Mike Spencer Bown has been backpacking virtually non-stop since 1990, and has visited all 195 of the world's countries on all seven continents.
His grand adventure started 23 years ago, while he was looking down from a mountain in British Columbia. He told CTV Your Morning he had always been fascinated by ecosystems and was inspired to explore new ones.
“I’d seen what I could see across Canada and the States, but I was really curious about jungles, maybe the Himalaya Mountains and things like that,” said Bown, who says he first began his vagabond lifestyle to see different kinds of animals. “But then I found out that people, if anything, were actually more interesting.”
Through his travels Bown picked up a trick or two. For example, a khaki shirt with a lot of pockets is helpful for impersonating officials.
He would often disguise himself as a UN inspector so he could move through dangerous territories, he explained, likening his strategy to “bear barging” in the Canadian backcountry.
“What you do when you’re bear barging is you make yourself as big as possible and you run toward them and when the bear notices you’re not afraid, it backs off,” said Bown. “It’s the same thing with these corrupt policemen on the road … if you’re afraid they really press their advantage and you lose all your cash.”
As for what to pack, Bown says he never travelled without a mosquito net.
“There’s so many mosquito-borne illnesses,” he said. “Even if you’re in a place like Russia, you need your mosquito net because mosquitoes live year-round in the bottom of some of those old Soviet buildings and they come up and bite you.”
And when it comes to social media and smartphones, Bown thinks they are more hassle than they are worth when travelling.
“[Smartphones are] very expensive and you might get in trouble as a result,” he said, adding: “I think these social media travellers are having a bit of a problem keeping at it. I’ve noticed the ones who are doing six or seven years tend to burn out… because not only are they travelling they’re also making their money through travel. It’s too much I think.”
His last piece of advice for travellers is not to shy away from “freestyle travel”.
“You don’t need the schedule so much. You can just drift around, talk to people, whatever happens ends up being fun usually and have an adventure,” he said.