Meet the Nomads – Ben West of The Red Rucksack

Ben West from Tasmania, Australia used to own a pharmacy and sold it last 2010 to pursue a life of travels and adventures. Ben is fond of adventure travels and had done some scuba diving in Thailand, climbed some mountains in the Himalayas went on a cruise in the Galapagos and much more.

If you’re into adventure travels then this blog is for you. He also writes a lot of helpful travel tips about the places that he’s been to and some travel health tips as well. If you love mountains, paragliding and exploring off the beaten paths then you must follow his blog and get to know more about Ben as well at The Red Rucksack.

But before you leave this page, check out my short interview with Ben.

Meet the Nomads - Ben West of The Red Rucksack

How did you discover your passion for travelling?

“My first trip abroad was in late 2000. My sister was living in Indonesia working as a teacher, so, when she got holidays I popped over to explore Java with her. Having not seen much of ‘big sis’ the previous two years it intrigued me to see her cursing at touts in fluent Bahasa and to see what a worldly person she had become. Everything about that trip fascinated me; the culture, the people, seeing Borobudur, climbing an active volcano and getting reacquainted with my sister. That trip really opened my eyes up to the world.

That was when I discovered my passion for travel. Thirteen years, a few mini-trips, many failed romances and lots of soul searching later I finally acted on this passion for travel. I walked out of a prospering pharmacy business, sold my house, packed my big red rucksack and hit the road.”

What’s the most horrible experience that you’ve had on the road?

“It fascinated me how many people are quick to ask this question. I try not to focus on the bad stuff but they do make for good stories!

I’ll divide them into categories for you:

Fear – I was in Dalandzadgad in Southern Mongolia, stupidly (you’ll hear this adverb before many bad-travel stories) my buddy and I went into a local bar without considering the extreme racism that is rampant in this remote area. We stayed a short time, then my prickling neck hairs and the ominous mood got to me and we left. Outside, a massive, drunken Mongolian, who thought he was Genghis Khan, walked up to me, said, “Fuck you America” and proceeded to punch, kick and elbow me three shades of black. Thankfully, my friend and a helpful onlooker managed to get me to the car and we got away.

Health – *Three mile stare while re-living a comprehensive montage of sickness* Possibly the worst sickness I suffered on the road was after summiting Manaslu (8163 meters) in Nepal. I contracted a breathtaking bout of gastro during the ten day trek back to civilization when I stupidly (there it is again) drunk Yak-milk tea with a friendly farmer. Bad weather was approaching which made a rest day out of the question. I had disabling cramps and every drop of fluid was exiting my body through every orifice. I got up at 5 AM and had to trek over the Lharka Lha pass which is around 4000 meters high. It was a grueling 14 hour day to the next camp and yes, despite thinking I was a big tough mountaineer, there were tears involved.

Family – When I was in Iquique, Chile learning to Paraglide my father was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. There were many long, late night Skype conversations as my parents insisted that I keep traveling and that they were all okay. This was a very hard time for me and made me question being so far away from loved ones. Dad has made a full recovery.

Boredom – After trekking the Huayhuash circuit alone in the Peruvian Andes I returned to a small farming town to find I was surrounded by riots and civil unrest. I had to spend a week in this town with no money (yes, begging for food) and no book. Hummm.”

What’s the best travel experience that you’ve ever had?

“On the Galapagos Islands I met a lovely Danish Lawyer who nowadays goes by the name ‘Wifey’. On the whole, the best experiences involve meeting really cool people. Seeing great sights is also a bonus!”

Meet the Nomads - Ben West of The Red Rucksack

What’s the biggest realization that you’ve got out of travelling?

“In early 2011 I was trekking down in Patagonia somewhere. Letting my mind wander as I talked to the trees I realized that:

There are no rules – there is no right or wrong way to live your life.

I knew this on an academic level but the full emotional understanding of this concept hit me like a train. When I owned the pharmacy I was trying so damn hard to do all the ‘right’ things: settle down, house, picket fence…all that. I am not looking down my nose at people who live a settled life. I think it’s great if that is what really makes you happy, It just is not for me.”

What keeps you going? What keeps you motivated?

“This is an easy one, curiosity. I just need to know what is over that next mountain…”

This is a silly and hypothetical one. If you would be given a chance to travel with a popular person or a celebrity, who would it be and why?

“I suppose I should say Einstein or Bill Gates but, really, zzzz. I would invite Robin Williams. I just think that he is damn funny. He would make those long commutes an absolute hoot.”

Where’s your favorite place in this planet and why?

“Nepal, I just love everything about this country. It is dirty, poor and badly governed but the people and the scenery make it amazing every time. Many of my happiest travel memories are from Nepal. Once I was in a very touristy area of Kathmandu called Thamel and recovering from a climbing expedition.

Now there are numerous warnings about ‘tuk-tuk’ men ripping off tourists but they all seemed friendly enough. Taking a bit of a risk I got chatting to one guy and ended up going back to his camp. Inside a walled compound which was fenced with razor wire I sat surrounded by about 30 ‘touts.’ I pulled out my laptop, sat it on a 40-gallon drum and we all watched Pulp Fiction. They were entranced. For the rest of my time in Thamel whenever a tuk-tuk passed a driver would invariably slow down and yell, “HI BEN, VISIT AGAIN?” Not to mention the mountains in Nepal are without peer.”

Meet the Nomads - Ben West of The Red Rucksack

What’s your best tip for newbie traveller?

“Stay flexible and trust the hairs on the back of your neck. Plans will change, go with the flow, it will all work out. If the hairs on the back of your neck start to prickle, slow down, think about your situation calmly and make a decision.”

What’s the funniest and silliest thing you’ve ever done while travelling?

“The standout (from many options) is Paintball Paragliding in Chile. I made friends with three experienced pilots. We ‘borrowed’ two tandem rigs from the paragliding school (while the owner was out) and hired two paintball guns. We then flew over a massive sand dune near the city in tandem; each pilot had a shooter in the passenger seat. Paragliding wings are just rip-stop nylon so had we shot a wing things would have gotten very nasty – read throw the reserve ‘chute and pray – but we ended up having a lovely time. I even managed to bruise the other shooter’s leg with one ‘sniper’ shot. This is possibly the stupidest and most crazy thing I have done abroad.”

How do you keep yourself safe on your travels?

“Friends and neck hairs – After the Mongolia incident I always try to surround myself with people I can trust. I also listen more closely to my neck hairs!”

What do you think about yourself?

“I am a Libra who enjoys long walks on the beach, listening to jazz flute and relaxing nights in front of an open fire….oh wait, that’s an old bio…*awkward cough*

I used to say, “I’m a pharmacist who…” but nowadays my profession doesn’t define me any more than my brand of shoe does. Basically I’m a happily married man who suffers ADHD – Adventure Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I like climbing things and jumping off things…just trying to pack my life with a whole bundle of ‘happy’.”

Meet the Nomads - Ben West of The Red Rucksack

“The Red Rucksack focuses on my paragliding, trekking and mountaineering adventures. I have a section where readers can upload their bucket list, then get nagged to tick things off as well as a heavily researched Travel Health section.” – Ben West of The Red Rucksack


Ben has recently written and published a book called The Red Rucksack, you can get a copy here.

The Red Rucksack

Editor’s Note: All pics are provided by Ben.

Next: Marina Villatoro of Travel Experta Previously: Erin and Simon of Never Ending Voyage For more interviews with travel bloggers, check out the archives of Meet the Nomads.


  1. Paintball paragliding…nice. If people flew over a paintball field that would add a cool element to the game. I wonder if anyone has gone paintball skydiving?

    What mountain(s) did you climb in Nepal? That’s a pretty cool picture.

  2. Hi Tim, thanks mate, Paintball skydiving…hmmm!
    That photo was from Manaslu (8163 meters), quite the challenge! I’m going to climb Ama Dablam in (eek) about five weeks and will be blogging and tracking the climb via GPS/Satellite technology (hint)


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