November 2012 Questions & Answers

Old Mailbox on the Isle of Man
Old Mailbox on the Isle of Man
It is time once again to open up the mail bag and answer the deep, burning questions that will change the course of history. Future generations will make required reading of the answers I provide here today. Wise men will use these answers to solve the riddles which have vexed humanity for eons. Parents will name their children after those whose questions were answered. Internet memes will probably be stem from the words I type.

Ladies and gentleman, I give to you my November questions and answers!!

Terry Westerbeke asks: What is the most efficient way to travel with cell phones? Pay as you go, purchasing sim cards for each country you visit or some other method?

It depends on what you mean by “efficient”. Cheap or simple?

The easiest thing to do is it just purchase some sort of international plan on your current mobile provider. This is easy to do to, does not require any special phone (other than a GSM phone), does not require getting a phone unlocked, and doesn’t require doing something special in each country you visit. However, it is going to cost you. Even the best international roaming plans are horrible compared to what you pay domestically. The fact that many providers (especially in the US) will not unlock your phone gives you no choice but to take this option.

The cheaper choice is to get a sim card in whatever country you will be in. I was recently in UK and I met several people who purchased local sim cards for £15 which gave them a month of unlimited data. From a price standpoint, you can’t beat this. The problem with this option is that you need an unlocked GSM phone and you have to buy sim cards in each country you visit.

I am personally going to be buying a Verizon iPhone 5 next month because it is the only iPhone model sold in the US in which the GSM sim slot comes unlocked by default.

Tomek Tomasz asks: Do you write blogpost as fast as you can in place where you are or later? How much time you spent for blogging?

I am usually very tired after a day of walking and exploring so the last thing I want to do when I get back to my room is write about what I just did all day. I also want to make sure that I have the best images possible when I write an article, so the writing usually has to wait for my photos to get processed.

This often results in a long delay between when I visit somewhere and when I write about it. In fact, this is probably one of the biggest problems that I have to deal with. Once I get all my photos finished, I’m usually off on another adventure which pushes off my writing even further.

I do social media updates in real time, posting to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. In fact I”m hoping to do an even better job of that in 2013 by upgrading my phone and mobile bandwidth situation. The problem I have had is that I almost never have 3G/4G access in most countries, so I take photos on my iPhone and update them later in the day. I’d prefer to do it in real time.

Alex Mau aska: Gary, as you travel to different time zone weekly, how do you tackle irregular sleeping hours? How do you tackle jet lag?

I wish I could tell you that I did something special to over come jet lag, but I don’t. The fact is when your body moves to a new time zone, in order to adjust you have to either stay up late or go to bed early. There is no way around it. It is a matter of synchronizing clocks, not chemistry.

I find it is much easier to fly west than it is to fly east. A few days ago I flew from Spain to Nova Scotia. I woke up the next day at 7am and adjusted almost immediately because I stayed up late the night I arrived. Flying from LA to London is the worst experience I’ve ever had in terms of jet lag. The flight is almost as long as the time difference in terms of hours. The only way around that flight that I know of is to either get really really tired in London or take a sleeping pill on the plane so you go to bed really early.

Nicole Jewell asks: Hi Gary, What are your criteria for accepting ads/sponsored posts on your site? It seems as if a lot of travel bloggers aren’t being very selective these days and I think it creates a lot of distance between the blogger and their readers. I’ve noticed that you are fairly selective as far as the sponsored products and ads that you have on your site. Any advice for new bloggers in that respect?

I never accept sponsored posts and I have never sold links. In fact, I don’t even technically sell advertising. What I do is work closely with select companies at a sponsorship/endorsement level. As part of the package of things I offer I will usually put banner ads on the site, but it goes far beyond that.

I’m very picky about who I work with. I get offers daily from people who want something from me, usually for little or nothing. I only work with respectable companies whom I like and who’s products I use myself. I might be passing up money by taking this approach, but I think it is the best thing to do in the long run.

What matters more than anything else are my readers. Working with companies is a necessary part of what I do.

IBackpacker Travel asks: Hi Gary, what are your thoughts on the mobile network called ‘Everything Everywhere’ we now have in the UK? Do people search for your blog and find it a lot? When I searched, it comes up Number 1 and you’re on page 2, that’s bad for Google!

In 2010, T-Mobile and Orange in the UK merged and the named they picked was Everything Everywhere. The day it was announced I probably got 100 emails from readers, including some who worked for Orange.

Basically there is nothing I can do about it. From a trademark standpoint, I was using it before they were and I’m in a different industry and in a different country. Moreover, they are a giant company and I’m just one person.

From a Google standpoint, I’m not too worried about it. The number of searches for the term “Everything Everywhere” jumped dramatically after they made the name change. Realistically, it makes more sense for them to be ranked above me in the UK. Also, every month or two some major news outlet accidentally links to my site when referencing them :)

I’ve read several articles criticizing their choice of name (which honestly, I think works better for a travel blog than for a mobile company) and they have now changed their brand to EE. The whole thing will probably be moot soon.

The Dromomaniac asks: Hi Gary, You tweeted that you were going to travel with someone for the first time. Have you thought it through? Is there a contingency plan if it doesn’t work out, such as if you would finish the trip with them if they weren’t the type to be on their own? Do you think you will be able to compromise well after doing your own thing for so long?

I don’t know. I honestly haven’t given it much thought. I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for a long time now. I was sort of thinking out loud in about some way I could change things up. One of the simplest things I could do would be to try traveling with someone else for a while. As of right now, I’m not sure who I would travel with or how I would go about doing it.

I know there are a lot of people that would like to travel with me in theory, but when push comes to shove it is a different story. When I first started traveling I had many friends who said they would come and travel with me at some point. 6 years later, not a single one of them has ever made any effort to do so.

Marcello Arrambide asks: In a nutshell, are there any countries that you don’t have the inclination to visit or have no interest in seeing? I know that you are passionate about seeing “everything” but is there any place on Earth that really doesn’t interest you at all? Excluding timing, for example the war currently in Syria or the lawlessness of Somalia. Just a certain destination that you may not be interested in seeing?

There isn’t anywhere I want to avoid, but there are times and circumstances I want to avoid. For example I have no problem visiting Syria, but I wouldn’t want to visit Syria right now. Maybe in a year or two things will calm down and it will be safe to return.

Callum Hepburn asks: Have you ever thought about working full-time abroad – as a expat, basically? (Is your blog a full-time job?

Hell no.

Bryan Schmidt asks: Hey Gary. How long did you have your travel blog before you started seeing substantial income flowing in from it? Also, have you ever been to the Maldives? I really would like to visit there one day and would be very interested in a review of the islands by a experienced traveler like yourself.

It took me 5 years before I started making money. I have yet to visit the Maldives.

TOURISMlink asks: Hi Gary, This is a bit of a serious one – but important! Do you think some of the small travel businesses (hotels, restaurants etc) that you come across on your travels will get left behind because they’re not using new technology – some don’t even have websites, Facebook, Twitter, let alone mobile sites… Thanks!

Absolutely. This is the 21st century. If you don’t use modern tools you can’t expect to be successful. The majority of people use the internet to research and book trips. If you willfully avoid using the internet you are passing up a substantial amount of business.

Happy To Be Homeless asks: I ask this question to myself on occasion. Do you ever fear the harmful impact that the “information highway” can have on destinations in the future? You can reach thousands of people in an instant. Your comments can effect peoples decisions on where to go and what to see. Do you ever wonder whether you should post about how great a place is because you fear that the “word will get out” and that people will go, and people will ruin the reason why you thought it was so great in the first place?

No. I’ve talked about many places I’ve been to that get very few tourists: Micronesia and South Georgia Island and are good examples. I can’t say very many people have actually gone to those places based on what I’ve had to say. They are extremely difficult to get to and it costs a lot of money.

Also, there is nothing I’m doing that hasn’t been done by National Geographic for decades. They have a far larger audience than I do. If there was going to be flood of tourists somewhere, they would have already written about it and caused it.

Anna Stinson asks: How do you decide where are you sleeping during your travel? Or do hotels appear magically in your way?

It isn’t magic. Almost every city on any given night will have some hotel room available. I am seldom in a position where I can’t find something affordable and I have never been in a position where I cannot find anything at all.

It is usually nothing more than doing a search on a site like