If you’re an avid traveller, then you’re either already aware of Tomislav Perko, or you’d like to meet the guy. His TED talk about travelling the world on no more than $10 a day went viral and amassed over four million views from 2015 to this day.
Tomsilav was a successful insurance broker, but his career ended abruptly on account of the recession that didn’t spare Croatia either, in 2008. That’s when he set out to see as much of the world as he could – something most of us can only dream of.
Losing your job is no picnic, but Tomislav had already signed on as a host on a couchsurfing website and with no real prospects of employment in his foreseeable future, he was charmed by the inspirational stories like-minded people would tell him, when they stayed over. That’s what he learned from them and that’s how his story began. Since then, he’s visited five continents, blogged about his travels ( you can find him on tomislavperko.com), published two books, took thousands of photos, made micro-documentaries, and held talks all around the world. it’s safe to say, then, that he is now an experienced traveler, travel writer and a skillful public speaker.
“Anything else?” I ask him with a laugh. He laughs as well, as he ponders my question.
“What, that’s not enough? I’m a smoothie and cocktail fanatic. I like playing badminton. I have a plush sheep and I do not believe that travelling is the most amazing thing in the world. Mass-media tend to overreact – they make travel look both super expensive and dangerous. Leaving my comfort zone to destination unknown, with empty pockets, to boot, wasn’t a simple decision to take. But as soon as you work up the courage to take that first step,things become amazingly easy. If you minimize your expenses on transport and accommodation, travelling can be more affordable than living at home.”
“You spent years on the end travelling the world on a budget of $10 per day. How difficult was that and what advice would you give someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?” I ask him.
Let’s just say it wasn’t easy, but it wan’t hard either. All you have to do is set some priorities and make some sacrifices regarding your style of travel – it makes sense to try and save up, no matter how small the amount may seem. I saved up a bunch with three methods: I hitchhiked, I couchsurfed for accommodation, and I volunteered. Everything is easier these days with the Internet – meeting people, finding alternative ways, saving some money…”
Essential tips for hitchhikers? Besides the fact that looking decent and being the right person at the right time helps, Tomislav says a positive attitude is of tremendous help.
“Being grumpy is pointless, it’s your choice. You hitchhike, so the decision is yours…”he says. if this doesn’t necessarily strike you as a great idea, you can work for transportation. At least that’s how Tomislav made it onto a ship that was crossing the Indian Ocean, all the way from Australia to Africa, in 45 days. He ran small errands, including in the kitchen. And since we’re on the subject of cooking this is also a decent way of saving some money.
An interesting question, especially for girls, is how do you pack when you know you’ll be one from home for so long? Packing for a trip around the world strikes me as challenging. Here’s what Tomislav recommends:
“There’s not too much to say here. I like travelling in the summer more, so my backpack is pretty light – 12 or 13 kilos, let’s say. I bring along some clothes, my tent, a sleeping bag, inﬂatable mattress, cosmetics, laptop, camera, chargers, an external hard drive, my headlight, my plush sheep, a Swiss army knife – as well as a piece of cardboard and a marker for when I hitchhike. But these items can vary, depending on the area I’m travelling to.” It’s not all roses. Wandering the world sometimes becomes a lonesome burden because – admit it – sadness and anxiety don’t just magically disappear because you went off on a trip. And if you’re alone, while all your loved ones go on with their lives, it starts to get to you.
“So is travelling easy or tough? Do you ever get bored and think, ‘Maybe I should head home?” I ask.
“Nobody said it was easy and I’ve considered going back home lots of times. But the beauty of this is that you CAN always go home, whenever you want to. When you have this kind of freedom, you decide not to use it 99 per cent of the time. It’s a challenge, but it’s also its own reward. Like anything in life. If it were simple, it wouldn’t be as interesting. Anyone would be able to do it.”
Still, he says, it’s sometimes harder to come back than to leave. And the best thing is to live somewhere, lay down roots, but keep in touch with the out-of-the-ordinary: vacations, meeting new people, learning, or doing things you’ve never done before. That’s why Tomislav writes and his diary is titled One Thousand Days of Spring. The
book turned out hugely successful in his native Croatia and he’s now on a new promotional tour. Being a writer after a seven-year travelling spell doesn’t seem too daunting a task.
“I know you’re out promoting your new book, 1000 Days of Summer? How quickly does inspiration come to you when you write?” I ask.
He laughs again. “If there is such a thing as inspiration, it vanishes pretty quickly when you’re writing a book. Writing is work, work, and more work. And it’s pretty hard work, I have to admit it. Or maybe it just seems that way to me, I have no idea what it’s like for others.” Even if I instantly wanted to run off and see the world after seeing his TED talk, Tom doesn’t actually want to turn us into professional travelers. He advocates for free will and, what’s more, he’s aware that travelling around the world isn’t really something we’re all cut out to do. But his story makes you realize that dreams are meant to be lived. And sometimes Tom ends his talks with a question for the audience: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” This is a very interesting question in itself.
“I don’t want to talk people into anything in particular – I just want to tell them my story and if they ﬁnd it remotely inspiring, that’s perfect. If they don’t, I just hope they ﬁnd that inspiration elsewhere,” he adds.
But on some days, inspiration does come from an outstanding author, who traveled round the world on $10 a day.