Chris aims to be the first autistic person in the world to travel to every country
Travelling is an incredible way to learn more about different countries, their cultures, languages, food, history – and so much more. We travel to absorb all that we can in the world.
It can help build independence, social skills and life skills, bloom unexpected friendships, and is one of the best ways to learn more about yourself. And most importantly, it’s FUN!
But travelling can seem daunting for many on the spectrum, and it’s something you don’t hear much of. So we wanted to demystify travelling on the spectrum, and to learn from an experienced autistic traveller.
We had the opportunity to interview an avid autistic traveller who have beat the stigma and have shown that travelling is possible and can be fun for anyone. Chris is documenting his travel experiences on Instagram.
Chris (@world_travelling_aspie) has fallen in love with travelling to places he has learnt about and enjoys the humbling experiences of travel. He aims to be the first person with autism to travel to every country. Here he shares some of his stories, his point of view and top tips around travelling on the spectrum.
What inspired you to start travelling? And are you travelling independently or with someone else?
The fact that I always studied various places was what inspired me to begin travelling. As a child I always asked my mum where all these random, obscure, off-the-wall places were (e.g. Mayotte, Pitcairn Island, Niue). Places in pictures and on maps, I felt like I had to see with my own eyes. I travel solo. Whilst I’ve done a very small number of trips with friends, etc. I’ve never really had travelling with other people as an option.
Why is travelling important to you and what do you enjoy most about it?
These days I really enjoy the feeling of being in a place for the first time and then meeting place. A coffee or a glass of wine with locals is one of my ultimate travel highlights. I very rarely buy souvenirs, but I often mail myself a postcard from every country I visit.
How do you think travelling can be more accessible to people on the spectrum?
This is a really good question, but as autism is a spectrum, travel can be accessible in different ways. For some people with Asperger’s, travel can be done independently or at least somewhat independently. For those who may not be comfortable travelling independently all the time, there can be guided tours that combine independent travel. For those with higher support needs, there can be fully guided tours specifically geared toward those on the spectrum. As many people on the spectrum are finicky with food, etc. specific arrangements can be made tailored toward each client.
What are your best “travel hacks” for someone who may be feeling a bit nervous about travelling?
My best advice in this situation is just do it! Travel for the first time can be daunting even for someone who is neurotypical and travelling with somebody. I’ll admit, my first overseas journey, which was to Australia, I was a little bit nervous as I got on the plane (it was my first time on a Boeing 747) but those fears quickly evaporated as I was flying and were completely gone by reaching Australia. Other advice I can offer is to read up as much as possible on whatever destination you’re visiting. For inexperienced travellers, I recommend somewhere easy first (e.g. New Zealand, Canada) where the food is familiar and English is the official language rather than somewhere with a considerable language barrier and cultural difference (e.g. South Korea, Japan). Now that I’m an extremely experienced traveller, I’ve travelled to many places that would have appealed to the most experienced travellers (e.g. North Korea, Ethiopia).
Would you be open to travel with someone you hadn’t met before who had similar interests?
Absolutely! I’ll admit that 99% of my travel has taken place alone, and it can be a bit of an adjustment if I’m travelling with someone else. A couple of years ago I travelled to Bali with a lady friend, and our travel style and interests were completely different. She wanted to laze on the beach whilst I wanted to be active, and she wanted to stay at a hotel whilst I usually stayed with locals. Eventually, we were both comfortable staying at a hotel and we did different things each day: one day we’d go to the beach whilst another day we’d visit a temple.
Tell us about one of your favourite travelling memories and experiences! What place was your favourite and what did you enjoy the most about it?
Normally, picking a favourite place is tough. I’ve travelled to 60 countries and territories (48 countries, 11 territories, and Antarctica), and I have to say my personal favourite place is Norfolk Island. One of my favourite travel memories is how I inadvertently booked a flight to Norfolk Island when I was intending to go to Vanuatu (after a few glasses of wine). I was immediately in love, and I’ve now travelled to Norfolk Island eight times. What I enjoy most about Norfolk Island are the people. It’s amazing sitting with the locals with a coffee or a wine and chatting with them. In addition, the scenery and history are both amazing. The history and culture of Norfolk Island is interlinked with Pitcairn Island, which I travelled to in 2019. Other places I love a great deal are New Zealand, Japan, Istanbul, Iceland, Peru, Antarctica, and Patagonia. There are very few places I don’t like, and only a few that I have little desire to return to.
What place or country is on your bucket list?
Every country in the world, but mostly Iran. My plan before the COVID-19 pandemic was to hitch-hike across Russia, so it’s also very high on my list.
What advice do you have to others about traveling independently?
It’s not as fearful or as scary as you think. If you hitch-hike, you’ll return with glowing stories of being invited in for dinner, being taken on tours, and meeting that wonderful family, rather than being picked up by a mass murderer. Staying in backpacker hostels is not only cheaper than hotels, but substantially more fun. What’s the point of paying hundreds of dollars to finish a long day of travelling by sitting in a room alone staring at a wall?
Thank you Chris for sharing your amazing travel stories and showing that travelling is possible and fun when you’re on the spectrum.
Make sure to follow their stories and updates on Instagram @world_travelling_aspie.