Travel Blogger Interview – MonkBoughtLunch

Posted by on Jun 19, 2014 in Interview | 0 comments

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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