Tuesday, 26 November 2013 15:30

Stephen Bischoff - The Shameless Traveler

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Where did the moniker "shameless traveler" come from?

It’s funny because everyone assumes it means I’m some sort of degenerate party monster scumbag that boozes it up all the time, which is only true on the weekends. What it actually means, for me, is we live in a society here in the US, maybe the whole world, that has put their life’s focus on a paycheck, on fitting in, on having what the next guy has, on profit and having a steady job and nice things. I came to a point in my life where I had those things - a steady job, an apartment. But something was missing. Like a big hole in my life, and it was happiness and fulfillment. With this pressure on us, especially from our parent’s generation, there are definitely some expectations we feel we have to live up to. But who gives a shit if you're not happy and the quality of your life experiences suck? So I became shameless, completely unashamed to life a lifestyle not driven by profit but driven by the quality of experiences that were worthwhile, that made me not only feel human, but also connected to the human race, which is exactly what happened when I began traveling.

How has traveling changed you?

I have two lives, one before traveling and one after. When people say traveling is the best education you can get, they are 100% right. When you escape the universe in your head, and the city you live in for the first time, and immerse yourself completely in another country, in another culture you feel very small, but a part of something bigger for the first time in your life. You see how other people live, and when you are far away from your own home the stupid-little-daily irritants that seemed overwhelming are put into perspective. Living with monks, sleeping in jungles, climbing mountains, the question is how can it not change you? If anything it frees you. That’s the real change. You realize borders are man made. You feel brotherly to people on the other side of the world. And I think maybe the world begins to make sense. I think it enlightened me just a little.

What have you learned about yourself?

I learned to breathe, to listen to my breath, to be quiet, to listen really intently to other people for the first time and not just hear their words, but hear what they meant, what they were trying to say. I learned what really matters, what is important, and what can be discarded. When you carry your whole world in a backpack you realize what you actually need. My master at the Shaolin Temple, Master Hu, would say, “Learn to eat bitter.” I pushed myself mentally, physically, and spiritually to my limits and went further than I ever thought I could. I think the main thing I learned was I, and everyone else, could do more than we ever imagined.

What have you learned about people?

People are inherently good everywhere. It is that simple. You will find kindness in any land. The media, TV, they try to scare the shit out of us constantly about other countries and other people we’ve never met. I can tell you it is simply not true. Kids want to get dirty and play, families love each other, and people want to make a stranger feel welcomed. Everywhere. People are amazing. The more you travel, the more you see it. Whether it is a warm meal, a place to lay your head for the night, or a simple smile, the human race has got it going on, man. We are truly amazing when we take the time to stop and appreciate each other.

How does a nomad find his soul mate?

Haha, this is a great question, and like any wise man I’ll just say that there is no formula to love. It happens when it is ready to happen, when and where does not matter and you have no ability to control it. I think if you are truly nomadic traveling might be the best way to find your soul mate. Where else are you going to find someone that shares the same passion for adventure as you, someone that can relate to your same life altering experiences? Just keep doing what your doing and they’ll find you.

What's been your favorite destination/exotic food this far?

Man, there are soooo many. I’ve had some weird stuff, but my favorite is probably when I ate a spitting cobra with my buddy Mark on the beach in Mui Ne, Vietnam. I mean they brought the thing out alive in a bag and threw it down at our feet, now that’s fresh! Dinner and a show, they killed, cooked, and served that bad boy in about six courses right in front of us and then we drank its blood with vodka. Over the top, yes, but also memorable as hell. You can watch a YouTube video of them bringing it out below.

What do you say to people who say they "can't afford" to travel?

Where there is a will there is a way. Honestly, a majority of the backpackers I meet on the road are mostly pretty poor 20-year-old kids. How can they afford to do it and not Joe Blow with a steady job?

With a small amount of work you can find a job in most countries, I think it is the commitment and the not knowing what is going to happen that scares people. Until they do it, they don’t realize how much it could change their life, they’d rather stay in and watch Netflix. Be shameless folks, you’re going to die someday and no amount of “How I Met Your Mother” re-runs is going to make it a worthwhile life. I learned how to make money on the road, develop a successful website ShamelessTraveler.com, and began freelance writing. I didn’t intend to do any of those things and they all happened. People that use money as an excuse not to travel don’t realize how rich traveling can make your life.

Is there a place you'd like to go but haven't been yet?

Everywhere. That is the thing about traveling, it is horribly addicting. You check one thing off your bucket list and add three more. The more travelers you meet, the more places they tell you about that you add to your list, and you're always thinking about the “next” place instead of “the” place. So for me, the “next” adventure I want to go on is to ride a Royal Enfield motorcycle north to south across India. I can’t stop thinking about it.

What's your life's motto/creed?

I’m going to quote somebody else here, John Irving:

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

Stephen Bischoff is a shameless traveler choosing to live life courageously! Follow him on his blog at ShamlessTraveler.com.

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