Travel Stories

Moneyless, Homeless and Making Travel Happen – Michael Blaney


TravSolo aims to inspire through authentic storytelling, by sharing real travel experiences

Tell me a little bit about yourself: What do you do for a living?

I tend to change jobs like most folks change their pants. Usually I'm in a restaurant cooking or bartending but I find myself in hostels from time to time. Recently I've been doing more catering work and a little acting as well. I tend to get itchy feet after being too long in one place so I see my way out pretty quickly.

Solo Travel: What do these two words mean to you?

Freedom. Possibility. Adventure. There are a few better feelings than arriving to a new country where you know no one and everything feels like it could happen at any moment; it is life in HD. Everything feels new, intense, and you can do whatever the hell you want. Nothing like it!

What inspired you to take your first solo trip?

I grew up being told  travel and adventure stories. My dad used to tell my brothers and I about his misadventures during his solo bike tour through the Southwest US, my favorite high school teacher would share his tales of hitchhiking through Ethiopia, Palestine, and the United States. It was always so alluring that I wanted to have these kind of awesome adventures of my own. I remember noticing that people who traveled and came back seemed different; it was the way they lived and looked at the world. I wanted to be like that when I got older too.

After my first time overseas visiting family in South Korea, I was hooked! All I wanted to do was travel and I wanted to do it on my own terms. Years later when I was old enough and had just ended a 5 years relationship, I immediately bought my first one way ticket to Paris.

Favorite International Dish?

Being a chef I could go forever back and forth about what international meal might be my favorite so for the sake of everyone involved I’m just going to go with the first one that popped in my head: Bacalhau Com Natas. It is a Portuguese dish of salt cod baked in a rich cream sauce with potatoes, onion, and a boatload of garlic. It’s incredibly decadent but you can never seem to get enough no matter how full you are. I learned to make this from my ex after a day of hiking and we ate the entire pan that should have fed six - it’s that good.

What was the most memorable and/or let down experience you had while traveling?

Running out of money and accidentally moving to Portugal is pretty up there for me. A few months into my first jaunt in Europe, my bank deactivated my card because I had completely neglected to notify them of my travel plans. I was on my way from Ireland to Portugal so I arranged for my brother to send my replacement card to me in Lisbon. Now stuck with only the cash in my wallet before my card was sucked into a Dublin ATM, I was left with six Euros and about two weeks until my card came to Lisbon.

I landed in Lisbon on Thanksgiving day. My feast that year would be some pastries and bread I had found in a dumpster, eaten in the rain. A few more cold nights went by sleeping on the street and eating what I could find when I realized I’d have to make a better plan than this.  I went to a few hostels explaining my situation to see who would trust me to pay them, when my card finally came in. Eventually one hotel receptionist, after giving me what felt like the first hot coffee I’d had in forever, told me not to worry and it will be figured it out. A few months later, I found was still in Lisbon working at the hostel and dating the receptionist. We lived together until I left over half a year later to continue my travels. It is hard to describe what it feels like to show up to a country not knowing anyone, nor the language or culture. Then depart later, leaving behind new friends, lovers, and a place that had become home.

What was the most memorable moment you had with a traveler or local?

I spent a month and a half in Busan, South Korea working as the cook for a language exchange cafe. When I was set to leave, I decided that my goodbye party would go like this: eat some great food, barhop until all were sufficiently wasted, and climb a mountain to watch the sunrise over the sea. While sitting in a tree up on the mountain, watching the sun come up completely plastered with a bunch of strangers from all over the world 40 something days ago, I felt such joy, love, and belonging among these friends-turned-family. I have yet to see a prettier sunrise.

What’s the biggest risk you have taken on a trip?

Probably running out of money a million times and just leaving with little traveling cash. It feels apocalyptic the first few times but eventually you get used to it. You learn to survive and trust that things will eventually work out. You find somewhere to work in exchange for room and board and after some time paid work seems to come on by. It’s a little uncanny how serendipitous it can all come together.

What inspires you to travel more alone?

I get little travel pangs daily. This little restless feeling, mixed with an insatiable curiosity. It is an ever present desire to move and explore. I’ll just be going about my day and find myself making mental notes about flights to look up, & places I need to go that I haven’t thought about in a while. I’m still not sure if it is something you can get out of your system or if each trip just makes you more restless. I’ve found that so far it is the latter.

What advice might you give people afraid of being on their own or thinking of taking their first solo trip?

It may seem cliché but just fucking do it and you’ll be fine. If you’re afraid of being on your own it’s probably exactly what you need to do. You’ll make friends and it is amazing to discover that the people you needed to meet seem to come your way. You’ll also learn to stare down loneliness and work with it. All the emotional, mental, spiritual shit that has been hiding beneath your routines, distractions, and comforts back home will come up in a big way and force you to deal with them.

You’ll have a lot of shitty days, mishaps, and the occasional disaster or breakdown, but you’ll learn to become stronger for it. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to become some enlightened Buddha figure because you went backpacking, all your problems won’t be solved by your new worldly perspective, but you will grow, you will meet some amazing people, build some beautiful friendships, and you’ll have an absolute blast doing all this.

If you were writing a book about a personal travel story, what three words would you use for the title?

Learned. Lost. Looking.


Thanks for reading!

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By Chizoba Anyaoha

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