Interview with the guy from flights and frustration
Today I am here Interviewing “The Guy from flightsandfrustration.com”
Hi, I grew up in Yorkshire in England. My parents originate from Ireland so I spent most summer holidays on trips back to the Emerald Isle. I still love going back there, it is a beautiful country. As for life goals well yes, they’ve changed considerably! As a child I was brought up in a Catholic family and I felt as though I had a calling for a life in the church. It didn’t quite turn out that way though; I’m now happily married and frequently travel the world on business.
What were the key factors that persuaded you to begin frequent travel?
In the year 2000 my employer at the time offered me a chance to work overseas on a big project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I must admit to being curious about it but didn’t want to over commit. I tried to negotiate for an initial 3 month placement whilst they wanted me to commit for longer. We initially said 5 months and I ended up staying for 17. Whilst Saudi Arabia is very restrictive compared to the West there were a lot of perks to the role. Each month I had an opportunity to take some leisure travel which I utilized as much as possible.
It was only when my time on the project came to an end and I returned to the UK that I faced the possibility of not being able to travel so extensively again. However I was very fortunate in that within a couple of months I found a new employer who offered the chance for international travel most months of the year. Admittedly this would be travelling to work at the destinations (the leisure travel from Saudi was just that, leisure). However, I would always return home and kind of get the best of both worlds.
How long have you been traveling?
I suppose my regular routine of international travel began in May 2000 when I first took that flight to Saudi Arabia. I can honestly say that for maybe 9-10 months a year, every single year since then I have been flying abroad somewhere. So 14 years of almost monthly international travel.
Where are you now?
I’m on a business trip in Melbourne Australia. I’m writing this in my hotel room after a day at work.
What are your plans for the upcoming year?
My travel remit with work is pretty much global, 6 continents. Forthcoming trips will include not only domestically in the UK but Norway, India, the US. I’m likely to return to Australia again this year and no doubt will visit many European countries plus Canada and maybe Brazil and Chile. I’ve already been to China this year.
I tend to arrange my work trips 2-3 months in advance so it varies as to where I go.
What countries do you consider you felt the safest? And did you feel safer than in your home country?
I must admit that I feel safe in my own country. I live in a semi-rural area so there are less of the issues you find in big cities.
As for travel I feel safer in the western countries and also China. The culture there tends to be very welcoming and friendly. Whilst you will still get your share of ignorant people you never really see any “gangs” going around nor have I ever really found myself in a difficult situation.
What countries do you feel the most on edge (in Danger) ?
I’m really uncomfortable going to Johannesburg in South Africa. If truth be told I’ve been many times and never once suffered a problem or had anything stolen from me. However I have numerous South African friends and hear from them many tales of gun point robberies, burglaries, car jackings and murders. I’m also warned where not to go, not to go out alone and not to use taxis. At times you feel trapped in your hotel if you haven’t pre-arranged an outing.
Any memorable dealings with government officials, Police or Border Guards?
A few years ago I was doing a joint work trip in The Netherlands and Germany. I had a hire car so drove from one location to the next. Whilst in Germany all the staff in the office smoked (which I hate) and everyday my clothes would stink of cigarette smoke. It was fine in the sense that I changed my clothes everyday yet at the end of the week my leather jacket stunk to high heaven of cigarette smoke.
On leaving I drove all the way back to Amsterdam Schipol airport to catch a flight home. As I was going through security I could tell the officer on duty was looking at me suspiciously. Even though my hand luggage went through the scanner okay he insisted on opening it and rummaged around extensively. He then asked me if I’d been staying in Amsterdam for long and if I’d “visited any cafes”? I quickly explained to him that they had no interest to me; I’m not into drugs and wouldn’t dare go near them.
He then explained that he could smell the cigarette smoke on me and “thought he’d got lucky”. So thanks to my German colleagues I was very suspicious.
Do you do any work while you travel, such as digital nomad, consulting, or odd jobs?
Not in the sense of your typical full time travel blogger. I have a normal office day job. I work for a multinational manufacturing company which is head quartered in the UK. As part of my job I go to visit our various locations and work on various projects with staff there. Being a digital nomad is a hobby for me. Travelling is my job.
Tell us some of the experiences that made your jaw drop, left you in Awe, or were incredibly touching?
Whilst I was working in Saudi we saw the various sides to life in this country. There is a wide contrast in wealth between the haves and have not’s. A lot of the locals don’t work or are lazy workers; in their eyes much work is mundane and beneath them. A lot of foreign workers come into the country and those from Asia tend to be paid a horrifically poor wage, kept in very restrictive conditions and perform the physical jobs such as cleaning etc. Their employers also tend to confiscate their passports so they can’t leave the country or they have to buy their way out.
Anyway, I was in the office one day with another colleague from the UK when one of these cleaners walked into our room and handed me a note. His English was poor so the note helped. It explained that his father at home in Sri Lanka was seriously ill with a heart condition and had maybe only a few days or weeks left to live. This cleaner was desperately going around asking if anyone would donate some money so he could buy a plane ticket home. I explained this to my friend and we agreed to give the guy equivalent to about £40 GBP (£20 each). When I handed the money over the cleaner looked at me, took the money very gratefully then burst into tears. Here was a grown man crying and overwhelming grateful to us both. It turns out that he’d been desperately begging people for ages and had received virtually next to nothing from the locals, since they mainly look down upon the Asian cleaners.
Word soon got around about this cleaner and our project manager sorted it so that our company paid for his plane ticket home. He was able to go home and be with his family before his father died.
How has your traveling affected your relationships with your friends and family?
I was already traveling frequently when I met who is now my wife. She is used to me travelling away. Admittedly it is more difficult for her than it is for me. However she understands that it is a job which I enjoy and when I am at home we do get time together. (I’m not working late in the office every night when I’m in the UK.)
My parents seem okay about it. Every time I’m about to leave my mum always says “You will be careful won’t you?” but she does tend to be a little bit of a worrier. However conversations with my parents often revolve around where I’ve just been and where am I going to next.
I must admit that with my frequent travel it is very difficult to see friends often. Many of my friends are scattered around the UK and you need a planned trip to meet up. They also have busy lives as well so coordinating a free weekend is really difficult. I can now go a year or two before meeting up with some of the closest friends to me. That is really difficult but the friendships seem strong enough to survive this.
Any Regrets? Anything you would like a shot at a do-over?
Not sure they are regrets but if the Saudi project had been made available to me earlier I may have been able to travel more under my own steam. I’ve longed to go to New Zealand and the Antarctic yet haven’t made it yet. With my current circumstances it would take some planning to do this now, whereas the Saudi project would have made it a lot more time and cost affordable.
Do you see an end to this journey, or do you expect to continue to be on the move, exploring most of your life?
I’ve been traveling frequently for 14 years now and can’t see an immediate end in sight. Not only do I get to see the world but from a work perspective it stimulates me. I’d hate to have a job where I am sat at the same desk everyday doing the same mundane task year in year out. With this job I enjoy the actual work I do and get to see some amazing places courtesy of my employer. I suppose I’ll keep doing this job for as long as my health allows.
Any words of encouragement for our readers to get them to leave the couch and hit the road?
You really don’t know what you are missing until you try it. Places may look boring or predictable on the TV but you need to immerse yourself in the culture and see it first-hand. Feel and smell that humid air, see the vibrant colours, taste and smell the local cuisine as it is meant to be rather than being misled by a poor imitation cuisine restaurant on your high street. Observe the local cultures first hand and see what really goes on. You only get one shot at this life, don’t let it be one where you miss the opportunities.
If you are a travel blogger, do you have any tips for others who are trying to get a successful blog up and going?
Have patience and lots of it. Very few people make a success of it overnight. It can take many months or even a couple of years to start getting the reader numbers you’d like.
Whilst you build your blog don’t be afraid to politely connect with other bloggers and build blogging relationships with them. You can learn so much from them and be willing to offer your help for free.
Don’t go into blogging thinking you’ll be able to make lots of money in no time at all. That is the wrong mind set and you’ll more than likely fail.
See your blog as a long term commitment, for years not a few months. Pace yourself and work at a tempo you can maintain long term. Don’t try to do everything at once, you’ll burn out and give up if you do.
Have you written any books or have a blog, that you would like to plug, write out a brief description here?
I run 2 travel related sites. Firstly there is my personal travel blog http://flightsandfrustration.com. I also run a website which interviews travel bloggers (established as well as up and coming) from around the web at http://travelbloggerinterviews.com.
I recently released a book on the kindle format which is available worldwide from Amazon. It is a book about frequent flyer schemes and how you can benefit from them even if you never take a flight. I cover the wide range of ways you can earn frequent flyer miles with or without flying and some of the various things you can redeem the miles for.
I also look at the way these schemes work in terms of tiers and what pitfalls you should look out for. I will then advise you on how to decide which are the right scheme/s you should join for your particular circumstances.
The book is called “A brief introduction to airline frequent flyer schemes and which ones you should join”. You can buy the book from here.
The Guy has been a long term international business traveler for 14 years. He has covered 6 continents and flies internationally almost every month. He still holds over a million frequent flyer miles in his frequent flyer account. You can keep up to date with his global adventures on his travel blog Flights And Frustration – “The rants, ramblings and ruminations of a frequent traveler.”