33-Year-Old Travel Blogger Quits Job to Work at a Bank

Stevenson in Nepal in 2007

Stevenson writing in Nepal, 2007

OTTAWA – “I wasn’t finding life very fulfilling anymore,” said Stevenson, “I never even set out to become a travel blogger, I just started blogging 12 years ago on a backpacking trip after I graduated with an accounting degree.”

Stevenson cites Hemingway, Kerouac and Vonnegut as literary inspirations. “I had no real interest in reading before I started travelling but hostels can get painfully boring and lonely. All I wanted to read was The Wall Street Journal but I could only find aged Penguin copies of On the Road, The Sun Also Rises and Slaughter House Five. After two months in Western Europe I was exhausted. I started traveling with two Australian guys and all we did was drink. The whole experience was a blur. By the time I got to Rome I was broke, homesick and really regretting breaking up with my girlfriend.”

After a staying a night in the Rome hostel “Gulliver’s,” Stevenson’s fortune quickly started to change. “Gulliver’s was life-saving, I met these two Brazilians who were managing the hostel and they took me under their wing.” Stevenson was allowed to stay at the hostel in exchange for work, “I would manage reception and help with the bookkeeping in exchange for food and shelter, it helped me through the lowest time in my life.”

After a month at Gulliver’s the managers of the Hostel offered Stevenson an opportunity of a lifetime, “I had told them about the web log I had been keeping while travelling to keep my friends and family abreast of my journeys and it gave them an idea.”

The managers of the Hostel were also the founders the then startup Hostel.org and were looking for someone who they could trust to go around to all the hostels in their network and write favourable reviews and encourage other travelers to do the same. “We planned out an itinerary for Eastern Europe. I would spend two days in a hostel, write a rosy review and then on to the next one in their network. After six months they were expanding their network to South East Asia and sent me equipped with a 1.4-megapixel digital camera and an IBM ThinkPad. I would have to save everything I wrote on a USB stick and upload it all at an Internet café, I actually had an Internet café allowance built into my pay.”

Stevenson became the face of Hostel.org and would eventually end up travelling to over two-thousand hostels around the world. “Just one more trip and then I’ll go home and start my life, I would say to myself. But that’s not how things worked out in reality. I got comfortable in the routine. I was treated like a rock star in the travel blogging community and if you read my blog you’d think my life was an amazing adventure with limitless potential, but after five years that was no longer the case.”

Around 2010 Stevenson knew that he was trapped in his job. “I had so much security that I couldn’t give it up. I was getting lazy and complacent and it wasn’t very much fun anymore. Hostels were getting cleaner and the travel blog market was over saturated. Hostel lobbies started to look more like Apple stores, everyone was the same: ‘I don’t want to conform to society’s pressure and get a real job, I just want to be free and travel and explore the world.’ Two years later those same kids were posting pictures on Facebook about working nice, well-paying office jobs in the city, buying houses and going on resort vacations. Facebook became a daily source of stress, anxiety and envy. How did they get out of the travel trap? How did they actually figure out how to get a real job? It seemed like such a mystery to me. I was so impressed by their courage to stick to one place and one thing for more than three weeks. I knew I needed to make a change.”

If you look at a Timehop picture of Stevenson from four years ago at Angkor Wat with long shaggy hair and a beard and compare it to him now with his short crew cut and suit it’s truly a transformation. “There’s so much pressure on kids to go travelling these days that it’s really hard not to. If I had to give advice to someone thinking about getting into travel writing I would say make sure it’s really what you want to do. So many people get caught up with the romantic notion of travelling the world and writing about it but it’s 2016 – no one needs another ‘34 ways to maximize your fun at the Full Moon party’ blog.”

Stevenson is now a teller at RBC in the Barrhaven suburb of Ottawa, he drives a 2014 Honda Civic and has recently been approved for a mortgage. “The last three or four years travelling I would spend all my free time reading domestic lifestyle blogs, I have so much to catch up on, last week I put up floating shelves, I finally feel free to start my life.”

Ramsgate and Hackett

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