OffAtEveryThing recently got the chance to interview one great travel blogger Ric. He has an interesting story on how he started falling in love for traveling.
Read the complete interview here.
Let us start with your formal introduction Ric and your interesting story on how you developed an interest for Traveling?
I was laid off from my job in the investment industry, back in 2008, after the big stock market crash and depression. I decided to take a round the world trip for 11 months in 2009. I had such an amazing time that I decided that I wanted to make my life more about travel. After that trip, I started my own business which allowed me more flexibility to explore the world.
How often do you travel?
I am from the US, but I am spending about 9-10 months overseas each year. I spend nearly 6 months a year in BKK, a couple of months in the US, and the rest of time, exploring the world.
Whats your travel style?
It really runs the gamut. Sometimes, it is a $20 hotel somewhere in Western Africa, and other times I am in an over-the-water villa in the Maldives. Each one has its own charm. But at the end of the day, it is always a lot more comfortable and relaxing in a 5 star resort.
What is that triggers you to travel to an entirely new destination?
I am traveling to every country in the world. The UN says there are 193 countries. At this time I have ben to 115 countries. So a catalyst to my travel many times is to explore a new country to get closer to my goal of visiting every country in the world. While I do love exploring new countries, there are so many places I have already been to that I enjoy revisiting. So every year is a mix of new countries and visiting some of my favorites. In 2017, I will end up visiting 13 new countries and 12 repeats.
What you like the most about traveling?
I love seeing amazing things (who doesn’t!). I just went on a South American trip and explored some an incredible places. I went to both Machu Picchu and Easter Island (both long on my bucket list). Both of these ancient monuments are just spectacular. I also went to visit Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uniyi, both beautiful natural environments. And the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is just beautiful.
I also love just walking around, taking photos and getting lost in a city. Leaving my hotel in the morning in Delhi or Beijing, and just start walking, and coming back in the evening. It is a great way to meet locals and find the hidden corners of the city.
What you dislike the most about traveling?
Most of the time I am flying in economy and when you are taking a 14-hour flight that is not too enjoyable. But is always worth the sacrifice to explore a new and awesome destination. And the airlines are arguably one of the worst service industries. So if there is ever an issue, it is typically your problem to solve.
How do you plan your destinations?
I start of looking at flights and transportation options on http://www.flightconnections.com/, Rome2Rio, and Google Maps. For booking flights, I look at Skyscanner and Kayak. I do reading and research on WikiTravel, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor Forum, and many other sites. I book my hotels on Agoda and booking.com, and Look for things to do on TripAdvisor and other blogs from fellow travelers, such as Dave’s Travel Corner.
What are the 3 destinations you loved the most?
Yerevan. I have been every year since 2003. Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is a compact and cosmopolitan city. It has a great café scene, fantastic museums, and a long, rich history. In addition to that, Yerevan is very affordable.
Thailand. I have spent a lot of time here, spending months at a time in Bangkok and exploring many other areas in this Southeast Asian must-visit. Up north, you have towns like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, where you can trek, visit ethnic tribe, and visit ancient temples. Bangkok, the capital, is an amazing, thriving city. It is a mix of great restaurants, magnificent temples, and the lively river that courses through the city. And of course, everyone loves the islands. You can find amazing beaches and snorkeling in Koh Samui and Phuket, or check out smaller islands like Surin Islands.
Bolivia. A new country I visited in 2017. Lake Titicaca, the highest elevation lake in the world. Pure beauty. I spent a night on Isla de Sol in the lake. Very peaceful and mountainous with a perfect view of the lake. The only way to get around the island is walking. La Paz, the capital, is a gritty but very interesting city. Definitely, worth visiting for a couple of days. Salar de Uyuni is a must-visit. I took a three-day drive in this magnificent area. A mix of pure-white salt lakes, stunning flamingoes, and mountainous landscape.
What were 3 destinations opposite to your expectations?
I will pick a trio of middles eastern countries that surprised me.
Iraq. My 100th country was Erbil, Iraq. I was met with warm hospitality as I roamed the city. I spent a lot of time at the souk, sipping sweet tea. I was befriended by a local, who hosted me for lunch, introduced me to his friends, and sipped sweet tea. Erbil is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
Syria. I visited Syria back in 2009, prior to the awful civil war of today. But even then, Syria has a less than stellar reputation. Syria was an incredible surprise on the upside. I spent most of my time in Damascus and Aleppo, and I just loved it. Rich history, hospitable people, and great food.
Yemen. Again, I visited Sana’a, the capital, in 2009 prior to the Arab Spring. I have never seen a city like Sana’s before. The old city was amazing, with mud-brick skyscrapers. My short trip was incredible and interesting.
Which 3 dishes from around the world made you fell in love with food?
I am somewhat of a picky eater and not really a foodie. But there are some countries and regions where I am very happy to delve into the local cuisine, whether it is street food or a restaurant. Three places where I love to eat are India, Italy, and the Middle East. I can never eat enough hummus.
How do you manage to get perks/upgrades/etc based on your traveling lifestyle?
There are two ways I am able to enjoy travel while saving money.
The first is playing the credit card game. Typically twice a year, I will open several credit cards to receive the sign-up bonus. I am then able to take these points and convert them into free hotel or airplane flights. I recently just turned in some credit card points into a $3,500 airplane ticket to the South Pacific.
Second, as a travel blogger, I sometimes work with brands. The brand will provide me with complimentary services and in return, I will provide support via my blog and social media. So during my recent trip to South America, I worked with several hotels, Inca Rail (train ride to Machu Picchu) and Red Cap walking tours in Bolivia.
How do you finance and manage your trips?
As I mentioned above, I sometimes am able to earn free trips with credit cards. Other times, I am partnering with local brands while traveling. All other travels are financed by myself. I started my own business after I got laid off from the corporate world. This allows me a lot of flexibility, as long as I have the internet, I am able to travel.
How do you save money while traveling? Can you share any 3 tips?
A couple of tips to save money when traveling. The first way to save money is making sure you choose the correct credit and ATM cards. When using a credit card overseas make sure your card does not charge foreign transaction fees which can be an additional 3% of your charge. For ATM cards, make sure you have a card that reimburses you for any ATM fees like Fidelity or Charles Schwab. It is not uncommon to be charged $5 for every withdrawal at an ATM overseas.
As I mentioned before, you can travel hack, by opening credit cards, earning points and bonuses. You can use these points for free travel.
A great way to get an introduction to a city is a walking tour. It is one of the first things I try to do when I visit a new town. Many cities now offer free walking tours (but give a good tip when you have a great guide). I have met some great people on the tours and learned so much.
How do you manage when interacting with people without speaking their language?
This can sometimes be either a funny story or frustrating experience. I have been relying on Google Translate while traveling to help me communicate with the locals. Otherwise, it is drawing pictures or body language. Whatever it takes!
Any worst incident while traveling which you will never forget?
One of my most memorable travel experiences was when I traveled overland from Kathmandu, Nepal to Lhasa, Tibet. I spent 5 days locked in a motel on the border in China, under the suspicion of having H1N1. It was a very memorable 5 days to say the least, and made 23 new friends (the people who were locked up with me).
Any ending note for travel lovers?
Don’t make any excuses, just book a trip and get out there. Also, a really great way to interact with the locals and to really get to know the culture and the country. I have volunteered at orphanages and schools on three different continents. It is a great way to give back and to get so much more in return.
With this, the interview came to an end.