After graduating from NYU with a degree in film and television, Walter Chang got a job as an audio-visual technician at Columbia University. Four years later, he was feeling trapped and began to evaluate his life.
Having very limited travel experience, he decided to start saving in earnest for a three-month trip to South East Asia, a seemingly enormous journey compared to his longest trip till then, 10 days spent in Europe with friends.
Looking back, Walter never imagined that he would soon be setting off on a three-year, 60 country, adventure of a lifetime. Since returning home, he tore through hours and hours of footage to come up with this beautifully edited video below. The video exploded on social media, and after just one and a half months has been viewed more than 600k times on YouTube.
Using the viral effects of the video, Walter successfully launched (and funded) a Kickstarter campaign for the production of a hardcover book comprising his photography from the trip.
Big thanks to Walter for taking the time to chat with us. To find more about Walter’s trip or pre-order the book, go to his website wecallthishome.com. You can also connect with Walter here on Backpacker Travel.
Video Edited with Adobe Premiere and After Effects.
BT: To most people, three years on the road seems out-of-reach. How did you save up for the trip and did you need to work while you were away?
Walter: I really didn’t go into this trip expecting to be gone for so long. What started as a three-month getaway, soon turned into seven months and a lot of planning. To keep my costs down before leaving, I spent an entire year sleeping on friends’ couches. At one point, I was basically living out of the projector booth at my old job. This turned out to be the best preparation for traveling on a shoestring I could have hoped for and I was able to save enough to fund the entire trip.
During my travels I often stayed in budget hostels, couchsurfed, and used the cheapest transport methods to keep costs to a minimum.
BT: You studied film and tv at university so I’m wondering if you had a plan for a video in mind before setting off?
Walter: I definitely wanted to shoot a lot of videos and take plenty of photos throughout the trip. There was a rough plan for some of the types of shots that I wanted to get and for a basic storyline prior to leaving. I also got a lot of new ideas along the way from watching other people’s videos on Vimeo and YouTube.
BT: This entire experience must have been a massive step outside your comfort zone. How did you go making new friends and dealing with challenges?
Walter: I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever had a problem making new friends in the past. While on the road, I met a ton of travelers. They’re generally pretty easy-going people, so once you are comfortable approaching a stranger it’s not that hard to strike up a conversation.
I generally made friends at the places I stayed. Hostels are excellent for socializing and making new friends from all over the world. You will bump into people from so many different walks of life. I made sure to couchsurf regularly too. This kept the cost of accommodation to a minimum and gave me access to local people. I had already hosted some couchsurfers at home before leaving so it was nice to be on the other side of the world, feeling like I’m at home.
As for challenges, you don’t get to travel without going through your fair share of challenges. Just don’t let anything overwhelm you, keep calm and try to deal with every challenge rationally.
BT: In keeping with that theme, what were some of the biggest challenges that you were faced with over the three years?
Walter: There are two incidents that come to mind. In Namibia, I decided to do some exploring and hired a compact car for a little more flexibility. While driving one day, I felt the rear of the car start to drift. Before I knew it, the car was inverted, rolling end over end, it all seemed to happen in slow motion.
Luckily for me, my side of the car suffered minimal damage and I escaped with only minor injuries. Had I been sitting on the other side of the car, it could have been a very different outcome.
Once the shock subsided, I was ready to call it quits and go home. Thankfully, the lady at the rental car company swiftly organized a replacement car so I continued on my journey.
The second challenging incident happened at a bus stop in Chile. After a 23-hour journey, I was waiting for my next bus when a group of men approached me and started talking in Spanish. Not knowing Spanish, I was struggling to communicate with them.
Little did I know that this was all a distraction from what was really going on. After they left, I looked down and noticed that my main pack was missing. They scored the jackpot, as this pack had my cameras, tripod, laptop, tablet, passport, money, and a bunch of other stuff. The most disheartening of all was the two external hard drives containing two months' worth of footage.
Lesson learned – backup your footage online as often as possible, keep important documents with you at all times and try not to get too distracted when people act overly interested in you.
BT: You recently ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund a photography book. The initial goal was a lofty $12,000 and by the completion, you managed to raise nearly three times that …..over $30,000! How did you get so much support?
Walter: Since coming back home in March I have yet to start another full-time job. This gave me the time to work on editing the video which was the biggest tool in getting the word out about the Kickstarter campaign. My friends and family were a huge help as it is very important to keep the momentum when running a crowdfunding campaign.
BT: Finally, do you have any advice for people who are reading this, thinking about traveling the world?
Walter: My biggest suggestion is to be flexible. While planning is important, you will miss out on some amazing impromptu experiences if you over plan.
The people you meet along your journey are valuable resources. Don’t be surprised to find yourself invited to a local wedding or festival. Imagine how bummed you would be if you had already planned too far in advance and missed out on an opportunity like that.
2. Burkina Faso
3. Cote d’Ivoire
12. South Africa
27. North Korea
31. South Korea
37. United Arab Emirates
48. New Zealand
52. United States