Interview

Travel Blogger Interview – Round The World in 30 Days

Round The World in 30 DaysMeet Jenny McIver the founder and the author at Round The World in 30 Days blog sharing with us her travel experience around the globe. Her first RTW trip was love at first flight and quickly turned into an annual event once she realized that it wasn’t that hard to plan,it wasn’t as expensive as she thought it might be and it was unbelievably, life-alteringly, amazing!. You can follow her blog on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Jenny McIver. Atlanta-based road warrior, globetrotter and author of “The Grown-Up’s Guide to Globetrotting.” Ten years ago while on a business trip, I came across a newspaper article about a man who took a year-long trip around the world on a single airline ticket. I don’t know why but the idea just struck me like a ton of bricks. I’d never heard of “RTW” tickets but I started looking into them the next day and discovered that I had more than enough miles to book one through Delta’s Skyteam Alliance. I couldn’t take a year without sacrificing my career but I decided to do a month. Exactly one year later I departed on my first 30-day trip around the world and this year I’m planning my 10th for January 2015. To date, I’ve visited and written about more than 155 countries on all 7 continents.

What gave you the inspiration to start your blog?

I started blogging long before I actually realized that’s what it was called. With my first round-the-world trip in 2006, I used a site called MyTripJournal.com to keep an online journal of my travels, mainly just so I could share photos with family and friends, keep them updated on my location and have something to help me remember all the little details of the trip. (Remember, this was back before the whole world was on Facebook.) When I decided to do the trip again the following year, I again used the MyTripJournal site but by Round the World #3, I knew this was going to be an annual event so I decided it was time to transition to my own site. Thus, RTWin30days.com was born in 2008 and I’ve been blogging about my travels there ever since.

What is it about travel that has you so obsessed about it?

It’s funny, the more of the world I see, the more I want to see. You don’t realize just how big the world is until you get out there and start exploring it. And travel (especially round-the-world travel) has definitely become a passion for me. In 2009 I realized one 30-day trip a year just wasn’t enough anymore so I started a mid-year edition. Not a RTW, but a month-long trip focused on a certain region of the world. That summer was “Europe in 30 Days” I’ve also done Central America, the Himalayas and the Balkans in 30 days each on subsequent summers.

What have been your favorite places that you’ve visited so far?

My all-time favorite is Antarctica and I can’t imagine that any place will ever surpass it. It’s the closest you can get to visiting another planet and it was just a uniquely special and surreal experience. My other favorites are Easter Island and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. I also love the Maldives, Laos, the Greek Islands and just about everywhere in Thailand.

I noticed you mentioned travel isn’t expensive, how to you fund your travels?

My round-the-world trips are primarily funded by my business travel-accrued airline miles and hotel points. I use my Delta miles for a business-class RTW ticket each year and my accumulated hotel points cover about half of the hotel costs. That helps a lot. That said, you don’t need miles to do a RTW trip affordably. RTW tickets are an incredible value for anyone and I’ve seen them on sites like Airtreks.com and Bootsnall.com for as little as $2,000 (which is almost what I paid just for my coach flight to China last summer). Choosing inexpensive destinations is a great cost saver, too. In South America, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, your money will stretch a lot farther than at home. South Africa is a deal right now, too, thanks to the rand’s drop against the dollar. I was just there last month and I was shocked at how much cheaper it was than on my first visit in 2006.

What are the most effective ways you limit costs when traveling?

Miles and hotel points are the biggest thing. But I also spend a good amount of time figuring out the least expensive order to visit several countries in a region – where are the cheap direct flights? Or inexpensive train routes, for example. Each big trip is like putting together a puzzle. You have to find the least expensive way to make the pieces fit. I also love taking advantage of low-cost carriers around the world and have done dozens of flights for less than $50 in various countries. Buses and trains aren’t always the cheapest form of transportation!

Are there any budget travel strategies that you tried but decided weren’t for you?

Hostels aren’t for me. Budget airlines, yes. But hostels, no. I do love a nice bargain hotel, though. With budget airlines like Easy Jet and Air Asia, I always pay the extra money for early boarding and assigned seats when available. It makes me feel like I’m flying a full-service airline even when I’m on a super cheap fare.

What do you mean by “being on the road for business”?

I own an event management business and travel frequently to manage large conventions and trade shows. My primary client, however, is a major sports television network and I travel weekly for them during college football season. Overall, I travel for business more than half the year.

Do you take advantage of airline credit cards to save on flights? If so, which card do you use?

Absolutely! I’m an Atlanta-based frequent flier so Delta is my program. I have two Delta Skymiles American Express cards, one business and one personal. Those cards help me earn miles for my RTW tickets. I also carry the Chase Sapphire card and I’ve used their Ultimate Rewards program to book flights on airlines all over the world.

What places are still on your bucket list?

The Arctic to see the Northern Lights. Visiting all 50 US states (believe it or not, I’m still about 6 short). The Marquesas, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kenya…so many places! And there are dozens of places I can’t wait to return to someday.

Of all the places you traveled to, what was your favorite?

Antarctica, hands down. Mykonos, Greece is also a very special place to me, it was the first place I visited overseas and I loved it so much I’ve been back 7 times. I like to think it was that little island that first inspired my wanderlust.

Do you have any major travel regrets?

Not starting when I was younger! While some of my peers were taking gap years to travel, I was building a career. I didn’t get my first passport until I was 26 for that trip to Greece. I don’t necessarily regret the choice because it got me to where I am today but I think I would have loved backpacking around Europe as a 20-year-old. What an incredible learning experience it would have been.

Aside from traveling, what’s the best general advice you want to pass to people?

Don’t assume you’re going to have the time or money “someday” to travel. Travel NOW. You never know what will happen down the road. People always say they want to travel but most never really do. They take the traditional, single destination vacation each year and wonder why they’re not making any progress on their Bucket List. Change the way you think about travel. Take that two weeks and go around the world! It’s easier and more affordable than you think.

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Travel Blogger Interview – Two Bad Tourists

Two Bad TouristsDavid and Auston are Two Bad Tourists who like to travel “their way” and not the way you’re “supposed to.” They believe travel is more achievable and possible to do without spending a lot of money. You can follow their blog on Twitter, Facebook, Google plus or You Tube.

First of all tell us who you are…

Two Bad Tourists is a travel blog created in 2012 by David and Auston, two American’s who left the US to travel around the world. A former lab scientist and engineer, we now teach English and work freelance in Spain.

Why the name Two Bad Tourists?

Our style of travel is not typical of the average tourist. We prefer to travel slower and experience more by visiting less. We’re not bad travelers, per se, but we don’t really appreciate the hyper-sightseeing approach when visiting new places.

What motivated you to start to start your blog?

Our original motivation for our blog was to create a journal of our one year round-the-world trip so we could share our experience with close family and friends. We never had the intention to make our blog public or become (*cough, cough) “professional travel bloggers.” Now we continue blogging to inform and inspire others to travel. We love visiting new places and sharing our experience with our readers. Likewise, we enjoy discovering our own new home in Spain, so we can provide local tips like where to find gay friendly accommodation in Madrid or guides to the best gay nightlife in Madrid.

When was your first trip? Where did you go?

Our round-the-world trip started in May 2012, though we started the blog in February to share our story of planning our trip, selling our belonging, quitting our jobs and leaving our then home town of Chicago. Our first destination on our trip was Mexico City where we spent 2 weeks studying Spanish in an intensive course.

Have you ever experienced any challenges to blogging as duo, such as who’s turn it is to write?

Yes! We always joke that David is more creative but Auston works harder. We occasionally have different opinions on what to write or how we should engage with our readers, but in the end we always work it out. Luckily, we each have strengths in different areas of the blog and we tend to prefer working on the area in which we are best skilled.

You have mentioned it is possible to travel without spending a lot, what trick do you use to limit costs when traveling?

We save the most money on traveling by using airline miles to book flights. Our original round-the-world trip was booked solely with airlines miles that Auston had saved for more than 4 years. Along with miles saved from business travel, we also took advantage of airlines promotions and mileage earning credit cards. We also appreciate traveling in a more local way so luxury hotels or frequent taxi rides are rarely things we really go for. We usually take public transportation and often stay in hostels, budget hotels or even use couch surfing to stay with locals for free.

How do you fund your travels?

Our original round-the-world trip lasted for one year and ended in February of 2013. This trip was funded by 3+ years of savings. We consequently spent our entire life savings and moved to Spain with one-way tickets, no money and no jobs. One year later we are still living in Madrid. David teaches English part time and Auston works freelance as an engineer and travel writer.

For the budget travelers out there, what would be your top tip for saving money when traveling?

If you’re American, airline mileage earning credit cards is by far the best way to save on travel. Some programs even let you redeem miles for hotels or rental cars. Although some banks offer credit card offers in other countries, they tend not to be as lucrative. For those living in other countries, the best money saving tip is to explore alternative approaches to travel like house swapping, house sitting, couch surfing or car sharing. These programs are often very inexpensive or even free. Some people are hesitant to try these programs out of fear or misunderstanding, but they are all friendly and have trust and review systems to ensure everyone’s safety.

Do you take advantage of airline credit cards to save on flights? If so, which card do you use?

Yes, we’ve used various different airlines cards over the past couple years. The cards we are currently using are the Lufthansa Miles & More Card from Barclays and the Starwood American Express. We love the Starwood card because we can use it for hotel stays or transfer the points to almost any airline.

Any major travel regrets?

We don’t have any major travel regrets but we certainly would have done things differently if we could go back. Firstly, on our round the world trip we would have visited less countries and stayed for longer in each place. We quickly learned that traveling to a new city every 5 days can become exhausting and is not sustainable for an entire year. While we did scale back some during our trip, many of the flights were pre-booked so we didn’t always have as much flexibility as we wanted.

Any Advice to young travelers?

Don’t wait to start traveling! A lot of people will try to convince you that you should focus only on school or a career and they’re the most important. While it’s true that an education and a good job are important, you must realize that traveling when you’re young is often easier to undertake because you have less commitments and you can enjoy your time more than when you’re older.

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Travel Blogger Interview – Mile Value

Mile ValueScott Grimmer is the founder and author of Mile Value. He is a miles aficionado and avid traveler, born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He has earned and redeemed tens of millions of miles for himself and others. You can follow his blog on Twitter, Facebook or You Tube.

First of all tell everyone a basic background of who you are…

I’m a 26 year old full time miles blogger and award booker, living in Hawaii. I started Mile Value in March 2012 because other blogs at the time focused too little on redeeming frequent flyer miles.

Earning miles is easy, but useless, if you don’t know how to redeem them.

The blog shot to fame in 2012 when I discovered how to add Free Oneways to United and US Airways awards. My techniques have since been covered in the New York Times and Mashable.

What motivated you to start to start your blog?

I started the blog because I thought I knew more about redeeming airline miles than the people who were already blogging at the time. I really enjoy booking awards for myself and others, so I started an Award Booking Service at the same time. The MileValue Award Booking Service is now one of the largest in the world. We’ve redeemed tens of millions of miles for trips all over the world. We charge only $125 per passenger.

What advice do you have for someone looking to apply for an airline miles credit card?

Cathay Pacific First Class

Cathay Pacific First Class

Work backwards. Figure out where you want to go, when, and in what cabin. Then figure out the best miles for that trip based on who flies there, with what product, and with how much award space.

Then get the card(s) you need to get the miles for the trip.

If you don’t know where to start, I offer a Free Credit Card Consultation where I tell you–based on your travel goals, what cards and miles balances you already have, and how much you spend on cards–which cards to get.

With many airlines struggling financially, do you think that they will eventually scale back their rewards card offerings?

If so, we should take advantage of the awesome current values now.

If not, we should take advantage now and later.

I sure hope programs aren’t scaled back, but whether they are or not does not change my strategy of maximizing them in the present.

Do you feel that airline credit cards offer superior rewards compared to cash back or other rewards credit cards?

It depends on what your travel goals are. If you want to fly international first class, that costs $10,000+ or a little over 100,000 miles. In that case, you want a card that earns traditional airline miles.

But if you want a trip for your family to Disneyworld over your kids’ Spring Break, you’d be better off with a cash back card or the Arrival Plus to avoid having to hunt for award space and to get on the flights that best fit your schedule.

If you had to give one piece of advice for people looking to maximize their airline miles what would it be?

If you can’t find the redemption you want online at the Saver level, call a phone agent. If they can’t find what you want at the Saver level, hire an Award Booking Service. Do not book Standard or Peak price awards.

I understand you’ve traveled over 40+ countries, what have been your favorite places that you’ve visited so far?

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Peru is my favorite country. It has everything from the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, the Amazon Rainforest, a beautiful mega-city on the Pacific in Lima, the world’s deepest canyon, the world’s highest navegable lake with indigenous people who live on man-made reed islands, and even stunning beaches in the north. Here’s my Peru Top Ten.

Aside from traveling, what’s the best general advice you want to pass to people?

If you don’t like your job, quit.

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Travel Blogger Interview – Double Barreled Travel

Carmen and Dave are the founder and authors of Double Barreled Travel blog. They are two Aussies who moved to London together at the end of 2008, beginning an adventure with little expectations. You can follow their blog on Twitter, Facebook, Gmail or You Tube.

First of all give us a quick background of both of you….

I kissed Dave goodbye a week after we started dating and told him to have fun – he was off to travel the world for a year and I wasn’t about to stop him.

Dave and I met when I was 18 and he was 23 but we didn’t start dating until three years later. When this happened, I was a year out of university (where I studied journalism) and working at a local newspaper. He’d just finished a five year stint as a TV reporter, working for stations including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He left for his trip but returned six months early. We decided to move to London to live and three months later packed our bags, hugged our families goodbye and have been living outside of Australia ever since (this was in 2008). But we did return to Perth briefly to get married in 2012.

In London, Dave worked for Al Jazeera, Sky News and then the BBC as a Senior Broadcast Journalist. I worked for an online magazine, a finance magazine and then as a deputy editor for a number of B2B publications before becoming an account manager at a creative content agency.

But we were getting bored in our day jobs and felt we weren’t challenged enough. So we quit and began traveling the world full time. That was one year ago!

What inspired you to start a blog?

It was when we were living in London and Dave was working at the BBC and I was at the creative content agency. We had good jobs, people even told us so, but deep down we weren’t satisfied.

We often read the posts our friend Natasha published on Glampacker.com and when she told us about going to a blogging conference in Manchester, and how great it was, we decided to head to TBU in Porto.

When we were there, Dave and Deb from The Planet D spoke about how they used to work in Hollywood and even though they had jobs people admired, they weren’t satisfied. Their true passion was travelling and they felt as though they were missing out.

When they were speaking, Dave and I turned to each other and it was like we each had light bulbs going off above our heads. Without even saying a word, we both new we had to change our lives, because just like Dave and Deb we were living lives that we didn’t love.

Dave and Deb inspired us with their talk and seven months later we quit our day jobs for good to travel indefinitely.

Why name your blog after your Surname?

A lot of people don’t get the ‘Double-Barrelled’ aspect to our blog. Sometimes they think it’s something to do with shotguns!
We decided to call it Double-Barrelled Travel because when we got married we both double-barrelled our names, each taking the name of the other.
Because we started our blog shortly after we tied the knot, we thought it was fitting because it was all about the adventures we were undertaking as a couple.

What was your experience Carmen working as a shoe shiner?

These days I look back on that experience with a smile but at the time I can honestly say I hated it!

It was a necessity though – Dave and I arrived in London in 2008, in the beginning of the worldwide recession. As the plane landed, it was broadcast on the news that the BBC that day had laid off 800 people.

Dave’s goal was to work for the BBC so we were a little disheartened!

We really struggled to find work and to pay our rent Dave worked on a street corner selling The Sun newspaper and I became a shoe shiner.

I was put to work shining shoes in all the stockbroking firms and my boss was very paranoid that word would get out I was a journalist and they’d think I was working undercover to listen in on their banking conversations. I had to promise I wouldn’t report on anything I heard and I didn’t.

It was a very good introduction to the class system in the UK though and although I hated it at the time, I’m glad I did it because it made me appreciate where I am now in my career working for myself.

Sometime Dave jokes ‘I got on my knees for the bankers when times were tough’… I guess it helps to put a humorous spin on things.

I notice you have a company called Red Platypus. What’s that all about?

Red Platypus is our bread and butter. When we began travelling indefinitely a year ago, we had a vague idea that we’d start to work at some point and we officially launched Red Platypus to support our lifestyle around two months ago.

We’ve actually been super lucky and haven’t had to market ourselves for work as of yet. One of our main clients we met after staying in her house through Airbnb in San Francisco, and another main client is an old school friend of Dave’s.

Red Platypus focuses on social media marketing, copywriting, editing and video production for small businesses around the world. Basically we are helping small businesses, with all the skills we’ve learnt as journalists, to produce creative content that grabs attention.

If you had to give one piece of advice for couples looking to travel on a budget what would it be

Keep track of your budget! Most people want to travel cheaply but then run out of money sooner than they thought they would and are left thinking, ‘Where the hell did I spend it?’

Ever since I spent my first year away from home on a student exchange to Paris at the age of 15, I’ve been obsessive about tracking my expenses. I used to write everything down but these days I’ve thankfully got an iPhone to help.

I use the Trail Wallet app that allows you to track everything you spend and will let you know when you go over your budget.

Are there any budget travel lessons that you learned the hard way?

Try not to make rush decisions and if you need help with something you’re unsure about, don’t be afraid to ask.

These tips would’ve come in handy before buying our van in Canada at the beginning of our six month road trip around North America. We bought it in a rush and didn’t bother to get a mechanic to look over it.

As a result, the van broke down the next day and we ended up spending nearly $5,000 fixing it.

Which brings me to another tip – have money in reserve for emergencies like that!

(And also get travel insurance so you don’t have to worry about health emergencies.)

Of all the places you traveled to, what was your favorite?

Probably the island of Dominica in the Caribbean (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). It’s an absolutely beautiful place, full of waterfalls, jungle and interesting wildlife.

It’s hardly been touched by tourism so it’s a little hidden slice of paradise.

We lived there for two months at the end of last year and had the time of our lives.

What is one place that you regret going to?

We kind of regret going to Las Vegas. We weren’t really prepared because we didn’t have much money at the time, and ended up staying in the world’s seediest motel where we witnessed crack dealings in the car park.

We didn’t really enjoy the city either – everything is so fake and we couldn’t get why you’d want to take a photo of a fake Eiffel Tower when the real thing was so much better.

But we’re willing to give it another try – in a better ‘party’ frame of mind perhaps.

What places are still on your bucket list?

Antarctica! We’d love to cruise up there and see the wildlife. We’ve been to the other six continents so it’s only a matter of time…

Aside from traveling, what’s the best general advice you want to pass to people?

Stop living a life people expect you to live if it doesn’t make you happy. Think outside the box and don’t just take the safe and easy route – that’s boring.

There’s so much emphasis these days on buying a house and having a fancy car but sometimes it’s good to step back and evaluate if these are the things that really make you happy.

The longer we’re on the road, the more we realise material possessions just don’t mean much to us and it’s the experiences we’re having that are creating a feeling deep inside – and that’s something money can’t buy.

Live a remarkable life.

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Travel Blogger Interview – Happy Flier

Bob is the founder and the author of Happy Flier. He love to travel to distant locations, fly in the front of the airplane, and stay in the best hotels. Through creative use of mileage and mattress runs, He’s able to do this at greatly discounted rates. You can also follow Happy Flier Blog on
Twitter
.

First of all tell us the short version of your story.

I’ve always enjoyed traveling, but while I found trips to the Texas Gulf Coast to be affordable, trips to more exotic distant locations were not. Many years ago a friend sent me a link to sign up for Citi’s American AAdvantage MasterCard. Once we got that card my wife and I used it for all our purchases and, before too long, had enough miles for a trip to Hawaii. It may have been in coach, but it was still Hawaii. That was when I first learned the power of building up my miles and points.

A few years later we used Hilton points to spend 10 days at the Hilton Waikola on the Big Island, something we could not have paid for without the points. I was in the swimming pool and overheard two men talking about using miles to travel around the world and one said, “I look at FlyerTalk.com every day and have learned so much from it.” FlyerTalk.com? Never heard of it, but knew I had to check it out. I visited the site that night and that was my introduction to mileage runs, credit card churning, affinity programs, etc. Fabulous vacations were suddenly possible for me. In the past few years we have visited Ireland, Germany, Italy, Hawaii (several times), Hong Kong, Thailand, and Indonesia

What motivated you to start your blog?

I had never given it any thought, but every time I got home from a trip I sent a friend long emails about where I had gone, what I had done, etc. He suggested I start a blog – I said I had no idea what to write about. He replied, “Just write what you are putting in the emails to me!” And that is how Happy Flier began. I never realized where it would go, I even ended up on an episode of Nightline!

What advice do you have for someone looking to apply for an airline miles credit card?

The person needs to be able to answer the question “Why are you applying for this specific card as opposed to any other card?” If they can’t answer that question, they don’t need to be applying for the card. I no longer apply for cards so that I can charge items; I apply to get the specific benefits (usually airline miles or hotel points) that the card offers. Some cards are better than others, offering a larger bonus or greater flexibility. The two cards we use the most are the Starwood American Express and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

What are your views on the churn and burn tactic where people are mass-applying for credit cards to get the bonuses?

It’s appropriate that “churn and burn” contains the word “burn.” This tactic is like fire which does wonderful things for you like providing light, helping to heat your home, cooking your food etc. But if you abuse it, it can destroy your home and everything you own. This is not something that one should casually do.

Unless you have a high credit rating and are able to pay off all of your purchases at the end of the month, stay away from churn and burn. There are several blogs, such as The Frugal Travel Guy and Million Mile Secrets that offer great suggestions on how to do this the right way such as when you should apply, which cards to apply for, the benefits you will receive, and the affect it can have on your credit rating. If someone does their research, knows what they are doing, and use their cards responsibly, churn and burn can be a great tool.

With many airlines struggling financially, do you think that they will eventually scale back their rewards card offerings?

As the airlines reduce the number of flights, increase their passenger load per flight, benefit from a reduction in fuel costs, and start to use more fuel-efficient aircraft, the bottom lines have improved greatly. Delta Airlines had a net profit of $281 million for the 1st Qtr FY 2014. American Airlines earned over $400 million for the same period. So, the industry is looking much better than it did a few short years ago. The airlines are paid a huge sum of money for the miles they sell to the credit card companies, so they will continue to milk that cash cow as long as they can. The problem is fewer flights result in fewer award seats for the card holders, while the airlines are, at the same time; making it more challenging to earn status (United now includes revenue as part of its elite status requirements instead of just miles). This makes it more difficult for the customer to take advantage of their miles. It used to be easy to get an award seat, but that is no longer the case. See my article on what I went through to get award seats for an upcoming trip to Bali. People will still be able to get their reward card offerings, my concern is whether or not they will be able to use them.

Do you feel that airline credit cards offer superior rewards compared to cash back or other rewards credit cards?

That all depends on the individual and what kind of rewards they want. Some are happy with cash back, I prefer miles and points.

Do you have any tips regarding earning more airline miles?

I believe you need to have a target number of miles in mind and not be earning miles just for the sake of earning them. Some people earn them to acquire airline status; I earn them so that my wife and I can fly in the front of the plane to exotic locations that we would otherwise never visit. Once you have that target in mind it becomes easier to figure out what you need to do to reach it. Maybe you need a few mileage runs or an additional credit card bonus. With its many forums, Flyertalk.com offers many suggestions for people to earn those miles.

How does it feel to fly around the country without ever leaving the terminal?

I just look at it as part of the process and something I need to do to reach my target number of miles. I’ve made connections several times in New York and Boston and really wished that I had had enough time to go into town, but the schedules would not allow it. On the other hand, I have visited Seattle so many times and gone into town (A Mariners game, the Boeing plant) that if I have to sit at SeaTac for a few hours it’s not a problem for me. I already know which airport restaurant to visit for great seafood. I am Admirals Club member, so can relax at the Club if need be. I bring my iPhone and tablet so I always have a way to stay busy (reading books, listening to music, playing games, etc.). It’s just not a big deal to me.

I made a recent trip to Johannesburg, South Africa. I know people who flew all the way there, never left the airport, and flew back later that day. That’s a 22,000 mile trip without leaving the airport and that just didn’t make any sense to me, how many chances would I have to visit that area? So I scheduled it as an overnight trip, giving us enough time to relax, see the area, and take advantage of being in an area that is so different from where I live in Central Texas. I am very glad we did that!. On the next trip we had a long enough layover in London that we were able to go into town

Of all the places you traveled to, what was your favorite?

That’s easy, Bali, Indonesia. We went there two years ago, and will go back for a few weeks later this year. We liked it so much that we actually talked about moving there permanently once I retire. It’s a beautiful area, the dollar is strong against the Rupiah, we never faced a language barrier, and appreciated the less-hectic lifestyle. My only suggestions for visitors from North America are;

  • DON’T drink the water (I learned that the hard way after I drank a Coke with ice cubes in it) and
  • DON’Tt even think of driving a car there, get a cab.

Do you have any major travel regrets?

I wish I had started collecting miles years earlier. Years ago I made several trips to Germany for work and never bothered to join the airline frequent flyer club. Dumb on my part. I also worked in retail for many years and remember people paying for their purchase with an airline credit card and bragging about the miles they were earning – I wish I had listened to them.

Aside from traveling, what’s the best general advice you want to pass to people?

YOLO! You Only Live Once! Make the most of it. Today will never come again, life offers so many opportunities. Travel. Go back to school. Volunteer to help a charity. Learn to cook Italian food the right way. Open your life to the many opportunities around you; you’ll be glad you did.

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Travel Blogger Interview – MonkBoughtLunch

Stephen is the authors of Budget Travel and Photography blogs MonkBoughtLunch and Stephen Lioy. He quieted teaching job to travel the world. He have been all over Asia, North America, Europe, and the Middle East. You can follow Stephen on twitter, facebook or Google plus.

Tell our readers a little bit about who you are….

I’m a traveler, photographer, budget travel blogger, an several other –er’s who has been on the road for about six years exploring the world under various different titles. I graduated college in the US in 2008, moved to China for a one-year stint to teach English as a Second Language, and from there went down a path that hasn’t ended yet.

What led to quitting your job to travel full time?

I never really had a ‘proper job’ in the US before leaving. My first job out of school was as an ESL teacher in Shenzhen (China), and the schedule allowed for lots of opportunities to travel through China and Southeast Asia. At some point, intending to go to law school back in the US, I decided to opt out of the job and focus on travel for a while. Law school never quite happened, but the travel is an ongoing thing!

What is it about Asia that has kept it the primary focus of your travels?

The vastness, the diversity and the color. As a photographer, there is just so much beauty spread across Asia that I think I could travel here for the rest of my life and never see more than a few small corners of it. As a budget traveler, I love that it isn’t hard to travel fairly comfortably without spending a ton of money.

What is your favorite place that you’ve traveled to?

Kyrgyzstan keeps drawing me back in, to the point that I’ve actually started looking for a part-time job in the capital city (Bishkek) in order to sort out a residence permit and stick around for a while. The mountains are amazing for hiking and camping, the people are incredibly friendly, and the cultural is sufficiently ‘exotic’ to me that it never gets boring. Uzbekistan is also great for travelers, though I’m not certain I would want to settle there for any length of time.

Are there any places that you regret visiting?

I’m hesitant to say there are places I ‘regret’ but there are certainly places I’m not in a hurry to get back to. One of my least favorite experiences ever has been Azerbaijan, but then I’ve also talked to other travelers that passed through there and really loved it. The thing is, these things are very personal and very context dependent – so even if somebody tells you a place is horrible make sure to give it your own consideration!

What places are still on your bucket list?

So many! Bhutan, India, and Bangladesh are very appealing to me as well as perhaps North Korea. Russia interests me a lot, as does Iran. I’ve also never made it to South America at all and have only been to Egypt in Africa. So, there are a lot of roads left to walk down. If the situation remains calm there after the ISF leaves, I’d really like to check out the Afghan side of the Wakhan Corridor in the next year or two to compare it to life on the Tajikistan side of the border.

I noticed you mention budget travel on your about page. What are the most effective ways you limit costs when traveling?

More than any specific secret, I think the best strategy is just to be conscious of where your money goes. I’m pretty good about tracking my travel expenses while I’m on the road, which helps me keep an eye on how much I’m spending. It can be easy to spend $3 and $5 there, and all of a sudden you’re spending $200 a day in a place that could easily be enjoyed for $50. The other best tip is what you guys talk about a lot on Airline Miles Experts: learn how to get the most value out of Points and Miles programs, and then exploit those as much as possible.

Are there any budget travel strategies that you tried but decided weren’t for you?

You know, I really love Couchsurfing as an experiential thing but as a budget travel strategy I usually don’t enjoy it. If I try to surf because I don’t want to spend the money for accommodation, it seems to negatively impact me experience in a place and my interactions with my host.

What’s your experience with airline miles credit cards?

Quite a bit over the last few years. I’ve earned and burned quite a lot of Continential/United; as well as some small interactions with AA, Delta, and Alaska. I currently hold cards with Alaska and US Airways, as well as the gold standard Sapphire Preferred. I think that with responsible management of spending and a solid strategy on how to spend the points Airline and Hotel cards can be an amazing way to travel for cheap or free – these two things are normally your biggest set costs after all!

What’s the best travel advice you’ve ever received?

Slow down, pack less, listen more. Solid advice, whether for travel or life.

What led you to start your blog?

Originally I had a page that I would update occasionally to keep family up to date on life in China while I was teaching there. Once I decided to leave there and travel full time, it seemed worthwhile to create my own page (MonkBoughtLunch) to have more control over the layout and management. It sort of progressed from there to become what it is today, though I’m hoping to spend some time updating the design over the next few months to make it a bit more enjoyable to interact with. So, check back in over the next few weeks and see if you like the changes!

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