Questions and Answers: Volume 10

Apple | Spotify | Amazon | Player.FM | TuneIn
Castbox | Podurama | Podcast Republic | RSS | Patreon

Podcast Transcript

Every day, in most countries with a Westminster System of parliament, whenever parliament is in session, there is a period known as Question time.

During this time, any member of parliament may ask questions of the government ministers. 

As with a parliament, this podcast also has a question time and it occurs once every month. 

Stay tuned for questions and answers volume 10 on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.

Let’s jump right into things, John Higham asks,

What counts as “visiting a country?”  My litmus test is “Did I spend the night?”  By that measure, I’ve been to 51 countries.  But I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Vatican City, and unless you know the right people, you’re not spending the night.  Does that count as a country visit?  Or I once spent several hours on a tour along the wadis in Oman but did not stay the night.  Is that a visit?

What’s your standard for “a visit?”

John, this is a good question and one that comes up quite often in various travel communities. 

I understand why people use a stay overnight standard, but it is one that I don’t subscribe to.  Let me explain. 

Back in 2007, I visited Macau. I took the very first ferry in the morning from Hong Kong to Macau, and I spent a full day in Macau. I walked all over the island. I explored all the major attractions. I had three meals there, and then I took the last ferry back from Macau in the evening. 

I didn’t say overnight, but I think I absolutely visited Macau. 

Consider this compared to someone who flies into Macau, gets a room at an airport hotel, sleeps, wakes up in the morning, and goes directly to the airport to leave. 

Most of their time in Macau was actually spent unconscious in a closed room. They didn’t see or experience anything, yet they technically spent a night in Macau. 

To me, visiting a place involves doing and seeing things, not being holed up in a room sleeping. 

So, what constitutes a visit is going to vary depending on where you are visiting. 

So, I’d say you have absolutely visited Vatican City. It’s the smallest country in the world. If you’ve been inside St Peter’s and the Vatican Museum, you’ve literally explored more of the country on a percentage basis than you probably have for any other country. 

I’m not sure why being asleep in a closed room would make your experience any more meaningful. 

On the other side of the coin, a few years ago, I spoke at a conference on Hainan Island in China. I was at a resort hotel for several days, but I can’t say I really saw anything beyond the hotel. That is the only time I’ve been in the People’s Republic of China proper, not including the Special Administrative Regions. 

Have I visited China? I guess technically, yes. But have I really visited China? No, I don’t think so, not really. 

I think trying to force a rule for every country doesn’t make sense because every country is different. I literally walked across the country of Monaco, but I didn’t spend the evening there. I stayed in Nice. 

The criterion I use is, was it a meaningful visit? That is going to vary from person to person and place to place.

Fabio Fidanza asks, are you into cooking?

While I could answer this question with a simple yes or no, the actual answer is a bit more involved. 

From about 2007, when I started traveling full time, to about 2020, when the pandemic started, I rarely cooked a meal for myself. I didn’t have a kitchen to cook in or store food. Even when I was staying somewhere like a hostel that did have a kitchen, I didn’t find the idea of storing food in a communal refrigerator and waiting in line to use pots and pans very appealing.

Especially when I could just go get a cheap, decent meal somewhere nearby.

When I did finally get a place that I could use as a home base, I kept doing what I had been doing for years. I ate out pretty much every single meal. 

Eventually, I slowly started preparing my own food, but I was doing it with a George Foreman grill. George Foreman…. great boxer. One of the greatest heavyweights of all time, however, I found the gill to be horrible. 

Eventually, I got to a point where I was making almost all my meals at home, and I was becoming more adventurous with what I was making. I’ve been working on particular recipes, experimenting with them, and working on making incremental improvements. 

One of the things I’ve worked on is perfecting the recipe for Scotch Eggs. Scotch Eggs is pretty simple. The first time I made it, I just used a standard recipe. 

With that starting point, I began making incremental improvements. I realized that you couldn’t just use any hard-boiled egg. You had to have one that was medium-boiled, such that the yolk wasn’t hard but also not runny. That took me down the rabbit hole of trying to find the perfect eggs as well as determining the perfect method of cooking them that could be replicated. 

I’ve switched from ground pork to a ground pork and beef mixture and experimented with seasonings, coatings, and other things. 

I’m currently going through a similar process with crispy pork belly. My first attempt was a solid B-. 

I’ve also recently become a devotee of cast iron. It turns out a cast iron pan that I use, that my father used to use to fry fish with, is actually around 80 to 90 years old. 

So, to answer your question more directly, I wasn’t into cooking, but now I am. 

Trina Wellington DeAnda asks, “What is the longest you’ve been stuck somewhere you didn’t plan to be while traveling? Where? What happened?

Probably the longest was in 2010. I was stuck in Spain when the volcano in Iceland erupted, which stopped transatlantic flights for five days, and then there were more delays on top of that as all the flights that were canceled had to be resolved. 

It wouldn’t have been so bad, but for the fact that my father was in the hospital, and I really needed to get back to the US. 

Other than that, when you are traveling full-time, you are never really stuck. I was going to visit Tokelau, a small set of islands in the Pacific, but the boat going there was broken. I went to American Samoa and Tonga, came back to Samoa, and the boat was still broken, so I just left and never made it to Tokelau.

Nik Cap asks, “You may have answered this in some form or another; Visiting the Seven Wonders in the World are on my bucket list, but besides the Seven Wonders of the World, are there Seven little know or overlooked wonders that should also be be on the list?”

First, Nik, I assume you are talking about the New Seven Wonders, not the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, because there is only one of them still standing. 

The short answer is, yes, there are a whole bunch of places that are overlooked. A good place to start would be the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are currently over 1,100 natural and cultural sites. I’ve personally been to over 400. I’d say 9 out of 10 are worth visiting.

Not everything has to be an ancient ruin. There are some incredible sites which are part of the history of the Industrial Revolution. You can find many of these in Europe, especially in England. 

There are incredible Roman ruins that are almost never mentioned. You can find fantastic sites in Southern France, Jordan, Algeria, and Spain. 

There are some amazing national parks that almost no one visits. Nahaanni National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Torrengat Mountains National Park in northern Labrador are two of the greatest parks I’ve ever visited, and they both get fewer than 1,000 visitors a year.

Most people visit places because they know about it. That is why everyone visits the same few places…because they don’t know anything else. 

If you do just a little bit of research, you’ll find a plethora of great, underappreciated places almost anywhere you visit. 

Evan Byrne asks Two parter: 1) how are you doing?

Evan, I am doing well.

2) when do you plan on touring the global clubhouses of the completion club?

Not anytime soon. The schedule of researching, writing, and recording a daily podcast doesn’t leave much time for exploring the world. 

For the last three years, the production of the podcast has been a solo affair. Every aspect of every episode was done by me. I’m now in the starting stages of getting help, so maybe at some time in the future, I might have the ability to travel again. 

JimmyAK asks over on the Discord server,   When you take a vacation and line up 5 or 6 episodes to play while you’re away, do you need to still uploaded them each on the day they are scheduled to play?  Or do you get to upload all of them at once and set them to their day somehow.  I’m just wondering how “automated” your vacation actually is.  (Stay safe in PR!)

So long as they are already recorded, which my encore episodes are, it is easy to schedule everything in advance.

Recording and scheduling is the easiest part of what I do. The hard part is researching and writing. If I had everything written and ready to go, I could easily record and queue up weeks or months of shows. 

Derrin Brown asks What are your thoughts on the future of AI and its practical application to our lives. Especially through the context of historic technological innovation

There is obviously a potential for huge disruptions in certain fields. We are already seeing this with large language models that can produce well-written answers to questions. One of the best uses currently is in the area of customer support. If there is a set knowledge base of information, using AI is a quick and easy way to get answers from that knowledge base. 

However, there are still huge problems. People ask me if I’ve used AI in the creation of this podcast. The truth is, I’ve tried, but the results have not been very good. There are very serious factual errors I’ve found in almost every search I’ve done on ChatGPT. 

As of right now, it can create something that seems impressive, but it has no idea if it is right or wrong. It also doesn’t care if it is right or wrong. 

I’ve had people suggest I could use an AI-rendered voice of myself reading an AI-generated script. If I did that, it would be a horrible experience for everyone. 

So, right now, it seems to work better on a limited data set, not a generalized one. That is not a bad thing. One of the best applications I’ve seen for AI has to do with education. 

For centuries, it has been known that the best way to teach someone is via individual tutoring. The problem is that tutoring doesn’t scale very well. One tutor can, at best, serve only a few students, and even then, it is expensive. 

However, an AI tutor can provide custom teaching for every person. It can correct particular mistakes that a person makes to help them better understand. Khan Academy is already doing this online.

There is also potential in applications that involve analyzing large sets of data. This could be revolutionary for the diagnosis of diseases. 

It is hard to know exactly where AI will go because the term is so ambiguous. Everyone is excited about it right now, but I don’t think anything revolutionary has happened to justify the excitement. It is just that some tools have been made available to the public. Its become a buzzword that people are not using to generate interest in their products and inflate their value. 

Many of the fears people have about AI, I think, are unfounded because computers don’t have a will. They have no desire other than what they are programmed to do. 

Computers can do many remarkable things that mimic human intelligence, but ultimately, they are not the same as a human brain. Underneath, at least given how computers currently are, it is all still boolean logic. So, I’m not too worried about AI taking over the world. 

That’s all for this month. If you have a question you’d like to have me answer, just join the Facebook group or Discord server. The links to both of which you can find in the show notes.