Mug Shots is an interview series with real-life escape artists — folks who have left behind a traditional 9 to 5 job, whether for a short time or a lifetime.
1. Who are you, and what was your great escape?
My name is Daniel Baylis. I’m a writer and adventurer. A couple years ago, I took an entire year to go explore the world. Over the course of 12 months I visited 12 different countries (one per month) and attempted to find meaningful ways to engage with the communities I was visiting.
2. How did you go about planning your escape?
Financial planning was the most crucial element of my trip. For the two years leading up to my trip, I tried to put away $500/month. This created an adequate nest of funds for an escape. In terms of more logistical planning, I used a few trusted work-exchange websites to find and connect with hosts: helpx.net, workaway.info & wwoof.org. Finally, for my flights I chatted with a travel agent at Travel Cuts — but ultimately I ended up researching and booking most tickets on my own.
3. How did you fund your travels?
Two key ways. Firstly, good old fashion penny-pinching. Before my trip I was living and working in Montreal (an affordable city) and I kept my purchases to a minimum (no fancy clothes, no TV, no car). Secondly, I went to my bank and requested a line of credit. In my head, my journey was going to have the same value as any type of formal education, thus I was willing to go into debt for it.
4. Did you have any naysayers who doubted your wisdom in leaving a perfectly good job? How did you handle them?
In Montreal, one of my best buds (Miss L) was really not impressed with my decision. At the time I had a great job as a blogger with the local tourism bureau, and had just received an offer to become the managing editor. Miss L thought that I was crazy for stepping away from this type of career advancement — and slightly miffed that I’d be leaving her for an entire year. My response was to be mildly apologetic, but to stick to my guns. While I was away, I put in the effort to maintain contact and I think this made a big difference. These days our friendship is stronger than ever.
5. Was it your intent to write a book before you set out?
I’m a big dreamer. One of my big dreams was to travel around the world. Another one was to write a book. Before I set out, I figured that if I survived an entire year of travel, then it might make a good basis for a book. However, it wasn’t until the final months of the journey that I could begin to wrap my head around the idea of a book. So yes, I dreamed of writing a book about the journey. But it wasn’t until later on that it became a concrete goal.
7. You’ve written extensively about using Indiegogo for self-publishing your book — what’s the most important thing you learned about crowdfunding?
Yes, you can see the campaign here: The Traveller on Indiegogo. The crowdfunding campaign was both a fantastic and frustrating experience. The best way to have a successful campaign is to have a community. I had provided free content to my online community for a few years before the book, so when it came time to ask for support, they was already a sense of value in place. So start building now!
The frustrating part was “fulfillment” — ensuring funders get what they ordered. In my case, I failed to accurately predict shipping costs. Processing a couple hundred orders was also quite time-consuming.
8. Thinking about your great escape, would you have done anything differently?
Tough question. I tend not to think about these things. Not everything went as planned, but the best lessons were derived from the imperfect moments.
9. What lessons did you learn from your time on the road?
Ha! You think I’m just going to give those away? Buy my book!
(But seriously, it’s a great case study for an attempt at meaningful travel.)
10. What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?
“You gotta want it.” — my father (also my high school volleyball coach) on the idea of achievement. In other words, don’t sit back and assume that success will just come to you. Desire is a good thing. Use it to fuel action. Want it.
11. What’s your favourite quote?
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.” ― Walt Whitman
12. What advice would you give to anyone looking to make his or her “escape?”
Start saving now. Get rid of your superfluous spending habits. And then start with something small and safe (such as a month in New Zealand). That will give you confidence for larger trips.
13. What’s next for you?
I leave in February for a six-week, overland walking expedition. If I’m successful, it will make the basis of my next major writing project. At the moment I’m keeping the location top secret — but please stay tuned!
- Website: www.danielbaylis.ca & www.thetraveller.ca
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/danielbaylis
- Twitter: @daniel_baylis
- Instagram: @daniel_baylis
- Youtube: www.youtube.com/danbaylis
*All photos courtesy of Daniel Baylis