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We’ve met up with Mike Hodson in Colombia, Canada and Thailand and he can always be relied upon for a good laugh and an honest chat about travel blogging over wine and cigars. His travel writing is as funny on his site Go See Write as he is in person and he never shies away from controversy. After an epic 16 month overland trip around the world Mike decided to make travel a permanent part of his life and in a relatively short time has made a career as a travel blogger.
1) How long have you been travelling and where have you been?
I have been traveling most of my adult life; for a couple of decades almost entirely in the United States (still the most amazing country in the world I have been to, by far), and more in the last 5-6 years internationally. I became a permanent traveler at the end of 2008, with my quest to circle the globe without getting on an airplane – a quest that I succeeded in after 16 months, 44 countries, 6 continents and innumerable buses, trains, taxis and boats. I’ve touched on most parts of the world, though I need to revisit most of them again. It’s easier to say where I haven’t been than where I have been: West Africa, India/Nepal area, and Antarctica still need my attention.
2) What made you decide to become a digital nomad?
After ten years of practicing law, I thought it was time to try another career and hit the road. I tried a one-month travel experiment in Nicaragua at the end of 2007 by myself to see I could handle solo travel abroad and loved it. Once I crossed that hurdle, the decision to shut down my law practice and go was easy.
3) How do you fund your travels?
In the beginning I did it totally from savings, but in the last 6-8 months I have managed to get to the breakeven point with my website and some other business endeavors. That being said, I work more hours now than I ever did as a lawyer, for far less money…but, I love where my office is every day.
4) What advice do you have for travel bloggers who want to make money from their blog?
I don’t mean to be overly negative, but my basic advice is: don’t do it. It is hard. Really hard! If you want to mess around and make a few hundred dollars here and there to help offset beer costs, go for it, but if you want to make some sort of full-time living traveling and blogging, it is so much harder than people think.
But if one of your readers wants to row against strong headwinds (to mix metaphors), I’d suggest a couple of things. First, make friends with 6-8 bloggers in your same basic situation (length of time blogging, basic traffic stats, goals for the next year) and constantly bounce ideas off each other. Secondly, join the Professional Travel Bloggers Association
when we launch in a few months, which will help give you a good group of professionals to approach for advice.
5) Do you find it difficult to balance travel and work? How do you manage it?
This is a topic that has been taking up a good bit of my idle thinking lately. As I said, I have been spending more hours working now than I have ever done before in my life, and frankly, I want to work less and start enjoying the actual act of travel more. I have way too many projects going on, and I am excited about all of them, but I am going to have to figure out what to prioritize. It is a difficult personal quest, but one I really need to undertake shortly.
6) You prefer to avoid flights where possible. What are the advantages of overland travel?
There are two main reasons. First, it is far better for the environment. Airplanes are by far the worst form of transport when it comes to pollution and carbon emissions, so limiting those flights is a small bit of assistance you are providing to help keep the Earth cleaner and better for everyone.
Secondly, overland travel offers a much better chance to fully experience the immense scope of this amazing planet we live on. While hopping on a plane and flying from Moscow to Beijing is convenient (and necessary, if you have time constraints), taking the Trans-Mongolian over five full days of train travel gives you a much fuller grasp of the almost unfathomable size of Russia. We live on an amazing planet – being able to slow down and see it at ground level is a constant sense of wonder for me.
7) What’s the biggest challenge of nomadic life?
Money. If I won the lottery or had some chunk of change back home that would allow me to travel without working, I would be in heaven. There is nothing about the actual travel and nomadic life that I dislike. Nothing. So all I wish for is the financial ability to keep doing this for the rest of my life.
8 ) What are some of your favourite local dishes that you’ve eaten on your travels?
I am not a huge foodie. I tend to like lots of different kinds of food and rarely wax poetic over any of them (though if you want to talk about red wines or cigars, we could talk for quite some time). With those caveats, I’ll give you a few dishes that I love: Peruvian ceviche, bread and cheese from France, Italian pizza – and to be clear New Yorkers do not do pizza right, but they do indeed do it right in Italy (or almost any Italian meal for that matter) – and freshly caught, killed and cooked fish anywhere. All those meals are to be had with the appropriate wine, of course.
9) What are some of your favourite off the beaten track destinations?
There is very little that is off the beaten track anymore, but of the less touristed spots, I love Namibia, Colombia, Cambodia, Laos, and Portugal.
10) Where are you heading to next? Do you think you’ll ever settle down in one place?
I’ll answer the latter question with a resounding no. I have no desire at all to settle down. I am going to be forced to slow my travels down a bit in 2012 to complete a few projects that will require me to move around a lot less than I usually do, but I have the most fun in my travels when I am actually traveling and on the move. Right now, it looks like all of 2012 will be in Europe, but if I can knock those things out this year, it will be time to start moving around much more frequently. I am one of the few people that loves just getting there. Ten or twelve hours in a bus, looking out the window, listening to my iPod, and jotting down notes of things that randomly tumble through my head is my version of a peaceful heaven.
If you enjoyed this interview then read about other long term nomads in our Nomadic Interviews series.