This month, Aragón Radio in Spain got in touch with me to find out about my story. They found my blog online and wanted to know a bit more about my travelling and language learning experience. You can listen to the interview (in Spanish), and/or read the translation below. Many thanks to Toni Ruiz and Lidia for this great opportunity and for the interesting questions.
Click here to listen to it as you read the transcript (11 minutes long).
For the first minute, Toni talks about a Spanish TV series: “Around the world in 80 days”, then he continues…
Toni: Our next guest’s blog has a title that reminds us of this series; it’s called “Around the world in 80… Mays” (years)! We have this story’s main character on the line! Benny Lewis, how are you doing? …. Hello, welcome to Aragon Radio, how are you doing Benny?
Benny: I’m very well thanks!
Toni: Nice to meet you! So, “Around the world in 80 Mays” Are you going to spend your entire life travelling?
Benny: Well not my entire life, no. The name sounds cool that’s all. But I’ve already been travelling for 6 years straight and I’ll be continuing for maybe 5 or 6 more.
Toni: 5 or 6 more years, so around 12 to 15 years in total then?
Benny: Yes. The thing is, if you travel so much, you realize what’s important such as family, and some day I’d like to settle down. But it is possible that I spend that much time travelling now that I know how to.
Toni: Benny, you were born in Cavan, a town in Ireland, and you always go back there between travels. When did you start this travelling adventure exactly and why?
Benny: I spent summers between university years in the states and had quite a good time. So when I graduated, I went to Spain. I was originally only going to stay for three months. But I liked it so much that I decided to stay for a year and I really worked hard to learn the language. After the year, I asked myself why can’t I just do the same thing over again; travel, spend a year in a country, learn its language and move on to the next one.
Toni: So, your trip to Spain really changed your life then?
Benny: That’s right. It was the first time that I really lived abroad, since I was more of a tourist in the states.
Toni: So you prefer to stay longer in a country and learn about its culture… so if someone wants to get to know a country, even just a little, spending a week there just can’t be enough, right?
Benny: Oh, definitely not. I’ve discussed this at length with other globetrotters; “what is the difference between a traveller and a tourist”? If you go somewhere for just a weekend, you don’t see anything really. For example, I spent 9 months living in Paris and in a weekend I basically showed the best of the city to my family and they loved it. But in the rest of the 9 months I really got to see what daily life was like for Parisians and even tried to live like they do. I do this each time in every city I visit.
Toni: Benny, you speak seven languages at the moment, is that right?
Benny: Well… I prefer to say that I can “get by” in 7 languages!
Toni: If you “get by” like you do in Spanish, then that’s quite impressive!! Your Spanish is fantastic!
Benny: Ah, thanks!! Yes, the others are more or less the same level as my Spanish.
Toni: So you have a talent for languages then, it’s even a part of your work now, isn’t it?
Benny: Right now it is… but when I say I speak seven languages, people think that I was born with natural talents. They always say “What a pity I’ll never be able to do the same!” But actually, I never did well in languages in school, and when I first went to Spain I only knew a few words like “hola” and “siesta” and that was it. But I always carried a small book in my pocket to study whenever I would be waiting and I really tried hard to reach a higher level and I avoided speaking English; that is quite important. I know a lot of travellers that say that they just can’t learn languages and it’s because they travel with their friends from home or boy/girlfriend or whatever. That’s why I try to always speak the language of the country and after a year anyone in the world can learn a language if they try hard enough. Erasmus students do it all the time. The only thing that’s a little impressive about me is that I repeated the process 6 times over!
Toni: Benny, give me the address of your blog so our interested listeners can check it out.
Benny: Irishpolyglot.com, www.i-r-i-s-h-p-o-l-y-g-l-o-t.com
Toni: …g-l-o-t.com so that’s www.irishpolyglot.com
Benny: Yes, the name is just “políglota irlandés” (Irish polyglot) but in English.
Toni: Irishpolyglot.com, then?
Benny: Yes, exactly.
Toni: And here I can see “The Hike up Mount Teide”!
Benny: That’s right; I always dreamed about living in the Canary Islands. My interest in Spain began when I was a teenager and Spanish students from there spent the summer in my town to improve their English. So this year I finally made it to Tenerife, and I didn’t quite know what to expect, but on the very first day I made friends, went to a party and even found an apartment. Some locals invited me to hike up to the top of the Teide with them and the experience was so unforgettable that I recorded it with my camera and edited it in the style of a documentary, and it can be watched on my site; I’ve gotten great feedback from it, it’s only 6 minutes long and I added music and Google Earth animations to show each step of the journey from space. The blog is for showing everyone how my travels are going using videos and soon I am going to go into more detail explaining how I do it all; learning languages and travel so much etc.
Toni: This is all very interesting!! So tell me something; it must be very expensive travelling around so much?
Benny: That’s what they say. I’m always asked if I won the lotto or if I have rich parents who pay for everything, but honestly, you can travel around the world with very little money. I usually only have a couple of hundred Euro to my name. What’s much more important than earning large amounts of money is learning how to spend the money you have well. I don’t have a car and I don’t buy a lot of unnecessary items for example, so when I go to a country and look for work, it may not pay that well, but I always have enough to buy a plane ticket with Ryanair or Easyjet or any other cheap airline and go to the next country and start over.
Toni: And on top of all that, you are an active “Couchsurfer”, aren’t you? That’s something that we have always been fascinated by here.
Benny: Yes, Couchsurfing really is interesting. It’s another way that you can travel around without spending much. There are travellers that return home to their daily lives but want to somehow keep the travelling spirit alive in them and meet other globetrotters without having to travel themselves. So they make a profile on Couchsurfing.com and host people in their houses. The guests don’t have to pay anything of course. There are a lot of good security features so you know you won’t have any problems, so each time that I start off in a country I spend a few days staying in the house of someone from the city itself and not in a hotel or youth hostel, which may be lots of fun, but you will only end up meeting other foreigners and of course, you will spend a lot more. Then, if I decide to spend a lot of time in a city, I’ll rent my own place and let couchsurfers stay in my house. Usually I’ll have a a spare bed or comfortable couch for them and for me it’s great because I get to hear all of their stories.
Toni: That’s great! So, today we found out about the amazing story of Benny Lewis, a full-time globetrotter!! It’s been a pleasure, many thanks for your time and we wish you the best of luck in your future travels!
Benny: Thanks to you, it was my pleasure!