Off and On the Beaten Track: An Interview with Gary Arndt
Since launching back in September, TravelBlogs has regularly added new blogs to our collection of the best narrative travel blogs out there. As a result, the people featured on TB are all over the place, whether they be attending weddings in Mexico (Sloan & Amy), getting married in Bali (Travel Betty), or cycling from Portugal to France (Wade).
The latest addition is Gary Arndt, who is on a multi-year, Round the World trip. He has just completed several months of island-hopping around the Pacific Ocean, including some very off-the-beaten track destinations.
Earlier this week, he told TravelBlogs a bit more about his trip and why he’s doing it.
What inspired you to make this trip?
I know I’m going west. That is about it.
It was just a sudden inspiration I had a few years ago. I was sort of stuck in a rut. I was in my 30s. I had sold a successful company when I was 28. I went back to school to get another degree, but I wasn’t really inspired to do anything. I had always felt most alive while traveling, so this felt like a really natural thing to do.
Unlike many people who take similar trips, this isn’t a trip of self discovery. I’m very comfortable with who I am. This is more a trip of discovery and exploration. I like learning about new places and things and this is the ultimate opportunity to do that. I also like sharing it with other people.
I also hope to be the ultimate pretentious ass when I return, always being able to trump people’s stories at parties with tales from the road….
Had you travelled much before this trip?
I had made a three week trip around in the world in 1999 for business. That took me to Europe and Asia. Prior to that I hadn’t been outside of North America. Since ’99 I’ve visited Iceland, Argentina and the Bahamas.
On your website you mention that you don’t really know when this trip is going to end. Do you have a rough plan for the trip, or do you just kind of make it up as you go?
I know I’m going west. That is about it. I usually try to have a general idea of where I’m going, but if I find out that it is easier to visit certain places because of flight schedules, I will change. My trip to New Zealand was much earlier than I originally planned for this reason as were my trips to the Philippines and Taiwan, which I had originally planned to do after I visited Japan, not before.
I usually only have a firm schedule for a month in advance, usually less. For example, as I’m typing this, I’m sitting in the airport in Taipei. I have tickets booked to Okinawa and Kagoshima, and a 21 day rail pass for Japan. Beyond that I have nothing set. I don’t know how I’m getting to Korea yet (I’m assuming the ferry). I’d like to take a side trip to Vladivostok also, but I don’t know if I will apply for a visa in Seoul or Tokyo. I can tell you I’m sort of roughly going north through Japan, but I can’t give you any specifics beyond that.
I keep a rough list of places I’m going to in the next few months on my website.
What are some of the “must-see” places you really want to visit before you wrap the trip up?
Oh boy. I’ll leave the typical “seven wonder” type places aside. The things which appeal uniquely to me:
- Seeing stromatolites in Shark Bay, Australia
- I want to say one night in the Burj el Arab in Dubai
- I want to go to the Tokyo fish market to eat sushi
- Assuming i can, I’d like to go see a soccer game in the UK and a baseball game in Japan
- Star City in Russia
- Spend a night in the Sahara
- Visiting the Hermitage, Louvre, British National Museum, Cairo Museum and Vatican Museum
- Visiting Litchenstein, Monaco, Andorra, and San Marino (I have a thing for tiny countries)
- Seeing komodo dragons in Indonesia
- Viewing Mount Everest
There are a lot more…
What have been some of the highlights so far?
In no particular order:
- Jellyfish Lake in Palau
- Nan Modal in Pohnpei, Micronesia
- Easter Island
- Bungee Jumping in Queenstown, NZ
- Milford Sound, NZ
- Being one of only a dozen people a year who visit Rennell Island, Solomon Islands
- Rice Terraces of Banaue, Philippines
- Walking around Noumea, New Caledonia
- The elevator ride and observation deck of Taipei 101
- Diving in Fiji
- Watching sunset on the top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii
- Visiting the Green Sand Beach at South Point, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
- Watching the blowholes on Savai’i, Samoa
- Flying to the top of Franz Joseph, Glacier
- Being invited to drink kava with some village men in Fiji
You’re doing most of this trip on your own. What are some of the advantages of independent travel?
Flexibility. Freedom. I would be nice to travel with someone else, but honestly, I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to go. I even offered to pay for the trip, but no one bit.
I guess one thing a lot of solo travellers deal struggle with is loneliness on the road. How do you deal with that?
The internet Keeping a blog is a great way to keep in touch with people and to make new friends and for people you meet on the road to keep in touch with you. I carry a laptop with me when I travel.
I’ve lived alone for most of my adult life, so it really isn’t that big of a deal for me. The difference between loneliness and solitude is whether it was your choice or not. Besides, I’m never really alone. There are always new people you meet.
You can keep track of Gary’s journey on his blog, Everything Everywhere.