by Niall Doherty

Do you ever get lonely?

Not very often, but it does happen. I was lonely at times in India earlier this year. But I tend to view loneliness as a result of laziness, or the effect of letting fear get the best of me. When I push myself to go out and be social I can usually meet and connect with people fairly easily. Other times I just give in and stay home feeling sorry for myself.

Wednesday night in Chiang Mai some dinner plans with friends fell through and I was left with a choice: Go eat at some random restaurant all alone (which is fine sometimes, but I was really craving connection that evening), or go walk around and start striking up conversations with strangers. I pushed myself to do the latter and ended up having a great evening. I even told myself that I couldn’t eat until I found someone to have dinner with me, and as a result ended up sitting, eating and chatting with some really cool people.

In India, for whatever reason, I found it more difficult to overcome that internal resistance and get out to meet new people. Hence the loneliness there.

But don’t you miss long-term relationships, forming deeper connections with people?

I was having dinner with a new friend in Kochi a couple of weeks back. It was just the second time we’d hung out, and the first time we’d had a chance to chat one-on-one. After about an hour she asked me the same question. Her concern was that without long-term relationships, you end up having the same shallow conversations over and over again with people you’ve just met. At which point I said to her, “Yeah, but we’ve just met, and our conversation hasn’t been shallow at all.”

She paused for a second and then replied, “Good point.”

The way I see it, you can have deep and meaningful conversations with pretty much anyone, even if you’ve just met them. Small talk is a valuable social skill, but it can also kill an interaction if you lean too heavily on it and never move beyond the pleasantries. (By the way, sharing some vulnerability is a good way to make that move.)

I don’t mean to short-change long-term relationships. There’s no real substitute for getting to know someone over a long period of time. I feel I get my fix of those relationships through my online network, though. There are several people I try to connect with regularly, catching up via email and Skype. Not quite the same as in-person contact, I know. But for me at least, it’s been working well.

At some point I imagine I’ll start craving more in-person, long-term relationships. When that happens, I’ll simply make some changes so that those relationships become a more central part of my life.

Why don’t you fly?

People either get the no-fly thing or they don’t. Some folks think it’s brilliant, while others think it’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard. I don’t really care either way. The no-fly journey is meaningful to me, so it doesn’t much matter what anyone else thinks of it.

It’s been interesting to observe the critics though. They can’t seem to understand how something that seems silly and arbitrary to them could possibly be meaningful to someone else. Hey, I think religion is silly, but if other people find meaning in it and so long as they don’t go around cutting off clitorises, more power to them.

All that said, there are three main reasons why I’ve devoted four years of my life attempting to circumnavigate the globe without flying…

  1. The adventure: I end up in random places like Iran for ten days and Romania for three weeks. Many of my best travel experiences have happened in places I had no original intention of visiting.
  2. The challenge: It was a pain in the ass trying to get from India to Thailand without flying, but I feel I really stretched myself and learned a few things in the process of making that happen. Plus, that feeling of stepping off a cruise ship and onto a beautiful Thai beach was incredible. Doubt I would have gotten the same buzz if I’d just caught a quick flight from Delhi to Bangkok back in September.
  3. The story: I’m a bit of an attention whore, and I find it’s easier to get someone’s ear when I mention that I’m traveling around the world without flying.

What will you do after you’ve finished your RTW trip?

No idea. If you had told me four years ago that I’d be a self-employed vegetarian minimalist living in Thailand right now, having visited more than a dozen countries in the past twelve months, I’d never have believed you. Back in 2008 all I wanted to do was watch basketball, get drunk and try chat up American girls. Only one of those pursuits still interests me 😉

All I know for sure is that I’ll continue to follow my curiosity and push my comfort zone. We’ll see where that leads.

Do you eventually see yourself settling down and starting a family?

I have no urge to do anything like that right now. I’d like to eventually have the experience of being a father, but I’m not in any hurry. Maybe five years from now I’ll give it some deeper consideration.

As for a long-term romantic relationship, that doesn’t interest me much at the moment either. I’m having way too much fun going out and meeting different people and playing the whole dating game. Guess I’m making up for all the time I spent in my twenties being terrible with women.

I would like to experiment with open relationships at some point, see if that kind of thing would work well for me.

How do you finance your travels?

My laptop is my office, so I can work from pretty much anywhere with an Internet connection. I make most of my money from freelance web design and selling advertising on travel blogs. If you’re interested in more details, sign up for my mailing list. I send subscribers a monthly finance report breaking down everything I earn and spend. This month I’m once again on course to crack the €3k mark.

What do you do with all your stuff while you’re traveling?

I carry everything I own with me. I like to travel light, so it’s not much. Here’s a list.

What else would you like to know? Ask me anything via the comments.