Meet John Robert Harrison III, a.k.a. JR or Merrick. He is a graduate of Georgia State University, a devoted follower of electronic music, and a full time traveler (50 countries already at 25 years old!) with a massive family and a heart for adventure.
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
I suppose what makes me unique is how I've decided to live in my 20s. I went to Milton High School (with Meredith!) in Alpharetta, GA, then spent a couple years at College of Charleston & a few years at Georgia State. I changed my major so many times I've lost count, starting with Education to be a religious studies professor and ending with a degree in Hospitality & Tourism. Since I was young I let my love electronic music carry me all over the country to different festivals and events, creating a massive network of diverse friendships and unforgettable experiences. At 22, my life was changed forever with a 3 month backpacking trip solo across Western Europe. I caught the travel bug and became obsessed with seeing the world, meeting its people and experiencing everything it could give me. Right when I got home I started saving for the next one, and then came 4 months across Southeast Asia. And when I returned I worked another 2 years and started my current trip, 1 year around the world 6 continents and 37 countries. By the age of 25 I had traveled to over 50 countries in a few years, and currently I am still on the road and living my life to the fullest! Happy Times.
2. What motivates you?
People around the world, backpackers & other travelers, are my biggest motivators. I love hearing the stories, learning about new places, and seeing our differences and similarities. I write out endless lists of new goals and things I want to experience, places I want to go, and I'll put them all over my house or on my mirror, to remind me everyday what I am working so hard for.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
My biggest Hero has to be my Father - the most kind, generous, smart, and funniest man I know. If I can strive to be half as good hearted as he is, that would be success to me...
4. Give us a road map of your career. How did you get to where you are today?
I would say this is a weird question for me. Pretty much my whole life I've been motivated to make money to fuel my current interests. Between the ages of 16-21, I worked and worked solely to get to the next festival, see my new favorite artists, and visit my friends around the country. Between 22-25 my money has been devoted to traveling and new experiences. I have done any and everything to reach these goals, no work is beneath me. From retail, to my own carwashing business, to a traveling oriental rug business, working in countless restaurants, two gyms, I've groomed dogs, I check craigslist on the weekends for odd jobs and labor work, I've bartended for catering companies, I've DJ'd at popular nightclubs and have weekly residencies. You name it. However the bulk of my money has been made through the fine dining industry in Buckhead, Atlanta. I haven't yet started to live to work yet, I've been working to live. For freedom and self exploration. This however is not something I want to do forever, of course.
In the long run, I have a few things in mind. My first option and favorite option is to move to New York and chase a dream of working in the music industry - doing artists relations, bookings, price negotiations, tour management, etc. My second option is to take a completely different road, taking my new found love for investments & finance and getting into the banking world. Saving for these trips efficiently you need these skills and I became obsessed with learning about credit, working the system, world markets, and, well, making money. At the moment, I am not quite ready to settle down and sell my soul yet, so this is currently on hold. My third option, is to keep traveling until something comes my way, a destined opportunity, something that will keep me going internationally, and maybe letting me live and work in a different country for a change. I am hoping that by the end of this trip, this opportunity presents itself, and I can run like hell with it.
5. What's your future plan? Your goals?
My plans are always changing. At the moment, I plan to move to Melbourne, Australia at the end of the year visiting my good aussie friends finally, working hopefully on a few vineyards learning to make wine, bartending/DJ'ing, and making moves towards getting my career started. Why not do it in Australia?! After this I have few goals I'd like to achieve with the money earned here:
Travel Wise: Hike Camino De Santiago, visit Antarctica, hike through Patagonia, thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, teach English in Medellin Colombia, climb the pyramids in Giza, climb Mt. Kenya & Mt. Fuji, buy a motorcycle and ride down the coast of Vietnam, attend Burning Man festival, visit the monks in Tibet and live in silence for a couple weeks, drive across Canada in 6 weeks visiting my friends, roadtrip across Australia's east coast, complete a trip across the Trans Siberian Railroad, Volunteer somewhere in the Middle East, 2 weeks hiking across Nepal, attend Mardi Gras New Orleans, attend the tomato festival in Spain,and a few more backpacking trips across Eastern Europe, Southern Africa, East Asia, and Southern South America...
Life Wise: Finding the right career for me where I can be happy to come to work everyday, Visit 100 countries before I die, Live in New York City of a few years, start saving for retirement and have $1million+ by 60, Learn Spanish 100%, read the New York Times every morning, start a hobby for photography, learn to work with Word Press and start my blog (www.savvyvagabond.com), learn to how to DJ with Vinyl, learn to practice meditation for 20min everyday, consistently practice Yoga every weekend, pray on a more regular occasion, continure volunteering with North Point Ministries, run a marathon (Boston Marathon?), get a motorcycle license, learn to Tango or salsa or both, learn to play guitar...
6. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
My advice is to hop out of the "American Dream" Rat Race to a "successful" life, go traveling for a few months or a few years and live a little. I love my country but there are things that need to change, and you realize that once you've left the nest and indulged yourself in other cultures, especially Scandinavia and Southern Africa. I BARELY ever meet American's on the road, especially in South America/Southeast Asia. This is a sad fact.
I believe this is for 3 reasons:
1) Americans are raised at a young age to believe that the United States is the greatest country on the planet and everything you need is right at home. We are raised thinking that 3rd world countries are dangerous dirty places.
2) The USA is so huge and there is so much to see, and the culture is so diverse, that most Americans don't feel the need to leave.
3) American culture is focused on the rat race of capitalism to become successful. This is what has made our country great, we are the best workers. But it is also our downfall. Soceity pressures us to never take a gap year, never take a year off, to hop right into college after high school, and then right into work after college. Instilling the fear of "getting behind." Behind who? This is your life and we have our entire life to work. Base your success on your own path and blaze your own trail. Why is it better to travel when you are 60 and retired instead of working a little longer and traveling when you're 20?
The world is not as dangerous as the media says it is, don't let it scare you. There are so many beautiful things waiting to be discovered by your eyes, and people's lives you can change all over the world.
Get out and see the world, face your fears, drink the water, eat the street food, say YES to everything, and work hard to achieve your goals. Anything is possible. Everything is possible.
7. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
Refuse to Live your Life Vicariously.
8. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
This is a question that will be impossible to give just one answer, so I'll list some out...
- Seen/Visited 6 out of the 7 Wonders of the World
- Climbed to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Acatenango (Guatemala), Cotopaxie (Ecuador), and Mt Kinabulu (Malaysia).
- Climb the ruins of Tikal (Guatemala), Chichen Itza/Tulum (Mexico), Machu Pichu (Peru), Lost Ruins (Colombia), Copan (Honduras)
- Hiked along the Great Wall of China
- Hiked the original Inca Trail ending on the ruins of Machu Pichu
- Ran with the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain for San Fermin Festival
- Scuba Dived in Thailand & Indonesia (and got my Advanced SSI/PADI License)
- Dived with Great White Sharks South Africa
- Rafted down the Amazon & the Mekong rivers
- Ziplined through the jungles of Laos & Vietnam
- Explored Iguazu Falls in Argentina/Brazil, and Bungee Jumped over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
- Hangglided over Rio De Janeiro, Paraglided over Cape Town
- Sky Dived in Cambodia & United States
- Jumped off the world's highest commercial bungee jump in South Africa
- Sand boarded down the deserts of Peru and volcanoes in Nicaragua
- Mountain biked down the world most dangerous road in Bolivia
- Spent 6 day's in the Salt Flats of Bolivia & Deserts of Chile
- Surfed in every country in Central America
- Volunteered in Ghana, West Africa doing child care and construction
- Played with Tigers in Thailand, Rode elephants in Laos/South Africa, Rode Camels in the deserts of Morocco, Fed llamas in Peru
- Went Paintballing with 12 friends in Pablo Escobars house and had tea with his relative...
- Sailed across the Greek Islands in 2 50ft Yachts with 22 best friends (August)
- countless music festivals around the world, and crazy memorable experiences with people from over 50 different countries
Follow JR on Instagram to keep up with his travels and feel free to email him if you have any questions about traveling, saving, travel hacking, or just the world in general.