Megan Root, 28, and her partner, Eoin (pronounced Owen) Flinn, created Global-Slacker as a way of recording their travels from Chengdu, China, to Cape Town, South Africa, visually sharing their wanderlust and philosophy on the web. They traveled 30 countries over 464 days on just $26,023. Root edits videos, designs databases and selects photos for her travel website – running “Slacker Operations” – while Eoin acts as creative director. “This site… it’s just about life, man,” she says. It “consumes more hours and energy than people think. Especially after a night of ‘beer-based cultural exchange.’”
1. Where did you grow up?
I lived in San Jose, Calif., until I was 2. I lived in Massachusetts until age 5; Naperville, Ill. in suburban Chicago until age 10; Hong Kong until age 14; and Singapore until I graduated high school at age 17. All of these moves were for my father’s job with an electronic component company.
2. How did you get to where you are now?
After entering Stanford University in 2000, I left with a degree in East Asian Studies and a minor in Social Entrepreneurship. I wrote my thesis on Corporate Social Responsibility in Chinese companies. At the time, I was drawn to a service fellowship for teaching English in rural Hunan province. It was between 2004-05 when I took a backpacking trip to Mongolia and met my partner, a messy-dreadlocked Irish guy, halfway through his first multi-continent journey, all overland because there were no flights from Ireland to Bangkok.
The following year was spent in New York City working for an urban planning and preservation nonprofit, The Municipal Art Society of New York. Eventually, Eoin and I took jobs as manufacturing project managers in Chengdu, Sichuan province, with the same electronic component company that afforded me my TCK experience. Those three years allowed us to save the funds to launch our trip and Global-Slacker.
3. How did Global-Slacker evolve?
As exuberant backpackers and aspiring Daoists, traveling after our corporate assignment was always the plan. It was the Yin carrot to the Yang of work; our way of establishing balance and exercising the freedom that we worked to create for ourselves. Of course, it was also a quest to enjoy the world.
Our travels took shape by looking at a map and determining the farthest place we could get to from Chengdu without flying. What followed was four months of backpacking through Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh and India before returning to China to launch 10 months of driving. We also used some of our buffer funds to take side trips: to the States for a wedding, to Ghana for another wedding and to Dubai to see family.
4. What does your typical day entail?
The beauty of travel is that there is no typical day. Each drive is on a different road with different scenery, hazards, smiles, signs, tunes, treats and possibilities. There are new languages to attempt, new handshakes to practice, new standards of social interaction and appearance to assess and new rattles in the Jeep to investigate. Plans usually don’t extend farther than three days into the future, and could be overruled at any time.
That said, I kept trip statistics to study the 464 days we traveled. Most days involved a lazy wakeup, pack-up, casual breakfast and vroom… back on the road.
5. How did growing up globally benefit launching and running Global-Slacker?
Confidence! We never doubted our ability to make it to Cape Town, to edit and upload videos along the way, to maintain stats over 18 months of travel. We knew there would be challenges, but no car trouble, visa nightmare or bout of malaria would ever be a show-stopper, largely because of our TCK skill set: adaptability, sociability and cultural sensitivity.
6. Is there anything about being a TCK that held you back in what you’re doing now?
Generally, I think TCKs can develop a sense of complacency with zooming around the world. We run the risk of treating amazing experiences with a ho-hum attitude. Aspects of Namibia or Kazakhstan or Azerbaijan seem normal… and then you shake your head and say, “Damn! I’m in Azerbaijan! That’s mental.” Finally, in a broader sense, I find it difficult to see a life plan ahead of me – there are so many places and so many jobs that excite me. My skills are transferable and my ambitions broadly characterized as “do something good for the world”.
7. Who is the most interesting person you’ve come across through your travels?
It was November 2010, in Khartoum, Sudan. We are camping in a yacht club on the banks of the Nile, where we met Mohmmed, who was in his early 40s.
Trained in civil aviation engineering, he studied in England before returning to Khartoum to practice. He was an engineer by day, but an import/export entrepreneur on the side, operating a handful of women’s clothing shops in town. What kind of clothing does he import and sell? Lingerie and pre-teen party wear! Noting our surprise, he laughed and explained Sudanese ladies must have exciting house parties.
8. What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions that the public has about what you’re doing at the moment?
Slacking is actually hard work! Travel utilizes all the skills we developed as project managers… balancing cost, quality, and timing; identifying and mitigating risk; negotiating administrative hurdles; managing customs officials and guesthouse owners like you would customers and suppliers. Navigation, currency exchange, changing languages and survival skills (fighting off baboons, making fire, first-aid) were daily challenges.
Generally, we take issue when people dismiss of our lives as just “lucky.” We worked to get where we are. And we genuinely believe anyone with a serious desire to experience the world can cut out unnecessary luxuries, save up some money, and do just that. As an alternative to travel, adopting a slacker mentality is not difficult and is a viable happy-maker for any life, anywhere.
9. Was there any other path that you seriously considered other than the one you’re currently on?
There was a time that I believed management consultancy was my ideal career, an MBA would be on the horizon and owning a conglomerate would be my life’s accomplishment. Thank the universe I chilled out a bit! I’ve redeployed the same skills, determination and energy that formed my original life plan towards much more satisfying and excitingly unpredictable ends. But I’m only 28… who knows what’s next?
10. What advice would you give to TCKs who want to start something like this?
As with any ambition, a bit of planning is required. In the case of travel, savings are imperative and form the basis of your freedom. Work hard, play hard. TCKs should look for experiences outside the familiar and make the most of that experience.