Reader Mail: Answering Your Questions!


answering your mail
It’s been a long, long time since I did a reader Q&A on this site and, after being inspired by a post on Wait but Why?, I decided it was time to do another reader mailbag! So, I sent out a call on my newsletter for questions, and got a few hundred! Some of them were personal questions I answered over email, some require long posts that I’ll write, I saved some for a part 2, and some are here now!

I thought this would be fun and questions range from travel to politics to science to the zany!

So let’s get to it: (Note: some people asked the same questions, so I lumped their names together!!)

“What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?” – Kimberly

I don’t eat ice cream anymore (I know. I’m crazy.) but, when I did, I used to love mint chocolate chip and eat it like it was my job! That stuff is DELICIOUS! Also, Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup. MMMM. I hear they don’t make that anymore, which is sad.

“How do I get out and travel? I’m a poor college student with loans and slightly crazy parents, and it sort of seems impossible to just get up and go. Where did you find the motivation to travel?” – Chelsea

I would probably get a job overseas as a way to earn money and fund your travels when you are done with college. There are a ton of jobs you can get that will help you pay off school and save for traveling! I wrote this post on Thought Catalog about working overseas that can help. It lists all the jobs you could do as a traveler that can fund your travels!

And some of these interviews might help too:

  • How Emily Taught English to Fund Her RTW Adventure
  • How Arielle Found a Job Working on a Yacht
  • What’s It Like to Actually Work on a Cruise Ship?
  • How Jessica and Her Boyfriend Worked Their Way Around the World

“What are your views on Lost?” – Michael

It was a great show in the beginning but got really bad and convoluted in the end. I mean if the entire show was really about Jacob and the Smoke Guy, why not explain more about them and the history of the island? And, moreover, if Jack and Co.’s time on the island was so important, what was that purgatory they were all in all about in the last season? It made no sense. The show runners left too many loose ends and unexplained plots. I’m sad I wasted all that time watching that story unfold. It just got worse and worse. If I knew it was going to end so poorly, I would have never started in the beginning.

That’s also my feelings on How I Met Your Mother!

“Do you have any experience with Couchsurfing? We are a UK family and we have come up short on couchsurfing offers. Is it because we are a couple traveling with a 10-year-old?” – Dean and Irine

Couchsurfing is a community and you can’t use it as a place to just get a free night to stay. You have to offer something and show interest in getting to know the hosts. And yes, there are a lot of families on Couchsurfing. While the predominate people on the site are solo travelers looking to host only one or two other travelers, I’ve seen and heard from a lot of families who use the website. You can also check out Servas and Hospitality Club, which tend to be more family-oriented!

This new blog post on Couchsurfing might help you too!

“Has your circadian rhythm been affected over the years by traveling to so many different places in different time zones?” – Amanda

I’m not a great sleeper to begin with but, after years of traveling, I don’t get really bad jetlag as I try to get on the time zone I am traveling to the day before my flight. If I’m traveling halfway around the world, I will shift myself closer to that time zone in my sleep pattern (going to bed earlier/later) and on the flight I usually take a sleeping pill to sync myself up with the destination’s time zone. Sleeping pills help a lot!

“How in the world has our country gotten to the place where Donald Trump is a frontrunner for President!” – Linda and Carrie

Well, here is what I think:

First, the Republican Party has stoked nativism for about twenty years as a way to divert attention away from real pocketbook issues and improving our infrastructure. “You didn’t lose your job because you’re bad at it, you lost it because of immigrants.” or “Obama is coming for your guns!” A great book on the subject is What’s The Matter With Kansas?

Second, the U.S. in general has done a really poor job of transitioning to the current global economy we have. The irony of all this anti-trade, immigration rhetoric is that it was the United States after World War 2 that championed a more economically-open and connected world. In the end, as other countries rose, we didn’t adjust to that reality or do much about it to keep our edge. Factory jobs went overseas, purchasing power went down, and job skills became obsolete. The U.S. didn’t do much to help to readjust workers to the new system, train them for new jobs, or simply provide for them in ways that help them become economically secure… because honestly, some jobs are just gone and never coming back. Whereas people had pensions before, now they are left to fend for themselves. How many people are going to hire 65-year-old factory workers with high school educations? Hardly any!

Plus, during this time, education and health care costs have risen and we’ve retreated from the world – our education system has been cut, and we don’t focus on world studies or travel, and most of the news about the world is negative.

All that combined has become a powerful cocktail that allows a Trump to sneak in. It gives the afraid, the racists, the bigots, the nativists a chance to finally come out of the shadows. There is a wide section of the population who feels so left out by the system that they would just burn it down and see what happens. Just look at Brexit. A lot of people felt so left out in the cold they wanted anything because to them nothing could be worse.

And it’s that kind of feeling that lets a Donald Trump come to power. The system created him by ignoring the basic needs of so many people and trying to divert their attention for so long.

“Any tips for settling back in after being away for 6 months in Asia and coming home and feeling super depressed?” – Rachel

Ahh yes. We’ve all been there. Coming home is often harder than going away. I fully believe in post-trip depression. I’ve written a lot about the subject on my website and you can find the articles here:

  • Post-Trip Depression: It’s Often Emotionally Harder to Come Home Than Go Away
  • The Culture Shock of Coming Home

“The biggest thing holding me back is the anxiety of what happens when I return to the United States. Do you have any friends in their mid-30’s who have put their successful careers ‘on-hold’?” – Todd

I dealt with this by remembering that I’m are going to work until I die. The old idea of retirement doesn’t hold a candle anymore unless you get really rich! There’s no pensions. Moreover, why save the worst years for doing the best stuff? You can always find some job when you get back and more employers want employees who have lived life and experienced the world. I used to worry about this but the more I see employers looking for experience and the more common a career break becomes, the less I think this matters.

Go have fun. Don’t let some future “what if” keep you from living your dreams. You might find a new passion or career. Gary Vaynerchuk, the media mogul, always says his best motivation is remember he’s going to die. You’re going to die one day too, so take all the chances and opportunities you have. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to even think about quitting their job. You are. Do it! Go have fun!

“I live in the UK and with the debate currently raging about whether the country should leave the EU or not, my question is this. Would you rather have a head the size of a golf ball or feet the size of canoes – and what are your reasons?” – Richard

I’m going to go with option C and say neither. I don’t want to shrink my brain and having feet that big would make it really hard to find shoes that fit. Plus, with feet that big, I’d never be able to sit on a plane comfortably!

“I am currently debating whether to travel before I go to university. Do you think it’s worth waiting until I’ve established myself more, or to go now? I’ve never been overseas before, and would be traveling by myself if I were to go.” – India

This is a question I get often from young travelers – do I put off school or wait to travel? I think education is more important than ever and you should never, ever, ever, stop educating yourself. That being said, with university costing so much money, why waste money and time if you aren’t sure of what you are going to do yet? If you have an idea of what you want to study, have a scholarship, or just want some more time “growing up,” I say go to school. You can always travel later. Don’t waste a chance to get educated. And, if you don’t like it, you can always go back. But if you have no idea what you want, maybe delay a year and go work or travel. Don’t waste money on school when you don’t know what you are there for. I wrote about this subject in detail here.

“If you could have one superpower for a day, what would that be and why?” – Franco

I would like the power to teleport anywhere in the world. I’d visit a lot of out of the way places in that short period of time! I suspect this was a pretty obvious answer!

“How do you publish your books? I am thinking of all the practical stuff, when you (almost) have your manuscript for a (travel) book ready. Do you send the manuscript to a company or how does it work, when you want a book ‘out there?’” – Michael

The book publishing process was a bit different for me. I had a publisher come directly to me with an offer for How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. I didn’t have to pitch it elsewhere. Once we worked out the contract details, I submitted the draft about 6 months later and then it went through two rounds of edits before being sent off to printing.

For my upcoming second book (a travel memoir), the process will be a bit different. Since I don’t already have an offer, I’ll need to write a book proposal outlining what the book is about and my plans to promote it. I’ll submit that to my current publisher as they have the first rights to it and, then based on that, I can either accept or take the offer to other publishers to see what their offer could be. After I accept an offer (if I get one), then the writing process is the same.

“Are you happy? What do you think about happiness?” – Assunta

Happiness is a state of mind. I’m pretty happy with my life. I have no real complaints and have it pretty easy. Is it perfect? No, but what life is ever perfect and what really is perfect anyways? I don’t want perfection. I want every day to be better than the last!

“If you could time travel to any time and place on earth, when & where would you go? And why? Top 3 choices.” – Sarah, Rod, and Laneen

The first one would be 1920s Paris so I could live out all my Jazz Age dreams with Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, and all the other amazing artists of the day. The second era would be Colonial America because I studied that time period in school and would be really interested to see what was really going through people’s minds about independence then! Lastly, I would probably time travel to ancient Rome. The Romans were far more technologically advanced than we give them credit for and I would love to explore the ancient streets of Rome.

“I’ve want to travel more but I am afraid to travel alone or only with female friends. I don’t want to be paranoid but you always hear in the news women being raped, backpackers getting beat up, or killed. Any tips on which destinations are good for backpacking beginners?” – Zoé

I can only offer limited advice, as I’m not a woman, but fortunately, Kristin Addis writes a regular column here about female travel and even wrote a book called Conquering Mountains, which is about getting over the fears and misconceptions about traveling solo as a woman.

To the larger issue of travelers being in danger, I don’t think travelers are in any greater danger than their home country (unless maybe you live in Iceland or Japan where crime is a rarity). That’s not to say bad stuff doesn’t happen for no reason, but it’s not as common as the news makes it out to be and there is usually more to the story.

“Do you subscribe to the idea that we should make decisions based off our emotions? Or, do you think we should ignore our emotions, and be rational? Or is it even possible to do one without the other?” – Adam

Deep. I think it’s complicated and intertwined. You can’t escape your emotions no matter how rational you think your decision is. If people only made decisions based on reason, the world would be a lot different but humans are an emotional and irrational bunch. Our emotions always guide our decisions no matter what. In the end, I think you should do what makes you happy and brings you the most joy in life (as long as you don’t hurt anyone else).

“For a man who has traveled the world, why did you decide to settle in Austin, Texas? If I remember correctly, you are originally an American, so why would you after all that traveling decide to stay in your home country?” – Robert, Lisa and Najwa

I moved to Austin for a couple of reasons: I opened a hostel with a friend and I wanted to get more involved in that; I have a number of business contacts here; I have a number of friends here; and I was looking to get out of NYC for a little and move to a smaller, quieter place where I could work, sleep, and develop more positive habits.

At this point in my life, I’m excited to spend more time at home with friends and family and not looking to restart a new life in another country right now. I just want to relax. I wrote more about my move here.

“I am starting a blog. Since you are one of my favorite bloggers, I want to get your opinion: some people say go niche while others say blog about lifestye. Do you have an opinion or advice on this topic?” – Barbara

It depends on what your long term goals are – hobby? Profession? Side income? The more narrow a blog can be, the easier time it will have being heard above the noise. That being said, there are a lot of personality-driven lifestyle blogs. There’s no right or wrong way to blog – you just need to find the style that best suits your needs.

Start a blog and blog about whatever you want and figure it out along the way!

You can read more of my advice in this post.

“My question is regarding how I handle insurance. I’m confused about how to manage the United States mandatory health insurance laws while I’m attempting to travel long-term.” – Joseph

This is a common question. You need to have US health insurance if you are in the States for 330 days in a calendar year. I don’t know how long your trip is but I would say if you are going for a year or so, not to worry about until you come back.

“What’s your biggest fear right now? How has it changed from before you started blogging full-time?” – Ethan

My biggest fear is of dying in a plane crash. I’m terrified of flying. The idea of falling for 20 seconds scares me to death. Other than that, I’m also afraid of snakes.

“What are some difficulties you have faced or seen related to love and relationships while on the road?” – Nati

Being on the road long-term can make relationships difficult. I know lots of people who find love on the road. You meet people all the time and it’s very easy to fall in love but eventually someone has to go home (unless you are both digital nomads and can travel forever) so someone else has to make the decision to follow or not. That’s not an easy decision to make. It happens though. I just haven’t found it yet.

“I’ll be making a trip to Amsterdam this November. I was wondering if you have any must-see places in Amsterdam and possibly Brussels too.” – Brian

All my tips for both places can be found in my (free) destination guides. Here‘s the one for Amsterdam and here‘s the one for Brussels.

“How do you deal with language barriers when you don’t have technology and things like Google translate on your phone?” – Laneen and Carrie

Pantomime. Seriously. While basic English is pretty much understood in most places tourists go, when you are really pressed for luck, pantomime. I had a friend cluck like a chicken in Laos and I went “choo choo” in Ukraine to get the taxi to go to the train station. People want to help. You just have to let them. I’m lucky in that I speak English as a first language but even if you don’t, remember that most human interaction is nonverbal so work on using gestures and symbols to get your point across!

“Why is it rude in some places to switch the fork + knife between hands after you cut your food?” – Jordan

I have no idea. I didn’t even know this was a thing. If anyone knows, please share in the comments!

****That’s it for round one! I’ll have the second batch of questions I got posted in a few weeks! Feel free to leave any in the comments too! Always happy to answer questions!

P.S. – In case you missed it, if you are looking to get into travel video, I just launched a new course with two big travel YouTubers! You can learn how to make amazing videos by clicking here!

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