Wes Nations aka Johnny Vagabond

This week we interview Wes Nations, the creator of the infamous blog JohnnyVagabond.com.

  • Soundtrack of the report
  • On The Road Again
  • Willie Nelson

We are such bigs fans of Johnny Vagabond that we’ve been following him for over a year and half now. We liked him so much that Wes was one of the three first people we contacted when we launched our interview section. It took a little longer but we finally received his answers and it was definitely worth the wait!

We fell in love with his blog when we read his post on how to perform a proper pantless squat which to this date I think is still a one of a kind in the travel blog community. And yet, we know from experience that it's something that you might want to think about before actually being in the position.

From there the stories just kept becoming more hilarious and mad every single week. It’s the only blog we know of that has an actual category called “crazy stories”. Madmen, transvestites, bhang lassis, chatty trekkies and epic bike rides in SEA are just a fraction of what makes a normal day in Wes’ life. A talent to get in the most insane situation and an even great one to share them in humourous and fascinating blog posts.

But stories are only one side of JohnnyVagabond.com. With time, the blog has become also very famous for Wes’ stunning shots of SEA and India. Although we regret that there are less crazy stories since Wes settled in Chiang Mai, it’s always with great pleasure and interest that we go through his photo galleries and read his tutorials. And he was nice enough to let us publish here a selection of our favorite photos from his collection. Enjoy!

Our favourite pictures from Wes:

Johnny Vagabond 5 Johnny Vagabond 1 Johnny Vagabond 9 Johnny Vagabond 3 Johnny Vagabond 4 Johnny Vagabond 6 Johnny Vagabond 7 Johnny Vagabond 8 Johnny Vagabond 10 Johnny Vagabond 2

1. How did you become a traveler?

I was a late-bloomer, travel-wise and didn't actually leave my home state of Texas until I was 21. After making a few motorcycle trips into the Southwest, I was hooked. A three-month motorcycle tour the American West and a six-month trip through India sealed the deal.

2. Why is travel appealing to you? What do you get from it?

I'm just fascinated by the world and its myriad cultures, seeing how people live their lives in different places. It's changing so quickly that I feel compelled to see as much of it as I can now, before there's a Starbucks on every corner. There's an amazing, dynamic world out here just waiting to be explored.

3. Why did you decide to start a blog about your trip?

I've been fascinated with the idea for ages -- I was camping in Bryce Canyon in 1998 when it occurred to me that it would be fun to do a 'traveling website', traveling the world and posting photos and stories. Blogs and wifi didn't really exist then and when I learned that a satellite phone would cost me $5 per minute to upload photos and text, the idea quickly got put on the back burner. So when I decided to go wandering, creating a travel blog seemed like a natural step.

4. What is your favourite memory of travel that you usually keep to yourself?

While walking down a street in Udaipur on my first trip to India a young boy, maybe eight years old, tried to sell me a battered marching tuba. He was so earnest about it that I couldn't help laughing. Because, you know, a tuba is the perfect backpacker musical instrument...

5. How do research for your trips? What resources do you use?

I'm really a bad example when it comes to planning. I tend to travel very slowly, stopping in a city for a week or two and just wandering and exploring. Often the best travel ideas I get some from speaking with other travelers. I'll usually look through a guidebook to make sure I don't miss a 'must see' destination, but I generally try to avoid following the crowd.

6. What would be your ideal mode of transport, real or invented?

A motorcycle, bar none. You get to stop in out-of-the-way towns and villages where they don't see many tourists and really get a feel for the size and scope of the area you're traveling through. It can be tiring and downright dangerous at time (I'm talking about you, Vietnam) but the positives far outweigh the negatives. That said, a flying car would be cool, too.

7. What is your best asset when you travel?

A sense of humor and being able to laugh at myself. I'm terrible with languages, so I often communicate by hand gestures and by dancing about like a monkey. By being willing to play the clown, I think it makes you much more approachable and more likely to meet people. You're going to find yourself in ridiculous situations no matter what -- if you don't laugh at yourself, someone else will.

8. Describe your favourite place to take a nap while on a trip.

Under a shady tree with a cool breeze works for me. Although if I'm in Asia in the summer, an air-conditioned hotel room looks pretty appealing too.

9. Who would you like to travel with?

That's a tough one. Probably Bill Bryson, as I'd love to see how he moves through the world when traveling and I think he'd be a hilarious, curmudgeonly travel companion.

10. What is the best food culture for you and why?

I grew up on Mexican food, Tex-Mex specifically, and after spending nearly a year and a half in Asia I cannot wait to go home and stuff myself silly on enchiladas, tacos and tamales. My second favorite is Thai food but after being in Thailand for so long, I think I can live without it for awhile.

11. Any cultural practices you’ve learned in travel you use in your own life?

It's a little thing that I like the most: in India, I picked up the habit of touching my heart with my left hand when greeting someone or shaking hands, as they do. I didn't try to, it just happened. And I've found that people respond well to it wherever you are.

12. If you could go anywhere, to do anything, why would you go there?

Peru has always been a fascination of mine, ever since I was in my teens. I'm an archaeology geek and the thought of climbing through ruins thrills me to no end, be they Incan, Moche, Chavin or unknown.

13. What are the plans for the coming months of your RTW trip?

I've been settled in Chiang Mai, Thailand for five months now and am about to head back to the US to visit friends and family. After that, I'm moving into Central America, starting with Mexico. And, no, I have no idea exactly where I'm going. But I bet it'll be one hell of a ride.

Subsidiary question: a song to go with this interview?

Hmmm... for a song, maybe On the Road Again by Willie Nelson? It's a sentimental favorite: on my first night in Bombay, I walked into the hotel and it was playing loudly from one of the rooms. It's not actually one of my faves of his but every time I hear it, I think of that first adventure.