Broken Jaw Travel was started by Gareth Thompson, travel writer and self-diagnosed nomad. Although born in Northern Ireland, he has spent the last seven years on the road and has called everything from Belfast to Beijing, Bangkok to Bishkek home. He hopes to one day meet a generous older lady who will mistake his neurosis for genius and would love you to drop him a line.
How did you first get into traveling?
If I’m honest, travel started off as something of a necessity. You see, when I graduated University, I found myself walking into the worst recession Britain had experienced since the war and, armed with only a second class honors in English and Creative Writing and little motivation to do anything else, employment opportunities weren’t exactly abundant.
The solution (and money) it seemed, lay elsewhere.
After obtaining my CELTA qualification, I accepted an English teaching job in Daegu, Korea with little to no knowledge of what to expect. During my time there, I discovered myself with more money than I ever had in my life and used every possible opportunity to travel the country and throughout Asia more generally. Even after that initial year of exploration, I still had enough money saved up travel to Central America and, without really intending to do so, began a journey that has continued until today.
What type of travel do you enjoy?
Truthfully, I hate travel, at least the process of getting from A to B. Plane journeys seem to me like the most heinous form of torture while buses, cars and whatnot leave me irritated, ill and in serious need of a drink. The only form I’ve ever enjoyed is train travel. It is essentially a hostel that moves along at 70 mph, with an ever-changing view and constantly-shifting cast of passengers. In fact, I just recently completed a near-round-the-world trip using exclusively trains, travelling solo from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam all the way home to Northern Ireland.
What countries have you visited? Which was your favorite?
I’ve meet so many expats and travelers that reel off a dispassionate list of countries that they’ve visited and it irks me each time. It seems as though some approach travel as a means of expanding some pointless CV that exists solely for the benefit of Facebook friends, and I can think of nothing more egotistical than perceiving the world that way. If I was to guess, and it makes me feel like a jackass to do so, I would imagine I’ve spent time in some 50 countries although of those I would have to say the highlights were the Central Asian “Stans” and South-East Asia. Honorable mentions must go to Russia and Nicaragua as well.
What is your biggest fear when traveling?
Bureaucracy. I hate it. That gnawing feeling that there is some “I” left undotted or some “T” left uncrossed that could put you at the mercy of some joyless customs official who, unimpressed with your face, will deport you, throw you in visa-prison or some other equally trip-destroying punishment. I have literally chosen destinations because of the lack of paperwork they require and have generally found that these places supply the greatest potential for mischief.
What motivated you to start Broken Jaw Travel?
I’ve always written compulsively, ever since I was young and it is heartbreaking to think of the huge amount of paper and hours that I have churned out that been consigned to my desktop recycle bin or left abandoned on some dumb barstool and so, initially, it was a place to collect all those scribbles that didn’t fit into my more serious writing.
What is your unique angle or style about your blog?
Aside from trying to be informative about the locations I cover, articles are only published once they make me laugh. This generally stems from covering aspects of a place that won’t make other guides, stuff like “9 Things Iceland Taught Me About Penises” or “5 Amsterdam Combos to Avoid” and as such, have a fair amount of irreverent but essentially truthful humor. I’ve seen a lot of blogs that present a kind of idealized version of backpacking, one in which nothing ever goes wrong and no one is ever weird and while these are of course totally legitimate and worthwhile, I just thought there was a whole side of the lifestyle that wasn’t being covered.
What has been your most difficult challenge so far?
Being quite new to the blogging game, I think I echo the sentiments of all other novices when I say lack of traffic. It can be terribly frustrating to pump so much effort into a post or design only to earn little more than a couple of retweets. I just suppose it’s about having confidence in your work and the faith that others will recognize that. When you’ve got those covered, actually getting down to the process of writing becomes so much easier.
Who is your target audience or reader?
I think most people who have spent any time of the road or living the expat lifestyle can get something from the site but as I’ve mentioned previously, a sense of humour is a prerequisite. It’s not for those who are easily offended but rather those who recognise the absurdity of the backpacking lifestyle and don’t deny the daily disasters and regular mishaps that it entails. Just like the site states, we offer “a light-hearted yet informative take on long-term, destination-unknown travel that hopes not only to earn a smile from those who have been there and done that but also knowing nods from those who were too broke to buy the t-shirt.”
I think that pretty much sums up the type of vagrant I’m looking for.
What do you hope to get out of your blog?
Money! Doesn’t everyone? I mean, this is not money for the sake of money – if that was the case I’d be starting a very different kind of operation – but rather enough money to live the kind of life I want to live… Location independent, able to write the stuff I want, and hopefully, a stage from which I can help other writers of a similar style can get a little acknowledgement. In time, I hope to sell books through the site, reviewing travel writers I think deserve attention as well as explaining in great detail why Bill Bryson is still painfully overrated. Ultimately though, I would like my blog to be a platform from which I could sell my own work, as I am currently writing (although struggling to find time for) a travelogue of the aforementioned across-two-continents train journey.
What is one thing you would like to share with anyone who has started or is thinking of starting their own travel blog?
This is advice that probably extends far beyond the world of blogging, but I’ve always though it important to recognise where you are and where you want to be. How you are then going to bridge that disconnect should be obvious. It’ll probably be disheartening and you’re going to have to be obsessive. I’m currently committing virtually every free minute I have to promoting the site and frankly, I’m not yet reaping the rewards. However, I have a target for the next 3 months, the next 6 months and the next year and I’m hopeful that, with enough effort, I will see some progress before long.
Also, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that if there are any travel bloggers reading this who think they might have a piece they’d like to appear on the site, have a look at our submission guidelines. I offer $20 for each accepted article and while it’s not exactly mega-bucks, it does present the opportunity of building more connections within the community.
To learn more about Gareth’s quirky style, visit him at;