November 2011 Questions & Answers

It is a cold night here in Dresden, Germany. I woke up in the city of Eisenach and visited the birthplace of JS Bach and then went to the historic city of Weimar in the afternoon visiting the homes of Goethe, Schiller, List and Luther. I’ve probably learned more about German history in the last few days than I have in the rest of my life.

I figure a good way to cap off the evening would be answer some questions from the old inbox.

Bernadette Walsh asks: Was that your first bungee [last month in Auckland]?

No. My first bungee jump was back in 2007 in Queenstown, New Zealand. Here is the video of my jump:

Jason Salsbury asks on Facebook: I know at a certain point you were trying to budget or cap all of your travel, have you relaxed that at all as your travels have become famous? Now that your name is out there more have you been invited to a certain place to bring notice to it?

The less you spend, the more you can travel. That was as true the day I started as it is today.

You are correct that things are different for me today. When I first started I paid for everything myself. I have spent over $100,000 of my own money since I began traveling in 2007.

About a year ago things started to change as I developed more contacts with the tourism industry. If I can get a tourist board to sponsor me on a trip, I’ll try to work with them. Our goals are usually in line with each other. They want their location talked about, and I want to talk about new locations.

That being said, I still pay for quite a bit of travel. In the last month, I was in Los Angeles for 2 weeks and London for 1 week. That was all on me. When I’m on my own, the rules are still the same: keep costs low to increase what I can do. Even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’m not sure I’d want to stay in luxury hotels all the time. It is nice once in a while, but you do lose something in the process.

I’m also a fundamentally cheap person, so there is that…..

Technosyncratic How many languages do you speak? How much of a new language do you try to learn when you travel to a new country?

I only speak one language fluently: English.

That being said, I do try to pick up as much as I can while I’m in a country. The amount I pick up depends on how long I’m there, how hard I try and how difficult I find the language.

I have estimated that I have encountered over 40 languages in my travels, not counting dialects and the many languages in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. Learning that many would be impossible.

I’m in Germany as I write this and I took a year of German in high school and my great aunt spoke it (I have a German heritage). I can get by OK. Likewise I’ve been trying to improve my Spanish.

I’d like to go somewhere for a few months with the express intent of learning a language. Somewhere like Panama or Argentina would be a great place to learn Spanish.

I will always pick up a few words, even if it is nothing more than “hello”, “please” and “thank you”. I’ve found if you at least show an effort, it can go a long way. Even in countries where pretty much everyone speaks English like Samoa or Fiji, a “Bula” or “Talofa” can help.

Vanda J Gerhart asks: How long do you stay in one place?

I’ve stayed places for one night (tonight in Dresden for example) and I’ve stayed places for three months (Bangkok). It all really depends.

Sometimes I’m in tour mode and I tend to bound around a lot and other times I’m in work/rest mode and I stay in one spot for a while.

Ideally slower is better, but that isn’t always possible.

Dale Strawford asks: Travel is all about exploration and new experiences. One of the rubs of writing about a place is that people may then indeed go there, overpopulating it with new tourists, and erasing some of the original charm. Are there places you have gone to that you secretly kept to yourself, special places that you just couldn’t share?

It isn’t something I worry about. The places I would want to keep to myself are always the most difficult places to get to, so I’m not worried about it becoming crowded.

One of my favorite places is Micronesia. I’m not worried about it becoming too popular because it is so far away. To get there you have to go to Guam or Hawaii first, and THEN tack on another 8 hour flight. Most people are never going to do that.

Also, I don’t think I’m so big of a deal that my opinion alone would cause a flood of people descend on a place. I’m sure my opinion counts for much less than Lonely Planet :)

Maureen Billingham asks: Has the photographic kit you recently invested in stood up to your expectations – which lens/equipment has proved the most useful?

The camera I purchased back in 2007 was a Nikon D200. I used it until I couldn’t deal with the photos in low light anymore. It had horrible low light performance.

Last year I upgraded to a Nikon D300s which has been working out OK for me. I was using a D700 this summer and I’d like to return to a full frame sensor at some time in the future.

I have been using the same 18-200mm lens since I started traveling. It is beat to hell, but it is still working. I can’t put a lens cap on it anymore and the focus ring is loose. Everything on it which is not made of metal or glass has fallen apart.

It is a great travel lens just because you get such a wide range in one package. It isn’t the best lens per se, but if you want to travel light it can’t be beat.

The Family Adventure Project asks: What does your role as a Wanderer in Residence for G-Adventures involve?

The G Adventures Wanderer in Residence program is really an innovative program and a lot of it we are still figuring out.

The basics of the program are that we can jump on a tour if we are in the area and there is space available. So last May I was in Budapest and I jumped on a G tour which went from Budapest to Istanbul. I also got on a tour to the Galapagos Islands when I was in Quito last month.

Once a year they will send us on a trip with the flight paid for. In 2012 I’ll be going to Antarctica.

Several years ago I made a list of companies in the travel industry that I’d like to work with. I came up with 5 and one of them was G Adventures. When the opportunity came up to work with them I jumped at it.

The style of travel they do is very complimentary to mine, and the people I’ve met on their tours are kindred spirits. They don’t tend to attract the types who just want to go and party. They draw people who want to actually learn about different cultures and places.

Companies and bloggers are still figuring out how to work together. I like the people at G and they are committed to making it work. We have a lot of ideas cooking so I’m sure you’ll hear more in the future.

5 thoughts on “November 2011 Questions & Answers”

  1. Not quite a comment but a question. Just wondering if you are coming to Berlin by chance during the weekend

      • I live in Berlin and I would enjoy going on a photowalk with you for a couple of hours in the afternoon/evening, if it fits your plans.
        If you like the idea, let me know by mail and we can arrange a suitable time and place to meet.

  2. I’m a fundamentally frugal person as well. Not cheap because I’ll splurge on the experience if it’s worth it. This post was the first time I’ve ever heard of Micronesia! Sounds like an island from the future.

  3. The question about the languages is one that always intrigues me. I feel so useless in a country when I can’t communicate with people – and I also don’t think you get as much out the of the experience. But, as you say, it’s not really possible to learn 40 languages well enough to speak to everyone. Surely they’ll invent a Douglas Adams-style babelfish soon? :)

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