Allan Edward Hinton

SPIRIT • The Journal • May 18


When someone is known on Instagram as @chaiwalla, an image immediately springs to mind. Not, perhaps, one of a social media strategist in a smart suit. Allan Hinton (aka @chaiwalla) is certainly smart, but he doesn’t wear suits much these days.

 

Ever since he travelled alone to Thailand, at the tender age of 19 years old Allan couldn’t shake off the travel bug. But a First Class Degree in Marketing Management from Newcastle and the energy of youth sent Allan hurtling towards London and fast-paced city life. He packed his wanderlust away in the search for ‘making it’.

Working hard in London, he lived the life he dreamed of vicariously through others. Hinton ‘loved how people on Instagram have such a desire to explore, to get off the sofa and make the most of each day.’

’Instead of following my own dreams I was escaping into other people’s dreams, mostly on Instagram.’

 

Then, about six years years ago, despite having built a successful lifestyle of great job, friends and social life, Allan decided to make more of his days.

‘I knew it was time for a change. Even though I had a great life on paper, I was unhappy. I was taking jobs and making decisions for money rather than passion or purpose.’

 

The day Allan decided to save for a ‘South America fund’ was the day he took the path less travelled. He gave himself a year off the treadmill, with a trip to South America. Little did he know then that that single decision would change the entire course of his life.

Allan admits that it took a while to make the adjustment from comfortable London single to hitchhiking, solitary traveller. However, sooner than expected, a new rhythm began to take hold, one in which he shed most of his possessions apart from his beloved camera.

 

After the year away, however, Allan found it hard to go back to his former work life, relying on Instagram again for escapism and wishing for a different life.

 

Eventually Allan decided that, instead of more holidays, he needed to get away completely to gain perspective on life.

 

The connections he made with some free spirits on Instagram inspired him to focus on his travel photography. ‘Their stories pushed me to want to get better and better and travel more and more.’

 

Allan quit his job to explore the world and develop his photography skills.

He hooked up in real life with people behind the Instagram accounts that had inspired him. They shared coffee, took photos and encouraged him onwards.

‘Having been an “early adopter” on Instagram I decided to head off with my camera and Instagram and see what happened.’

 

Since then, he’s ticked off Central America and the United States, Myanmar and Europe. Still out exploring and taking photos, Allan has amassed more than 160 thousand people who follow his journey of travel and photographic discovery. He is now a successful British photographer, content creator and social media strategist.

‘Social media has changed my life. It was what encouraged me to really make travelling my life.’

 

These days, tracking Allan down is far from easy, unless, of course, you look for him digitally. He pops up in Genoa, Italy, Berlin, Oman. You name a country; he seems to have been there. No wonder he calls himself a World Explorer. Last time I looked he was in Europe, looking very street smart, on a twenty-four hour splurge in Paris.

So what does the future hold for a freewheeling, sharp-minded 21st century world explorer?

‘As long as I am happy and challenging myself, I try not to worry about what the future holds.’

 

The advice Allan gives for any of us dreaming of bigger, bolder lives appears fairly simple in print.

 

So far, it seems, Alan hasn’t needed to pull out plan B, though from time to time, it seems, he does pull on a suit again.

 

‘Know that it is going to take a lot of courage to take that first step. You may have to fight fear and just go into it full-steam ahead with a “Let’s deal with the consequences when they arrive” kind of attitude. It’s also important to keep some kind of routine: waking up at the same time each day, going for a run in the morning, etc. I try to make daily lists of targets to keep me focused, but I don’t beat myself up if I’m going through a slow patch. I meditate regularly. Each night, I like to make a mental note of all the positive things that happened that day. Being grateful and kind to yourself has such far-reaching benefits. On a less exciting note, I’d also recommend keeping a plan B to ease the risk.’