Over The Past Decade Robert Has Adventured To Nearly 100 Countries As One Of The Web's Original Travel Bloggers
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GAFFL
27th Jan | 8 min read

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    At GAFFL, we love to publish inspiring travel stories from adventurers around the world. You can connect with adventurers from 170+ countries on GAFFL, meet up, and explore destinations together. In this post, we are featuring Robert, one of the web's original travel bloggers, who started his first site Leave Your Daily Hell back in 2009.

    In 2018, he created the more specialized Japan Starts Here, which prior to the pandemic had become nearly as popular as his main blog. In the 12 years since he became a travel blogger, he’s written about and photographed nearly 100 different countries. Robert has also lived abroad on several occasions, most recently in Thailand, Taiwan, and Japan between 2017-2021.

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    Why I Started Traveling

    I've always had a curious and adventurous soul. Growing up, my first "trips" were riding around my neighborhood on my bike during the summer. I continue to travel because it is outside my comfort zone (literally and figuratively) where I am best able to self-actualize, be that in pushing the limits of my creativity and earnings with my blogs and various social media channels or working through emotional and existential questions.


    My Travel Frequency & What I Like To Do On My Trips

    Before the pandemic, I was on the road at least 40-50% of the time; I anticipate being back at this level sometime in 2022. When I travel, my focus is creating content for my blog, and I find that hitting the streets of a given city or area with my camera is the best way to facilitate that. I typically use main tourist attractions as guideposts for stringing together my itinerary, although I very often—always, really—go off the beaten path.

    I also try to vary my attractions, devouring more typical things like culture and cuisine, but also the curiosities of a given place. I've taken several trips solely for the purposes of enjoying Japan's cherry blossoms, for example.


    How I Choose Where To Travel Next

    My inspiration for visiting a destination is usually visual, and often just a single compelling image I see on TV, on the internet, or in print.

    On my current trip to Europe, for example, I decided to visit Stallsee lake near Switzerland's Matterhorn mountain after having seen it in a non-tourism-related ad!

    In terms of length, my trips tended to be shorter before the pandemic, particularly when I was living in and could fly to most East Asian destinations in just a couple of hours. Since Covid happened, however, I usually travel for no less than one month when traveling internationally.

    Once I decide on a location, I proceed in a very organized fashion. I map out my days, then chart a rough course through a country's main cities and regions.

    I then proceed to "fill in the blanks" so to speak. listing off everything I want to see or do in each place, then whittling down each list into a manageable, actionable plan.

    How I Pack For My Trips

    I travel light, but not too light. I carry a medium-sized backpack, which holds my camera, tripod, lens, and laptops, plus my passport, credit card, medicine, and everything "essential"—this bag never leaves my side. I then bring a medium-sized duffel bag, where I put my clothes and shoes.

    I make a point of dressing nicely no matter where I travel, and also varying my outfits pretty substantially. However, I usually only pack about 1-2 weeks' worth of clothing, and simply do laundry often and combine the various pieces in different ways.

    In terms of must-haves, high-quality toiletries are key for me—I like to look and feel good on the road, no matter how long I've been traveling.

    Do you know that old saying about how "big hair gets you closer to god"? Volumizing shampoo is how you do that.


    I Love To Meet Travelers & Locals 

    I have made many lifelong friendships on my travels. Currently, I am in Switzerland with my best friend Bianca, who just had a baby and whom I've now known for almost 14 years, since we randomly met backpacking Europe in 2007.

    I've also taken many adventures with local people. When I visited Indonesia in 2014, for example, a local guide named Sam took me to all kinds of interesting places near his hometown of Taman Sari in East Java, including the "blue fire" volcano of Kawah Ijen.


    Getting Paid For Traveling Was A Slow Grind

    Getting paid to blog wasn't difficult as it was slow. When I started my blog in 2009, very few other people were professionally pursuing travel blogging. There were no Facebook groups, and there was not much online advice at all.

    For the first couple of years, I actually made most of my money doing unrelated online writing gigs!

    In 2012, a friend who had a business coaching MBA program applicants inspired me to start my "Travel Coaching" service (whereby I plan bespoke, self-guided itineraries for travel in various countries), which has since become my primary source of income.

    What Every Full-Time Traveler Must Have

    First and foremost, a full-time traveler needs a steady income and very few "ties" in life. No romantic relationships "back home"; no fixed employment or codependent family members.

    A full-time traveler also needs a lot of strength. Physical strength in order to be able to stay on the road and be busy and productive for weeks or months at a time, and emotional strength so as to avoid the temptation to go home when loneliness or depression sets in, as they are bound to do when out on the proverbial sea for an indefinite period.


    Why I Started My Blog

    I originally started my blog for myself—I wanted a record of my journeys around the world so that I would remember them in the future. This is still why I blog, but I now also write to inform and inspire other travelers and, of course, to capture the income and influence that flows from these activities.

    How I Manage My Travel Costs

    I certainly traveled on a budget when I was younger; I stayed in hostels, and often cooked or had simple, take-out meals. Now that I'm older and have more money I usually stay in boutique hotels and Airbnbs and have at least one "nice" meal per day.

    However, I am obviously still mindful of the cost of my travel and try to spend as little per day on "fixed" costs as possible. This is especially important on longer trips.

    Spending $50 extra one day doesn't sound like a big deal, for example. But if you do it every day for a month, that's an extra $1,500 added to the cost of your trip!


    Countries I’ve Traveled To

    As I mentioned earlier, I've been to about 100 countries. My bucket list is largely complete, although I still really want to visit Antarctica (which I plan to do in 2025, for my 40th birthday); I haven't explored as much of Africa as I'd like.

    As far as interesting countries are concerned, my most illuminating trip was probably to Iran in 2017. It was right after Donald Trump took office; tensions were high, geopolitically. Yet the warmth and friendliness of the Iranian people shattered all my preconceived notions about the country, to say nothing of how the beauty of Iran's cities and landscape pushed me creatively.


    How I Manage Work And Travel

    One of the best ways to manage work and travel is to plan "off" days within your trip, ideally at least once a week.

    Sometimes, this entails an extra day in a particular city; in other cases, it's a long day of train and bus rides where you know you'll have WiFi and power. More generally, waking up early and going to bed early, and having a "work before play" attitude is key to developing the discipline and dedication needed to travel and work successfully.


    My Advice To New Full-Time Travelers

    If you want to travel full-time, you need to treat travel like a full-time job. It has to be your top priority; you will need to sacrifice other things in your life to achieve it, at least initially.

    Get comfortable with the idea of saying goodbye, both to friends and family, as well as to wonderful people you meet on the road.

    Don't allow yourself to fall in love too easily. You will almost never be able to have a functional relationship with someone you meet on the road, practically speaking. Your heart will try to deceive your brain, however; if you follow your heart too far it will derail all your plans. This has happened to me many times!


    What I Wish I Had Known When I First Started My Journey

    I wish I had known the world would be shutting down in 2020! I would've traveled even more, and said "yes!" to many trips I declined. I also wish I would've known more about the practical aspects of blogging (SEO, monetization) and been more quick and deliberate to start them.

    Furthermore, I wish I had bought a tripod sooner. I took all the pictures of "myself" attached to this email...myself, using a tripod and remote.

    However, I only started doing this in about 2014. If I had known how to do this much earlier, I'd have more pictures from earlier in my travels.

    New to our blog? Here are some of our inspiring solo traveler's stories worth checking! 


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