Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bad@ss Traveler - William Guyver

Alright folks, plenty of travel inspiraiton comin' your way...
Meet Bad@ss Traveler - Will Guyver.

Will's setup on his Royal Enfield in Meghalaya, India.

When I met Will I knew we would be instant friends. 

I approached him as a dreaded hippy hanging out with a plethora of Asians (in Montana no less) outside a Montana Statue University church potluck gathering. The very first question he asked me was, 'What are your thoughts on organized religion?' Most people talk pleasantries but Will cuts to the chase, every single time. I was totally caught off guard, and our friendship started right then and there.

I had messaged Will through Couchsurfing, looking to find like-minded folk in Bozeman. He wrote back and there I was at the church dinner, no idea what I was getting myself into! Turns out Will and his friends (remember Bad@ss Traveller Sasha? - Will's best friend) became my Montana lifelines. I can actually thank Will for being the first person to introduced me to a new realm in this place that I can now call home. I had found my people. 

Will especially amazes me at his openness to talk to everyone about anything. He has no filter, he always asks what he wants to know and shares what he wants to share, something so rare to find today. He's willing to listen and also to embrace a new point of view; he is by far one of the most genuine, kind, and philosophical men I know! 

Perhaps this is due to his most fascinating background. Will was born in Missoula, Montana to a bi-national family. His father is English and his mother is American (he holds both country’s passports). Both his parents are classical musicians and educators [*they met playing for the Venezuelan orchestra!*]). As Will puts it, 'they were perhaps rather restless as young parents.' 

Jess & Will in Bozeman circa 2009
Throughout his childhood Will moved from Montana to Alaska to Missouri to Kansas to Colorado and then to Pennsylvania for boarding school and back to Montana for university with a year abroad in Montpellier, France. He traveled extensively during university both while abroad in France and on breaks while in Montana. 

After university he taught English in South Korea in a small town called Sacheon and a city called Jinju for a year and a half at all levels except high school. With money earned from my time teaching in Korea I embarked on an 8 month motorcycle journey. My travels took me through 22 different countries (I believe) including India, a large portion of Europe, Turkey, Georgia, Iceland, and North America (more on this later).

A little bit from Will about his motorcycle travel

I rode 2 different bikes and drove one car: a Royal Enfield Thunderbird, a BMW f650GS and a Citroen ZX hatchback (cost me 200 euros in Slovenia), traveling somewhere around 30,000 miles in total. I experienced danger, moments of highly emotional awe, unthinkable fatigue, uncontrollable excitement, many highs and some lows plus a myriad of other emotions and thoughts

It was a defining series of events in my life that changed me for the better as a person. I became more giving, more determined in my pursuits, more confident. My greatest achievement I think, was finding an important part of who I was as a person and a member of the global community.

Now my focus is on becoming an expert in Permaculture and planning the next step of life with my lovely girlfriend.

What does the word travel entail to you?

When I consider the word “travel” my mind is always drawn to movement: flying, boating, motorcycling, walking, bicycling etc. The word “change” also comes to mind concerning travel. I find that travel demonstrates change more expressly as a universal constant and as a moment by moment occurrence.

How have you created your life around your travel & your travel around your life (and made it sustainable)?

I suppose I’ve created my life around travel by simply pursuing it; by putting my resources, time and thought into it. My traveling style has developed over time by refining what I was looking for in the experience of travel and how to best make decisions based on my goals.

The sustainability of travel has always been a struggle for me actually. I have two problems with it. My first problem is that travel is often a great hardship to the planet. Taking one flight automatically makes your carbon footprint greater than over half the members of the planet (think about how many flights you’ve taken :/). [*yikes!]

That was quite a reality check for me when I realized that (and has led me to find more environmentally friendly methods of travel which is fun to think about of itself). The other difficulty with the sustainability of travel has been the need to reconcile a great passion for travel with the instinctual and social nature of a reproductive human. 

In other words I want to have a family someday and I’ve had some trouble coming to terms with the fact that my traveling lifestyle will drastically change when I begin that venture. I hope I’ll be able to eventually combine the worlds of family and travel in an interesting sort of harmony.

What’s one travel memory that had a truly lasting effect, a total life changing or ah-ha moment?

I have had many such moments during my travels. I’d have to mention a few I think in this category. 

I observed the great poverty, hardship and pollution of India while simultaneously being astonished by the “heart” and community of the people. Seeing so many people with so little get along with an attitude of acceptance, grace and love drew me to the conclusion that happiness as an external force comes from community and relationships. And as an internal force, happiness comes from one’s appreciation of the good in their life.

In Iceland my motorcycle broke down in a wind and rain storm like I’d never experienced. 

I only had a tent and very little money and two older German gentlemen, fellow bikers, paid for me to stay in my own hotel room and eat a hot meal on the eve of my birthday (though they didn’t know it). 

Will taking on hitchhikers to keep company while motorcycling through Iceland.

I’m not sure if they knew what that meant to me but I have vowed since that day to pay it forward. 

I had another experience in Hungary where I didn’t have any money (only a credit card) to buy water and was beyond parched. The cashier at a grocer said I could take the bottle of water for free as they didn’t take plastic. It was a small gift in terms of monetary value but to me it was a great deal more. 

I suppose when someone understands a stranger’s need, and gives without consideration of their needs or loss of resources, than it gives you great hope for the future of humanity.

What’s one thing that you love to do in any new place?

I enjoy doing all sorts of things in a new place. I love people watching and meeting, going to the local grocery store (great way to start your investigation of the local culture). It may seem a bit taboo/dangerous but I also enjoy smoking a joint in a new location. It can be an effective method for me to truly live in the moment and take it all in.  

Truly exhausted & tired.
What was a travel situation you found very trying & how did you pull through it?

I think one of the few times traveling where I was close to tears was in Denmark. I rode my motorcycle from Norway the previous day through nonstop rain and practically EVERY possession I had was soaked.. not damp or wet but absolutely water-logged. I camped just outside the port where the ferry was supposed to take me on to Iceland and just shivered in my tent miserably all night. 

The next day, still wet and cold I spent the morning in a rather derelict restroom, trying to stay warm by placing different parts of my body beneath the warm air of a hand dryer. I soon discovered that the ferry website had recently changed their docking location to a whole other port and that I had little time to get there. 

I raced, well above the speed limit, to reach the actual port and arrived just in time to see the boat casting off and to hear the sad tone of the fog horn mimic the regret of my heart. Upon investigation I was told that the next boat wouldn’t come for another week. I was out of crowns, my credit card wasn’t accepted at any grocery stores (sometimes Europeans don’t understand that American cc’s don’t have a pin #) and I was stuck in Denmark of all places (no offense to the Danes but I was ready to be awed by Iceland’s landscape). 

So for the first two days, while camping, I collected berries and mushrooms in the forest as a supplement to my meager meals, the result of rationing the remains of the provisions I had bought in Sweden. 

On the 3rd day I decided that I would make a stretch and stay in the hostel for one night to gather information from other travelers, call the ferry company and actually have a decent, dry night’s sleep. One of the better decisions of my life because that evening I discovered that the ferry would be coming the next day in fact and after a long and arduous conversation with a rep from the ferry company it was finally decided that my motorcycle and I would be boarding the following day without paying, once again, the $500 passage fee. 

I guess the situation was overcome by a bit of resourcefulness, a bit of luck and a willingness to not stand down while dealing with the ferry company. Needless to say I was relieved to be on my way to Iceland the next morning even if it cost me two days on the Faroe Islands (my original itinerary).

How do you feel you inspire others?

I’m not sure if I do inspire others but if I have I suppose the source would be my great level of enthusiasm for most pursuits and my easy-to-please nature. [**Will is obviously incredibly modest, he's one of the most fascinating people I know!**].

What’s something that inspires you to keep exploring?

One might say it’s the “grass is always greener” mentality but my inspiration to explore comes from other areas in just as great a force. 

Perhaps more than anything it comes from my desire to connect with people of all different backgrounds. I like to hear stories and to tell them too. I’ve been inspired in different ways by a meth addict at a lonely German train station, a Thai monk silently giving me a tattoo with a simple metal rod in a bird filled temple, while hiking with a guide in the Himalayas, by numerous couchsurfing hosts/guests and countless others. Landscapes are, without doubt, of interest to observe but I find that the people of a country are what truly give color to the experience of exploration.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who feels stuck in their current life or afraid to take that first step?

Will excited by Icelandic waterfalls!
My advice to someone who is “stuck” in their current life is to truly drink in your surroundings, to observe your life. Once you feel you have a clear idea of where you are and what you’re doing you can decide if you want to make changes or to accept your life circumstances. We all, at times, must remember that a large portion of where we are and where we go in life is in our hands. In many ways we arrived at that moment by way of previous decisions and we also have the power to move in a different direction.

To someone who is afraid to take the first step, my advice would be to take it. Life is short and to let fear dominate it is a great waste. Consider the fact that without a first step in any life pursuit you wouldn’t be where you are today, alive and hopefully well. Alexander the Great, one of antiquity’s most seasoned explorers, was proclaimed to have said: “Fortune favors the bold”. I think this sentiment has quite some value. Your experience of life can only be what you drive it towards.

What do you find has stood out the most as the biggest difference across the many cultures you've known and explored (in general or one example in particular)? 

This is a kind of a tough question. The first things that come to mind are cuisine and language. Nearly every country I’ve visited has demonstrated the uniqueness of their culture through their food.

In terms of language there are, of course, similarities between different languages but I’ve always enjoyed taking note of the different sounds that each language produces to communicate. 

To give an example: Japanese and Chinese, though historically tied linguistically, in some aspects sound wildly different to me. The most interesting language I’ve ever heard (as a side note) is Icelandic.. it’s like no other language I’ve heard before. I learned that since Icelandic is so closely related to ancient Norwegian that students of literature in Norway come to Iceland to study ancient Norwegian texts.

I’ve also typically been aware of the differences in manners between countries. In Korea for example, it is rude to blow your nose in public whereas it is encouraged from grade school on in the US. This was a bit troublesome for me while living in Korea as a great portion of Korean cuisine centers on spicy soups. You try not blowing your nose on a cold winter’s day eating steamy and spicy Kimchi soup!! 

What about the biggest similarity?

I’ve noticed that body language can be one of the greatest observable constants throughout all the cultures I have come in contact with. A genuine smile is so amazingly universal. It’s an excellent demonstration of our interconnectedness as humans

Also national pride (though on varying levels) is a theme amongst countries I think. From my experience I’d say South Korea has the highest level of national pride I’ve experienced and Germany the lowest level.

Where do you see yourself heading into the future?

Will with his girlfriend Katie.

I’m interested in sustainable farming, aquaponics, horticulture and above all, permaculture as an approach to these areas of food production. I’d like to integrate these interests into my working life while still finding opportunities to travel along the way. An eventual dream I have is to volunteer abroad, creating permaculture settlements in more poverty stricken areas of the world; helping people produce their own quality food and conserve energy while respecting the environment thereby paving a path for future generations.

My question (as a permaculture enthusiast) for readers to ponder themselves: 

How do you feel you can contribute to the sustainability of your community/our environment? 

How can people get in touch with or follow you?

I don’t really seek out a following.. at least not at the moment. People can get in touch with me through email if they like:

I’d be happy to discuss ideas, share information, answer questions or communicate with anyone on any subject. 

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