A Derry man who spent most of the past decade circumnavigating the globe, wants to use his travel experience to help others take the ‘first steps’ on their global adventures.
Emmett White, who is originally from Ballymagroarty, has set up a new foundation called First Steps Abroad, which, he hopes, will encourage more travellers to get out and satisfy their wanderlust.
The 25-years-old, now based in Toronto, Ontario, where he lives with his fiancée, Wendy Lopez, explained: “It is a foundation geared towards helping those who do not have the resources or knowledge to take that first step.
“Helping those who come from a background like mine, where holidays abroad didn’t exist and the thought of moving to a new country seemed out of reach or something that wasn’t meant for them.
“I want to show people from all backgrounds that travel can be as affordable as your weekly groceries and that the experiences that this affords you, builds character, changes perspectives and builds friendships that no amount of distance can break.
“The foundation operates as a non-profit entity and the services provided are totally free of charge.”
Even the most seasoned tourist will acknowledge the itinerary the young Derryman has charted over the past decade as impressive.
The Holy Family P.S. and St. Columb’s College old boy has visited 50 countries and made it all the way from Indochina to North America without boarding a single flight. Needless to say, he’s accumulated more than one of two travel tips along the way.
“I am a traveling, globetrotting fanatic. I am also a proud Derry man with a want to help. Over the last seven or eight years I have been fortunate enough to travel the world extensively.
“Recently, I completed two travel goals I’ve dreamed of since I was a teenager. Travel to 50 countries by the age 25 and travel from one side of the world to the other, by land and sea. By July 2017, I completed my trip from Hat Yai, Thailand to California, USA, without the help of an aircraft,” he said.
But Emmett insists it’s not the mileage on the clock but the people you meet on the road that make travel such a worthwhile pursuit and, for him, an all-consuming passion. That travel broadens the mind may be a cliché but that’s only because it’s true and Emmett believes he’s learned a lot from those he’s met along the global roadside.
It’s this understanding, garnered on the vineyards and orchards and in the bars and restaurants where he’s worked in Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, USA and Canada, that he wants to pass on.
“Throughout my travels I have been overwhelmed by the self-sacrificing generosity that I have experienced from others. From friends to complete strangers, from every background imaginable, all over the world.
“It is something that has stayed with me and left an extremely positive impression in my life,” he said.
Emmett recalls one Arab friend that he met on his travels through the Nordic countries who, he said, helped transform his entire philosophy in what was a ‘Saul on the road to Damascus’ moment.
“While couchsurfing in Scandinavia, I met a man named Yassir. An Egyptian migrant residing in Finland for the best part of two decades. His life’s passion was to unselfishly help others, to assist those passing through and those going through similar struggles to our own.
“To this day, his words have resonated in my daily life. I have never met another person who has done so much for so many, expecting nothing in return.
“This year I took the first steps in following in his mind-set. 2018 is the year I give back to those wanting to explore.
“I may not have a home to welcome people into, I may not be able to fund someone’s gap-year or feed hungry travellers, but I can help those who wish to follow a path similar to mine. I want to better prepare future travellers for any challenges they may face, teaching them about my ups and downs so their journey can be smoother. From visa applications, setting up bank accounts, looking for a job, searching for housing, to basic decisions like which phone operators to go with.”
Emmett is currently working on a website for First Steps Abroad and hopes it will be up and running in late October on the firststepsabroad.com address. Next month, more importantly, he’ll be back in Derry visiting his proud parents Ann and Martin.
“This September I will be returning to Derry for eight weeks. I want to use that time to reach out to the young people in our city and excite them about exploring different cultures and help ease their fears about world travel,” he said.
Anyone interested in contacting Emmett about the new project can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org