Before his flight to Dubai, Gary Arndt spared some time to speak with me about his travels. He’s a busy guy – in March 2007, he sold his house, put his stuff in storage, and set out to see the world. He’s been to 40 countries so far, with plenty more on the way, as you can see on his website, Everything Everywhere.
Quick question from the beginning. Did you find your friends and family were supportive of your decision to sell your house and start travelling? How did you deal with the feedback you received, positive or negative?
When I told everyone I wanted to travel around the world, my friends thought it was cool, my family was apprehensive. Many people are very weary about travel because the only things they hear about foreign places on the news is bad. After I had been on the road a while, they warmed up to it. Eventually, I think it became something they’d brag to their friends about “Hey, my kid is in Fiji! You know where that is?”
You’ve just described yourself on Twitter as “a traveller who’s been on the road for 2 years happy”. As a fellow travel lover, I totally hear you and my most memorable days alive have been on the road. But do you ever have days where you just wish you were home and know you’d be in the same bed the next night?
No. The first few weeks and months were difficult in adjusting to not having a permanent home. I’ve never had to live like this before. Eventually, however, you get used to it. Certainly there are times like Christmas you wish you could be with your family, but I keep myself busy and meet lots of people on the road, so I seldom get lonely.
The photographs on your website are wonderful. Have you been somewhere yet that was REALLY inspirational, a place that spoke to you and said “this is why you’ve been on this journey”?
Many times. It isn’t always in some dramatic location like Easter Island or on the top of a mountain. Yesterday I had to go take care of my Thailand visa. It was as frustrating as going to the DMV. On the way back I was on a platform for the Bangkok sky train and I got an excellent view of the city. The buildings, the traffic, and the buzz which is Bangkok. It was great to see the city from that perspective. I’m leaving for Dubai tomorrow and that has me very excited. New places are always exciting.
You have a lot of press, particularly in the blogosphere, regarding your travels – would you consider yourself famous? How does it make you feel?
Famous? Not even close. I’ve gotten some attention on a few travel blogs, but that is about it. Outside of that small community I’m pretty unknown. The travel blog niche is pretty small in the big scheme of things. Having a popular travelogue is a long way from being famous. If my website was in a niche other than travel, and had the same amount of traffic, no one would take notice.
Your site, everything-everywhere.com, has amassed an amazing amount of travel blog information as well as heaps and heaps of your own content. It is quite impressive, I have to say, and must thank you for sharing this with the community. Did you expect to have such a site when you started out? What was Gary’s vision?
I was always planning to have a website. I went around the world back in 1999 on a three week business trip. The employees of my company (an internet consulting firm) created a small website where they could see my photos and updates. It was a travel blog before there was travel blogs.
I always intended to have some sort of website since I had the idea of going on the trip. I had been building websites since 1994, so it was a natural thing to do. For the first nine months of my trip the site wasn’t much more than a place for friends and family. I had maybe 100 subscribers, and I probably knew most of those people by name.
When I got to Hong Kong I made decision to see if I could make something more of my site. I had done no marketing and kept a half-assed schedule of updating. I committed myself to putting up an original photo every day, began writing longer articles, and began the process of getting the word out about what I was doing. There is a lot of people vying for attention online, and I figured the travelogue space was pretty wide open. There were lots of travelogues, but few that took it seriously, and most had a very limited shelf life.
What would you say to readers out there who are thinking about a trip of their own (besides telling them to signup for your daily update newsletter, of course)?
To rip-off a line from Nike, just do it. People are apprehensive about travel, especially if they haven’t done it before. They are worried about speaking the language, managing their money, finding places to stay, etc. There will always be some reason to not go, some worry you will have about something which could go wrong. Things will take care of themselves once you are on the ground. Once you are there, you will have to sink or swim and you’ll quickly realize how many of your fears were unfounded.
I’m coming to Cambodia & Hong Kong in February/March. Any secrets to share?
In Hong Kong, make sure to be on the Kowloon side of the harbor to watch sunset. The lighting up of the city was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen. You should also go see the city from Victoria Peak, which is one of the more popular things to do in Hong Kong. Take the time to go outside of the city. For as small as Hong Kong is, there is a surprising amount of rural area. Take a day to go visit Macau. You probably don’t need more than a day. It is like Vegas lite (actually, Macau makes more money on gambling than Las Vegas, but it isn’t as glitzy).
Most of the attractions in Cambodia are pretty obvious: Angkor and the the genocide related places in Phnom Penh. I also took a side trip to Preah Vihear, but I wouldn’t recommend going there until the tensions with Thailand die down, and I wouldn’t go from the Cambodia side of the border.
Wow, Gary, impressive stuff. Thanks again for the great discussion. Folk should know that Gary has a daily photo feature on his website (god knows how he finds the time), so you should signup for his feeds or email updates. Go on, just do it – there’s a link there to the right.