Ever wondered how those who are paid to travel take the first step? Well, we cornered the Travel Tart, a man with loose morals and a habitually ruined liver to find out exactly how.
How would you like to be paid to travel?
Not travel in the sense of “I’m flying to another city for a business meeting” but travel in the sense of “let me drink your beer, so that I can rank it among other beers I have drunk around the world.”
Or even “Hey, would you like to fly to this country and put this cock* head in your mouth?”
While this may sound like the stuff of dreams – well, that last one depending on your preference I suppose – but, for serious travel blogger Anthony, of Travel Tart fame, it’s as real as real can be.
I spoke to Anthony, who was most gracious in answering questions which are almost certainly much less exciting by comparison.
I know you said you didn’t want to tell the world about the “wanky” side of your travel experiences, but I am curious. You mention spending your life trying to find different ways to fund your travel – how did that start? How did you find that first big break, and how did you keep yourself from proverbially and literally pooing your pants worrying about finances?
It’s amazing how things end up when you aren’t consciously going after them. I discovered I really enjoyed travelling when I was sent to a former war zone for work – Kosovo – as my first venture outside of Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, this created a perverse habit of visiting places that most package tourists avoid like the plague. About a year after this experience, I went on a round the world trip for a year and it was the best thing I ever did. There was one major driver for this. I felt like I needed a break after going straight from school to university to work with a life-threatening bout of cancer thrown in between which made me reassess pretty much everything I wanted out of life – but that’s another story!
I actually got into travel blogging completely by accident. One of my mates sent me a throwaway email about some blogging trip that was happening in Indonesia in 2008. I then sent I throwaway email applying for it. What was ironic is that I landed the gig, as I didn’t have my own blog at the time (although I was writing for other websites). It was on this trip where I met a heap of other bloggers from different backgrounds who were having amazing opportunities due to their websites. My first big break was when I was invited to blog across Indonesia for a month with the support of a blogging conference and an airline. Since then, I estimate I’ve racked up close to $150,000 AUD in flights (some of them in business class – woo hoo, no deep vein thrombosis!), accommodation, experiences and food from all sorts of press trips and promotions. I haven’t quite cracked making the blog a full time business, but I’m working on it! There are so many great perks about being a Z-grade Internet celebrity!
In terms of financing this travel addiction. Well, it helps if you’re a little bit crazy. I don’t try to sell myself on the street, but obviously gaining kind support from tourism boards and other travel companies helps. What’s great is that they usually let me experience what I’m interested in, and give me loads of free time to do my own thing. In terms of other methods, I’ve done freelancing and the regular J.O.B. (Just Over Broke). I’ve even appeared on Millionaire Hot Seat where I tried to win all of Eddie McGuire’s money, but I bombed out on “How Many Chance Panels Are There On A Standard UK Monopoly Board?”
I sometimes sit outside travel-related companies with a handwritten sign that says “Will blog for travel experiences”.
You’ve been sponsored by many, many companies. In your most conceited opinion, what is it about yourself that you think attracts the kind of support you get?
Ha ha, yes, travel blogging can be quite conceited at times! I reckon people are just sick of seeing buffed up and/or gorgeous people flooding their Instagram accounts with shirtless and/or bikini shots in exotic locations and they just want to have someone different who has probably just left the asylum. You have no idea how hard I’ve worked on my “one pack”! Seriously, because I tend to focus on the offbeat, unusual and “close to the mark” travel experiences, they like that I don’t take myself too seriously.
I’ve sat down with a bunch of cool Kazakh people drinking vodka (yes, I’ve been there and it’s not fermented from horse urine), only armed with an English/Russian dictionary, and I had the time of my life.
You mention wanting to show the “real” side of places; how do you define what is real, and what is just for touristy show?
If a travel destination is featured on Getaway, then it’s too late! I don’t really get travelling overseas to visit a tourist trap so you can become really drunk with people from your own country – wearing the same singlet featuring the local drop! For me, it’s about meeting the locals and living their world and doing what they do – things like being invited to a rave in a disused warehouse in Argentina by a couple of guys you’ve just met and you dance the night away; or accidentally stumbling into a crack house in Bolivia after knocking on a steel door in code because a local couple wanted to show you “The real La Paz”; or, after waiting for four hours for a mini bus taxi in Zimbabwe to become full, having the driver compensating for this lost time by driving at 140km/hour all the way back to Johannesburg, sitting next the person with the largest backside for 12 hours. The more you learn about other countries, the more you learn about your own.
When you’re out and about exploring a country, how do you handle the language aspect? Do you take a Lonely Planet “100 questionably translated phrases” book with you, let the locals teach you a thing or two, or do you tend to stick more to using English?
Well, I avoid using the dodgy English/Hungarian dictionary used in the famous Monty Python sketch where every phrase is translated into “my hovercraft is full of eels, please fondle my buttocks”. You only need to learn five words in any language, and use combinations of these – “hello”, “goodbye”, “please”, “thank you”, and “beer”! I always greet and thank people in their language, even if I sound like a Borat version of them and completely butcher their language. People will always appreciate you making an effort. For a lot of the time, they want to practice their English with you anyway.
Seriously, I’ve sat down with a bunch of cool Kazakh people drinking vodka (yes, I’ve been there and it’s not fermented from horse urine), only armed with an English/Russian dictionary, and I had the time of my life. Even if it took a few seconds to find each word of a sentence! If you just learn a few phrases, this will take you a long way!
Without naming names, what is the worst travel blogging experience you’ve ever had, and would you give it another shot?
Well, this one is self inflicted, but I will name names because they deserve a plug and this place is worth visiting. I recently went on a press trip to the Solomon Islands and had a great time. If you love diving and unspoilt places, definitely go there! I decided to try their local “drug” called Betel Nut, which gives you a mild high which is obtained by chewing the nut itself, the stem and “lime” which is effectively crushed up and cooked seashells. Needless to say, I gagged on this vile concoction and ended up with red stained teeth which made me look like a vampire. I definitely won’t try it again – I’ll stick to beer as my poison of choice!
How did you discover the universality of fart jokes, and did you find the remote-controlled machine by yourself?
Well, fart jokes are just a natural part of life, especially for men. A colleague I used to work with brought in a fart machine one day to the office and placed it under a few people’s desks, and let it go all day. Needless to say, there were many cheap laughs and I thought that it was worth investing in one myself!
What’s your secret travel shame? Say, are you a heavy sweater while you’re out on the prowl, that guy sitting in the window seat who needs to use the toilet every 15 minutes on the dot, just a bit gassy?
Don’t tell anyone this (it’s just between you and me), but my secret travel shame is that I’ve always wanted to declare my occupation on departure/arrival cards as “bushranger”, but I’ve always been too scared to do it.
Have you ever found yourself with an international crush, aside from the beer?
Yes. I’ve got this thing for trying the weirdest food that I can shove in my mouth that won’t leave me sitting on the toilet for a week. I’ve tried stuff like caterpillars, cow’s nose in satay sauce, and tea mixed with raw egg. Yummo!
Have you ever had a customs snafu, and/or had a boogie board related incident?
Almost! Luckily for me, I’ve avoided the free cavity search at customs! However, I’m tall and tanned, which means that I must fit a certain profile when I’m travelling back from South America by myself. Every single time I’ve come back from there, I’m pulled aside and the entire contents of my backpack are searched, including my not so clean underwear!
How do you keep your blog about your genuine travelling experiences, while also being paid by sponsors and advertisers? Have you ever had to tell someone to back off a little?
I’d rather tell it like it is or not tell it at all. I’ve been lucky enough not to tell someone to “back off a little” as they understand they are giving support to you – your brand – and they trust what you’re going to say and want you to show what an experience is all about. I do a mix of sponsored and personal travel so it doesn’t become too skewed one way or the other.
And to wrap up in the most (almost) cliche way possible: what is the worst travelling experience you’ve ever had, and did it get better or worse with the addition of beer?
The worst travel experience I’ve ever had is way better than the best travel experience I’ve ever had in the fluorescent prison called the office! This experience was both bad and funny at the same time. I did have a death curse placed on me by a hustler when I didn’t pay him for useless advice I didn’t need, want, or ask for in the crazy Moroccan port town of Tangier. He then yelled at me and said: “I hope that my god makes your bus crash and you’re the only one who dies!”
Well, it didn’t work!
Again, thank you thank you thank you.
My pleasure, anytime!
Check more out Anthony’s adventures at his blog, The Travel Tart
*This kind. Grow up.