Last week I told you about Justin Alexander, the intrepid traveller who sold up all his belongings and took off on an adventure with no end deadline. Tonight I’m bringing you the short interview I did with Justin. He was kind enough to answer my questions after coming out of the wilds of the U.S. tracking wolves.
You “retired” two years ago at 32 and ran away on an adventure. How did you get to that point?
Freedom has always been my highest ideal. I’ve always strived for an unconventional, adventurous life, but I really caught the travel bug (and an intestinal bug) when I spent a month trekking in Nepal in 2006. Since then I’ve been trying to figure out a way travel the world full time. In 2010 I helped with a tech startup and had enough success that I was able to step away and have just enough funds to support the lifestyle I have now.
What are the deciding factors on working out where you are going to go and what you are going to do?
I want to spend my life creating the memories that I want to have as an old man. Mostly I’m driven by curiosity and/or excitement; people and places I want to experience firsthand. I have a thirst for the exotic.
How do you find families in Indonesia to stay with and become a Buddhist Monk? Things like that aren’t in tour guide books.
I have never opened a guidebook. I’ve probably missed out on some cool stuff because if it, but I don’t want a guidebook directed life. I have a family in Thailand and Nepal. The Buddhist monk story is tied into my Thai family in a little farming village 30 minutes by motorbike from Lampang, northern Thailand. Both are very long stories with long back stories and if I tell those I really want to do it right.
Generally I am very open to opportunities. When you are visiting another culture, be extremely respectful, learn the language, eat how that eat, drink what they drink, be polite, and people will invite you into their homes. I don’t have any other advice than that because my experience was so rare and specific.
The photos on your Instagram are beautiful and certainly not just happy snaps. Do you have a background in photography or is someone documenting your trips for you?
Thank you. I don’t have any photography training and have been shooting on an iPhone since I started Instagram. I just graduated to my first real camera a few weeks ago because I was frustrated with the low light capabilities of my iPhone. It was a big investment, and carrying a big camera (and computer and hard drive, and, tripod…) is not something I like to do. I actually totally hate it. I’m a minimalist and I carry everything I own, so adding more stuff to my bag is really annoying.
But for now I’m shooting on a Sony A7-2. Any pics of me on my instagram are either taken with a timer on my phone, or by someone I’m with at the moment. I travel solo but I’m not always alone.
What other destinations are on your list and why?
I want to travel the Silk Road from the Mediterranean to Mongolia. Overland and slow. Afterwards I want to explore Africa for a good long time. I have a fondness for Southeast Asia as well and have been to Thailand like 8 times now. I have too many places that I want to go.
I’m just going to do this American motorcycle adventure until it feels done. I really don’t know what’s next and try not to put too much energy into that kind of stuff. You can have breadth or depth with travel; but having both is a trick. I don’t want to rush around and just see every place, I want to really experience every place, and that takes time. But time is the one real commodity we have.
So, who knows? Maybe I’ll find a spot somewhere and have a normal life there for a year. If that’s what I want to do then I’ll do that. But after a few months in any place I find myself longing for the horizon, and when it calls, I must go.
Describe the feeling of giving up your possessions and running free into the world?
Not as dramatic as you might imagine. I had been traveling a few months per year since 2006 so the whole thing felt very natural and comfortable. I’ve been a nomad most of my life; rarely owning more stuff that could say, fit in a Honda Civic. Once I had packed all my possessions into my Civic in order to move from San Francisco to Miami. I had to immediately go on a quick business trip to France and while I was gone, the car was stolen.
I’ve never been too attached to things, and the only thing I regret losing was my journal. The freedom of having a life based on this kind of value system is absolutely delicious.
The overall theme of this blog Aussielicious is nudism and being comfortable nude, which you seem to be from your photos. Has that always been the case?
Always? Well, I was comfortable being naked as a baby, then not so much til recently. I spend a lot of time naked in nature; as long as the weather is agreeable that is.
Just this morning I woke up by a river in western Montana, and after the sun started cooking I spent half the day naked in the river and walking around in the cottonwoods.
The only annoying thing is… No pockets!
Anyway I don’t think I’m excessively nude in my pics. A couple from the Bolivian salt flats and then a hot springs or two. I like my body and think the human form is beautiful.
You are looking very fit. How do you stay healthy and fit when you are off in the wild?
Well thanks. I’d say I’m less healthy and fit than I used to be. I used to train a lot. Kickboxing, BJJ, lifting, running, swimming. Now I have a very laid back approach to life and am taking it easy. I tend to eat whatever I want and stay active with day-to day-adventure life stuff: climbing, hiking, carry packs and firewood. I’m not doing so much athletic training these days.
Once every month or two I get to a place with a gym and I’ll go lift some weights for a few days but it’s just for fun. I don’t have a daily schedule or anything.
I would run but when I travel I get skinny. If I start running again I’ll start looking sickly.
I tend to lose weight in the woods and then eat like a Viking when I’m in a town or smothering.