If you don’t have plenty savings and a medium to large budget, you can’t travel the world, right? Wrong, according to Everett “Nemo” Pompeii from Charleston, South Carolina in the US, who is about to release an off-beat budget travel guide, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to: Earth, detailing how to hit the road for just US$8 (R70) a day.
Although only 20, Nemo has travelled much of the world. From Japan, he tells Gina Ginsberg more about the travels and concepts that led up to his book. (Warning: after reading this, you may be compelled to pack a backpack and buy a plane ticket).
[Gina Ginsberg] At your age, what’s inspired your exploration and background knowledge for this book?
[Nemo] I’m young, but I’ve seen my fair share of the world — and I’m still going. My travels have built on themselves. First as an Eagle Scout, backpacking through the mountains, I learned how to live comfortably out of a pack. Then I moved to the Urban Jungle for a European summer of hostel hopping and CouchSurfing. All this time, I was doing my research and trying to figure out how to travel smarter and really live on the road.
In two stages, I hitched the Eastern Seaboard of the US, from Florida to New York, and I tested my newfound knowledge. It passed with flying colours. With the confidence gained from these successes, I set out across New Zealand and Australia, continually testing and refining what I had previously read or learned.
By the end of this odyssey, I had mastered these skills, and I felt I could clear the largest hurdle yet, The Language Barrier. From The Land Down Under, I ventured to the land of anime, sushi, and everything crazy — Japan. I literally could not say “no,” when I landed. It took me three days to figure out how to pronounce it properly. If this sounds crazy, it’s because it is. But, that’s what this project is for. To help future travellers through the
[GG] What is a typical US$8 a day on the road like, including food, lodging and entertainment?
[Nemo] My base food supply is: a bag of oatmeal or granola, rice and beans (both dry),and a box of green tea. I also mix in fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, mushrooms, eggs (to be hardboiled) and canned/pouched goods from the grocery. Your pack is your pantry. Items can only be picked a few days worth at a time. Also, you have no form of refrigeration, unless you’re staying at a hostel, so any meat or dairy — other than cheese — has to be consumed that day. There is also food that hosts/rides give you. I
would never buy myself a steak dinner on the road, but I’ve had hosts treat me to them. I never ask for it though. I’m just honest if anyone asks about what I’ve had to eat that day!
An eight by twelve PVC, waterproof tarp and twenty feet of paracord — with these two, you can sleep almost anywhere.
An eight by twelve PVC, waterproof tarp and twenty feet of paracord — with these two, you can sleep almost anywhere. I’ve slept in the same Super Tarp in the rainforest, and on the eighth stage on Mt. Fuji (in a snow cave). It’s a squatter’s best friend and, best of all, it’s light and cheap.
As far as entertainment, I brought a guitar, a Teach Yourself Japanese book, my journal, and a reading book with me on this past trip. I thought I was going to get bored…I never had the time to learn a word of Japanese from the book, and the only time I really had to play guitar or read was by the roadside. At nights, I would write in my journal and then call it a night most of the time. On occasion, I would go out to look for a hostel with a bar.
[GG] Over what time period was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to: Earth written?
[Nemo] It’s based on four years of off and on travel, but the actual penmanship was done over the course of several months. I’ve been in contact with other travel writers about the project and brought in wisdom from them as well as those I’ve met along the way.
[GG] You said you often fake a European accent to get the student fares at museums — how often does this work? Do you have any other discount tricks/tips?
[Nemo] Yes, It was a British accent and the cost of admission was free. I didn’t pay for a single museum that entire trip. And yes, I got in to Le Louvre for free…But I did have an International Student ID Card.
As for tips and tricks: don’t eat out; don’t use taxis; don’t pay for water; dumpsters are amazing; book your tickets online; have only one piece of luggage. And hostels may seem cheap, until you stay in one every night. Use a Super Tarp!
[GG] Is hitchhiking easier in certain countries? If so, which ones?
[Nemo] It’s all a numbers game, but where you are certainly does matter. Currently, I’m in Japan, and it is wonderful here. Hitchhiking hasn’t become taboo because it is so uncommon, and the Japanese culture mandates politeness. I haven’t waited more than a half hour here for a ride.
My first ever major hitchhiking trip was to Orlando. Florida is one of the worst places to hitch…I waited three hours for a ride at one point. It happens.
[GG] How many languages do you speak?
[Nemo] English: I’m writing a book with it, so I like to think I’m pretty good. Español: I took five years of it in elementary school, but I know only the basics really. I did alright in Mexico, though. Français: I took three years of it between middle and high school. Our school systems are quite horrible at teaching foreign languages, but I still managed to do alright when I was in Paris. Nihongo: I never looked at the language before I set out on my current journey, but I have sworn to not speak English, while I’m in Japan. In the last two and a half months, I’ve gone from zero to being able to somewhat hold a conversation. The best part, there’s another month and a half to go. Universal: I was in theatre for seven years and, honestly, it’s the best foreign language class. It taught me body language and pantomime, which are universal. I can convey ideas without words.
[GG] Would you say you have you relied on the kindness of strangers to initially get by in new countries?
[Nemo] Not just initially, but throughout the entire trip. It’s the generosity of complete strangers that lets me travel the way I do. They help ease you into your new environment, and they help you along the way. You just have to remember to pay it forward in any way you can.
[GG] Kindness of strangers has a lot to do with the philosophy of CouchSurfing, Describe your experience with that concept?
[Nemo] I’ve surfed [stayed with] amazing hosts, and I’ve hosted amazing surfers. I wouldn’t have the confidence to travel how I do now without it. I actually had Thanksgiving dinner this past year with a friend I met through Couchsurfing. It’s a great way to meet likeminded people, spice up your life a bit (if you’re hosting), and also save some dough (if you’re surfing). You also learn a lot about trust.
[GG] What do you do for your hosts that you have surfed with?
[Nemo] I offer to cook, clean, and scrub the toilets. Not really the latter, but you get the point. I also make sure to make my bed or strip it the last day I stay. There are also small things you can do, but the real key is to do it without them asking. As soon everyone leaves the dinner table, start clearing the table and cleaning the dishes. They might stop you, but at that point it’s the thought that counts.
I also share whatever I can…They will see your generosity and reciprocate it. Also, when going through Europe, I had a stack of post cards from my hometown, Charleston. I would write a message on the back and give it to my host before I left.
[GG] What book(s), if any, inspired you to travel?
[Nemo] My dad read me books like Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Robinson Crusoe growing up. I also tore through Into the Wild and 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea before setting out travelling. On The Road, by Jack Kerouac is on the To Be Read list.
[GG] Is your general mentality different when you’re travelling?
[Nemo] We’re a nomadic species. By design, we love to explore. When I’m idling, I’m thinking of my next adventure. When I’m on my adventure, I have the luxury of not having to think of anything else. © The Big Issue SA
*For more on Nemo’s travels and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to: Earth, visit his website http:/