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“I have always sought to have autonomy”: On the Road with Evan Dufour

This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

When I learned of Evan’s tale of medical woes in India, I wanted to hear more about his decision to travel the world before age 30. Here’s Evan:

Tell us about yourself.  

I grew up in the boondocks of Connecticut where my love for the wild began at an early age. I spent my childhood running through the New England woods playing paintball, snowboarding, and riding ATVs. This was my first taste of freedom, and it’s clear to me now that I have always sought to have autonomy over my life, even from a young age.

After graduation, I created a list of one hundred personal and professional goals for myself. Some call it their Bucket List, I call it my to-do list. My current quest is to visit all 50 states and all 7 continents before I turn 30.

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What made you decide to travel?

I often ask older, wiser men and women what advice they would have for themselves at my age. Surprisingly, the answer is always pretty much the same:

“Do what you love while you’re young, healthy, and free. It won’t always be that way.”

So, that is exactly what I am doing. I realized then that traveling could be more than just a hobby or an escape from the treadmill of American life. Instead, seeing the world and observing how the happy and whole-hearted live would be my life’s quest. I sold my car, donated most of my clothes to charity, and sold the rest of my belongings on eBay. I placed my meaningful treasures (snowboard, surfboard, bicycle, and shotgun) into a storage unit and purchased a one-way ticket to Australia. I have since circumnavigated the globe twice through thirty-six countries with a backpack and my computer.

Tell us a memorable story from your time on the road.

I had always dreamed of traveling to India and heard from other travelers that life would never be the same once I had gone there. After spending a month running around and partying in Thailand, I booked a one-way ticket to New Delhi seeking a paradigm shift in whatever form it might take.

I traveled alone via train for a month, which gave me a lot of time to observe the villages, connect with local people, and witness everyday life in India—which can be both beautiful and heartbreaking. Four weeks into the project, I joined up with a group of travelers from several different continents, me being ‘The American.’

One of my more adventurous friends and I met a group of local fisherman who said they would take us north of Goa in their boat to a secluded cliff-jumping spot. While I was climbing, the rock I was on broke and I had a huge fall. I had a deep gash in my leg that required stitches—quickly. I reluctantly went to the government hospital, having heard horror stories of foreign hospitals and the lack of regulation. The table still had blood on it from the patient before me, no one spoke English, and the doctor went right to work on my leg without asking a single question. I was weary of what he would do when pulled out a jar of used needles to stitch me up. That was it. I refused treatment and was kicked out of the hospital.

With my leg losing blood quickly, my friend, who happened to be a nurse, used his own kit and some vodka to clean and stitch the wound. Within a couple of days my leg became infected, so I booked a flight to Dubai where I was finally granted proper care, which to my surprise, was completely free!

Ultimately, this was one of the best experiences of my life. It enhanced my appreciation for life back home, where I have access to the medical care I had previously taken for granted.

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Best travel tips. Go:

1) Travel with your own medical kit.

Learning from my medical experience In India, I now travel with my own medical kit. It’s fully loaded with sterile needles, antibiotics, anti-venom for snakebites, and even pain killers for serious injuries. If I’m ever in need of medical attention again, I will always have the proper supplies and only need to find someone with the education to use them.

2) Carry a dirty laundry bag.

A single pair of dirty socks can ruin your entire pack of clean clothes. Bring your own laundry bag to separate the clean and dirty. Most countries (especially SE Asia) have laundry services on every block. Just grab your laundry bag for a drop off and keep things simple.

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The great debate: aisle or window?

Window. I love the view and I love to sleep!

Where are you headed next?

I just returned home from a trip to South Korea and the DMZ, where I even got a peek at North Korea!

I’m taking the rest of the year off and I am currently budgeting for a trip to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro and safari in the Serengeti in early 2015.

Follow Evan’s journey on his site, EvanDufour, or via Instagram @evandufour

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