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Advice about traveling, backpacking, and life

The most popular question I get asked is: how can you afford to travel the world?

I had a controversial debate with a T-Rex about global warming, which led me to write some advice on what to do about climate change.

However, my most recent advice-related articles are below...

5 Questions for Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere

Gary Arndt is one of the top 5 travel bloggers in the world. He runs Everything Everywhere, which I had the honor to write a guest post for. He's also interviewed me on the This Week in Travel podcast, as well as his new Global Travel Conspiracy podcast.

This time, I turned the tables and asked Gary 5 questions. He's graciously allowed me to show some of the photos he's taken in Africa. You can buy them (and many more) on his website. And now for the 5 questions....

1. Gary, isn't the UNESCO World Heritage list becoming a bit ridiculously big so as to dilute the wow-factor that the sites used to have? I'm going to take a shit in my backyard and ask UNESCO to proclaim it as a World Heritage Site. What do you think?

Yes and No. There are some UNESCO Sites that are undeserving, especially in Europe.

However, the Earth is a really big place. Africa is under represented. I still think that the US and Canada are under represented. It is easy to look at a number of draw that conclusion, but if you look closely at the sites which are being added, they are still pretty special. There are far more unknown sites I visit that are surprising in a good way than in a bad way.

Namib Desert by Gary Arndt

2. Is Google+ dead? You have 1.4 million followers, but your posts get just 50-500 +1s. How do you interpret that data?

It isn't dead, but it is on life support. As you note, the engagement rates are incredibly low. However, if you actually do the math, it is about the same or slightly higher than Twitter. I have roughly 10x the following on G+ and I can get about 10x the engagement per post.

Angola Voodoo Guy by Gary Arndt

3. What's your future book going to be about? Will we see it this century?

I'm now leaning towards a book on Travel Photography just because it will support my other projects and would be easy for me to write.

Zambia Waterfall by Gary Arndt

4. How do you have time to do everything you do everywhere? Do you sleep!? 

Dunno. This is pretty much all I do. Each individual thing doesn't take much time.

I've also cut back on my traveling and I'll probably stop traveling full time later this year. Being on the road full-time isn't conducive to running a business or my health. Rick Steves manages to run a travel business being on the road only 3 months a year. I could do the same traveling for 3-6 months, I figure.

Togo Stilt Walk by Gary Arndt

5. If you were to rank your activities from the most productive/lucrative to the least useless/lucrative, how would you rank them? Example: YouTube, Periscope, Instagram, FB, Twitter, Tumblr, G+, Blog, Guest Posts, TBEX, etc....

It is almost impossible to compare something like Instagram to TBEX. Right now Instagram is far and away my best platform. I have the smallest audience on it compared to the other big platforms (FB, Twitter, G+, Pinterest), but I get more engagement than all of them combined.

I plan to start a YouTube channel and will be launching my Travel Photography Training course in a few months as well.

Sierra Leone fire nut by Gary Arndt


Don't Worry Too Much About Ebola

Yahoo Travel asked for my opinion on the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Here's what I told them. I've updated this in Sept 20, 2014.Ebola 2014 Outbreak Map

First some background on me:

Should You Be Afraid of Ebola?

The outbreak does give me pause, but only for about 5 seconds. It's easy to get excited about this outbreak, but it's important to have perspective:
  • Over 2,500 people have died of Ebola during 2014 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.
  • Annual auto fatalities in Guinea (1,956), Sierra Leone (1,323), Liberia (760) total 4,039
  • Therefore, the average person in those three countries is more likely to die in a traffic related accident than by Ebola.
  • Yet, almost nobody in those countries wear a seat belts (many cars don't even have working seat belts).
  • So if we want to save the most African lives, why don't their governments mandate wearing seat belts and improving their road conditions?
  • Nobody will worry about me going to Eritrea because it's on Africa's east coast (far from the outbreak). However, according to the WHO, Eritrea has the worst road fatality rate in the world (12 times worse than the UK and twice as deadly as Liberia). In other words, if I go to Eritrea, I'm more likely to die in car accident than to die of Ebola in Liberia.
  • Another way of thinking about it: those three countries have 22 million people. "Only" 2,500 have died. Thus, Ebola has killed 0.01% of the population. Your chance of dying from Ebola when you are in one of those 3 African countries is one in 10,000. That's better odds than the lottery, but it won't make me lose sleep.
  • Remember that we're just looking at the 3 most affected countries. If you are in Nigeria, Senegal, or anywhere else on the planet, then you're far more likely to get hit by lightning.
In short, we need to keep a perspective. It's like people worrying about shark attacks or lightning strikes, yet they think nothing of driving 50 miles a day or smoking. They worry about flying, but not about driving.

Malaria vs. Ebola

Deaths by Ebola, Malaria, and Car Accidents in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra LeoneMalaria kills far more than Ebola. According to the WHO, here are the annual deaths due to Malaria in 2012: Guinea 979 + Sierra Leone 3,611 + Liberia 1,725 = 6,315! That means more than twice as many people have died of malaria in those 3 countries than of Ebola.
Shouldn't that be the big news? Shouldn't we make a huge effort to stop malaria? Instead of spending $1 billion on giving everyone mosquito nets, the WHO wants to spend it on Ebola. Although malaria is not as contagious as Ebola, it is still contagious (a mosquito that bites an infected human and then bites a non-infected human will transmit the virus).

If Ebola regularly killed 4,000 people per year, we'd get used to that just like we are used to malaria killing 6,315 per year and auto fatalities killed 4,029 people per year. We can reduce all of these deaths if we encourage people to take preventative measures.

But Ebola is growing exponentially!

Ebola Deaths: Liberia is owns the bad news dept.

Yes, it's true (see the graph on the right).

However, the graph on the right also shows that only in Liberia is there true exponential growth.

Elsewhere, Ebola is flatlining, as victims are quarantined.

Yes, traffic accidents and malaria are not growing exponentially (their graphs would be similar to the linear growth that we see in Sierra Leone and Guinea). However, as the other graph above demonstrates, Ebola is not deadliest thing in those three countries.

It's tempting to continue drawing the exponential line of Liberia, but past performance doesn't indicate future results. Past outbreaks of Ebola had a similar slope at the onset. Each time we contained them and the graph came crashing down.

Of course, we need a bit of hysteria to spring people to action. However, the only people who really matter are the government officials and health care workers. The guy sitting in Benin or the USA has little to worry about.

Ebola's Fatality Rate Myth

Ebola ComicThe BBC regularly reports that Ebola's "fatality rate can reach 90%." 

That's misleading. Yes, it can reach that high, but the average fatality rate is about 52%. That's still horrible, but it's not a guaranteed death sentence. If you catch and treat it early, you improve your odds.

On the other hand, when a leading doctor died of Ebola, I was discouraged. You'd think that he, of all people, would not only be carefully monitoring himself, but also that at the first signs of symptoms, he would treat himself aggressively. Yet he died.

My advice 

  • Don't eat bush meat (or any meat, frankly).
  • Don't worry about visiting an Ebola-infected country.
  • If you do, consider wearing plastic gloves.
  • Either take anti-malarial medicine or always have the treatment for malaria with you.
  • Wear seat belt whenever possible.

3 Tips to Get You Traveling

Guest Post by Andi Singer 

Travel cheap when you canWith the exception of the extreme homebody, most everyone enjoys traveling. Most people only travel out of their community once or twice a year, while a rare few travel for months out of every year. For the average adult traveling more is very attainable--you just have to get out the door and go!

1. Put Money Out of Sight

One of the biggest things that limits people from travel is money. They simply feel like they cannot afford to go on vacation.

No matter how much or how little money I make, I always put some aside. I live with very few expenses, so even working 30 hours a week at an hourly wage I am able to put money aside. However transferring money into my savings account isn’t enough because I see the balance every time I look at my checking account. It’s too easy to pull from my linked savings when money is tight.

Instead I put a small portion of my income in an account at a different bank, separate from my long-term savings, simply for the purpose of travel and toys. I haven’t set up the online banking, so the only time I see the account balance is when I get a statement in the mail, or if I call in to check on the balance.

Putting money out of sight, especially when it is just a percentage of your income, can add up quickly. When I am ready to start planning a trip I can take a look at my “fun” account and plan my trip with a budget in mind.

Read more... [3 Tips to Get You Traveling]

4 Travel Documentaries That Inspire Backpacking Exploration

Throughout my 4-year journey to every African country I've been filming to produce:

  1. A TV series that shows The Unseen Africa
  2. A film documentary.
  3. Video stock footage.

Regarding #2, I have absolutely no idea how I plan to condense four years of travel into a 90-minute documentary. No clue. I'll worry about that in 2017. In the meantime, I'll just keep filming. 

Freddie Trimble, who is works with the Sheffield documentary festival in the UK, wanted to share his four favorite travel documentaries. I've only see the first one, but the rest look promising. Check them out.

Guest post by Freddie Trimble and Caroline Schupfer

A travel documentary film gives you an concentrated insight into different cultures and traditions, information on attractions or travel in general, and a greater awareness of different people and their lifestyles. Travel documentaries give you a better understanding of the world, and of the people you share it with, all without trying to sell you some overpriced travel package deal or recommending any commercial tour operators.


As one of the most valuable, yet much underrated and underexposed educational device, travel documentaries supplement your awareness as a human being a little bit at a time. They are filled with real life stories and show you true beauty; triggering your inner wanderlust, appealing to your senses and your true human instincts of wanting to get out there and explore.

Here are some of the best examples of documentaries that will inspire you to backpack to places worth exploring:


Ron Fricke’s visual documentary Samsara is definitely out of the ordinary. With his precise and captivating shots we were whisked around the world, experiencing all walks of life; effectively contrasting the overwhelming beauty of the natural world, along with what we see as manufactured destruction.

We were left guessing about where many of the places were due to the absence of a narrator, although it was exciting to recognise a few places that we have been ourselves. One example being the aftermath of a volcanic eruption in Cappadocia, Turkey.

This visual delight will certainly force you to take a step back, and give you a clearer perspective of the brutal diversity of our planet.

Read more... [4 Travel Documentaries That Inspire Backpacking Exploration]

30 Travel Tips for a Cheaper and Deeper Travel Experience

Guest post by Jenny Corteza

  1. Try to travel with a plan and all expenses in mind that can make your travel comfort and relaxing.

  2. Interacting with the locals can bring you a good advice, perhaps a friendship and even discounts in some cases. Get hold of a phrasebook and learn a bit about the language.

  3. Let the budget loose at times, and concentrate only on the experiences and memories you are gathering rather than sitting with the budget calculator.

  4. Wake up early morning for seeing the city come to life. It gives you ample time to explore when fewer tourists are around. Additionally, when the light is not so harsh it is the best for photography.

  5. Plan a flexible schedule by not pre-booking everything. Leave room for impromptu plans that you may come across while interacting with locals and other tourists.

    photo: signaturevacations.com

Read more... [30 Travel Tips for a Cheaper and Deeper Travel Experience]

Do Not Hire Film and Video Editor Cynthia Biret

Cynthia Biret is an awful film and video editor and preditor (a producer-editor) in my opinion. In late October 2013, I hired her for my Africa TV show project. She was a $10,000 disaster. I considered just brushing this lousy experience under the carpet, but I’d rather help others from suffering a similar fate with her (or anyone). Therefore, in this article I’m going to share my horrendous experience with Cynthia Biret.

Summary: I hired Cynthia Biret to produce a 3-minute trailer for my Africa TV show and then a 48-minute pilot episode. She agreed to produce the trailer in 4 weeks. After nearly 5 months, $9,750, and listening to a dozen lies, she still hadn’t produced an adequate 3-minute trailer. She demanded another $1,750 for an additional week that she claimed she needed to finish the trailer. Instead of throwing even more money at her, I found another editor to do the job.

What follows chronicles the disaster. I’m airing this dirty laundry to help others learn from my mistakes. Whether you’re considering hiring Cynthia Biret or some other editor, seeing what happened to me can help you avoid a similar fate.

Read more... [Do Not Hire Film and Video Editor Cynthia Biret]

How To Overcome Soft Addictions

Guest post by Ramya Raju:

Coffee and PhoneI recently came across an article on soft addictions. They are the seemingly harmless habits that we cultivate, out of necessity or to make a fashion statement, and they slowly become a part of our lifestyle. For instance – ‘drinking endless cups of coffee’ or binging every weekend to celebrate– sounds great in books, but what does it do to your body and your mind? Does it, in any way, help make you a better, happier, more balanced person? More often than not, it makes you irritable and upsets your tummy. It may also give you a rather unattractive appearance – and that in no way can be construed as a step in the direction of self-development!

These harmless habits often become obsessive and before we know it, they have invaded our minds and have nicely taken over our focus and concentration.

A culprit that is ‘trending’ these days is the mobile phone. From a convenient device that helped us connect in maybe a road emergency, saving a trudge to the nearest payphone, the mobile moved on to becoming a style statement to almost a life support system.

Read more... [How To Overcome Soft Addictions]

Five Tips on How to Save Money When Travelling


The following is a post contributed by site supporters of Francis Tapon:

Travel vanWhen times are tough you need a holiday more than ever and getting the most for your money is doubly important. As with most things in life, you pay extra for convenience, but by thinking outside of the box, there are five ways to make your finances, and you, go further.

1. Last minute bookings

The simplest way to get a low price holiday is to leave booking to the last minute, well, eight to ten weeks before you leave at most. 2014 bargain holidays are the way to go for travellers who want to enjoy their vacation to the highest level without breaking the bank. Package holidays are based on bulk bookings of hotels and flights, if there are still vacancies close to the date the holiday companies would rather get something for them, than nothing. The draw backs are that you have to take what is left, and you might have to grab a bargain quickly without doing research.

Read more... [Five Tips on How to Save Money When Travelling]

Lessons Learned from Wet Weather Hiking Mishaps

Guest Post by Stratton Lawrence

StrattonThere's much to be said for the old Boy Scout maxim, "Be Prepared." But being prepared doesn't necessarily mean that you've got every piece of gear in your pack you could ever need. Sure, it would be nice to have an ax when you're 50 miles into the 100-Mile Wilderness and wanting to build a fire, but carrying the ax may actually leave you less prepared for the 5,000 feet of elevation change that you plan to traverse the following morning.

Figuring out the give-and-take of what's appropriate to bring along on an extended trip is always a work in progress, but it's one where paying attention to those who have gone before can truly payoff. That holds especially true when preparing for wet weather conditions in the wilderness. Nothing spoils a trip faster (or forces a premature return home) than extreme discomfort caused by wet conditions.

Despite a childhood spent backpacking and traveling (including several Scout weekends spent hunkered down in driving tempests), I've still had to learn a few of these lessons the hard way. Even worse, I've watched fellow travelers that I'm responsible for ignore my admonitions, leaving me to pick up their slack (or carry their stuff) when the going gets tough enough to prove me right.

Here are a handful of my most memorable learning moments when it comes to staying dry outside:

Read more... [Lessons Learned from Wet Weather Hiking Mishaps]

Keeping it Clean: 4 Tips for Properly Storing Your Gear

Guest post by Jessica Johnson

Keep pack cleanStoring camping gear is like going to the dentist. After a visit, we may be prone to slack off on flossing for a little while – perhaps even bail on the next visit...and the next. After a couple of years we have a conundrum on our hands: we know we really should go in, yet we fear the inevitable discovery of cavities. If only we had brushed regularly and gone in every six months!

The same goes for outdoor gear. After a couple of days in the backcountry, our mind is set on a hot shower and a cold beverage. The gear often gets wadded up and thrown in the basement – out of mind, out of site. As the days go by, we know we should tend to it, yet the fear of what we might find grows deeper. Until it's time for the next camping trip. Now we have a moldy, unorganized mess to deal with.

Whether you are a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a once-in-a-while car camper, properly storing your gear is crucial. All it takes is a little know-how and a little more discipline. Here are a few simple tips to consider after a few days in the great outdoors.

Read more... [Keeping it Clean: 4 Tips for Properly Storing Your Gear]

Where Should You Be for New Year 2014?

Guest post by Sarah Hendricks.

Around the world, the New Year is seen in with a range of interesting and unique celebrations. This means that the arrival of 2014 is a great time to take a trip. It might seem a little late to be planning a trip abroad for the New Year, but last minute deals can make this the most affordable time to think about booking. The four most interesting places to go for the arrival of 2014 are:

HerryLawford fireworks 

Read more... [Where Should You Be for New Year 2014?]
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