One Year Lived – Adam Shepard Interview

Jason Shaw caught up with author, motivational speaker and the world’s slowest bartender to learn more about his new book – One Year Lived, which documents his adventures on an amazing journey of discovery…..

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to feel the wind in your hair, be free and  take off for a year to travel the world?  No fixed itinerary set in stone, no restrictions on the time you could spend in one particular place before moving on to the next destination, or the things that you do there?   Imagine that freedom and that excitement, wouldn’t that be one awfully big adventure.

From late 2011 to late 2012 that is exactly what author, motivational speaker and the Worlds slowest bar-tender, Adam Shepard did.  Yes, he packed up a backpack with the bare basic essentials and after saving up for a while he set off on one of life’s massive adventures,  during which he visited seventeen countries on four continents and remarkably he spent less that it would have cost him to stay at home.


In Australia he hugged a koala, in Slovakia, he bungee jumped off a bridge, in the Philippines  e went wake-boarding   but it wasn’t all relaxation and pleasure. Shepard also dug wells in Nicaragua to install pumps for clean water and in Honduras he served with an organisation that helps to improved the lives of poor children.



Shepard is no stranger to adventure,  even before this epic journey around the world, just three years earlier he made national headlines for taking a year to test the viability of the American Dream.  With just $25 in his pocket, he boarded a train and headed to Charleston, SC.  Where he lived in a homeless shelter for seventy days. He took odd jobs until he managed to find a full-time job, eventually earning enough money to buy a pick-up truck and a furnished apartment. He wrote about his experiences in the book Scratch Beginnings, which garnered a lot of publicity and interesting in the media, being featured on the Today Show, CNN, FOX along with many other publications.”


This time the handsome man from North Carolina has written with a passion and a refreshing view on his travels in the book One Year Lived,  published on 18th April.  Shepard hopes his story of an epic adventure will spur on young American’s to really become global citizens and travel beyond America’s shores.   “In Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe, it’s normal for people to pack a bag, buy a plane ticket, and get ‘Out There.” Shepard says, “But in the U.S., though, we live with this very stiff paradigm—graduate college, work, find a spouse, make babies, work some more, retire—which can be a great existence, but we leave little room to load up a backpack and dip into various cultures, to see places, to really develop our own identity.


I recently caught up with Adam to find learn more his book One Year Lived and his epic adventure,  I started by asking him if the prospect of spending a year away from home comforts, family and friends was at all scary or daunting? 


“The prospect of being away was not daunting or scary, because I knew that home was waiting on the back end. I didn’t think twice about what I was giving up (career, etc.) by leaving, because I knew that this experience would supersede what I was skipping out on.”


“The toughest parts of this journey were leaving places where I had spent a month or more, where I had developed friendships with people. I likely won’t ever see any of them again in my life, and I knew that as I left the place. “


“My mom? Dad? Matt? Korey? I knew I would see them again. Beatríz (my home stay mom) in Antigua, Guatemala? Likely not.”


During this journey of discovery, you’ve visited so many places,  experienced so many different things,  are there any that really surprised you?


“Many things opened my eyes. The three biggest things that surprised me were:

How far an American dollar goes abroad. I took this trip when we were still “in a recession” but in many countries I went to (Central America and Asia especially), I was still able to do a lot on a little.

How unrestricted many countries are. A lot of things you see abroad would never fly in the States. High alcohol-content liquors (absinthe, for example) are normal in Europe. In the Philippines, cockfighting is a staple. In Thailand, you can just go to the firing range and rent an AK-47 while drinking your beverage of choice.

That it took me four months to get robbed. “


That sounds nasty and could have been a real disaster?


“Getting robbed in Nicaragua could have been a lot worse. They got me for a couple hundred cash and my ATM card, but if I would have lost my emergency credit card, too, and my passport, my journey would have been devastatingly stalled for a good amount of time.”

How far out of your comfort zone did you go?


“The trip itself was not far out of my comfort zone. I always knew I wanted to take a trip like this; it was just a matter of timing and affordability.”


“But the challenge I laid for myself was to make sure I didn’t leave any experience undone. I knew that I had the opportunity to live a pretty unique year, and I made sure I was front and center whenever there was a volcano to climb or corral to explore.”


“The best example is with the volunteering I did. I believe in giving back, but I’ve done this with a few hours at a time or writing a check to my college. But for my trip around the world, one-third of the year was dedicated to service, namely on two projects: working with a vacation activities program for children in Honduras and digging for clean water pumps for the native Miskito people of Nicaragua.”


“The most wonderful experiences of my year involved volunteering in Honduras and Nicaragua, and as such, one can say that the best times for me came when I stepped outside of the box of what my life had previously been.”


Where there any scary moments during the trip?

Where there any scary moments during the trip?


I’ve never been more scared than I was fighting bulls in Nicaragua. (Video here)


What do you think this amazing trip has taught you about other cultures, yourself and humanity as a whole?


“How small we really are in this world. You can read a book and watch a documentary, but to actually be there among the effects of poverty or hanggliding in New Zealand or riding an elephant in Thailand gives you the firsthand experience that cannot adequately be explained. And as such, a trip like this lends perspective on one’s significance in this world, that people across the world are both different and similar to you, and that there is both good and evil everywhere. “


“Of course we all know these things. But to be there to touch it, to feel it, adds a different level of understanding.”


Did you compare the living standards and ideal of those countries you visited with America?


“On this topic, it is interesting to see how some people remain happy among the dilapidated living conditions that they people must endure. Seeing someone living in an open-air shack or sleeping in a hammock—and with a smile—provides insight into the base of happiness.”



I believe part of your reasoning behind writing this book was to encourage more Americans, especially young Americans to travel?


“Ultimately, that is what I hope to accomplish with this book, to get more high school and college students to think about how travelling can broaden their enrichment. It’s kind of embarrassing how little we know about the world (myself included) and travel allows us to gain insight.


“There is this very strict/stiff paradigm that exists, that we have to go to school, go to work, meet our mate, make babies, work for another thirty or forty years, and then retire to now start taking time to travel. And this paradigm is encouraged. (“Look at what you’re giving up if you take a year off! The money! The career moves! Are you crazy?”)”


“And in many people’s minds, there really isn’t much room in there to take off for a year to go out and explore the world. And that’s a shame, because travel sparks a level of creativity that you can’t get at home.”

Maybe that last absinthe was a mistake!



 Whilst the number of US passports being issued usually increases year on year,  last year it was 13,125,829, it is estimated that less than 40% of the population have passports or ever travel out of the United States?


“And what’s more, most of those who do have passports are only taking trips to the Bahamas or Cancun or (maybe) a ski trip to Canada. That is not travel. Travel is stepping into El Porvenir, Honduras to meet and play with the children of this developing country who, if they lose a sandal, won’t get another pair of sandals for another week.”


What more could be done to encourage overseas travel?


“There has to be more of an understanding where globalization is taking us. Some people think travel is meant to be fun; others think travel is for enrichment; others thing travel can be for service. But in reality, it is important to embrace that travel represents all three of these components.”


“So, we need to understand that not only is it fun to hike and swim, but travel allows us to meet our competition in the world. To exchange thoughts. To generate ideas. To see how the other side lives. To meet the people who are making our t-shirts.”


This is important.


“Likewise, if you “don’t like to travel”, that is fine, but it’s important to understand that travel is relevant to where your life is going. No matter your industry, travelling ill take your professional life to the next level, whether that means shaking hands with the guy you have outsourced work to or returning home with a more compassionate understanding about the immigrants in the United States, for example.”



In Europe overseas travel usually starts in early childhood,  with the vast majority of schools taking pupils on educational holidays and trips to another country well before the age 16?  Do you think this will ever be possible in the US?



“Travel in Europe is different, in some cases, because there you have a number of (often, very different) countries close together where you can affordably travel to and efficiently.”


“But you’re right that there is a culture of travel in Europe (and South Africa and Australia and New Zealand) that we don’t have here. ”


“To see more school trips abroad will require initiative by school administrators, and I don’t see that happening. More realistic is a shift in thinking by parents who, up to this point, have been encouraging their children to follow the same paradigm I mentioned above (school, work, babies, work, retire, all in succession) rather than stepping out of their comfort zone to do something different for a little while. This shift in thinking is a realistic possibility, especially because once you see a travel movement start, it will be very easy for it to gain widespread attention.”


“Additionally, it is vital that more corporations acknowledge the value that time abroad can add to the lives of their employees (and ultimately, their bottom line). To send one of your employees for an internship abroad adds a level of competence to your organization that makes your company much, much more competitive.”


Your first book, Scratch Beginnings received a lot of attention and acclaim, what are you expecting with One Year Lived?


“Scratch Beginnings did get a lot of media attention, and I sold a ton of books at the beginning, but the book never had legs, because the writing is merely average. I have less hopes for getting media attention for One Year Lived (the appeal to television producers isn’t as sexy as the hook for my first book), but I believe it will do well on the back end because the storytelling is better written and more compelling. ”


Has the success of your first book put any pressure on you regarding this one?


“Without question. Nobody wants to be a one-hit wonder, so the success of this book determines if I just got lucky with my first book or if I’m actually the good storyteller that my mom tells me I am.!”



One Year Lived by Adam Shepard is a wonderfully well written and entertainingly thought provoking travelog with many amusing and sometimes touching accounts of an amazing adventure,  it truly was one year  LIVED.    It’s out on 18th April.  More details available here 



Oh and I usually end all my interviews with the request for a little secret –  here’s what Adam told me,  but shss,  it’s a secret!  “My secret is that my wife is out of my league, and she has no idea.”




 If you could head out on a trip like Adam’s,  where would you go?


(This article was first published on Jason Shaw’s Seafront Diary 17 April 2013.

3 responses

  1. Great article Jason. Waving at you from the States.

  2. I would take a year and travel all over the United States: Sedona, AZ, New Orleans, LA, Chicago, IL, and lots of small towns – oh and back to California.

  3. Picked up the book (One Year Lived) yesterday, and I feel like this is the writing style I’ve always been after. I’m def. travelling. Just as soon as I move out…get my Bachelors…save up.

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