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Richard and Ashley (DesktoGlory)

Today's Explorers

Richard and Ashley (DesktoGlory)

November 23, 2021
7
min read
by
Charles Forman
Canada

Where are you from?

Richard is from Powell River, BC and Ashley is from Kelowna, BC, Canada

When did you start your interest in exploration?

Our first international trip together was to Japan in our early twenties. A friend of ours took a teaching position in Fukui, and we happened to come across a set of cheap plane tickets around the same time. Japan was very different from other places we had travelled to, and really sparked our love for travel. We experienced a world completely different from the one we lived in, and couldn’t get enough.

What is a brief understanding of your background story up until you started seeking adventure?

We both started office jobs at a young age, and, nearing our mid-twenties decided it was time to shake things up. We had ticked the boxes off: post-secondary education, good jobs, an apartment, marriage. But something didn’t feel right. We wanted something else. So we decided to quit our jobs, rent out our apartment, sell our stuff, and build up a 1990 Toyota Pickup to hit the road and travel to Central America. The money ran out around Costa Rica so we parked our truck in a government-bonded lot, and, after returning to our office jobs in Canada for a year, finished up the Pan American Highway from Costa Rica to Ushuaia, Argentina.

What special skills do you have to help with your explorations?

When we left in 2013, Richard was well-versed in basic vehicle mechanics but otherwise we had no special skills or experience with this type of travel. We had never camped for more than a few nights at a time, and the first night in our rooftop tent was literally on day one of our Pan American trip. Since returning from South America we obtained our Wilderness First Aid Certification.

Where have you explored so far?

Cuba, Japan, Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia), Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. We’ve explored the West Coast of the USA and (briefly) the Eastern Seaboard, and all provinces and territories in Canada aside from Nunavut. Most recently we travelled from Montana to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT in the winter, which was quite an exciting adventure!

What are the top three destinations you hope to explore next, and why?

  1. Central Asia/Iran/Russia. We are really drawn to this area for many different reasons, including the local cultures, history, food, epic landscapes and outdoor adventures.
  2. Africa. From Morocco to the North, Namibia in the West and Kenya in the East, we can’t wait to explore Africa. The wildlife, people, parks and wild places are very intriguing to us.
  3. Nepal/Northern Pakistan/India. We fell in love with the Andes in South America, which motivated us to move to the Canadian Rockies. Trekking in the Himalayas has been a dream of ours for a long time, and we’ve read some incredible travelogues from this part of the world.
  4. Bonus: Saudi Arabia is also high on our list — we would love to visit the ancient ruins, experience the local culture and the desert landscapes.

Where would you recommend others visit?

Jordan was one of our favourite countries to visit. The small size of the country makes it easy to see a lot in a short period of time. The people are incredibly friendly, the food is delicious, and it is a good introduction to the Middle East. The capital city of Amman is really interesting, and you can’t miss floating in the Dead Sea, camping with the bedouin in Wadi Rum, or visiting the archeological city of Petra (definitely a bucket list item!).

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

Our main mode of travel is our 1990 Toyota Pickup “Little Red.” Our top three modifications include a Go Fast Camper, upgraded suspension and a Dometic refrigerator.

What inspires you to explore more?

There isn’t much that doesn’t inspire us to explore more! We love hearing about other travellers’ experiences. Reading travelogues, books or travel pieces inspires us to add less obvious places to our list. Social media is also a great place to inspire wanderlust and YouTube food vloggers make us hungry for more travel and add different dishes to our must-try list.

How do you engage with others?

Via social media and in person. When we’re communicating with locals as we travel, we do our best to learn at least the basic greetings in their language to show respect. We find friendliness goes a long way, so we smile and wave a lot.

Why is it important to embrace global cultures?

Seeing the world from different points of view can help you realize your own ingrained personal cultural biases and work to overcome them. I feel that in the west we can get caught up in what we think is the “right” way of doing things, based on our own limited experiences. When we learn more about other cultures we see alternative ways of doing things or of thinking about things — of living life, preparing food, raising a family, or interacting with others. We can learn a lot by listening to voices that are different from our own. The fact of the matter is that when we’re open to embracing global cultures, we all win.

What are your goals when you explore?

Experience local cultures, be self-sufficient, enjoy natural landscapes, learn more about the history of the area, learn new languages, and share our experiences with others.

What are some challenges you have experienced?

We were pretty lucky during our Pan American trip, experiencing very few challenges. We only experienced homesickness once over a span of two years. Our winter trip from Montana to Tuktoyaktuk was another story! Weather proved to be a huge challenge, resulting in closed highways, wind storms, a failed heater, and some problem solving, while sleeping in sub-zero temperatures in a camper with a lot of canvas material. We learned a lot about incorporating redundancies into our trip (bring an extra heater!), and making decisions in order to stay safe in Arctic temperatures.

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

Deciding to leave on our Pan American trip wasn’t easy. Firmly ingrained in our beliefs was the concept that as adults, it was important to be responsible by working a 9–5 job and by being ‘productive’ members of society. The most meaningful moment for us was giving ourselves permission to do something different. After that, it was easy! We just made a to-do list and left four months later.

How has exploration changed you?

Exploration has changed us in nearly every way. We decided not to return to our office jobs and have instead found work for ourselves as freelancers. We re-evaluated how we value money. After sleeping in a rooftop tent for so long, we prioritize spending time outside. We’re also much better at dealing with change and with being comfortable with making big life decisions.

What is the number one lesson that you have learnt through your exploration?

Jump and a net will appear.

How do you explore locally?

Our favourite way to explore locally is to hike and do multi-day backpacking trips in the Canadian Rockies. We also really enjoy trying new restaurants in the city — Calgary is about an hour’s drive away from us and has excellent Vietnamese food, while Banff has a really great ramen place that we love to visit!

What advice would you give to others who are seeking life changing adventure?

Even if it seems far away, don’t be afraid to start working towards your goal. Accomplishing the little steps towards departure day, even if it is years away, can keep you motivated and creates consistent wins. We’re in the midst of planning our next trip (date TBD in these COVID times), but little things such as starting to learn a new language, picking up a few guide books, looking into visa requirements or shipping details has kept the trip feeling real.

There were also many reasons why we thought we couldn’t do something like this. We met backpackers in Southeast Asia that were on long-term trips and we thought, “Must be nice!” But the reality is that, much of the time, long-term travel is possible. It just depends on what you’re willing to sacrifice for it.

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