Before They Were Famous: Michael Hodson
Michael Hodson has a back-story worth telling. Back in Northwest Arkansas, he put in ten solid years as an attorney before deciding to try something most travelers don’t attempt. Although he doesn’t have a fear of flying, Michael wanted to circle the globe without ever leaving the ground. After sixteen months, forty-four countries, six continents and the northernmost and southernmost cities in the world under his belt, he succeeded. Since then he’s kept his overland travels well-documented on his popular travel site Go See Write. In this week’s Before They Were Famous spotlight, Michael shares his rebellious teenage tales, his one travel regret and why he’ll never work for anyone but himself. Ever.
Name: Michael Hodson
Latest News: The Ultimate Train Challenge is coming in May of 2013 and anyone is welcome to join us. 15,000 miles in 30 days… all on trains. Saigon to Lisbon (or the other way around). Check out www.YourWorldNoRules.com for more information.
As a teenager, I wasn’t exactly rebellious – to this day, I still have never used drugs for instance – but I certainly wasn’t a fan of just following rules for the sake of following. if my parents were to answer this question I think they’d say something along the lines of: “he apparently never understood what a curfew meant.” Inquisitive, overconfident bordering on cocky, procrastinator, energetic, and fairly confident that few people over the age of 20 held any knowledge worth absorbing…. so I guess I was pretty much a normal American teenager.
In high school…
I was simultaneously a mild jock (meaning I played sports, but wasn’t that great at any of them) and also a debate geek, which I had a lot more success at. I played baseball and basketball – catcher and point guard respectively. Given both of those positions are the ones that are the most in charge of events on the field, I suppose that speaks volumes about my personality. High school debate was what I excelled at. My high school, St. Mark’s in Dallas, had an excellent program that traveled nationwide and I managed more than my fair bit of success at it.
What was the worst job you had before becoming a travel blogger/world traveler?
My father was the first person in our family to go to college, so it was never a question that all of his kids would be doing the same. To help encourage me to that goal, he mandated that I work every summer during high school at jobs that he personally picked out. They were the worst jobs he could manage to find. When I was 16 years old, I was a construction worker roofing houses in Dallas. It was so hot that summer that we had to start work at 6 a.m. every day so that we could finish by two in the afternoon – just to make sure no one died in the heat. That was the summer that I realized what one of the possible origins for the term “red neck” was. I was so sun burned in the first few weeks of work that when I tilted my head back, the skin on the back of my neck would crack open and start bleeding. After about three weeks of my constant complaining about work during dinner time, my father leaned over to me and said, “so how’s college feel right about now?” Mission accomplished.
What was the weirdest thing you ever did to pay the bills?
Aside from my horrible jobs in high school, I made change at a video arcade during college on the midnight to eight a.m. shift. I’d gotten into a little trouble betting on sports in my sophomore year and although my parents were providing me a monthly stipend to live on, I didn’t figure that asking them for money to pay off my bookie was the best course of action. Instead, I doled out quarters to kids playing Space Invaders, Pac-Mac and Galaga. Come to think of it, do they even have video game arcades anymore?
Did you ever work in an office or a cubicle?
As an adult, the only times I have worked for anyone else were my two forays into politics. Right out of college, I moved to Washington D.C. and worked for Senator David Pryor (D-Ark.) for almost four years. Later, I was the campaign manager for his son’s campaign to be Attorney General of Arkansas. I was fortunate that the Pryor family is wonderful to work for, so the experiences were some of the best of my life. Would I ever, ever work for anyone else in the rest of my life? Absolutely not.
What was the turning point when you realized that you could actually make travel a career rather than a hobby or extra side income?
My blog was originally on BlogSpot, the Google blogging platform. I wasted about two years there, before moving to a self-hosted and much more professional site in the summer of 2010. I went from having a couple hundred readers a month to quickly having that be a bad day of traffic. It was at that point I realized that I had an substantial following of people that wanted to read what I wrote and see my photography. At that same time, I started to talk to other travel bloggers and do some more reading about the whole business of making money online. Given that I didn’t have any desire to go back and practice law, or work for anyone, it was a given that I was going to sort this whole thing out so I could keep traveling. Thank goodness I did.
If you were not professional roamer, what would you like to be?
I’ve got this movie script I’ve been working on… and a television pilot… So, basically, I’d be broke and sleeping on friends’ couches in L.A.
Did you study abroad in college?
This is a bit of a sore subject. I was very late to the travel scene, having basically started my solo international travels in my mid-30s. I remember going to St. Andrews in Scotland on a trip with my father and brother around that time and realizing that I could have studied there during college on an exchange program and paid the flat local rate of something like $75 a year to play the Old Course anytime I wanted to. Major life regret.
What was the first blog post you ever wrote? When was it? On a scale of 1-10 – how well written was it?
“Don’t Lose Your Passport” in October of 2007. If I do say so myself, I think its pretty darn good. My posts back then were completely wrong for the Internet – too long and without any photos or other visual eye candy. Frankly, I think my writing was a lot better back then. One of my goals is to get back to more long-form writing this year. Blogging offers amazing opportunities, but I don’t think it is the best forum for really good writing.
What’s the biggest thing you have learned on the road?
The world is a massive place. One of the reasons I promote overland travel is so that people can get a much better sense for the immense scope of this amazing planet we live on. While I think air travel is unbelievably useful, and I do it when I have to, there isn’t anything like chewing up each and every mile of your journey on the ground to better appreciate our good fortune on being born on this big, blue rock. Moscow to Beijing is eight hours by air. It’s a full six days on the Trans-Manchurian train through some of the most interesting country in the world. Cape Town to Cairo took my almost four months overland – its twelve hours by plane, with a stop in between. New Zealand to Philadelphia is eighteen hours by air, including changing planes in Los Angeles. It took me twenty-two days by a cargo freighter that went through the Panama Canal. You can fly over the Pacific Ocean as many times as you like, but you’ll never have any understanding of its size from 40,000 feet. I am in awe of the planet Earth.
If you could nab one person and take them along on your adventures, who would that be and why?
OK, I actually need some help on this one from your readers. Someone out there has to know Michael Palin or his agent or publicist. I’ve actually got an entire website that is ready to launch and I’m doing anything and everything in my power to meet him for the launch of the concept. His travel shows for the BBC were an inspiration and I’d kill to share a pint with him in a traditional English pub. Get to it folks, I just need an introduction.