In February 2013 Karl Watson and James Walsh quit their jobs and headed off on a 9 month, 20 country, epic adventure around the world! Luckily for us they took a camera with them and their awesome video is now featured on our YouTube channel.
We caught up with Karl and asked the questions you really want to know: How much? Where was best? How did you not kill each other?
How did you choose your route?
I planned it out months before we booked. I wanted to focus on the backpacker hotspots because I love the scene – especially the “younger” destinations because you’re only a young backpacker for so long! No one wants to be that 40 year old still asking everyone if they want to play Ring of Fire.
We used the Round the World tickets on the website as a guide to what flight routes were do-able and built our trip itinerary from that…with a few additions of our own. For example, if you’re flying from south to north America you’ve got to stop in central – so we thought it would be rude not to!
Had you travelled much before?
I’d done a working holiday in New Zealand in 2006 with a few weeks in Oz and a cheeky stop in Fiji on the way back. Though I loved it I really wanted to do a big trip with no need to stop and work – to just keep going! We spent 3 years saving up for it though, so it wasn’t without sacrifice.
How did you share the planning? Any fall outs?
I did the planning really but James was happy with that! I basically showed him the route on a map and said “do you want to do this?” It was a pretty definitive yes.
We managed to stay friends the whole way round (except for a few drunken arguments) but we’d lived together at uni and had known each other for 11 years, so we knew how to not get on each other’s nerves. Honestly there are very few of my friends I could travel for 9 months with – we’d probably end up killing each other after a few weeks!
Loads of people ask us for saving and budgeting tips for massive trips like this…got any we can steal?
When I first started saving I was broke, struggling to pay the rent and I just put away any pennies that I could whilst I began planning and budgeting for the trip. Once I got a new job I put away a third of my salary every month – the second it came in my account. My general tip for saving is don’t buy stuff you don’t need!
We had a budget in mind for each country (which admittedly often goes out the window). I got New Zealand bang on because I’d lived there but Australia totally destroyed us – you’re talking $5 for a can of Coke in the Outback. A crate of beer can cost $50 – which is why everyone drinks goon!
No matter how cheap the place (e.g. Thailand) if you eat and drink out every night it all adds up. Plan, research and budget but use it as a flexible guide – the last thing you want to do is get to one of the most amazing places in the world and say “I can’t do that, it’s not in the budget”.
We’re going to get mean…pick three highlights
Everyone asks this question and it’s so hard to answer because when you’re travelling every day is a highlight!
Iguassu Falls was probably the most spectacular thing we saw. We both have a kind of weird fetish for waterfalls but this one was something else. An endless row of multiple tiers of waterfalls in the middle of the jungle. It kicks the ass out of Niagara Falls hands down.
Next, we’ll go for the Nevis bungee jump in New Zealand. I’d done this before in 2006 but that honestly doesn’t help, I was still terrified. James was so beyond scared he was laughing deliriously – you can see it in the video!
Finally let’s go with the Shangri La Party Boat in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. We sailed around both islands, saw the Monkey Beach, went cliff diving, chilled in a sea jacuzzi, went tubing and snorkelling in a lagoon. Then instead of being dropped off at ‘The Beach’, we swam across a lagoon, climbed over some rocks and walked through the jungle and out on to the beach just like in the movie!
Ultimately though it’s the people who make the places. Those small moments that really define a trip are pretty difficult to get across in a video or a blog.
By the end of the trip what advice would you have given to the guy who landed in Hong Kong on day one?
Spend more money. You can always earn more money but you’re never going to be in this place at that time again. You can’t repeat the moment. Don’t go crazy but try everything (within reason). Oh, and pack way less!
Tell us about your YouTube series
I’m a video editor by profession and I love making films because they are just the best souvenir – so much better than a post card or a T-Shirt because you can actually relive the trip through the video. Filming a 9 month holiday was a completely different challenge though, you get tired of holding the camera after a while!
When I got home I realised that, despite my worries, I’d filmed more than I thought and we could make something good with it! Hopefully when people watch the HK2NY: Hong Kong To New York series they’ll feel like they’re on the trip with us. The feedback online has been fantastic, with people clamouring for the next episode – even binge watching! So yeah we’re really happy with it.
For me, Nepal; Everest is calling! For James, he’s quit his job again and is soon flying off to Mexico to begin working his way down through Central and South America! I’m going to be joining him in the summer in Colombia and Venezuela – where I hear there’s a pretty big waterfall…