Growing up in Jamestown, CO, Austin felt like he was destined to be just another small town kid with big dreams. But his parents knew that wasn’t enough for him—his need for adventure and exploration was too great. So they did everything they could to support his ambitions by sending him across the world on adventures where he could explore his interests in marine biology and geology, build lifelong friendships with people from all over the world, and experience things he never imagined possible. Austin William Lance is the son of Travis Lance, the late National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who moved his wife and Austin to 21 different countries over the course of their lives.
In 2010, after experiencing a life-changing seven months in China teaching English and living with an American expat family in Beijing (during which time he pursued his lifelong interest in Chinese culture), Austin quit his job, sold all of his possessions except for a guitar and some gear, and took off on an extremely ambitious solo journey across Southeast Asia.
After multiple attempts at planning routes and deciding whether or not to join a reputable tour company or go it alone, Austin made one final decision: to go full steam ahead on his own. But Austin didn’t always know what he wanted. His dad says that by 18, Austin had transitioned through at least six different majors and interests, including Marine Biology (his father’s profession), Geology, Archaeology, World Religions, Music (he plays the guitar), and teaching.
Austin William Lance was born on October 17, 1991 in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. He lived the first four years of his life in Frankfurt before moving to India with his parents and brother for two years. He then moved back to Germany for another four years before finally settling down in Colorado when he was ten. Austin attended high school at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield Massachusetts where he studied Marine Biology and Geology.
1. One of Austin’s first memories is feeling homesick in kindergarten.
Being the son of a famous explorer, Austin’s early years were spent moving around a lot. While his father conducted field research for his books and documentaries, Austin moved from Germany to India to Germany to the United States and finally landing in Colorado at the age of ten. As a result, he was the new kid at school nine times in ten years, and he felt like he never had any friends except for his brother and his family dog. Im kindergarten in Leipzig, Germany (where he lived from age 2-4) his teacher asked him what city he was from.
2. Austin got his first guitar in kindergarten due to a lesson his mom taught him.
Austin’s mom bought him a $50 acoustic guitar when he was five years old, but he didn’t learn to play it until after he told her that the instrument made him want to be homeless in India. His mother told him that all you had to do was just don’t take the instrument and suddenly you would magically have friends and be part of something, which inspired Austin to continue taking lessons and learn how to play the guitar.
3. Austin’s favorite book is The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, and he thinks learning to read changed his life.
Austin’s mother says that he “lives in a different world inside of his own head” since he was a child, and the ability to read opened up a whole new world for him by giving him access to the imagination of other people through stories and literature. He also enjoys authors such as Frank Herbert, Dan Brown and Jules Verne, but Austin admits that it took him until college to finish reading The Hobbit because he likes “getting lost in fantasy worlds where you could be anyone.”
4. Austin climbed the Himalayan Mountains of Northern India at age six because he wanted to be like his dad.
Every year, Austin and his family would get together for a mini-reunion in the mountains of Northern India where Austin’s parents grew up. In 1993, when he was six years old, he decided to climb the small mountain on his own in hopes that his dad would be proud of him.
His dad had been trying to encourage Austin to climb the mountain on his own for a while, but whenever they did it together Austin would hold onto him a lot. This time, however, Austin decided to go alone. He climbed to the top of the mountain and pointed his camera with his dad down at him. His dad was stunned and laughed for a long time until Austin said, “I’m going home now.”
5. Austin learned how to speak and read Chinese by luck after a difficult first year in Beijing.
Austin spent seven months living in Beijing as an English teacher while he learned Mandarin Chinese when he moved there in 2010, but after a serious crash course in the language from seven hours of chanting every night during his first year, Austin was able to hold a conversation with fellow expat Brad from Spearville Nebraska in just two weeks.