I met Jack, 17, in Montreal, at a hostel party. He's originally from England, but left home at 15 and has been travelling around for a while. He had such an interesting story, I had to ask him for an interview. He is an idealistic, young Holden Caulfield-type who actually did what most of us wanted to do, but were too scared to do - and he's doing fine at it.
Keep reading to see why he amazes me.
You left home when you were 15. Why and what have you been
Well the reason why is kind of strange I think. I never
wanted to travel my entire life but when I was 13 or 14, my mom told me we were
going to live in California with my adoptive grandparents and we were really
excited. I told all my friends ‘I’m going to live in California, it’s going to
be amazing.’ And then one day she was like ‘Actually, it’s really hard to move
to that country, let’s just move to Scotland instead.’ And I hated Scotland. So
she moved my entire life, you know, I left all my friends behind. I didn’t know
anybody. And she moved me to the shittiest place in the world. The second I was
free I was like ‘I have to get out of here.’ I looked at the cheapest flights I
could find and Cyprus was only 45 pounds, leaving in a week’s time. So I bought
the ticket without telling my mom or dad and I started packing my things. And
then two days before, I sat at the kitchen table and was like ‘Hey, can someone
give me a lift to the airport tomorrow?’ ‘What? Why?’ ‘I just booked a flight
to Cyprus.’ And then I told them what my plan was. And then I got to Cyprus,
found a job at a meditation centre. I would assist classes and was a
receptionist for a while and I did a lot of design work for them too. And after
working there, that gave me enough money to travel the rest of Europe. I did
all of Turkey with a girl – that’s a whole other story – we travelled together,
and then I went to Bulgaria but didn’t like it, so we caught a flight from
Istanbul to Portugal and we lived in Lagos for a bit, and then Spain. And then
came back to England. Yeah, I came back to England for a month and she came
back home to Canada and I did all of France, then I came here.
So that all happened when you were 15.
Yeah. I turned 16 in Cyprus, and when I turned 17, I was in
Seville, Spain. And when I turn 18, I’ll be in Mexico.
How do your parents feel about all of this?
I think at first they were a bit confused. They were like
‘why is he going there on his own? Why isn’t he looking to do college courses?’
And they thought I was throwing away my life, you know? I always had
aspirations to become a lawyer, in my mom’s footsteps. I had always been a
perfect kid, like my entire life. I was exactly what they wanted and then one
day I was just like ‘fuck that, I’m leaving now.’ And that really surprised
them and my dad didn’t talk to me for a long time. My sister used to bitch
about me to my grandparents. The whole family just sort of kicked me out, other
than my mother. But I came back, I was living there for a month and everything
seemed to be alright. They seemed to know I was going through some stuff at the
moment and this is how I’m dealing with it. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain.
There’s this whole back story to it and I feel like I’m saying the front of it,
if you know what I mean. …they don’t like it, is what I’m trying to say. They
don’t like it.
But you’re supporting yourself and you’re managing.
I think also they had a massive problem with me being with
somebody older than me for most of my trip because they felt that she was
taking advantage of me the entire time, just cause she was older. But it was a
mutual relationship. But my mother worried because of that. She was like
‘what’s this weird 24 year old woman doing, taking my son around Europe?’
And you met your girlfriend at the time in Cyprus?
Yeah, a little town called Latchi, just outside of Cyprus.
We worked in the same place and she got arrested accidentally. You know what
Workaway is? She was over there on Workaway and she was volunteering. And someone
saw a Canadian was working there without a VISA so they called immigration up
and they arrested every single American, every single Australian in that place
and took them to jail. And from that point on, they weren’t allowed to
volunteer in Cyprus anymore. So she was like ‘I’ve nowhere to go’, but I was
like ‘I’ve got an apartment, I’ve got a car, I’ve got food. I’ve got
everything.’ So she just moved in with me. And we all lived in this apartment
building and it was a crazy experience. Everything fell into place, you know?
It was perfect.
Most kids your age, at 17, they’re just about to enter
college, and they haven’t quite figured out how the world works yet, or how to
take care of themselves but you’ve been on your own all this time. You seem to
have everything figured out.
Maybe. Well I think a lot more than having a career or going
to college is happiness, and that was probably one of the main reasons I left
in the first place. In Scotland, I could have gotten a great uni[versity]
degree and carried on with my life, but I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to throw
this away just so I can have money’. ‘Cause I look at my dad and he has a lot
of money and I look at my mom and she has a lot of money but constantly they’re
stressed out and never happy; so I figured by travelling, it’ll give me some
time to think, you know? ‘What do I really want?’ Instead of living up to
society’s expectations, and that’s when I started getting into yoga, and that
sort of opened up my mind to ‘you can live on the beach with no money and be
ten times happier than somebody who owns half the world'. A lot of people will
sort of hold a lot of negativity over life in general. They wake up in the
morning and [will] be like ‘Oh, it’s freezing cold, I hate my job’, and all
that kind of stuff. But none of it matters. I know this sounds weird to say,
but we’re all going to dead soon right? And in the short time, why would you
waste it doing something that you don’t want just so you can brag to your
friends that you have a house and a kid and a wife who’s good looking? I think
in a sense I’ve given up on life.
Like you’ve given up on that sort of life?
I’ve given up chasing something that other people are
telling me I should want and chasing what I want personally instead. Like a
relationship with a 24 year old woman seemed like the best thing in the entire
world to me at the moment and I couldn’t stand England so I came here, which is
insane. I had barely any money. It didn’t work out and I knew coming here it
wouldn’t work out, but I still knew even if it doesn’t, it’s what I want right
You followed a woman to Edmonton but you knew it wouldn’t
Yeah I had a sort of feeling. You know when you’re
travelling with someone, you’re in a new city every day. Every person you meet
is new to both of you, but when you go to a hometown, that’s her family, her
friends who have known her her whole life, and here comes me, I’m an outsider.
And I have this thing where I’m not old enough to be drinking with her friends.
It was like she was looking after me more than I was looking after her. When we
were travelling, I was responsible for her safety, I feel. I figured out where
we were going, what we were doing. When she was at home, she didn’t need any of
that and there just wasn’t anything between us when that was taken away, which
was sad, but there are a lot of differences between a 24 year old and a 17 year
old right? So what did I expect?
Going back to the idea of happiness, what are you going to
chase in the future? What is your idea of a perfect day or a perfect lifestyle?
I think about it a lot. I believe- although I said earlier
that career achievements don’t mean anything, I do believe you can gain some
sense of happiness from that happiness. But I prefer to be content instead of
short periods of happiness. You know whereas my dad, he might make much money
and that will make him happy for a week and then he’ll be miserable again. Like
I’d rather just live on a beach in Ecuador with my house I bought for $15,000
and surf every single day and host couchsurfers. I love people, that’s my
favourite thing in the world, meeting, talking, getting a sense of their
mentality, where they come from, how they were raised, their background. You
know it’s like reading a new book every single time, coming across someone new.
So I just want to have that new experience. Keep myself busy, with new
experiences, new people, with just things I enjoy.
What are you planning to do after Montreal?
On the 24th of February, I fly to Denver,
Colorado, and my adoptive Auntie lives there, so I’m going to stay there for a
week and a half, and then I’m flying to Los Angeles. And then I’m going to meet
my mom and we’re going to hang out for two weeks. And I have plans to go to
Mexico with a girl from New York.
I have one last question for you. What is the greatest
lesson you’ve learned since leaving home?
Just to be humble. That’s the best thing you can possibly do
in your entire life. Coming from a rich English background, my entire life is
constantly comparing your life to other people’s like ‘my friend Reese got an
iPad and iPhone for Christmas and my mom only got me a shitty car’ or something
like this. When you let go of all of that, you know what you have and
appreciate it. Don’t brag.