Matthew Horspool is basically a DSM Reporter’s dream. He’s the kind of guy we stare off into space fantasising about, sighing and thinking about how easy our job would be if we could find an adventurer like him to sit and swap stories with into the wee hours.
MH: Hmm, I guess I can thank my parents for the taste tester I received when I was adopted from Sth Korea to rural NSW at the tender age of 6 months. Without sounding overtly cliché, I guess I was born to travel!
Family trips aside, I think my motivation came down to two reasons. The first being that, (as my friends could vouch for) I have a very extroverted personality, I hate monotony and nearly always needs to be doing or trying something new. Whether it was martial arts, Djing, photography or stupid shit. I felt that there simply wasn’t enough to do or see at home. But from pictures, movies and word of mouth I knew there was a much bigger world out there.
Secondly, I had a fair few older friends when I finished high school. I clearly remember listening to their stories of travel through Europe, partying it up in London along with all the other random debauchery that Australians are so well known for. From then on I thought that this was the life I want to lead.
“I don’t want to be the person who sits around later in life and have no stories to share of the world, or be able to say “remember the time when we..” Basically I wanted to go out and Do Shit, excuse the pun, and I wanted to do it all.”
Travelling to Thailand to train and fight with my martial arts club in 2007, gave me my first real chance to experience the rich and unique culture of another country. It certainly was an eye opener as you can imagine, although I was disappointed in the sheer amount of Australians that frequented there and thought there had to be other areas of countries that felt less like an Australian dance festival.
My first genuine travelling (or as Id prefer to say ‘exploring’) experience started when I finished University and realized I didn’t want to be stuck in the 9-5 slog that so many others fall into. It was also quite a confusing time for me socially, as I was in-between friendship circles and unsure of where I wanted to be. So I made the conscious decision to travel alone.
“After a bit of research into South America, the opportunity to join a trekking expedition across the Peruvian Andes for 20 days came about which just so happened to be led by Simon Yates of ‘Touching the Void’ fame. A documentary I had watched as a child. This really kick started my enthusiasm for getting fit and exploring. What better way to escape, than to climb a shit load of tall mountains away from civilisation?”
DSM: I imagine a lot of people look at your life of travelling adventures with extreme envy! But it’s not always easy to live like you live right? You have worked hard to be able to do what you do the shit you love…
MH: Correct on both counts. Its always a humbling feeling when I receive a message or comment on a photo from a friend or stranger, explaining how envious they are of where I’ve been able to go. Or that they have been living “vicariously” through my photos and wishing my life was theirs. Makes me appreciate how lucky I am.
Its funny you should mention this actually. Not long ago my girlfriend and I were talking about a friend of ours we met in Canada who went off to travel after the ski season. Before he flew home he posted a status about all the amazing things that he’d seen and done. At the end of this status he explained how this doesn’t have to be something that only a few of us can do or achieve, and that there is no reason why you cant knuckle down and save money and experience the world yourselves.
Being able to break free from the “real world expectations” of ‘needing’ to buy a house, work 7 days a week in a job that makes you miserable and marry the first girl you share something in common with. That is what sets the people apart who make the most of their lives. I know this sounds naïve and single minded, and hey, I have many friends who are happily in love and seem content with their lives.
“But I’ve found that a lot of people envy what they really want, or want to do but are too scared to sacrifice anything to make it happen. Even if it is quite achievable. Remember two nights out less a week equals 2 weeks spent in Laos.”
Before I left for South America in 2010 and again for South East Asia & Europe in 2011 I was working 7 days a week in 3 different jobs. Teaching at my local high school Monday to Friday, working at a clothes store Saturday and Sunday and Travelling to Bathurst 1-2 nights a week to DJ I’d then drive home for school the next day. London was much the same. In the three months before my visa expired I’d wake at 6am to catch the Tube to school, finish there, catch another hour long train across London to Nanny/tutor until 11pm and get into bed at 12:30am. Its definitely a grind, but it never seemed overwhelming because there was an end goal or purpose, that being an awesome 4 or so months of straight travel until the next place Id settle.
I must admit, the support both mentally and financially from my family has been a Godsend. In tough times when access to funds was critical I knew I could always rely on their support, and for that I am eternally grateful.
DSM: What drives you to keep exploring the world?
MH: I feel that what drives me to continue exploring falls hand in hand with the reason travelling isn’t easy or for everyone. Meeting new people = goodbyes, Travelling alone = independence = loneliness, travelling to remote areas = unique cultural experiences = isolation & Anxiety.
Again it seems cliché to say, but the amount of people I’ve had the chance to meet with, live with, work with, converse with and share with are a fundamental building block for your own person. There are billions of people out there in the world, who posses so much rich culture, history and knowledge. Why wouldn’t you want to immerse yourself in it? How are you sure that where you live now or who you are dating is the perfect match for you if you haven’t given yourself the opportunity to experience these new places or meet these new people? It is somewhat of a running joke in the travelling community that you live or work abroad and come back with partner from your home country. But I don’t necessarily believe this to be a negative occurrence. Like-minded people with common interests travel to these places congregate and share their worldly experiences. Who better to spend your time with than someone that shares the same passions as you?
“There’s nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation of knowing that in three weeks you are going to be diving in the Caribbean or jumping from a helicopter to ride untouched snow. That’s what drives me to keep exploring. You travel to see, but explore to experience.”
DSM: Has it ever got scary out there? Tell me a story of when you’ve wished maybe you weren’t quite so adventurous…
MH: This is a question I get asked quite often actually, but I can never truly say off the top of my head that I was really scared for my safety. I’ve definitely taken part in some questionable risk-taking behaviour, but hey who hasn’t?
Tubing in Laos was pretty crazy as it was in the middle of the wet season. The river was moving dangerously fast. Combine that with Alcohol and what ever else you please, it makes for a disaster. Was oh so fun, but I believe it’s since been shut down?
Illness is another scary thing that comes from being on the road for so long. In Croatia I was about one day off Pneumonia according to the doctor. That was scary because I couldn’t breathe or sleep and had to stumble down dirt roads to wake the nurses at the only medical centre on the island.
“The extremely large needle the doctor rammed in my ass cheek settled the symptoms until I could get the appropriate medications.”
This also happened in Patagonia on the last day of our Trek into the Torres Del Paine range. Lets just say I was along way from medical help, which unfortunately meant I missed the final trek into see the sunset over the peaks.
Also a few of my close friends in Brazil were mugged one street from my house by three men, only 5 minutes later my German mate, who was mugged the first time, was mugged a second time at knife point.
Its stories like that which were scary because they happened so close to where I lived and to good friends.
DSM: People will be reading this interview now wishing they could get out and see what you’ve seen, but are restricted by a whole bunch of stuff. What would you say to them?
“As I mentioned before, the only constraints or restrictions people have in regards to travelling are those they place upon themselves.”
Sure it might take a little longer than some to achieve it, but its like anything. If you want to do something worthwhile and amazing, often sacrifices have to be made. I found booking a date to a destination motivated me to knuckle down and save. Book yourself a plane, bus or train ticket, then you have something to work towards, rather than this dream idea you fathomed 4 years ago that you still might do, but are to lazy to make a reality.
I understand that many people have family commitments, mortgages, full time jobs that they must work because well, that’s what society demands. But you don’t have to travel far to see some beautiful places or do some amazing things. This is one of the things I learnt from travelling that I was blind to see when younger.
I hope that anyone in the world reading this, who has embarked on some form of travel or exploration, has gained more of an appreciation for what they have at home simply by talking to locals. Too often you meet a local and they are in awe of what we are doing as ‘travellers of the globe’ they nearly always ask where you have been? What have you been doing? So you explain that you were in the city half an hour away or the ancient ruins atop the cliffs just down the road. Yet 90% of the time these people have never even experienced what’s right under their noses, possibly for their entire life. These are the exact places and sights we have travelled a 1000km by plane just to witness. The same rings true here, you may not be able to afford to purchase a round the world ticket, or take 4 months off work.