Aspiring travelers alike learn how to supercharge their adventures on a budget
Traveling the world for almost a decade, Will Hatton shares his experiences, outlooks, and advice. He’s well known for creating the popular travel blog The Broke Backpacker that many travelers look to for budget and travel resources.
ZOG Digital spoke with Hatton about his role as an influencer within the travel industry and the impact that his voice has had on others. He’s been featured in BuzzFeed, The Daily Mail, Business Insider, and other various publications. We were able to catch up with Hatton and discuss his passion for ditching the desk and discovering the world.
ZD: You’ve stepped away from the desk and have been traveling for nearly a decade now. What inspired you to begin this journey?
Hatton: I originally started traveling following a life-changing injury that disqualified me from joining the army. I was in a wheelchair for a while and on crutches for ages, in a lot of pain for several months. It was a horrible experience, but ultimately it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was depressed, suicidal and near breaking point, so one day I threw all my stuff into my pack, emptied my bank account into my sock and hitched my first ride. Twenty-four hours later and I was out of England and hitching across Europe.
Once on the road, I found that the potential for personal development whilst traveling was just massive. If you’re backpacking on a tight budget, in far-flung lands, you become an expert at problem-solving, making friends, and seeing the silver lining in challenging scenarios. Having the opportunity to challenge myself on the road and to learn new skills got me hooked and I never really looked back – to travel is to be free. To work for yourself is the ultimate freedom, so to be on the road and running my businesses online is a dream come true.
ZD: Where was your first trip to and what made you choose there?
Hatton: When I was 19, I spent a year and a half hitchhiking across India, sleeping in temples, fields, train stations, and stranger’s homes. It was a totally wacky, out of this world, experience. I didn’t have a phone, which was awesome, and I read a lot. India appealed to me for two main reasons: it’s cheap and it’s huge.
Once you are in the country you can happily wander around without worrying about having to leave on account of the long visas available. India is a challenging place to travel, especially without money, but I gained a newfound confidence whilst in India and slowly begun to come to terms with my change in circumstances. Eventually, I formed a new life plan.
ZD: When did you decide to turn your passion for travel into a blog format?
Hatton: I’ve been blogging for about four years now, at first it was just a hobby. I’ve always found writing to be therapeutic and starting a blog seemed like a fun way to chronicle my adventures. I had no idea it would develop into a full-time career!
ZD: Your website has grown incredibly. It’s no longer just you, but you now have contributors and a network for those travelers like you. How did this come to be?
Hatton: The site has exploded beyond my wildest dreams, although my dreams keep getting on wilder and I have big plans for the future. The Broke Backpacker team has expanded to about a dozen contributors now.
We were one of the very first travel blogs to fall into this niche – real budget travel in far-flung lands like Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela, and Myanmar. And over the years people have reached out to me to see if we can work together. I run a backpacking group aimed at opening up tourism in Pakistan (where we are currently building a hostel in the mountains) and it’s been great to be involved with promoting an amazing country to a cool group of people – real adventurers.
ZD: Was there ever a moment when you realized ‘The Broke Backpacker’ was a success? And if so, what was that moment?
Hatton: When I made my first $100 blogging. I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I’ve run well over two dozen ventures, online and offline, over the years. I quickly realized that the barrier to entry on blogging is very low and I could achieve more blogging with my very limited financial resources than I could in some of my other ventures (such as importing textiles from India to sell at festivals).
ZD: When did you realize that you were an influencer in the travel realm?
Hatton: Over time, more and more companies reached out to me seeking exposure. I hasten to add that a LOT of companies, tourism boards, and brands don’t want to work with me on account of the name. Most of the marketing budget in the travel industry is in the luxury sector so naturally, The Broke Backpacker isn’t the right fit. Honestly, this has been a blessing in disguise.
I have many colleagues who get paid 2-3k to go on a press trip, something I have never done and will never do. My blog is mine, I write about what I want – sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll – not what I’m told to write about. I also think that too much work with brands and tourism boards distracts from the actual work side of building an online business – something that is not to be underestimated. If you build a business right, you can build a passive income and travel the world whilst earning money in your sleep.
ZD: You’ve got the opportunity to work with and be featured in outlets such as Forbes, BuzzFeed, TripAdvisor, and Daily Mail. Is there any partnership and collaboration that sticks out to you the most?
Hatton: For a while, I had a crack at being a freelance journalist and I sold pieces to The BBC, Business Insider, World Nomads, The Daily Mail, Independent, and others. Working with The BBC was a real honor though and something I had always dreamed of doing as a kid. This was a great experience for me, but ultimately I moved on.
ZD: There tends to be this stigma (especially in the US), that you have to have a certain amount of money saved up in order to travel and experience new things? How does that make you feel?
Hatton: I’ve been broke almost all of my life. That changed about a year ago. Besides my blog, I run five other online ventures and trade cryptocurrency. I have a large team which helps me with all of this and over the last year, the hard work has begun to pay off. This means that I can travel however I want these days. But that was not always the case. I hitchhiked, slept rough, and worked 101 crappy jobs all around the world in order to keep myself on the road.
The concept that you have to have money to travel is just wrong. People don’t understand that it’s completely possible to travel broke, you just need to get out of your comfort zone. When you’re out of your comfort zone, you learn the most. I was a super shy, awkward kid when I first started traveling. I was scared, but it was the best experience I ever had and shaped me into who I am today.
If I had been traveling with plenty of cash, staying in hotels, and eating in fancy restaurants, I would have been insulated from the real culture – the people and lessons that you can encounter through raw travel. I encourage everybody to travel broke at least once in their life.
ZD: Which media outlet do you find to be the most impactful and why?
Hatton: The blog is by far my most important outlet. Honestly, I don’t really like social media and I try to limit the time I spend on social. Because of this, I decided to quit Snapchat altogether, despite amassing a pretty massive following, as I felt I was missing out on my travel experiences by being on my phone too much. The blog is by far the easiest platform to monetize.
ZD: Out of all the places you’ve been, what trip has been the most memorable?
Hatton: Pakistan is the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have ever been, and the hash is pretty spectacular.
ZD: Where’s one place you still need to visit?
Hatton: Papua New Guinea! When I finally reach that magical island, a chapter of my life will close.
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