Today’s Ordinary Traveler is my old friend Joe.
1. What makes you want to travel?
I’ve always gotten bored easily, and traveling creates an opportunity to break up the monotony of day-to-day life. I also find that it puts my life into perspective. When I see how others live, it makes me thankful for what I have.
2. How do you afford to travel?
A lot of my travel is for business, and I actually seek out jobs that include at least 25% travel, preferably international, so that I don’t have to sit in an office everyday. When I travel privately, I usually purchase airfare with points. For a few years, my wife and I were running a company and paying the freelancers with PayPal using our travel credit cards. During this period, we’d earn up to 100,000 points every month!
3. Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group?
I prefer to travel to the destination alone, and then to meet up with people when I’m there. As an experienced traveler, I’m incredibly efficient moving through the transportation hubs. I have a Clear membership, I’m a trusted traveler so I always have TSA Pre-check, and I have memberships at most Airline lounges. When I travel with others, they rarely have those benefits, so I have to slow down.
4. What is the most memorable experience you’ve had and why?
Easily the most memorable experience was my very first trip to Europe in 1996 while still in college. I went to dinner with some expatriated Americans at a local pizzeria in Hanau, Germany. Not only was I shocked to discover the seemingly crazy things Germans put on their pizza, but I’ll never forget when the waitress leaned over me to set the giant beers on the table, and her hairy, sweaty armpit was right in my face. Talk about a culture shock!
5. What has been your favorite destination and why?
Southern Thailand has been my favorite, and I’ve been there at least ten times. Not only is the weather and landscape beautiful, but it is incredibly cheap to charter a sailboat there. I have chartered sailboats in Phuket many times for a week or more, including my honeymoon. It was amazing to sail around the hundreds of islands in the Andaman Sea, and to set an anchor at any one of them and swim to shore for a campfire or to visit a local village.
6. Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year?
I think I could live in Singapore for a year. It’s a beautiful city with an incredibly modern infrastructure and a ton of activities for my family. They’ve got amusement parks, sailing, good restaurants, and a vibrant business community.
7. What’s the one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir?
I never take souvenirs home, except maybe a few photographs. I travel light, often with only a carry-on or a backpack. I don’t bring anything that I can buy cheaply when I arrive, and I often discard anything I don’t need before I head back. For me, travel is all about creating memories, and those don’t take up any space at all.
8. What’s the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced?
The young ladies who work in retail or at the local restaurants in various southeast Asian cities – including Manila, Vietnam and Bangkok – often will take a break and walk to a nearby street vendor where they will buy a handful of bugs and eat them. I know bugs are healthy, and certainly an inexpensive source of protein, but, um, no.
9. What do you always pack?
I have a small red bag in which I place every sort of dongle, power cord, and adapter that I could possibly need. I have a worldwide GSM quad-band phone, and a Kindle Fire HD for movies and books (battery lasts forever on those). I generally use a small Tumi messenger bag to keep it all in, and that can last me for trips that are sometimes over 35 hours on planes and layovers!
10. What’s the best travel advice you’ve learned?
If you have to leave a city in the morning, make sure you pick a hotel on the side of the city that doesn’t require you to drive through the city to depart. Cities, especially in Asia, are a traffic nightmare. If you have to wake up and fight traffic to get where you’re going, it’s best to pick a hotel in the right direction, rather than passing through the city at the worst time and encountering unpredictable delays. Drive through cities late at night!
11. Where are you going on your next trip?
My next trip will be to Jakarta, Indonesia, and then out into the remote provinces. It’ll be a work trip, but I’ll do my best to carve out a few days to enjoy the local culture!