Frequently Asked Questions

Questions asked by the skeptics and doubters:

Why are you doing this?
The short answer: because I want to.  The answer for aesthetes: to see all of the most divinely beautiful places in the world.  The answer for wanderers: to explore new horizons that I never even knew existed.   The answer for achievers: to see as much as I can while I'm alive and in good health.  The psychological answer: because I've had the compulsion to do this for over a decade.  The sociological answer: to meet interesting people, both locals and other travellers, and to figure out how different cultures work and view things, and thereby come to integrative ideas about all of humanity and human nature.  The linguistic answer: to learn different languages and communicate nonverbally as well.  The philosophical answer: to seek out more options about what I want to do in the future, because I believe that you can't see all of your horizons sitting at a desk behind a computer.  And I am a possibilities-seeker at heart.  Almost everything is possible.

When did you start this trip and how long are you going for?
Started November 2003 and the end is not yet determined but the trip will last until 2008.

How can you afford to do this?
I worked and I saved money.  $10000 per year is more than enough to budget a comfortable round the world trip, and I'm spending considerably less than that.  The keys are to avoid spending too much time in expensive countries, to drink in moderation, to omit unnecessary purchases, to walk whenever possible (the whole essence of backpacking in my opinion; if you need a taxi to get 1 km from the bus station to your hostel, why not just haul around a Samsonite suitcase?) and to be careful not to be cheated too badly.  The truth is that almost anybody living in the developed world can easily do a round the world trip, no matter how much they may sigh ruefully about how they wish they could do it.  The real obstacle, as I've told so many people, are the relative priorities in your life, whether it be career, family, friends, and lifestyle issues.  If you really want to do it, you can do it and it's probably much easier and cheaper than you suspect.   I've met countless teenage Europeans who work a year as a waittress in London or flipping schnitzels in Munich and then have enough money to go around the world.  As with almost all important decisions in life, the hinge points lie not "out there" but within yourself.

Where will you end up living after the trip?
Somewhere interesting I hope.

Do you ever get tired of it?
Not so far.  Some travellers hit the wall at 6 months, others at a year or longer, but it hasn't hit me yet.  I think it's important to take meaningful long breaks of a month or so from time to time, as I've done in Paris (to work), Antigua Guatemala (to study Spanish), Buenos Aires, Taipei, Bishkek, and Sana'a.

Don't you get lonely travelling alone?
The truth is, you meet far more people while travelling than while staying at home or hanging out with a circle of friends.  And the kind of people you meet can sometimes be very exceptional and interesting.  Locals are a bit harder to meet, but I've discovered the Hospitality Club site and Couchsurfing site during this trip that has been very fruitful.  They're free and you end up meeting generally bright, curious, educated, knowledgeable, English-speaking locals who can help you see and experience things that you wouldn't have otherwise.  It's especially useful in large cities which can be confusing and it takes time to learn them.  After years of travelling, you do get bored of seeing yet another mediocre museum or monument or beach or park, and you really want sometimes to just do normal things that a local person would do, whether it's shopping at a mall, hanging out at cafes, attending parties, whatever.  That said, I do still pattern my trip route to follow the most spectacular sites in the world.  My tastes are quite compatible with the ones on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Have you gotten sick?
Only once.  An acute parasite infection (probably giardia) in Nepal was quickly doused by cheap and powerful Indian pharmaceuticals

Have you been a victim of crime?
Twice.  My daybag was stolen in the bus terminal of Mendoza, Argentina, in a 2-man distraction ploy.  I lost a camera, agenda, and my passport, but the passport was found by police the next day.  I was pickpocketed while changing buses in Abasha, Georgia.

What's the most dangerous place you've been?
Tehran: the traffic is insane.  Followed by China.  I saw almost a traffic accident per day in Iran and China.  For violent crime, Quito, Ecuador. And parts of northern Central America.  For theft, La Paz, Bolivia.  For those who are curious, Myanmar, Colombia and Iran are among the safest countries that I've visited.

What do you think of the voyeurism aspect of travelling in "exotic" countries.  Is it just a human safari?
See my discussion of this here.

Questions asked by the dreamers and free spirits:

What is your favourite country that you've visited on this trip so far?
Too many to rank just like that.  I can say that I did especially enjoy Mexico, Guatemala, Nepal, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Rapa Nui, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia and Yemen.  But of course, there are wonderful places in almost every country.  In addition, some countries like Cuba, Turkmenistan, and India are extremely fascinating in their pecularities.

What do you think are the most beautiful and spectacular and amazing places that you've seen in the world?
See my list of The Big Thrills in the world.

I don't care about culture stuff and cities.  How about just beautiful natural places?
See my list of Natural Wonders of the world.

Where are the greatest ruins in the world?
See my list of the Great Ruins in the World.

What are the greatest places built for Gods in the world?
See my list of the Greatest places built for Gods.

What are the most beautiful medieval cities that you've seen on this trip so far?
Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur (Nepal), Hampi, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur (India), Angkor (Cambodia), Bagan (Myanmar), Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Lopburi (Thailand), Khiva (Uzbekistan), Yazd (Iran), Sana'a (Yemen) and many other villages in Yemen.

What are the most beautiful colonial cities that you've seen on this trip so far?
Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas, Campeche (Mexico), Antigua (Guatemala), Leon, Granada (Nicaragua), Panama City (Panama), Bogota, Cartagena (Colombia), Quito, Cuenca (Ecuador), Arequipa, Cuzco (Peru), Sucre, Potosi (Bolivia), Sao Joao del Rei, Tiradentes, Diamantina, Ouro Preto, Salvador da Bahia (Brazil), Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay), Georgetown, Melaka (Malaysia), Hoi An (Vietnam), Vigan (Philippines), Christchurch (New Zealand), Pondicherry (India), Bombay (India), Zanzibar (Tanzania), Ilha de Mocambique (Mozambique), Lamu (Kenya)

Where are the friendliest local people?
Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, Nepal, Paraguay, Brazil, Myanmar, Laos, Philippines, Taiwan, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

How many different airlines have you flown on in your life?  (OK, nobody's ever asked this really! :)
Current count is 94.  See my complete list of Airlines Flown.

What are some of your favourite movies?
See my list of favourite movies.

Questions asked by the travellers:

What has been your route?
USA - Mexico - Cuba - Mexico - Belize - Guatemala - Honduras - Guatemala - El Salvador - Honduras - Nicaragua - Costa Rica - Panama - Costa Rica - USA - India (via Hong Kong and Singapore) - Nepal - USA (via Thailand and Korea) - France - Switzerland - France - USA - Ecuador - Peru - Colombia - Peru - Bolivia - Argentina - Bolivia - Chile - Paraguay - Argentina (via Brazil) - Brazil - Uruguay - Argentina - Chile - Argentina - Uruguay - Argentina - Chile - Argentina - Chile - Argentina - Chile - France (French polynesia) - New Zealand - Australia - USA - Australia - Indonesia - Malaysia - Thailand - Myanmar - Thailand - Cambodia - Vietnam - Singapore - Taiwan - Thailand - Laos - Thailand - Malaysia - Philippines - Malaysia - Brunei - Malaysia - Indonesia - Japan - Taiwan - China - Hong Kong - China - Kyrgyzstan - Kazakhstan - Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Iran - United Arab Emirates - Oman - United Arab Emirates - Yemen - Qatar - Lebanon - Syria - Turkey - Georgia - Azerbaijan - Georgia - Armenia - Karabagh - Armenia - Iran - Bahrain - UAE - Pakistan - Afghanistan - Tajikistan -Kyrgyzstan - China - Hong Kong -Taiwan - UK - France - Morocco - Mauritania - Senegal - Gambia - Senegal - Guinea-Bissau - Senegal - Mali - Burkina Faso - Niger - Benin - Togo - Ghana - South Africa - Botswana - South Africa - Lesotho - South Africa - Swaziland - South Africa - Namibia - Zambia - Zimbabwe - South Africa - Taiwan (via Hong Kong) - South Africa - Mozambique - Malawi - Tanzania - Burundi - Rwanda - DR Congo - Rwanda - Uganda - Kenya - Ethiopia - Somaliland - Ethiopia - Sudan - Egypt - UAE - China - DPR Korea - China - Hong Kong - Macau - Thailand - Philippines - Taiwan - Philippines - Singapore - Malaysia - Thailand - Sri Lanka - India - Yemen (via UAE)

Where have you stayed in every place and when were you there?
See my route calendar.  It's not very user friendly but all the info is in there.  The lodging references with prices paid could be useful to backpackers currently on the road.  The original Excel version of this file might be faster to transfer.

How much do you pay for your haircuts?
A haircut turns out to be an excellent barometer for assessing the economic realities of a place, because almost no materials or transport are involved and you are paying only human labour and infrastructural costs, and these go hand in hand with cost of living and per capita productivity of the nation.  See my list of haircuts here.  I always look for the cheapest available haircut, because you  know how fashion conscious I am.

Statistics & trivia from this trip:

 Website Links here

Updated 6 April, 2009 in Sana'a, Yemen.
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