Travel Warriors – Providing you with the tips and tricks to a triumphant, travel-filled career…
The Travel Warriors series profiles those super-humans who not only survive a life in constant motion, but thrive as well. Whether they travel due to work or play, these warriors have it down and are here to tell just how they do it.
When we decided to launch this series, it was immediately apparent who should kick things off. Mike and Jürgen, from the U.S. and Germany respectively, have now been moving around the globe every three months for the past 2 years, almost non-stop. Dedicated to their love of travel, they decided to make a life of it, deep diving into a new culture every 90 days. So far, they have been to cities within Spain, the U.S., Argentina, Bolivia, Italy, South Korea and Sri Lanka. They are currently residing in Boise, Idaho for a wild west 91 day adventure. Luckily for you, they compile their myriad of information from each destination into handy E-Books. These well reviewed guides are entertaining, very detailed and have beautiful pictures of each destination. They recently agreed to take time out of their jam packed zip-lining, river rafting, haunted town touring, schedule in Idaho to answer a few questions on just how they do what they do.
1) You two had a whirlwind of an experience in the 3 months you decided to travel across Bolivia. How difficult was it to organize that adventure and do you have any advice for others planning this type of travel?
We organized this trip by reading through a guide book (Rough Guide), looking at a map and planning out a rough (and flexible) itinerary for what interested us. We asked Bolivians we met for advice and tips, but the best source of information was other travelers we met along the way. It was easy to find people who had just done something that we were interested in doing, and almost everyone was very forthcoming with honest advice; either recommending something or steering us away from it. So our advice would be to go prepared, but open to change — and definitely talk to as many locals and travelers as you can.
2) By now, you should have the packing thing down. How many bags do you travel with and how have you adjusted to living off of only what you can carry?
We’ve been doing this for a couple years now, eight separate moves, and have been reducing the amount we carry every single time. Currently, we’ve each got a big suitcase and our (normal sized) backpacks. We share a duffel bag for random stuff like cables and books, but that’s it! When we started (in Oviedo) we probably had twice the amount. We’re both t-shirt & jeans kind of guys, so it hasn’t been a huge adjustment. And the lack of “stuff” has actually been pretty liberating.
3) What types of souvenirs do you collect from each country?
We generally choose one big souvenir from each place we visit, and usually it’s something artistic and decorative — a wooden plaque from the Embekke Devale in Sri Lanka, for instance, or a Trincaria from Sicily. And we almost always buy local, traditional music.
4) Since the blog takes such a large part of your time, how do you keep your enthusiasm for travel? Does the blog ever make travel feel like work, and how do you combat that?
This really is one of the biggest battles we face — we started this project only because we love traveling so much; it’s always been our favorite pastime. But by writing the blog, it’s almost turned into a job. Some days, we start to feel like we’re doing an activity because we “have to” rather than because we “want to”. And as soon as we recognize that, we generally take a couple days off. That’s one of the benefits of staying in one place for three months; we can maintain a slow, sustainable pace.
5) What unique niche do traveler bloggers fill within the travel industry?
I think there’s a definite need out there for individual voices who can give an honest, unvarnished account of traveling. Travel magazines and websites are great for ideas, but if I want a real feeling for what a city or country is truly like, I’d rather find travel bloggers who have been there. That said, For 91 Days is different than most travel blogs, in that we dedicate three months to one spot. Our site is really more of a “destination” guide — our goal is to comprehensively cover a certain city or region; in the end, we’re not really about “travel” at all.
6) How much of your time do you dedicate to learning the language for a new destination?
It completely depends on the place. Italian was so similar to Spanish (in which we’re fluent) that learning the language was a pleasure. In Sri Lanka, almost everyone speaks English at a decent level, so we didn’t need to learn Sinhalese (though I did spend some hours studying their wonderful alphabet). Korean was very difficult for our tongues, but we both learned how to read the characters and how to say things like “hello” and “thank you”. Even those simple phrases resulted in big smiles … people definitely appreciate the effort!
7) You two seem to be unafraid to explore any area and whip out the camera at any time. What safety precautions do you take when you travel?
We have very rarely felt afraid during our travels, and are of the belief that people are overly cautious. I’d bet that unsubstantiated fears of crime and danger have prevented a lot of people from traveling, and that’s a shame. For the most part, we don’t take any “special” safety steps when we’re on the road, outside of what we’d do at home. Keep an eye (and hand) on valuables. Avoid sketchy-seeming situations, and immediately interrupt conversations with sketchy-seeming people. There’s a difference for us, because we’re two decently big guys (Jürgen is 6’6″) and we don’t encounter a lot of the bad situations which female travelers frequently have to deal with. But overall, we just follow our common sense. (Interestingly — during all our travels, the only place I’ve been a victim of crime was in the USA. My laptop was stolen out of our car, while we were in Idaho).
8) What’s your must-have travel aide? (ex: sleep mask, Tide pens, solar powered computer charger)
We have a portable Wi-Fi hotspot which has been really valuable as we travel around, usually allowing us internet access anywhere there’s cellphone coverage. I also have noise-cancelling headphones, which cost a bit more than I’d normally spend, but have been nice to have in crowded cafes, buses, airplanes — anywhere I’d rather not listen to people!
9) Biggest “mind-blown” moment?
Our jeep tour through Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni was just one mind-blowing moment after another. I’ve never seen a landscape like this — the endlessly flat salt fields which reflected the sky, the “islands” of cactus, and the hotels made of pure salt. The train cemetery and the deserts and the hot springs and — out of nowhere — a blizzard. And our guide (who seemed to be possessed by the devil) singing Bolivian folk music the whole time, and calling me “Maldito Mike”. Our tour was three days long, and after it was done, we were both like… “What just happened?!” Unforgettable.
10) Biggest “time to question my life choices” moment?
Of course, anytime you’re far from home, there are bound to be moments when you wish you weren’t traveling. We have a young nephew and niece, and would love to be around more as they grow up, so that’s sad. Let alone hanging out with family and friends. Overall, though, we’ve never regretted getting out on the road. I’d guess it means that we’re probably not as introspective as most people… which I’m fine with!
11) Fill in the blanks. “I will NEVER again __________________.” “I can’t WAIT to _________ again.”
I will never again eat silk worm larvae (as we did in Korea). And I can’t wait to play with baby elephants again (as we did in Sri Lanka).
12) What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned from this experience thus far?
I’m probably most surprised by two realizations about people that, while totally opposite of each other, are nonetheless both true. Regardless of where you are, people are all the same. Whether it’s Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Sicily or Savannah, we encounter almost entirely decent people, who are friendly, helpful and honest. But at the same time, people from different cultures are also nothing alike! Sicilians are loud and boisterous, while Bolivians are withdrawn and difficult to engage in conversation. Savannahians are eccentric, and Koreans are shy and giggle a lot. Of course, these are generalizations bordering on stereotype, but definitely based in truth. We’ve been amazed by how different the people of cultures can be, while remaining, at their heart, all very similar.