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Rendezvous with Ben of Horizon Unknown

Welcome back to Reflections Enroute’s Weekend Travel Inspiration interview series. This week we find out all about the man behind Horizon Unknown, Ben! He’s been traveling the world with his partner for over four years, and he’s hit over 50 countries. How inspirational is that? Let’s learn more about Ben and the way he travels.

Ben in the snow.

How I travel, what are my troubles and frustrations

I began my travels in 2013 on a solo, one-way ticket to Ireland, and then continued through much of western Europe. I love to travel quite fast and cram a lot of things into a small amount of time. Even though I have tried to slow down while travelling, there are just too many interesting places to visit and see!

I met my Canadian partner while travelling through Eastern Europe in late 2013, and by the end of the year, I was visiting her in Canada. I had no intention of visiting North America that early in my travels, but I enjoy not locking myself into situations so I can change my itinerary easily.

A lot of my family and friends back home believe “I live the best life”, especially while on the road. Every time I hear this familiar line I have a little giggle to myself. Some days of travel are awful. Being tired and sick is never escapable. And on top of all that, experiencing that alone just makes it all so much worse!

Luckily, I now travel with my partner. So I have someone to complain to (as she loves to remind me!).

Describe your travel philosophy, style, plan?

Even though I now spend most of my travel days with my partner, I truly believe everyone should travel solo, at least once in their life. The number of lessons you will learn about yourself, the world and the people we share this planet with are second to none. 

If there’s a problem, you have to rely on yourself to fix it and/or survive through it. I definitely had a massive confidence boost in my abilities after I survived being on the road by myself for almost a whole year!

Ben in the rice fields.

How did I get started travelling? Country counter?

Before leaving to Ireland for Saint Patrick’s Day over 5 years ago, I had never left my home of Australia.

Honestly, I was terrified. I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. To make matters worse, I ended up traveling solo, as friends one by one dropped out of travel plans. After waiting over a year for someone to go with, I decided I needed to just go, and so I did.

After living in Ireland for a couple of months, travelling around with friends I made on the road, I spent the next 6 months throughout Europe seeing as much as I could.

Once I got over my initial fears of what lies beyond unknown horizons(that’s where I got the name for my travel blog), I fell in love with travel and all that it offered.

I used to count countries and loved adding new destinations to the list. I began to lose track around 40-ish. I know I’ve visited over 50 by now, but I have to sit down and count all over again to get a definite number.

What type of travel?

My type of travel varies greatly. I like to pack as much as possible into my days on the road, there’s so much to see and usually such a small time window to see it all in.

I love adventure activities. I recently visited Thailand to learn how to dive on Koh Tao Island. I had visited the small and beautiful island before and took part in snorkelling trips, but being submerged in up to 30 meters of water was other worldly!

One of my favourite, re-occurring activities while travelling is to hike/trek. Overnight trekking in Asia (Myanmar and Vietnam) was such a great way to immerse myself in local culture and get away from the busy tourist hubs. Even though I never finished a hike with energy, it’s still something I seek out every time I’m on the road.

I do like to travel fast and cram a lot each day. Just seeing attractions wherever I am, I try and see as much as I can. This is why getting burnt out while travelling is a significant problem for me while on the road. So every now and then, I will stop and slow down for a day or two, usually by a beach, and just relax.

I think it is very healthy to mix up your travel itinerary to suit your mood, energy levels and what you’re seeking from travel. After all, I want to enjoy my travel as much as possible, being tired all the time is no fun!

Ben in Japan.

International family?

Since moving to Canada in 2013 I have been lucky to live with my partner. This second family of mine is a great thing to have, especially when moving to a foreign country you’ve never been to before.

With no idea how this new city of Edmonton, Alberta worked, I was lucky enough to have accommodation and transport right out of the gate. Possibly the most important benefit I found from my international family was how to prepare for a Canadian winter. Being from hot and sunny Australia, I rarely had to worry about dressing for minus temperatures. But also how to deal with icy roads and new, dangerous wildlife in the country is a great thing to be taught so quickly.

Still, not much can help me when a cold snap brings the temperature to below -40 C! No one can tell me how to live with that one, I don’t think!

Best and enchanting places of travel

It’s always a challenge for me to choose a “best” place to travel. It’s a question I get quite commonly and I never know how to answer. I always feel like my answer is somehow wrong. The response I give seems to change as well, depending on the day it could be from Europe, the next from Asia.

Since travelling in Japan I’ve found I have fallen in love with the country. The culture and history is a unique blend that delivers quirkiness but traditional elements. Ramen is now my favourite meal, by far, thanks to Japan. On top of all that, the scenery is amazing!

I can safely say Japan ticked all the boxes of my favourite country and would love to visit again sometime in the near future!

Ben on the Great Wall.

What is your favourite experience?

My favourite experience would have to be taking my first breaths underwater during my scuba diving lessons on Koh Tao Island, Thailand. As a regular human, breathing underwater isn’t a trait I possess. So strapping on that tank of compressed air and submersing myself under meters of water was such a foreign feeling.

Anyone who has dived before knows about the inflatable vest, or BCD, that’s used to make you almost weightless while under water. The oxygen pumped into the vest counters the weight of yourself and your equipment. Just floating in the smooth ocean, breathing through a mouthpiece for up to 60 minutes was the most unreal sensation I’ve ever felt in my life. Anyone that has contemplated diving, give it a shot, it’s fantastic

Books/movies to inspire travel

There are so many media publications that I used or have used to inspire travels. Sometimes they come from unexpected sources.

But I’ve always felt the itch to travel after watching a documentary by the amazing David Attenborough. It doesn’t need to be about anything in particular, other than it’s a phenomenon that takes place on planet earth for me to want to go explore somewhere new.

One author I thoroughly enjoy to read is Paul Theroux. I’m currently reading “The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific”, and every page makes me want to travel. From his unique and humorous way of explaining what he sees, feels and tastes, I’m always ready to go adventure after I put any of his books down.

Ben in Mexico.

How did you start blogging?

I started blogging in October 2017. After many years of wrestling the idea to put myself out there, I finally took the leap just over one year ago.

I love talking about travel, even if I’m not currently travelling, what better way than to start a travel blog?! I mean, the dream is to make blogging my full-time job, just so I can talk about travelling, with anyone who wants to listen all day long.

Since starting, I’ve found that my experience so far with travel can help many people out. The fears of the unknown and beginner trials I personally experienced and love to help people find their love for travel.

Crazy destination on my bucket list?

Antarctica. I live in Canada, and I complain when the temperature hits below -30 Celsius, but I still want to visit Antarctica. I guess that’s slightly crazy on my part. I’ve always been drawn to lesser known and travelled places just for the experience of being there and taking it all in.

I would love to get there one day, by whatever means necessary, but there are many destinations a lot closer, affordable and with a manageable climate to explore first I think!

Ben walking near the river.

Destination you can’t wait to visit?

There are so many places I’d love to visit, but one country definitely high on my list is Cuba. I’ve always been fascinated by the unique style of cars and from stories I’ve been told by fellow travellers. Cuba is locked in for early 2019!

Good starting travel destination.

My first umbrella destination was Europe. I found it quite easy to travel. There was little to no culture shock and the vast majority of people spoke great English. On top of that, visiting places I’ve seen only in books and on tv, like the Coliseum in Rome and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, made the fact of being in a foreign country halfway around the world much easier to get a feel for.

Every foreign country seems to have its pros and cons for being a traveller’s first overseas destination. I would suggest picking something slightly familiar, and taking on more culture shock as you go. I was always terrified of being in a foreign city, not knowing the language, suffering a massive culture shock, but these days I kind of seek them out – it keeps me on my toes, which I think is a great thing for every traveller

Why do you continue to travel?

Travel, to me, is the absolute best way to learn about the world and the unique locals that live here. It’s already taught me so much and with every new adventure comes new lessons not only about this planet but myself as well.

Ben and girlfriend walk the Great Wall.

Don’t forget to follow Ben’s travels at his Horizons Unknown.

We hope you’ve gotten a little inspiration from Ben’s words, and we thank him for letting us in on his travels. Check out some of our other interviews at Rendezvous with Rovers.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.