An Interview With An Adventurer Since Birth

There are different ways to travel for an extended period of time. You can save up money for a while and then quit your job like I did, travel and work various jobs along the way, or find a more permanent job that involves traveling. For Ian Ord, creator of ‘Where Sidewalks End,’ travel has always been a way of life.  He started wandering and exploring at the ripe age of 2 which lead to a cross Canada hitchhiking trip when he was 16, and now he finds himself working for an NGO in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Of course, there is a lot of other traveling in between all of that.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name’s Ian Ord, and I like to travel. I’ve dedicated the last half of my life to travelling and plan on continuing that pursuit until the end of my days. I’d love to say I’m a professional at it, but I think part of the beauty of travel is you continuously learn about yourself, the world, and how to do it better and more efficiently the more that you do.

I’ve worn many hats when it comes to work and funding my travel exploits. Whether it’s been construction, retail, photography, or restaurants, each job has provided me with the financial means to continue my adventures, adding to my own skill sets as well. For the past 6 years, I was working with a large tour company based out of Toronto as a lead trainer. I was fortunate enough to travel a lot with them to places I may not have otherwise been able to get to as easily  such as Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands. Wanting to give back to the world I’ve seen so much of, I now find myself in Thailand, working for a Non-Profit Organization called the Pennies for Papa Foundation.  This organization is aimed at providing free English and information technology lessons to children of underprivileged families. I love it! There’s nothing quite like coming home after a good day of work and feeling that you’re really making a positive impact on people’s lives.

Ian cruising around the Galapagos Islands.

How old were you when you had your first bite by the travel bug?  Where did you go?

Since I can remember, I’ve been an explorer.  I’ve been told that when I was around the age of two, I’d join my parents and walk around town. I’d often run ahead to explore the unknown, without the fear of getting lost or losing my way. The real travel bug kicked in around the age of 16. I took off one summer with a friend to hitch hike across Canada. We slept in a tent in parks, staff accommodations, and sometimes in the houses of new friends we had made along the way. It was incredible. All the experiences I had through this journey created and reaffirmed that what I was doing at that point in my life was something that I’d want to continue doing as long as I could.

Tell us about your website ‘Where Sidewalks End’.

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Ever since I started travelling, I’ve become a story teller. I wanted to inspire people to travel and be able to enjoy and appreciate the world that we’ve been given. I think we’re incredibly fortunate to have such a beautiful planet to live on, full of so many incredible natural and cultural wonders, and the more people who are inspired to explore it, the greater the appreciation will be for it and the more global awareness will evolve. My main intent with Where Sidewalks Endis to share stories, pictures, tips, guest bloggers, and other forms of inspiration with the public.  My hopes are to encourage others to take the same leap of faith in themselves and in the world around them.  I want them to know that they too are capable of enjoying the world in much the same ways I have been able to.

Take a leap of faith. Get out there and see the world.

What made you want to start a blog about your travels?

I’ve always wanted to have a way of sharing with an audience on a larger scale (it also makes me sound a lot less like a broken record telling the same stories over and over again). I finally decided to start scribing down my stories when I was bed stricken after my wisdom tooth extraction last May. Balancing a full time job with a social life was always a challenge in finding time to undertake a venture such as this, so with the philosophy of Carpe Diem in mind, this was just the opportunity I needed to motivate myself into doing so. Now nearly a year later, it still takes a lot of time and dedication to keep up with this venture – something which continues even today to be a challenge while trying to balance working with an NGO and the life of living as an expat who wants to continue exploring my new surroundings in my free time.  I hope to one day flip the blog into a full-time career. It has become a passion of mine to feel that I may enable others to see the world in a new light, and encourage them to do the same, in turn creating and sharing their experiences as well.

Has traveling changed the way you look at you everyday life?  The friends you make?  Your career?

I think unless you actually sleep through your entire journey, travelling is almost impossible to not have an impact on how you view the world. For many, I believe travelling is primarily introspective.  Travelling is mostly about inner growth and learning about your own strengths and weaknesses.  It’s about learning what you love (and don’t love) about, not only the rest of the world, but also of the place that you consider home. If anything else, I’ve become a lot more accepting of the chaos that is life and the understanding that anything that can happen, probably will, and being cool with that. Of course, traveling also impacts who you will choose to interact with. Many choose to interact with like minded people. When I first chose to study and work in the travel industry, I found myself working directly with 160 likeminded folks and another 800 globally. It felt like a worldwide family. Now, my love of travel has affected my career by bringing me to the other side of the globe, living in a small village, and interacting and inspiring people who may otherwise have never known about the world outside of their village’s perimeter.

Ian making friends in Dharamsala, India.

What’s the most important thing you have learned about yourself during your travels?

I’m capable of anything in this life. All those dreams you have as a child of what you want to do – don’t have to be dreams. If someone’s already done it – I should be able to as well. I’ve also learned patience.  As much as nobody likes it, patience is one of the most important qualities to have. Nothing ever really goes according to plan.  But, how boring would life be if there wasn’t any challenges?  This is one of the characteristics I’ve really had to work on, and sometimes it can be very trying, but it’s one of the most rewarding when you finally achieve your goals (even if it’s just trying to figure out Tokyo’s crazy – yet very efficient – metro systems).

What advice would you give to someone who wants to travel but doesn’t think they have enough money to do so?

From my own experience, and without trying to sound like an old rigid fart, it’s always safer to play the responsible card. With that being said, when I first hit the road at 16 years old, I had $20 to my name. I made it work. A loaf of bread went a long way, until I could stop and work to perpetuate my trip further. I spent most of my travels on borrowed money in one way or another, and when the day came that I was actually finally going on pure savings, the feeling of enjoyment quadrupled. There wasn’t the same lingering feeling that each dollar I was spending while away was one I would owe back once I returned home.

Without trying to deter people from travelling, if you’re really unsure, you can always go on travel forums and ask what people feel is reasonable. Do some homework and see what things really cost. Look at your own expectations:  What do I need in terms of levels of comfort?  What would be nice to have?  What can I do without? That should make it much easier to come up with a more accurate guesstimate to the total cost of your trip.

What’s a good travel budget tip you would give someone?

I think it will really depends on what the traveller’s expectations are. For myself, I don’t mind roughing it a bit. I often travel with a tent, and found that extremely useful in many places. I’ve hitchhiked through several countries. Taking local transport is a huge one – as they say, when in Rome, take the subway. It really depends on how long you’re gone for, what your savings are, and whether it will be an ongoing thing or a quick jaunt somewhere? Be mindful of your budget, but don’t let it create too much stress while travelling. It would be hard to enjoy a vacation if you had to check your bank book every transaction you made.

What opportunities have you been given as a result of your travel experiences?

This is an interesting question. I’m often a ‘plan on the unexpected’ type of traveller with only a loose idea as to what I’m getting myself into.  Almost everything becomes an opportunity. The opportunity that probably stands out most was after I met an Indonesian boy about my age. He approached me asking if I liked to skate board. I joined him and a group of his friends for a day of skateboarding, ice creams, henna tattoos, and fun.

Where was the last place you traveled to?

The last place I travelled to Internationally was/is Thailand.  That’s where I’m currently located. In the past few months since I’ve been here, I’ve travelled a fair amount in both the North and the South of the country, though there’s still a lot left to see. I’m really looking forward to getting to know more of these off-the-beaten- path locations, as this country is absolutely riddled with them. That being said, I’ve totally fallen in love with Chiang Mai – a fairly large and touristy city. I will soon continue to use Chiang Mai as my home base until the time comes where the wind will blow me in a new direction.

Ian and friend, Mittie Roger, rafting in Chiang Mai Thailand.

Who is the most fascinating person you have met throughout your journeys?

That’s a pretty loaded question. I’ve made some incredible connections with many people in my journeys, even while journeying around my own hometown. I don’t think it would be fair to choose just one as my list contains hundreds worthy of very honourable mentions. If I were to have an Emmy speech for most fascinating people, it would probably go something like this: “From meeting Jane Goodall on her birthday, to being in the company of the Dalai Lama on my own, to my best friend, Erin Schildermans, who has travelled 6 out of 7 continents with me so far and has seen and put up with me at my best and my worst.  I’d also like mention my good friend Missy Nicholls who inspired me to move to Thailand and work with this foundation, to some incredibly talented & inspirational bloggers such as Mittie Roger and Anthony Middleton who have always been there for me with support.  To the countless backpackers and tourists you may only share so much as a coffee with, but who say things which leave ripples throughout the rest of your life. Last but certainly not least, definitely don’t forget the incredible Kristen Jacobson of Hopscotch the Globe. So, that should probably cover my top 100 at least, and I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for you, the readers! Thank you all for your love and support! This is your award as much as it is mine” 😉

What’s been the most outrages thing that has happened to you on the road?

Hmmm. People seem to LOVE stories of when something bad or crazy happens to someone.  The one story that’s received the biggest reaction is probably my most outrageous.  The event took place during my first real trip, around Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. It was a dark and stormy nigh, actually quite the opposite, it was a bright sunny day. I had been spending the afternoon relaxing in the park in the centre of town, all the while watching the tourists awkwardly interacting with the wildlife. The wildlife primarily being giant Elk. Needless to say, or so I would soon realize, they’re called “wild-life” because they’re just that… wild!  Of course when you see a herd moving through a town, you can easily be mistaken that these animals are domesticated to some degree. I watched as the tourists interacted.  They were snapping photos and getting much closer to the animals then they should have been. At one point, a group went over and started clapping their hands to wake a sleeping mother and baby. Clearly grumpy “You just woke me up” elk are much more photogenic than peaceful sleeping ones. Te grump elk ended up meandering over in my direction, and when the baby got too close, the already agitated mother, decided enough was enough and stomped up beside me. Having not really done anything to irritate them, she started walking away, but when I decided things were too close for comfort and decided to leave, the mother quickly turned her heels and chased me down. I was fortunate to get out with minor scrapes and bruises, but had it been a male with his antlers, my days would have been numbered. I guess the two things to learn from this experience would be “don’t be fooled by wildlife’s seemingly relaxed or nonchalant nature because they are generally more scared than you are” and “if you’re ever being chased down by an elf, don’t run into the only clearing in the woods because you will become an easier target.”  I would advice if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation to hide behind a tree until help can arrive, or the elk gives up. I wish I hid behind a tree… haha.

You’ve gone where many people have not…Antarctica!  I’m totally jealous!  Can you share a bit of your experience with us?

This was one of the most incredible journeys I’ve been on. I joined the MS Expedition on it’s 10 day journey to Antarctica by passing the infamous Drake Passage. After two fairly treacherous days at sea, I woke up to a tranquility you don’t think could exist in the modern world any more. Looking out my porthole and seeing ice burgs and rigid rock faces bursting out of the sea, I imagined a time existing before people dominated the Earth. I felt like I was almost able to look through a time portal to somewhere that is very special. It’s a land where the animals are in charge. You can’t touch them, but they can touch you if you want to let them. You’re not standing up against Elk mind you.  I’m talking primarily about cute baby penguins and other sea birds. You’ll also find many variety of seals and whales, though land encounters with them are generally rare to non existent, especially the whales.

Ian with friends Ben (left) and Erin (right) in Antarctica.

I would definitely say that the connection one can make with nature is unlike any other. The clarity of mind which happens with no noise and distraction is like a constant meditation. That’s probably the best I can describe Antarctica.  Really, words, photos, and videos will never do it justice. I just hope that current and future companies maintain sustainable guidelines as to not disrupt the natural and unspoiled way of life there too much.

I know this is a toughy, but do you have a “favourite” country or place?

That’s actually an easy one.  Nope!  I tend to find appreciation in each place I visit based on the connections made or the differences found within. Each person will have a different experience in a country which will alter their impression, not only based on their own personal likes and dislikes, but based on who they met there, what the weather was like, and the foods they tried. There’s so much hit or miss, and I generally stay places long enough that I’l get a good variety of both. Some of the places I’ve had my best experiences have been right here in Thailand during recent months. That’s the beauty of travel.  The more places you go, the more you know and the better it gets.

What’s a quote that you live by?

I’ve actually got a few, and they’re listed on the Quotes page of Where Sidewalks End. Some of my favourites are in Dr Seuss’s book “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” However, one that stands out most, probably because it relates to me even from the youngest age, is “Not all those who wander are lost” from J R Tolkien’s novel The Fellowship of The Ring. Seeing as how my life’s compass seems to be stuck spinning around somewhere over the Bermuda triangle, and I have rarely felt satisfied with a fixed GPS location, I’ve still never felt that I’ve been lost. I am an explorer at heart who constantly seeks to delve deeper in to my own self.  I continue serving to improve my outlook on life and the way I choose to live, while simultaneously trying to better the lives of those I encounter.  My wanderings are merely part of my never ending quest to make the world a better place. That was also the speech I used in the Miss Universe pageant.

Hiking the Annapurna Trail in Nepal.

What do your future travel plans look like at the moment?

In the near future, there’s a lot left of Thailand and South East Asia to be explored. Living in the region known as the Golden Triangle (the place where Thailand, Burma, and Laos meet), those bordering countries are of course high up on the list. Cambodia and Vietnam will soon be on the horizon. From there, the world is my oyster. I’d love to see Iceland, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Cuba (along with much of the Caribbean), Jordan, and many other destinations. Let’s start with next week’s trip to Chiang Rai, Thailand first though 😉

Hanging out in Otavalo Market in Ecuador.

Read more about Ian and his adventures by visiting Where Sidewalks End. Also, don’t forget to follow Ian on Twitter and Facebook.

For more info on the organization Ian works for, visit Pennies for Papa Foundation.
Kristen Sarah is a full-time traveller, tiny home owner and adventure junkie. She has one of the leading YouTube travel channels and is the head honcha of award-winning travel and lifestyle website, Hopscotch the Globe.

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5 Comments

  1. September 20, 2014 / 11:57 pm

    P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  2. Anonymous
    January 29, 2012 / 3:36 pm

    Thanks so much for featuring me, Kristen! I had a blast doing it, and it was great to step back and reflect on how everything fit together! 
    Pura vida

  3. Michellerussill
    January 26, 2012 / 3:14 pm

    Great interview Ian.  Enjoy your travels.  I will keep following your blog.  All the best, Michelle

  4. Anonymous
    January 26, 2012 / 3:24 am

    *sheds a happy man tear*

    Cheers for mentioning me in the same breath as the Dalai bloody Lama, mate! Hope the poor lad doesn’t get a complex, although we do share the same barber :PGreat interview, LOVE that Nepal pic!

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