A Candid Conversation with Mike Spencer Bown at Word on the Street Festival
You could say I was a little excited to converse with someone who’s considered to be more thoroughly traveled than anyone else in history. What happened was the most fascinating 50-minute conversation of my life.
Meet Mike Spencer Bown – the World’s Most Travelled Man. A Canadian who currently resides in Calgary, but he’s been everywhere else the last 26 years – literally. He’s one of about 300 people who has been to every country on the planet (about 195 depending on who you ask), except Mike considers a lot of those people as being simply ‘country counters’. Bown tells me their claim is more of a feat of transportation than an earnest desire to travel through the country and get a genuine local experience. And the number of experiences and stories Mike has to share is astounding.
Bown and I were asked to give a talk as part of the Word On The Street Festival in Saskatoon. Him and I both have new books out that cover the topic of ridiculous travel experiences you won’t find in a guidebook. Given the fact that he’s essentially backpacker royalty, I was happy to simply ask questions and listen to his stories and insight that he delivers in his quirky fashion. If you’ve traveled much yourself you might be able to relate to some of the topics that come up: accelerated travel relationships, eating insects in Asia, trusting your intuition, the value of being outside your comfort zone…but that’s where it will likely ends for the similarities, and delves too far outside the average person’s zone of comfort. Mike goes into detail about the craziness of backpacking Somalia (and finding rocket launchers casually laying in his hostel room), eating sheeps heads in Mongolia and how to not get killed in Iraq while carrying a bag of $100,000 cash.
The personal highlight for me was listening to Bown discuss his experiences of being in isolation, living off the land in remote forests and jungles (starting at the 27 minute mark). Going months on end without any human interaction, Bown reveals the effects on his psyche, the loss of ego and the reconnection with nature's unspoken language - something we've continued to evolve away from.
"When you're living in complete solitude in the wilderness...the real effects on your psyche start taking place after 24 days. You start losing a habit you don't even know that you have, which is compressing your thoughts enough that you can't possibly put a word to them. After another 40 days your sense of self disolves entirely. It turns out it isn't necessary unless there's an 'other'. So it can get shut down to purely connect with nature."
-Mike Spencer Bown
So get ready for a trip around the world – and the gratification that you can hear about Bown’s extreme travel without having to do it yourself!
*Listen to the audio talk on youtube below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free audio MP3 download.