Who’s Out There Now: Dave

Written By: jeff

Posted On: June 14th, 2011

career break travel adventures in Rwanda

Observing Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda. Copyright GoBackpacking.com

In this week’s ¨Who’s Out There Now¨ feature, we bring to you Dave who runs the sites Go Backpacking and Medellin Living. His sites are less about his own travels (although he still writes about those) and more about helping and inspiring new travelers on the best way to travel. While Dave still gets around, he now spends half the year in Medellin, Colombia, his part-time adopted home.

1. So, where in the world are you answering these questions?

I’m currently in Medellin, where I’m spending the first half of 2011 before moving on to explore the rest of South America.

2. One of my favorite trips that you’ve taken was to Rwanda to see the gorillas. What was it like to be so close to them?

The opportunity to spend an hour in the presence of the endangered mountain gorillas was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  It was fun in so many different ways: watching the adolescent gorillas playing and swinging on vines, seeing the male silverbacks moving gracefully through the forest, and hearing the sounds of their communication (which our guides dutifully translated into English for us).

3. You are known to be a huge salsa dancing fan by your readers. What is the protocol for asking a woman to dance in the Colombian salsatecas? Do the women ever approach you?

A hundred percent of the Colombian women expect a man to ask them to dance, and if you go out thinking they’ll approach you (because that’s what you’re accustomed to at home), you won’t be meeting many girls.

For salsa, or any style of Latin dance, it’s as easy as walking over to them and using your eyes and body language to invite them to dance. Colombian women appreciate strong, dominant (macho) men. If you do know some Spanish, you can ask them to dance verbally, but it’s not required.

In the crossover clubs, where you’ll hear more than just salsa music, women may occasionally approach a foreign guy to talk or dance, however it’s usually only after a lot of rum or aguardiente has been consumed.


career break travel adventures in Nepal

With Gela, my trekking partner, after watching the sun rise over the Annapurna mountains in Nepal. Copyright GoBackpacking.com

4. How has your travel style changed since you first started traveling back in 2007 (or was it 2006)?

I began backpacking in 1998 after college, however my big trip around the world began in late 2007.  At the time, I purposefully traveled without a cell phone, and had even left the USA without a laptop because I wanted to have a degree of disconnectedness while traveling.  Nowadays, since turning travel blogging into a way to support myself, I carry my Blackberry everywhere so I can share experiences in real time via Twitter and Facebook, and check email.

Because my laptop is my connection to work, I’m more inclined to pay for a private room as an added measure of security against theft.  I also prefer to fly if it’s affordable, versus taking long (overnight) buses, not just because it saves time but because I worry about my belongings being stolen.  Whenever possible, I prefer slower means of travel though.

5. Career break, nomadic adventure, backpacking, how do you characterize your travels?

Originally, I considered my trip around the world a career break, though I always hoped it would spin me so far off in a new direction that I’d not have to return to working an insurance or call center management job again.

I thought I’d arrive back in the US after my trip and work in the travel industry, but while I was living out my travel dream, I wondered how I could make *that* my actual job in life.  That became my new dream, and I knew that even when my trip came to a conclusion, and I was completely broke, that if I kept blogging, I could continue to build a valuable site.

I’d categorize myself as a flashpacker on account of my laptop and Blackberry.

career break travel adventures in Switzerland

Atop Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps, with Eiger Mountain in the background

6. You migrate back to Medellin every year. Has nesting for part of the year changed the  way you travel?

Living in Medellin, and getting to know Colombian culture more intimately, has made it all too clear how shallow my previous travel experiences have been.  I spent two and a half months in Thailand, but can’t recall a single word of the language, nor did I talk to many locals, unless they were renting me a bungalow or taking me on a tour.

In Medellin, many of my favorite memories have been in the company of Colombian friends, and the girls I’ve dated.  I’ve picked up Spanish along the way, although I’m the first to admit I should be more fluent than I am.  I’m excited to begin putting my Spanish to use once I start traveling the rest of South America in August.

7. What are some of the secrets to travel that you’ve discovered that you think more people who aren’t traveling should know?

I’m a big proponent of Couchsurfing, and while most travelers have heard of it by now, I’m still surprised at how many seem overly-cautious about giving it a try.  Both as a host and a guest, it has changed the way I travel and experience places because it gives you immediate access to a country and culture through a local’s perspective.

I’ve also learned that body language, and smiling, is universal.  People who’ve yet to leave the USA would be stunned at how easy it is to travel through countries where they don’t speak the language, nor does the local population speak English.

8. What was your first ¨I’m not in Kansas anymore¨ moment?

Bali, Indonesia was my first experience in Asia, and between my taxi driver from the airport, a guy on the street, and a guy working at the budget resort I stayed at the first few nights, I was offered girls (as in young prostitutes) several times, and hard drugs.  It was a seedy first impression of Bali, and southeastern Asia in general.

Later on in Kuta, I was accosted and pickpocketed by a prostitute on a motor scooter. That’s not the kind of experience you have growing up in the suburbs of New York City and Washington, DC.

career break travel adventures in South Africa

Hanging out with elephants on safari in Kruger Park, South Africa. Copyright GoBackpacking.com

9. What’s been your most ¨local¨ experience so far?

I hired a motorbike guide to take me around rural Battambang, a provincial capital west of Siem Reap in Cambodia. After visiting caves where genocide occurred, he told me of his own experience surviving the Khmer Rouge while I was eating lunch. I was too timid to ask, but I was so thankful he shared those stories with me – it made the history of it all more personal, and tangible.

Later, as the tour wound down, he invited me to dinner at his house with his wife and 8 children. I spent the night surrounded by his kids, only one of whom spoke English like his dad.  My guide invited me back a second night, when we dined on chicken and curry-stuffed frogs.

10. What has been your most embarrassing moment?

I went to a spa in Chengdu, China with the friend I was staying with there.  I thought I knew how it all worked, so I went to another one on my own. After a somewhat public bath, and some time in a recliner watching TV, I was bored so I went to get a massage. The staff didn’t speak English, so I tried to mime the question of how much clothing to take off.

The way I understood the staffperson, I should take off all my clothes, including my boxers.  Well, I was in the room naked, looking at the tiniest of towels, and wondering if it’s just normal that the towel isn’t big enough to cover your bum.  I was laying face down with the tiny towel barely covering my butt when the guy came back to check on me.  I’ll never forget the absolute shock he expressed at seeing me bare naked on the table.  He was terrified, and I was apologetic, as I didn’t intend to suggest the spa was the type to offer “adult” services.

I put my boxers back on, and turned out to receive a fairly good massage.  The Ba-Guan (fire-cupping) treatment afterwards was a complete surprise though.

career break travel adventures in Colombia

In Colombia's Valle de Cocora. Copyright GoBackpacking.com

11. What’s your secret for getting the most out of your journey?

I’m a backpacker and budget traveler at heart, but I try to ensure that doesn’t stop me from paying for activities I know I’ll enjoy, such as canyoning in New Zealand, trekking in Nepal, going on safari in South Africa, or spending a week in super-expensive countries like Switzerland. I’d rather spend my money freely and go home early than regret not doing something in a foreign land.

12. Finally, our lightening round.

  • Best dish you’ve found so far – Panang curry with chicken in Thailand
  • Most exotic food eaten – skop, or sheep’s head, in Soweto, South Africa
  • Most breathtaking moment – seeing the Himalaya in Nepal at sunrise
  • Biggest disappointment – seeing the polluted Nile River for the first time in Cairo
  • Most memorable place – Cape Town, South Africa is stunningly beautiful
  • Most memorable person – there are too many to choose from
  • Best thing to have on a long bus ride – an mp3 player with my favorite music
  • Worst thing to have on a long bus ride – intestinal problems
  • Best thing you packed – my nylon dry bags, they keep things dry and organized
  • Dumbest thing you packed – paperback books, but I’ve got a Kindle now
  • Funniest travel habit you have
  • Place you wish you could’ve stayed longer – French Polynesia and Nepal
career break travel adventures in Nepal

Class picture after a weekend meditation retreat in Pokhara, Nepal. Copyright GoBackpacking.com

You can follow Dave online at Go Backpacking and Medellin Living on Facebook and on Twitter @RTWDave

Every week, Career Break Secrets profiles a different traveler or traveling couple who are embracing the ¨Because Life Is Out There TM¨ travel spirit.  These are people who have taken the plunge to embark on a career break and are currently traveling the world.

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2 Responses to “Who’s Out There Now: Dave”

  1. Girls in Medellin don’t ask men to dance? You must have answered these questions prior to going out to the club with me ;) . Great interview buddy!

  2. Dave says:

    You know I was referring to early in the night, AND any salsa-specific bar! Thanks for reading. :)

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