This week on The Traveler Series, meet Luke of The Backstreet Nomad. Luke lives in Newcastle, Australia and fell in love with travel after studying abroad in England in 2010. Since then, Luke has divulged his travels through his blog and enjoys submerging himself in the local culture of any given destination. Luke searches for local haunts, hidden gems and experiences that are “off the guidebook,” while also relishing in the natural beauty of the places he visits. Here, I interview Luke on how he began The Backstreet Nomad, what inspires his travels and the one thing he cannot travel without.
What inspires you to travel?
Where does one start? The biggest thing I love is to see other cultures, how they live their life, and how they fill their life. The other big one is nature. Our world is full of incredible landscapes, animals and formations and as anyone who has traveled can attest to, the more you see the more you realize how much there is to see.
For those who don’t yet know you, can you explain your travel style?
I often contradict myself as to my own travel style. As I mentioned above, experiencing a different culture is paramount for me so to achieve this I love to explore the local haunts or places outside the big names. This may be visiting small towns as part of a road trip or a back alley bar that you’d never find in a guidebook. Despite saying this, I also love to plan the very finest details of a trip. Perhaps it’s the excitement of an upcoming trip that I just want to be planning it to feel productive. Or perhaps it’s not wanting to have to shell out additional dollars when a free option was available. Most likely it’s because I just love to be organized. Finding the balance between these two styles is a tightrope I continually walk.
How do you afford your travels?
Pretty well all my travels have been afforded through working for “the man” full time, saving like crazy and having no plans to put a deposit on a house in the near future. At 26, this does cross my mind from time to time but when it does I just think: “gee, having a mortgage, that would be game over for sure”.
Where has been your favorite destination and why?
Like any perpetual traveler this answer probably changes almost daily, depending on my current inspiration for a blog post or the most recent blog post that I read or the type of beer I just drank. At present, I’m going to say Aitutaki, an island of the Cook Islands. It has the whitest of white sands surrounded by turquoise waters, which are protected by a reef. My wife and I stayed in an over-water bungalow and spent a few days baking, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkelling and exploring remote islands. It was just gorgeous.
If you had to settle down in one location forever, where would you choose and why?
I could settle somewhere near Calgary, Canada. I spent a few months working on a summer camp there so I already have a number of really good friends. It is on the doorstep of Kananaskis Country with some really beautiful hikes, rivers and lakes. Not to mention driving distance to national parks around Banff, Jasper and Sunshine Village for skiing. It is also a short flight to Whistler for when the pining to return eventually surfaces.
What keepsake do you have to get at all your destinations? (Whether it’s something free like ticket stubs or brochures, or something you have to buy)
I am an avid card player, so when I traversed Europe I bought a pack of cards from every city I visited. I continued this for a few more subsequent countries but I have realised that a) this is a reasonably expensive souvenir, b) the weight really adds up to bring home on long trips and I don’t actually play enough cards for them all to be in constant rotation. These days I am just satisfied with photos because they really are the best memory preservers.
How about the one thing you cannot travel without?
Something that will play music in my ears. For those long plane rides when you can’t sleep but have no energy to read or watch a movie. For those long nights when you need to drown out the karaoke downstairs. Or those days when your surroundings really just deserve a soundtrack.
Have you ever traveled solo? If yes, what was the experience like?
I’ve never done any major trips solo but I spent 3 days in Copenhagen solo then 9 days in Brussels/Amsterdam another time. This is about the max I can spend on my own without meaningful conversation but the most interesting thing I learnt about myself is that when I do trips like this solo, I don’t stop. There’s no one to suggest we stop for coffee or lunch so I just power on, seeing the maximum. This is both a blessing and a curse because I see so much but by dinner time I’m just absolutely wiped out.
What are your go-to travel apps?
The best app I’ve discovered is called WorldMate. You forward every booking confirmation email you receive to them and they create a very neat little itinerary based on the info in the email. It captures so much detail and is incredibly simple to use. I also user Foursquare all the time to find recommendations and have just discovered Uber for booking Taxis.
What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve picked up over the years?
The best stories cannot be planned so if something goes wrong, suck it up and take some photos so you can validate your experience when you recall your experience to others. Creepy, homeless looking guy sneaking into your hostel room in Dublin? Have to sleep outside a train station until it opens in the morning in Venice? Regretfully blurry night in Prague? These have become my go-to travel anecdotes because they are interesting and actually tell a story.
Why did you begin your website? How did you come up with your website name?
Obviously I love to travel and I love to write. I also love hearing other traveler’s stories to gain inspiration. The manifestation of this was to create a travel blog to share my stories, give advice, record my experiences for my own memory and be a part of an amazing community.
“Backstreet Nomad” I felt best encapsulated what I tried to articulate in question 2. Finding that balance between exploring the unknowns in the backstreets and that pipe dream of wandering the globe simultaneously with and without a purpose.
What is your best piece of advice to budding travel writers looking to start a blog or website?
Do it because you love putting your experiences to paper. Be patient and keep with it because anything worth doing takes time. Connect with other bloggers through comments or emails to build relationships and make friends because writing a blog is only half the fun.
What’s next for you in 2014? (Trips planned, etc.)
Well, this week I’m heading to Melbourne, then Sydney twice in the next month and the Whitsundays in December. When the snow melts I also have grand plans to hike up Mount Kosciuszco, the tallest ‘mountain’ in Australia.
Follow Luke and his travels here: