planning more trips and travels for the future? Are you planning another round-the-world trip?
    Day dreaming only at this point. My forward thinking horizon is only a few months at this point. Too much to do, too little time.

  18. Why do you think people should go on round-the-world trips? Why not just take a regular old one- or two-week vacation instead?
    Anything under a month does not let one disengage from life. Once you are travel mode you see things differently…and at the end, hopefully, one is more humbled by the privileged lives we have.

  19. What is the most valuable thing you learned?
    That my life is charmed compared to so many out there and that I need to keep things in persepctive.

  20. What is the biggest myth that people have about round-the-world traveling?
    That it is hard.

  21. Why do you like to travel?
    I get a buzz out of it–finding myself somewhere totally foreign and working out how to get by.

  22. What is your advice for people planning their own RTW trip?
    Don’t doubt yourself or your planning…no matter what thing will change. Having a rigid approach to planning (transportation, destinations, gear) is unhealthy and will likely result in disappointment.


RTW Guide - Table of Contents