Your Stories #3: James Harris

Our third story comes from James Harris who at the time of writing was working his way through Europe but right now is actually back in the UK.
We put together a set of questions to ask travellers whether they travel short or long term.

Be inspired as James does travelling the gritty, adventurous way. Enjoy!

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I don’t have many photos of myself because of travelling solo a lot. I used to keep a kind of video diary in New Zealand, really just as a personal project, to try to help me keep my sanity. So I screen grabbed this. It was wet, the path was a stream, I was not sure how far I had to go, where I was going to sleep, and was a long way from other people. As that was a large part of that time, this seemed an appropriate face to be pulling. In the end the video diaries turned out to be more of a record of not much sanity!

I’m just a guy who sometimes travels, sometimes works and tries to enjoy life!
I’m a film-maker when I work, and a general adventurer when I don’t. I try to get outside and see new stuff and meet new people as often as possible, whatever I’m doing. Other people rock, so I jump at a chance to join in with something they do that I haven’t before, and I always try to invite people to join me for whatever I do!
I reckon we should all knock down our garden fences and have shared gardens.

Hometown-

Aylesbury.

Where are you now?

Salzburg, Austria.

Where did you go on your first trip abroad?

France and Belgium – a school trip to the WW1 battlefields.

Longest time away from hometown-

Coming up to two years at the moment!

What is your travel philosophy?

Damn I definitely don’t have one, but I backpack, Couchsurf, talk to everyone. I like to hike, so I carry all the equipment for that shit too. I hitch-hike, I like to get to smaller places or less touristy places and its always better to spend some time in a place. But no philosophy, I’m open to whatever, although I have strong opinions I’m happy to leave them to one side and change them!

Your favourite place in the world to enjoy a couple of beers-

Anywhere if the company is good. Although Australian beer is shit. Mountains, rooftops, mates houses, back gardens, Sarajevo, all are good.

The greatest bit of life advice you’ve been given/heard-

Phew, that’s a hard one, I’ve heard a lot of advice from a lot of people and I guess I just assimilate or reject it.

What is your one indispensable travel item?

My backpack. Although I only ever worry about my bank card, passport and phone, but even if you lose those, it can be fixed.

How do you break the ice with a stranger on the road?

Just say hello! There’s the standard list of questions: Where are you from; How long you been travelling etc. Make it through those and if you both want to still talk to each other and you’ve made a friend. 🙂

Do you have a recipe for a meal you use on the road?

Ah man I dont want to say. I eat shitty stuff sometimes. Pasta- make some soup and put the pasta in that. Lightweight, nutritious-ish, all that stuff. Corned beef is a luxury item for special days!

Porridge for breakfast. Oh yes. Although a friend of mine, Joshua from Australia who I hiked with there, prepared the most incredible menu for our hikes. He dehydrated all sorts of stuff, had all the little spices and things in lightweight formats. I’ve never eaten so well!

Best/ worst thing you’ve ever eaten-

Kangaroo is awful! Why bother? Best was my buddy Julien’s French crepes. I actually stayed on a friend’s sofa for nearly three months in Australia, as did two other people (including Julien), and the rule was, every third day you cook, so we had some amazing meals, and almost every day had dinner round the table together haha. It was a pretty amazing time.

Your favourite song on your travel playlist?

To pick one song is hard, as it depends on my mood but I tell you, I actually love listening to podcasts from In Our Time – A radio 4 programme, about history and philosophy culture etc. Its as English as a cup of tea, but when they’re interesting and last 40 minutes, they can really help you get through a hot sweaty day of picking peacherines on a New Zealand farm.
Some music I was introduced to along the way though: Babylon Circus, all sorts of German electronic, and Plaid – Squance. Today I’m in a great mood and Shuffle by Bombay Bicycle Club makes me dance around towns.

Are you a planner or do you ride the waves of chance?

Chance where possible, though some things need a little planning. I like to go to a place without knowing too much so I go with as little preconception as possible, and have to figure stuff out, although sometimes you just end up not knowing cool things!

What is your best travel tip?

Just go, you’ll be ok. Trust yourself, trust others and just say “hello.”

How has travel affected you as a person?

Totally. Staying in the guy’s house in Melbourne for three months… I couldn’t believe the generosity that was done just for the sake of it. There was no bullshit, they actually didn’t want us to leave. They just liked other people. Infinitely it seems. Similarly with hitch-hiking. Also I learned to just start by trusting people. You get so much more out of life then. Ah man, I don’t know I’ve probably changed in so many ways, its gonna take some time to process. But I don’t like it when personal changes due to travel become this self-elevating thing over other people, so if I ever do that, somebody slap me! Anyway for me I guess the main thing is that I can handle all sorts of stuff, and I love other people more and more.

Your edgiest travel experience-

Well, where to begin…

Hitching with bizarre, but strangely gentle El Grego for 8 hours. He was a character.
Surfing with sharks
Getting lost alone in the NZ bush
Getting cornered by a pack of dogs on a cliff in Sarajevo
Falling off a quad-bike high up on a narrow ridge.
Sleeping in odd places
Visiting a sort of cult, at the request/demand of a guy who I hitched with in remote NZ
Altitude sickness, all over the Himalayas.
Nearly getting run over by drunk forklift drivers, daily, in a shitty exhibition construction job
The bus in the himalayas driven for 17 hours by one guy on terrifying, cliffside single track gravel roads, with lorries coming the other way
Walking through really bloody bar fights in Bangkok. Bloody drunk English and Dutch!
Motorbike crash in India.
Running out of money left right and centre, and eating like a pauper.

Your favourite travel story-

Well, thats a challenge. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell a load but perhaps staying on the sofa for 3 months in one guys house. That was special. Living in a sort of open house for a whole summer. Hiking in various wildernesses solo. Discovering cool communities and organisations like Lentil as Anything.

Also other people and personal relationships, whether they are friendships, working, sexual, romantic or even just short chats with strangers, whatever, are a big part of many stories.

I had a hard time when I started travelling, I hadn’t planned to go at all really, I just didn’t know what else to do. And I met stranger after stranger who met me as I was, talked to me and cared for me, even if only briefly. A Maori man – from the iwi who are guardians of the sacred Mount Tongariro – drove me to the mountain, gave me a feijoa and said goodbye. An old couple gave me a bag of plums. A random lady drove an hour extra to come and pick me up and see if I was OK. Campers invited me to their barbecues. Some people invited me to stay at their houses for a few days. I was taught to drive on a tractor. Sleeping in a shepherds hut in Bosnia. Interesting stuff like that happened a lot it seems.

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Just walking in New Zealand. That’s something like what my days looked like there generally (although that was a particularly interesting landscape).

Where are you planning to go next?

Im hitching off to Innsbruck and then Liechtenstein, then Germany, France and England again. Crazy!

You can help James on his travels via his Couchsurfing page.

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