This week on The Traveler Series, meet Thai Nguyen of TheUtopianLife.com. Thai was born in Vietnam, fled as a refugee to Indonesia and spent most of his life in Australia. He has lived in Thailand for almost 2 years as a Muay Thai fighter and competed internationally in Singapore and Canada–a true citizen of the world! After completing his BA in Humanities in Texas, Thai moved to Cusco, Peru to focus on his career as a writer. Here I interview Thai on what inspires his travels and his best advice for other writers just starting out.
What inspires you to travel?
I believe that life is one giant exploration. That everything we do externally is a reflection of something internal. So the joy and desire for travel ends up teaching me so much about myself and about life. And that inspires me.
For those who don’t yet know you, can you explain your travel style?
I’ll be honest, if I could afford to go high-end boutique, I absolutely would! But the reality is I’m always more on the budget end—which has it’s own perks. I’m a big introvert, so I’m not much of a hostel person. I’m currently in Cusco, Peru and I just grabbed the local paper and found an apartment owned by a lovely local woman. That’s kinda of how I roll–away from the overly-touristy places, often traveling alone, connecting with the locals, trying to experience the authentic vibe.
How do you afford your travels?
I write online, so it’s the perfect job for travel, although it can get VERY frustrating at times with poor internet.
Hawaii. The most breathtaking place I’ve been to. When I was staying in Kauai, my friend and I would sit and watch the sunset from a beautiful spot above Queen’s Bath. Any moment that leaves you speechless becomes a memory you can’t erase even if you tried.
If you had to settle down in one location forever, where would you choose and why?
Really tough—almost impossible question. In fact, the only way I can answer that is imaging if someone put a gun to my head. Y’know, I’m really close with my parents and family, I think the older I get and the older they get, the more I realize I certainly want to be with them in the later years of their life. So I would settle wherever they are. And where my brothers and their children are.
What’s the funniest or weirdest cultural idiosyncrasy you’ve either witnessed or experienced?
It’s gotta be Thailand. I’m so nonchalant about a toothpick sticking out of my mouth, yet the Thais would practically go into a bathroom stall to use a toothpick. Maybe a little exaggerated—they would just make a huge point to cover their mouths when using a toothpick.
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’ve gotten tattoos from almost every country I’ve been to. Obviously, I had to stop that unless I wanted to be a walking canvas.
How about the one thing you cannot travel without?
My Mac. For practical reasons because it’s my work and also it allows me to stay in touch with others.
Have you ever traveled solo? If yes, what was the experience like?
Almost all of my travels have been solo. I’m certainly more on the introvert end of the spectrum, so I prefer traveling alone. There have been times it gets a little lonely, I’m not a complete Stoic, that would be one negative. The positives would be that you don’t need to coordinate your plans with anyone else.
I don’t really use apps. I guess a website would be Counchsurfer. If I ever get too lonely, that’s always a cool site to connect with other travelers.
What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve picked up over the years?
Never pass up an opportunity to use the restroom.
Why did you begin your website? How did you come up with your website name?
I guess it’s a reflection of my whole philosophy on life—that everyone has a unique and valuable place in this world and that a beautiful life is found in authentically expressing who you are. That’s Utopia. And that’s the message I hope to convey through the site.
What is your best piece of advice to budding travel writers looking to start a blog or website?
Be patient. Great things don’t always happen overnight. Get your writing skills to the point where you can get some freelance writing gigs to fall back on when you need some cash. And write often, daily if possible, and especially when you don’t feel like it.
What’s next for you in 2015? (Trips planned, etc.)
I haven’t made it to Europe yet—crazy, I know. I’d really like to check out St. Petersburg in Russia, and the Colosseum in Rome; and continuing to live out my Utopian of traveling and writing and getting to the point where I can be financially supported by my site.
Keep up with Thai and his travels here: