Frequently Asked Questions

13 Questions About Travel Answered by an Extreme Long Term Traveler ?


Where are you now and what are you doing?

I’m in China with my wife living a “van life” (for the last 2 years now, traveling extensively).

Michael Robert Powell long term traveler in Nemrut Dagi in Turkey, 1990
This was my first travels beyond the West. MRP @ Nemrut Dagi in Turkey, 1989. Just turned 23 and on my Middle East solo backpacking trip that included Syria + Iraq.

How do you fund your travels?

Maybe the most frequently asked question as long term travelers are assumed to be rich because others have no understanding of budget travel and the knowledge that many countries in the Developing World are cheap by Western standards. Furthermore, I don’t own much, and have no kids, mortgage, debts, etc, so all my money goes on travel and related expenses.


Anyway, the answer is: Currently, I / we are living off our small savings. We do get some pocket money from Wei’s Chinese social media videos, also.

Before this, some years ago now, I taught university writing courses and English in a number of countries, which sustained my travels for nearly 2 decades.

And, I also worked for the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces in East Timor (2000-2002), which allowed me to save a great deal (and that has all been spent on travel, since).

Michael Robert Powell long term traveler in Blackhawk helicopter East Timor 2000
MRP in Aussie Blackhawk (which was carrying SAS soldiers and international military observers) @ Autro Island off the coast of East Timor in 2000. This is how I hitchhiked to East Timor and become “the First Tourist to independent East Timor” and later landed a UN job. It’s a LONG, CRAZY STORY (Not published, yet.)

Ever thought about working as a ( Lonely Planet ) travel writer for guidebooks?

Probably not for me (particularly now in the time of the coronavirus blues).

OK, while it sounds great to be paid to travel I believe the reality is more pain than pleasure. Rushing around on budget and time constraints, checking facts – boring stuff like accommodation prices, opening hours, bus schedules, etc – dashing about instead of doing things at whatever pace the day’s adventure dictates.

I believe travel is about freedom.

And doing such a travel job imposes on that freedom because it’s still a job and its purpose is based within someone else’s plan.

I travel, for the pure love of travel.

Michael Robert Powell long term traveler in India 1990
MRP @ Aurangabad Fortress in India, 1990. This was my first time in India – and I was spellbound by the country. A life changing experience! And so, I’ve returned to India 3 times since.

What’s your biggest expense when traveling?

FOR BACKPACKING: Paying for the obvious like transportation (buses, trains, boats; occasional flights), accommodation (= the most consuming cost), food & drink, ‘sight’ tickets, visas (these last 2 can really add up also), guidebooks, and essentials like boots. Furthermore, as a lone male there was the expense of drinking in bars and meeting women. And finally, every few years, maybe a new laptop or camera was necessary.

FOR VAN LIFE expenses are much less: Petrol, food supplies – as we cook ourselves – and alcohol (red wine, beer, baijiu – strong Chinese liquor). Annual vehicle check and insurance. Basic car maintenance: oil changes, etc.

While we occasionally stay in paid accomodation, our small van is our bedroom, kitchen, lounge, studio + balcony! Washing water is free to get publicly and electricity is also without cost as it comes from our van solar and battery system.

When will you stop traveling?

That seems unlikely in the near future, with 33 nomadic years already engraved in my psyche. Maybe, when old age catches up with me.

Are you crazy?

Probably.

Michael Robert Powell long term traveler in Mexico 2009
MRP @ Mexico in 2009, happily posing beside a Day of the Dead character.

Don’t you ever get tired of traveling for so long? How do you cope?

Another frequent FAQ.

Regarding backpacking as a long term traveler the answer is – YEAH, occasionally. It usually happens after I’ve done a long trip across a continent (6 months plus).

My solution is to stop and hang-out, unpack my bag, and either have an art-creation holiday or work awhile and get into a routine, and later I’ll get restless then bored. And that’s when its time to returns to the road, refreshed.

Read this advice post for more details: How do I cope with long term travel?


What? More Frequently Asked Questions about Travel? Yeah.


Why haven’t you been to the USA?

Well, technically, I have. BUT I don’t count 3 airport transits and a US entry stamp in my passport as claiming to have been to America.

However, I’d love to travel around the US.

It just hasn’t been a priority. But that’s changing as the thought of a van trip across the States would be awesome!

Yet during my backpacking hey-days, I viewed the USA like any other developed country.

That it wasn’t changing as fast as the Developing World and so I prioritized my travels to the ‘traditional worlds’ in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America, before they fully modernize, and their living history, disappears.

How many languages do you speak?

English aside, only fragments of a few.

Frankly, language learning doesn’t excite me. Likewise, mathematics. Maybe it’s something dating back to the loathing of certain subjects at school.

Michael Robert Powell long term traveler in Luxor Egypt in 1995
MRP @ Luxor in Egypt, 1995. Another amazing travel experience seeing the antiquities of ancient Egypt. I returned again in 2013.

What places do you want to travel to that you haven’t yet?

Well, I understand that 1-lifetime of travel can only really scratch at the surface of the planet; yet, I’ll try and see more if opportunity shines.

Firstly, I want to revisit many countries and show my wife the wondrous places that I’ve already experienced. (I’ve already taken her backpacking to India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, England, New Zealand and across a good chunk of China.)

Regions where I’ve gaps in my travels and where I’d love to experience include the Caribbean & Pacific, North America, Central Africa, slices of Western Europe, the Arctic … and maybe, even the Moon!

Why do you travel to all those ‘strange / dangerous countries’?

Strange – yeah, some seem unusual from a Western perspective. But they aren’t all that dangerous – as a whole, like the news headlines blare.

Why go there?

I have a deep passion for amazing sites such as wild, epic landscapes, ancient ruins and faraway cultures. (Yes, History and Geography were the subjects that most interested me back in the day.)

For me, going to such remote & ‘exotic’ places is often like traveling back in time, as there still a lot of living history around the world.

Michael Robert Powell long term traveler in old Sanaa, yemen in 2005.
MRP in old city of Sanaa in Yemen, 2005. Amazing place! (Shocking for me, that Yemen is still blighted by war in 2021).

Why do you like traveling so much?

(Answered above, partially)

Travel is liberating.

I feel so free. And I love the freedom to do whatever – whenever, of having no ‘real’ responsibilities or social commitments.

(Well, since I got married in 2017, there’s now a few strings, but travel’s still very relaxed and freeing with Van Life in China.)

Also, travel is a great teacher (educating me in subjects that I actually want to learn).

Furthermore while it’s not all wine, steak sandwiches and bliss on the road, for me, most of the travel experience is enjoyable – and often, life enhancing.

Travel is fun.

I like fun.

And it’s highly-addictive.

Michael Robert Powell long term traveler in Antarctica 2003
2002: MRP @ Antarctica + Antarctic Islands voyage over New Year 2003 (with 14 exploration trips onshore). This is one of my greatest travel highlights, ever!

LASTLY

What’s with “THE CANDY TRAIL” as a travel site name?

It originated back in 1996 as the title of my second travel book (which remains unpublished), but later this name became my online travel persona, starting with this website in 2006.

(Only later on Google, did I find that ‘The Candy Trail’ is also the name of a Laurel & Hardy movie from the early 20th century.)

ANYWAY, The TRAIL is the journey, while the ‘experiences’ are THE CANDY.


So there you have it. ?

13 long-winded answers to my most Frequently Asked Questions about travel.

Have a question? – ASK ME HERE. (Maybe I’ll add it to the list).


> Damn! I knew I’ll forgotten that really obvious question!

BONUS QUESTION TIME:

What’s your favourite country?

Groan. Hate this one (innocent as it is).

Simply, I don’t have a number one.

Answer followed by: “Not even your home country?”

No.

It’s impossible to have a number 1.

But it’s totally possible to have maybe 50 or 100 number 1’s or favorite countries.

Basically, I like everywhere, as every country has something to offer this curious traveler.

So here comes just a handful, and in no particular order.

OK, to keep this easy, let’s just start with my homelandNew Zealand.

(aka Aotearoa: ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, in Maori).

NEXT: India, Cambodia, China, Iran, Ethiopia, Mexico, Peru, Egypt, Yemen, Guatemala, Albania, Colombia, East Timor, Myanmar, Argentina, Mali, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Indonesia, Bolivia, Thailand, Rapa Nui (yeah, I know that Easter Island is formally part of Chile but …) and Jordan and yeah, the rest of the world !

Now, if that’s not the worst answer ever, I’ll eat another razorblade sandwich! ?


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