7 Intriguing Questions for Travelers

It’s always rewarding when our blog attracts the attention of others who have an interest in publishing our content to a wider audience.

Recently, we were contacted by Brian Null, one of the editors at Travel Awaits, a content provider for the travel community, who asked if we’d be interested in completing a written interview which would be featured on the company’s website. Some of the questions were intriguing, and got at the heart of our travel experiences and preferences. These 7 were our faves:

Glamping on the Masai Mara before it was fashionable.

1. Where was the most unusual place you’ve ever stayed?

On safari in Kenya, our tent camp on the Masai Mara was one of our most unusual lodging options. The really fun part was when we wanted to leave the tent at night we had to wave down one of the roving Masai guards to escort us. There were no fences around this camp and we were just dinner on foot.

An impromptu tuk-tuk lesson: A delightful, unplanned RTW stop in Sri Lanka.

2. What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken? 

We’ve taken a couple of round-the-world trips that were wonderful experiences. On the first RTW, we purchased our plane tickets in advance so our itinerary and schedule were set. However, the second trip was totally planned on the fly. And far and away, it was our favorite. Having the flexibility to stay longer (or leave early), and visit places on a whim was fabulous. Thankfully, technology has advanced so on-the-road planning is not only possible, but easy as well.

Christmas riots when we lived in Athens, Greece.

3. Is there something that you think travelers worry too much about?

Sensational news stories about political problems, protests, and internal disputes sometimes convince travelers to avoid entire countries. Of course, some of this caution is warranted, and it’s wise to do your homework to find out exactly what’s going on. But knee-jerk reactions to news reports can mean missed opportunities for adventurous travelers.

Independent travel: Usually it works, but sometimes it’s a bus to nowhere!

4. Do you specialize in a particular type of travel? 

From the beginning, we’ve always preferred independent travel. Even though it takes more work on our part, we enjoy the freedom and flexibility to determine our own itinerary and schedule. And don’t get us wrong, we’re huge believers in travel, so if organized tours and cruises gets folks out on the road that’s a good thing.

5. What’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit? 

Easter Island has always been on our radar. The Rapa Nui’s culture and their mysterious statues are intriguing and seeing them for ourselves continues to be on our list.

Sharknado! Picnicking in Kotor, Montenegro

6. What’s one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?

We’re followers of the travel-light lifestyle, so what we take on every trip is important to us. In addition to our carefully considered clothing and multipurpose tech gear, we always take our “picnic kit.” This tiny set of plastic plates and silverware enables us to sample food from the local market or have a salad on a park bench or in our hotel room.

The definition of TMI – Glass doors on bathrooms!

7. If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Always travel with an open mind and sense of humor. At its very core, travel is about the wonders and novelty of new cultures, and there’s no denying that a broader world view is better for everyone. But new experiences, perspectives, and ways of doing things may be outside your comfort zone, and can sometimes be disorienting and confusing. And one of the sure solutions to this stress is a sense of humor. Relax, smile, and cherish the fact that you’re lucky enough to be able to see the world.

* * *

Travel lessons are frequently hard-won and are different for everyone. Have a piece of travel advice you’d like to pass on? We’d love to hear it.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri

PS. We appreciate Brian’s interest in Gallivance and his efforts to help us spread the word. If you want to read the original interview in its entirety, visit Travel awaits.

Photo Credits: 1. Amanda Slater 4. Ggia via Wikimedia Commons

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

56 thoughts

    1. Thanks Beth. I think that most international travelers fall into two groups: organized tours or not. We’re in the independent camp, but I must admit that sometimes when I’m looking at the destination placard in the bus window and it’s in cyrillic,Thai or Urdu, I think how much easier it would be to let someone else get me to the right city. 🙂 ~James

  1. Such interesting questions and great answers. I especially liked your views about independent travel , even with the extra work and occasional fails, because you set the pace and itinerary. The picnic kit is a great idea and one I’ll use when I travel next. Lastly, your advice to bring along a sense of humor is indeed the most important thing to remember. The times that things go wrong make far more interesting stories and memories! Anita

    1. Anita, my first international trips were on the job and many of them were in places that weren’t exactly tourist friendly – the drug-runner, revolutionary-infested jungles of Colombia come to mind. And early on I learned the value of a relaxed smile and some self-deprecating humor to ease a tense situation. This also works when dealing with a confrontational Frenchman in Paris. 🙂 ~ James

    1. This is an interesting and potentially complicated question. Depending on the length and complexity of an RTW, the planning can be relatively simple or complicated. On our last RTW we planned as we went along so in reality, it was a series of easily arranged, short trips. The route and schedule for the first trip was totally planned in advance, so it was much more complicated. Luckily, with internet and wifi access it’s easy to deal with finances on the road, which makes a huge difference.

      The knowledgeable folks at “A Little Adrift,” have put together a comprehensive resource for RTWs. This would be an excellent place to start.



  2. Those are some very intriguing questions. I agree with #3 – people often avoid places due to minor political drama when they should be taking advantage of the cheaper plane tickets and fewer tourists!

    1. Jeff, I run into this all the time, as I’m sure you do. In conversations about travel to country X, someone will say: “I saw on the news there’s riots and demonstrations in the capital, so it’s not a safe place to travel.” In the back of my mind I’m thinking: “There are protests in Washington, D. C. every day, and I think it would be safe to travel to New York City.” ~James

      1. Hi James, nothing quite so exciting. We will only be gone 25 days. My husband doesn’t like to be away for extended periods. We ARE going to Australia and Tasmania in October, so we will be hitting parts of the Pacific—just not all at once.

      2. 25 days sounds exciting Shelley. Actually, it’s a good length of time when you’ll have these long-distance flights and jet lag to deal with. Travel in the Pacific is tough. It’s a part of the world where I like BEING there, just not GETTING there. But it’s an inescapable part of the package on this part of the globe. Bon Voyage. ~James

  3. Love your answers to all these great questions. But, most of all, we love your advice and funny photos. You’re a blogging blessing with your quirky take on travel, and we should all be so lucky as to have the adventures you’ve had. Happy travels in 2019! And best wishes on always having the right answer.

    1. Thanks Rusha. These are kind words indeed. We knew from the beginning that the blogosphere didn’t need another traditional travel blog, so we’ve always tried be a bit different from the herd. Some of this is about seeing things through a slightly different lens, but a lot of it comes from being encouraged by supportive and loyal readers like you. I guess that all bloggers are story tellers, and that’s all we want our blog to be. And as Grandma Ivy said in the movie “Pure Country:” There are no answers, only the search. 🙂 ~James

  4. We really preferred independent travel too. The one item that we took with us was one of those multi sized plugs for sinks or tubs. Some of the places we stayed didn’t provide a plug.

    1. Leslie, I hear you about plugs for sinks, and it’s a great idea to bring your own. Between sinks with missing or no plugs, and leaky plugs, it’s tough getting any laundry done at all. ~James

    1. Sharp eye there Lexie. We became hopelessly addicted to ajvar in the Balkans. Everybodys’ version was slightly different, and honestly, there were days when we had it three times a day. It’s the perfect travelers’ food; it’s tasty, cheap, basically healthy, and requires no refrigeration. A slice of crusty brown bread slathered with ajvar … ahhhh … bliss. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Melanie and for dropping by the blog. Frosted-glass bathroom doors seem trendy now. And it’s one fashion, I personally, could do without. Some are worse than others, but none of them are a good idea … but part of the adventure. 🙂 ~James

  5. I very much enjoyed reading this .Easter Island is definitely in my list as well. Great advice about taking all of the sensationalism around protests etc with a grain of salt. Also about traveling with a sense of humour and open mind. Sage advice!

    1. Sue, you and Dave have been to a number of places that might have scared off less adventurous travelers. But, if you’re like me, you certainly would have hated to miss these experiences because of a journalist trying to sell a flashy news story. It certainly pays to be informed, but the key is for the traveler to make the decision based on real information. ~James

  6. I love interviews like these, conducting them, hosting them or reading about them. I hope to do a RTW trip one year as well, but in separate legs to give me the most freedom, like your second jaunt. And, Rapa Nui is on my wishlist as well. We came close one year, as we were sailing in French Polynesia, but a sudden misfortune canceled that planned trip. Yes, an open mind is one of the most important characteristics of a long-term traveler. And, I’d say flexibility. Mark and I are less able to see the humor in certain situations, though. Keep on going and exploring, you two!

    Oh, what does TMI mean in the second to last photo?

    1. First things first Liesbet; TMI means “too much information”, which definitely applies when it comes to glass doors on bathrooms. 🙂

      This is our first interview, and we enjoyed it because some of the questions were a bit unusual. I can see how designing interviews would be fun, and challenging to do well. Sailing in Polynesia? Now that would be the perfect way to arrive on Easter Island. Sailing in that part of the world is serious business, so you guys must be very competent as well as confident. I’m very impressed. ~James

      1. Thanks for the explanation of TMI, James. Apparently, I’m still not a real American. 🙂 After our Pacific crossing from the Galapagos, we spent two years sailing throughout French Polynesia. After eight years of living on our sailboat by then, we needed a break and planned a plane trip to Easter Island as a vacation. But, something drastic prevented that plan. So, after fourteen years together, Mark and I have still not gone on a real vacation. That was supposed to be the one. 🙂

  7. Congrats you guys. What a great interview! That stay on safari in Kenya sounds um . . . exciting. Don and I totally agree with your answer to #3! If we listened to all the government warnings we’d never go anywhere.
    We so much do the same things – the independent travel and the picnic kit (so essential!). We also always include silk long underwear (top and bottom) if we’re going to be in many different climates. The silk packs small and is light weight and instantly turns summer pants and tops into something that works for winter.
    Easter Island is on our list too, but for now our next trip (starting Feb 4) is back to Paris for five days, Rishikesh for a month, and Kyoto and surrounds for 2 weeks. Don’s never been to Japan and I’m so happy to be going back.
    Wishing you both all the best, and many wonderful adventures for 2019.

    1. Alison, it sounds like you guys are planning some fun, wide-ranging travel. And we’re glad to hear that Don will be able to join you in Japan on this trip. Terri and I have done some alone travel, but there’s no comparison to having your sweetie along.

      From your and other comments on this post, it’s interesting to see the common opinions and important gear that long-term travelers use. E.g. silk long underwear, picnic kits, etc. We all have slightly different ideas on essentials, but people who believe in traveling light all have the same basic needs. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not just travel it’s life. Have a great trip and all the best for a safe, healthy, and fun 2019. ~James

  8. Congrats on the interview, your travel wisdom is appreciated. Most all of your answers apply to local travel as well. When we are out and about in the Jeep, you will always find a picnic kit stashed under the seat. And a sense of humor is a must! We very seldom do any “booked” adventures. These days there is so much info out there it is fairly easy to do your own planning.

    1. Laura this post was meant to cover all kinds of travel, and thanks for reminding people that the ideas work right here at home as well.

      I see that you guys aren’t organized tour folks either, which doesn’t surprise me. I think that it can safely be said that anyone who can make the roadtrip to and from Alaska has to have a pretty broad independent streak. In addition to the normal trials and tribulaitions, I’m sure you ran into a lot of “characters” that required a bit of humor to deal with. ~James

  9. Good advice, as always, James and Terri. There is nothing like a lion coughing outside your tent at night to make you hesitate about unzipping the door! I still remember that! And didn’t you have a story once of cows invading your camp at night? That happened to Peggy and I when we were hiking down the PCT this summer. I growled like a bear and boy did those cows take off. We could here their bells disappearing into the distance. –Curt

    1. Curt, surely you’ve had a bear outside the tent experience. If I remember correctly, you had one on your chest! And you’re right about our camp invasion except it was Roosevelt NP and buffalo breeding season, so they weren’t cows outside the tent, but horny buffalo. These buffs had one thing on their minds, so no amount of growling would have done any good. 🙂 ~James

      1. Horny buffalo! Oh no! Wouldn’t want one of those puppies mating next to your tent. Who knows what might happen in a moment of passion. And yes, James, I’ve had several bears outside of my tent over the years, and then the one on my chest when I was sleeping outside of the tent. –Curt

    1. Darlene, as an author you must have done lots of these interviews, both online an in person. So I’m sure you have a list of favorite questions as well. In our case, we liked questions that had unique and personal answers. These are the fun ones to answer. Best of luck with your books and travels in 2019. ~James

      1. Thanks so much. Yes, I have had some interesting questions asked of me. Kids, of course, ask things like, how old are you? and how much money do you make?

  10. You two make good spokespersons for traveling; some people live with very-real and sensitive fears – fear of the unknown, fear of being robbed, of getting sick,eating the wrong food, of being drugged — or for stepping out of line and getting in trouble – that they stay home…. sometimes they can learn from others – especially from posts like this – that it’s ok, and even when it’s not ok, one emerges as a stronger and happier person, with a broader view of our roles and our personal journeys….

    1. Thanks Lisa, it’s good to hear from you. Luckily for me, most of my early international travel was with my job. And in those days, I was just adventurous and naive enough to volunteer to go anywhere my company wanted me to go. I worked with lots of people who weren’t so willing, so I got to be the go-to guy. What all those experiences taught me was that sensitivity, curiosity, and a real interest in local people and their lives works almost anywhere in the world. And you know, it still works today.

      I hope all is well with you, and that you have a fun, healthy, and exciting 2019. ~James

  11. Funnily we too were contacted and interviewed by Travel Awaits, so it was fun to read your comments and see your photos to the same questions. Gosh two round the world trips!! Totally agree on the spontaneity part.. for us, we always buy one way tickets, because every time we lock into return or continue tickets we ending up changing our plans and forfeiting some $.

    Lots of good info here. Totally agree re the travel alerts. Governments are quick to raise the red or yellow flag on a country so as to “protect” their citizens. Honestly when we lived in Nicaragua, that happened at least a couple times of each year. We always ignored it, because we stayed obviously and because yes when you are on the ground you can often be a better judge than something abstract from a news paper article. Same in Thailand when we were there during a coo… and basically it just meant applying common sense and staying away from places were there were protests or crowds.

    Terrific! Well done!


    1. Thanks Peta. It was interesting to read your Travel Awaits interview. And it was surprising how many similarities we share as traveling couples. I was also interested to see your opinion of Myanmar. That hasn’t really ever come up on our radar and I’m not sure why. A recommendation from you makes it rate highly, so we’ll consider it. Also, it was nice to read some of the Peta and Ben backstory.

      Our last RTW was pretty much all one-way tickets. We’ve found that with careful research, frequently they’re no more expensive and the flexibility is wonderful. And since the entire process can be done online, it’s a no brainer.

      We know that you have unlimited choices of where you spend your time online, and we appreciate that you choose to spend some of your valuable time on our blog. We hope that you guys have a fun and healthly 2019. ~James

  12. Catching up on long-unvisited sites, and I’m pleased to find you still traveling. I admire your admonition not to overreact to negative news about trying situations. After all, I know more than a few travelers who won’t come here to the Stats because of stories they’ve read about the ubiquitous gun violence on every corner. Travel on. Congrats on the article.

    1. Hey Brad. It’s good to hear from you and thanks for dropping back by the blog. You know, I cut my international traveling teeth in places like Sudan and Colombia, so I may be a bit more adventurous that the typical traveler, but in general, it’s not nearly as unsafe out there as the media says. Keeping a low profile, leaving a small footprint, and using common sense is good advice no matter where you travel. Well that and keeping your US passport in your pocket. Have a great 2019. ~James

  13. Thanks for the photo with the glass bathroom door. It made me laugh. I encountered one of those in my travels and thought what-the-hell?

    Your response to #7 is the best. The world is full of wonders both big and small. The idea is to open your eyes to it.

    1. Joanne, we’ve encountered these glass doors many times and they’re always off-putting. As I said in the original post, “Terri and I are close, but we ain’t THAT close!” And I can raise the ante. On a recent trip to Romania our whizzy, modern hotel in Brasov had a shower which was a CLEAR glass cube open on all sides … including the bedroom side. Thank God there was a modesty panel to slide over the bedroom side. I mean really! All we thought was: Who the hell designed this place? But, it really was a test of that sense of humor I talked about. 🙂 ~James

      1. You and I are on the same page. I think the bathroom is the one place where privacy should be respected.
        … however we too have seen a lot of interesting variations on bathrooms in our travels. You can’t help but laugh sometimes 🙂

  14. I loved your answers and would never have thought to bring along a picnic kit. Traveling with a sense of humor and a boatload of patience is a must if you want to have a positive experience. We also love to plan our own travel and hope that we can continue to do so for many years. When that becomes too difficult for us, I think we will then start looking at joining tour groups.

    1. LuAnn, we visit places from time to time where it’s essential to take a guided tour. Rila Monastery in Bulgaria comes to mind. But we really just don’t like someone else determining our schedule and what we see. We’re not that demanding, but after all these years of traveling on our own we know what we like, and it there’s a way to make it happen on our own, we do it. As for being unable to do it anymore: as Scarlet O’hara said:” I’ll think about it tomorrow.” 🙂 ~James

  15. hey! this is the first time I am writing to you! I love this article! you are so true in saying a traveler needs to be independent and adventurous too. your answers to all the questions are so informative and at the same time makes me realize what fun I am missing:( can’t wait to start my journey:)

    1. Thanks for the comment Nitu and for dropping by the blog. I guess there’s no “right” way to travel. Each person must experiment to find the type of travel that works best for them, and then just get out there and do it. We’ve been traveling for many years, and the things that keeps up traveling are knowing what we like and the things that drive us crazy. That’s really all it takes. All the best on your journey. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. When traveling, there’s nothing wrong with the tried-and-true, but a bit of spark in the itenerary always makes for good memories. ~James

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