Travel Talk: An interview with Tom Edwards from Tune up and Travel

I first  came in contact with Tom, through a Travel Blog sharing page on Facebook; he did some design work on my original blog I had started on blogspot.  I soon started following his blog, as he was travelling from the US with two friends, to Europe, through South East Asia, and finally to Australia and New Zealand. Playing music to make some money on the side, as a travelling musician.

However, through some mishaps and possibly poor planning on the budgeting side of things, Tom and his buddy Aaron got to New Zealand, with very little money to manage to live in a rather expensive country, so ended up sleeping rough and cooking on the side of the street, with a small camping stove. They were doing some classic vagabonding, and quite frankly, living very scarcely on whatever they had. Tom and Aaron happened to be in Christchurch, so myself and flatmates hosted both of them for a few nights. We had some beers, whilst Tom played a private gig in our lounge. We shared some travel tips about New Zealand, and later I also got to show them around the city.

I have never met a travelling Musician, but Tom was certainly one of a kind. The stories he shared were incredible, and gave me the desire to get out and see more of the World, beyond New Zealand.

I recently ‘caught up’ with Tom on his way back home to the US, from a trip in South America (where he has been playing gigs to make money). So this weeks ‘Travel Talk’ is Tom, from Tune Up and Travel.

road trip
Tom Edwards from Tune Up and Travel, preparing for an Australian Road Trip (Image Credit: Tom Edwards)

Introduce yourself

Name: Tom Edwards
Place of Origin: Chillicothe, Ohio
Current location: Tampa, Florida

Travel Talk

Why do you choose to travel/what inspires you to travel?

I first started travelling because I had a deep desire to know what’s out there. To see every inch of the world and soak it all in. That’s still what drives me today. I want to experience as much as I can while I am here.

How do you fund your travels

I’ve done a wide variety of things to fund travelling. At first, I just played music along the way. That was rewarding culturally, because it allowed me to meet all kinds of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Then I started doing freelance graphic design on the internet. That made me a little more money, but required a big time-investment.
Currently, I’ve started dabbling in internet marketing and sales (I started a Shopify store that sells backpacking equipment and advertise it with Facebook), and have earned a lot of money from that without having to do much work at all, honestly. I’ll be posting an article about that once I have another month or two under my belt to review the process thoroughly.

Tom from Tune Up and Travel, playing music on a train in France with his travel buddy Corey  (Image Credit: Tom Edwards)
Tom from Tune Up and Travel, playing music on a train in France with his travel buddy Corey
(Image Credit: Tom Edwards)

When did you first start travelling?

My first trip was to the Western United States when I was 13 years old. It was during that when I first though ‘I wonder how much more is out there?…’

What is your travel style/niche?

It could be narrowed down to a few things. Even though I’ve started earning some real money lately, I’ve been a budget traveller for as long as I can remember. I know just about every trick in the book for what I call ‘extreme budget travel’ which is pretty much being able to live anywhere for somewhere in the neighborhood of FREE. I was able to live in Europe for over a month on $10 USD per day… for THREE people!

What do you use to travel with – rucksack (backpack) or suitcase, and why?

I’ve always been a backpack traveller, but now I am going to make the switch to wheeled luggage unless I’m in Europe (cobblestone and wheels don’t mix). I’ve always liked backpack travel for their ability to go anywhere, but now that I’m staying in more hostels and hotels, I’d like the extra room of wheeled luggage without the weight on my shoulders. It kills me to stand in line at the airport and see everyone standing weightlessly as their luggage sits next to them. Meanwhile I’m hunkered over like a big sleep deprived turtle.

What three things that you will never travel without (passport excluded)

1.) My laptop – the key to making money

2.) My guitar – the key to making friends

3.) A Journal – the key to remembering all of those friends

Travel reflections

Tom from Tune Up and Travel and his travel buddies Aaron and Corey in Thailand (Image Credit: Tom Edwards)
Tom from Tune Up and Travel and his travel buddies Aaron and Corey in Thailand (Image Credit: Tom Edwards)

What is the best thing about travelling?

Meeting all of the people and experiencing the culture!
What is the scariest thing that has happened to you whilst travelling?

I go into this a lot more in my book, ‘Planes, Trains, & Broken Strings’, and there have been quite a few sketchy experiences while travelling on an extreme budget. The one that comes to mind though is the time I inadvertently hitchhiked with a drug dealer in Switzerland. You’ll have to check out the book for that whole story!

(Editors ad: A link to Tom’s book on Amazon is available at the end of this article)

What have you learnt about yourself through travelling?

I could fill a book with this. Every single time I’ve left on a big journey, I’ve come back a new person. This last trip has been the biggest change yet (I say that every time though). Travel makes you more confident, willing to try new things, learn how to talk to people easier (women included), cultured, open-minded, oh how the list could go on indefinitely. This last trip has not only given me more confidence that I’ve ever had, it’s really made me believe in myself and truly start to realize what we’re all capable of if we set our minds to something. Everything I’ve worked towards over the past year is starting to come together all at once, and none of it would be possible if it wasn’t either inspired, or caused directly by my travelling.

What have you learnt about the World through travelling?

I’ve learned everything and nothing about the world all at once by travelling. In other words, sometimes I feel like I have the whole thing figured out, and then I go to a new place and it’s like starting all over again! I love that feeling. The main thing I’ve learned over the years that’s consistent though, is that people are inherently good. No matter where you go, if you find yourself in a pickle, people tend to want to help you. I’ve had complete strangers do things for me that good friends back home would even hesitate doing.

The top of Travel

Top three countries (and why – optional)

  • Italy – the food, the language, the history
  • Colombia – the people, the culture, the music, the fresh mangoes
  • New Zealand – the people are currently the nicest I’ve ever met while travelling, and the landscape is breathtaking there.

Top three cuisines/dishes eaten

Literally anything in the whole country of Italy
Pineapple fried rice in Thailand
I also love cooking big meals in hostels with new friends!Top three adventurous activities you’ve done on your travels.

Top three adventurous activities you’ve done on your travels

  1. I played at a music festival in Tuluá, Colombia last month. That was a lot of fun! I was dragged along to radio and TV interviews and felt like a celebrity for a week!
  2. I spent a week stranded in the mountains of Tekapo, New Zealand and almost got hypothermia
  3. I lived (squatted) illegally in a nature preserve outside of Rome for a month, and would hop buses into town every day to play music on the streets for money. There are plenty of humorous stories to go along with that whole experience.
Tom Edwards from Tune Up and Travel, cooking breafast on the streets of Auckland, New Zealand
Tom Edwards from Tune Up and Travel, cooking breafast on the streets of Auckland, New Zealand

Travel Wisdom

Please state a one liner – your best piece of travel advice for those new to travelling.
I will steal a quote—one of my favourites, and the most accurate I’ve found—from Susan Heller:

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

With thanks to Tom Edwards from Tune Up and Travel, for this interview. Stay tuned (no pun intended) next week, so another edition of Travel Talk.

Connect with Tom

On the web –



Check out Tom’s book Plane’s Trains and Broken Strings on Amazon.

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