Earl is my idol. On December 25th, 1999, he left the USA for a three-month, post-graduation trip to Southeast Asia. He’s basically been traveling ever since.
Amazing. As you can imagine from someone that has been on the road, and writing, for that long, he has scores of wild and fascinating stories. If you want to get lost for hours upon hours, if not days upon days, with excellent writing and adventures from the world over (70 countries and counting), head over to Wandering Earl right now and check it out.
Well, not right now. Follow him on Twitter, check out his website later, and for now, read his answers to the Lucky 13 — some of my favorite answers yet:
1. If you couldn’t make a living traveling or writing about travel, what would you be doing for employment?
Well, had I ended up following the career path I originally studied for, I’d probably be a sports agent right now as there was a time when my only goal was to follow in the footsteps of Jerry McGuire. But if I had to stop traveling today, I might try to earn a living playing the banjo, despite the fact that I’ve never even touched a banjo in my life. I’m just addicted to banjo music, so that seems like a natural option.
2. What is the best foreign curse you have heard?
I had to think for a while about this one and still came up empty. So I’ll just go with what crew members on board cruise ships (after all, I used to be one myself) call the passengers, which is ‘cones’. This term is used because passengers are something that every crew member on board tries their hardest to avoid, similar to the orange cones we come across while driving.
3. What is your favorite print magazine?
That would be the Sky Mall Magazine that you find on board airplanes. I have a grand time flipping through its pages on every flight. Reading about ridiculous marshmallow bazooka guns and toilets for your pet always seems to fire up my own creative juices. As a result, it’s no surprise that many of my better ideas for projects, posts or travel adventures have entered my mind while flying through the sky.
4. What is the thing you fear most about old age?
Having long nose hairs on the outside of my nose and not realizing that I have them. And realizing that I didn’t accomplish all of the goals that I had set for myself in life.
5. Sporting event you have not been to that you most want to see live and in person?
The annual Bazkashi competition that takes place in the Hindu Kush mountains of northern Pakistan. This game is played on horseback, as men attempt to grab the ball (which happens to be the headless carcass of a goat) from the ground, carry it down the field and place it on the other end of the goal line. During a visit to Pakistan a few years ago I traveled through the spectacular Shandur Pass, the location where this event takes place, but I was two months too late for the tournament. So if anyone’s interested, I’m ready for another visit!
6. Most annoying nationality of travelers you have run across?
You know me. I won’t pick on any one nationality 🙂 However, I will say that the Japanese do tend to frustrate me from time to time, simply because many Japanese travelers I’ve met have embarked on some of the wildest and most impressive travel adventures known to mankind. Many a night I find myself lying awake in bed trying to think of ways to match the travel creativity and boldness of many of these Japanese. And this is no easy feat.
(Then again, Earl has signed up for the Ultimate Train Challenge — perhaps in an effort to keep up with the Japanese he’s met.)
7. Location of the last place that you skinny dipped?
Off of a beach on the island of Cozumel, Mexico during my time working on board cruise ships. There might have been some drinks involved, as well as a lovely Hungarian girl. Actually, now I’m curious as to what Reka has been up to these days.
8. Worst dorm room experience you have ever had?
This would be a toss up. First, there was my night at the Salvation Army Hostel in Mumbai that involved my entire body being ravaged by bed bugs and then spending the rest of the night trying to sleep in a metal chair while avoiding the cockroaches crawling around my feet. And then there was my two night stay in a dorm room in Honolulu, which I shared with a 60-year old drunk guy who found it amusing to barge into the bathroom every time I went inside and try to dump his beer on my head.
9. If you could never go to one of the six populated continents ever again, which one would you ban from your life?
Probably Australia, only because I’ve already spent quite a significant amount of time traveling and living here over the past 13 years. And while I do love this country/continent, and would be quite sad to leave it behind forever, the fact is that I’ve seen all I’ve wanted to see, making Australia the only reasonable option.
10. Tell us something interesting about one of your ancestors. (farther back than parents)
My grandfather, who worked for the toy company Mattel, played a role in the decision to introduce the Ken doll as a companion to Barbie dolls.
11. Three things you would never want to travel without, aside from the basics like passport and credit card.
My custom insoles for my flat feet (without them I wouldn’t be able to wander too far); a small box of incense (light up one stick and even the nastiest hotel room becomes somewhat bearable); the book Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse (it’s been in my backpack ever since my first trip).
12. Fill in the blank: I have no idea how ________ got rich and famous, because they have zero talent.
I have no idea how the cast of the Twilight saga got rich and famous, because they have zero talent.
13. Give us your one paragraph obituary, a long time down the road.
Wandering Earl has passed away, while wandering. Happily addicted to North Indian curries and with armpits clean shaven until the very end, Earl attempted to prove that a life of constant travel is not some crazy fantasy or escapist phase but a perfectly reasonable lifestyle option instead. So he
traveled to as many countries as possible, lived out of a backpack, figured out ways to earn non-traditional income and tried to fill his life with first-hand educational experiences.
Some people thought Earl was too serious, others thought he was always a goofball, probably because Earl could be found singing Lady Gaga songs at karaoke one night and then engaging in a three hour meditation session the next. Neither path brought enlightenment but Earl passed away quite satisfied with his time on planet Earth nonetheless, especially after achieving his long held goal of traveling around the world on a camel.
Love this interview! Kudos to Earl for embarking on a never-ending adventure. I wonder if he’ll ever decide to settle down, and where?
Hey Leslie – I’ve always felt that if I wake up one day and suddenly feel like settling down, I will, but it just hasn’t happened yet. So right now, I have no idea when or where that may occur!
OMG – I absolutely love SkyMall. Earl, when we finally get together someday in this world, I will bring along the SkyMall magazine with us and we can go through it together and discuss the marshmallow shooters, the rocks that look like lights, and the eight billion iPod related items that people think are so darn cool. And, who is out there buying an exact replica Harry Potter wand? Really, really? As soon as I get on an airplane, I whip out the SkyMall magazine and start perusing it, pointing out the crazy stuff to Patrick.
Love, love, love all these answers! [And, well, that might be in part because I kinda love Wandering Earl.]
Thank you Akila 🙂
And yes, a Sky Mall meetup sounds great to me! I was actually disappointment on my last few flights as I flew with budget airlines that don’t put the Sky Mall magazine on board. I need to catch up with the latest issues as I think I missed the Harry Potter wand last time around!
Hi, Earl. Fun to get to know you better through this interview! Great stuff! That night in Mumbai sounds like hell….and the rest sounds quite wonderful. I wish you a very long life with very few (or no) long hairs coming out of your nose later. 🙂
PS: We not only share that unique Syrian barber connection, but….I also travel with custom insoles due to flat feet and with incense to hide the smell of icky rooms. Perhaps we were brother and sister in a past life? 🙂
Hey Lisa – So you’re another flat-footed wanderer 🙂 It does seem as if we have quite a lot in common with our travel styles, although I still think that connection with the barber is the most incredible!
That festival in Pakistan looks wild! And Earl totally has wild stories. Give him a bottle of Wild Turkey and a loose tongue, watch out!
Did you see how many times I used ‘wild’. Yeah, I’m an ass. 😀
Another great interview with a well respected travel blogger! I totally agree with the cast of Twilight comment, I can’t even watch the series b/c the acting is so brutal
Your life long goal is to circumnavigate the world by camel?!?! How have you not talked to me about this?
Hey Phil – Well, it’s not exactly a goal that I’ve made too public before. But now that I have, I shall be in touch!
I love this interview! Earl’s Iraq posts were amazing so I was glad to see thisinterview go up. I laughed my ass off at the mention of his armpits in his obituary!
Great interview with Earl! That dude has had some crazy stories to tell! And he’s so nice in his interview! If we ever see Earl with a banjo or Reka, that might be a sign he is settling down! 🙂
Hey Jeremy – Well, Reka has already settled down it seems (amazing what one quick FB search reveals) so it just might be me and my banjo!
Earl/Derek is totally my idol too!!! 🙂
One of the nicest and most humble travelers I’ve encountered online. I’m so hoping our paths cross 1 day soon so we can share Indian food and converse in Spanglish.
I would pick Australia too and for the same reasons.
Great interview! Met Earl last week at Travel Tribe in Sydney, and he’s definitely living the dream!
Another fun interview! But I have to wonder what the expectations were when staying at an establishment called the Salvation Army Hostel Mumbai if not getting eaten alive by various bugs…
Hey Laura – Oddly enough, this hostel was recommended to me by several people. And apart from the insects, it was quite a charming building with friendly staff and in an excellent location. With that said, I still changed hostels the next day!
Awesome interview with Earl! I never realized he was so funny!
I am loving reading all of these interviews and learning about everyone.
Maybe they should all be put into a “yearbook” of travel bloggers haha or a time capsule and have us re-answer the questions ten years from now and see how different or not we all are then.
how about a free eBook — “Best of the Lucky 13” ??
now there might be an idea…..
God! Eleven years! That is truly, truly impressive. And still not bored of Steppenwolf? Even more so…
Sky Mall is definitely an awesome mag 🙂 Great read!
Fantastic interview all the way around! I really dug the information about the Bazkashi competition. I am definitely going to research that some more.
Ha ha ha!! I met that guy in Hawaii! Has to be the same guy. Seriously had a similar experience with a drunk guy trying to dump his beer on my head. Ok, that was years ago.. maybe the same guy..
Its nice to get a peak into Earl’s personality, can’t wait to meet him once I head over to Asia
Very cool interview. I’d also like to see the Bazkashi competition sometime — really didn’t know about it until I read this.
Loved that interview. Great questions, by the way. And… Earl… what’s up with the shaved armpits man? I’m not judging, just curious.
Hey Kim – Thank you for not judging 🙂 A friend of mine once convinced me to do it and ever since, I’ve been addicted to shaven underarms!
I always love an interview with Earl. His answers normally make sense but I had to read the long nose hairs twice!!
Awesome interview man! Would love to know at what point in your journey did you start putting your travels up on the “internet” and what form did it take? Did you have a geocities or a myspace or did you just straight up start with wanderingearl.com? I love internet nostalgia, fyi.
Hey Scott – I actually didn’t start putting my travels onto the internet until the end of 2009 when I began wanderingearl.com! I wish I had more of an interesting internet history.
Earl, you are one of the most interesting travelers I’ve ever “known.” I’m so glad I came across your website all those months ago!
Thank you so much Sabina! Perhaps we’ll meet up one day…but maybe I’ll prove to be much less interesting in person 🙂
We, too, always travel with a box of Nag Champ Doop Cones (is that what those are called). They can be a life saver for sure.
Great answers! I’m also of many Japanese travelers and their amazing adventures! Nice obituary! I love the juxtaposition of Lady Gaga to meditation! Travel is much more exciting in it’s extremes! 🙂
Earl, you just caused me a great amount of pain. I am reading this with a horrible throat infection and could not help bubbling over with laughter at the image of the 60 year old drunk man pouring beer over your head. I have tears streaming down my face- a mix of pain and pleasure. You are hilarious!
It was such a pleasure to finally meet you in Sydney. You are the real deal and have always been my fave travel blogger. I just hope that block on Australia doesn’t happen when I am here, as I’d love to catch up again. We better make it India or somewhere else instead.
Sorry about that Caz. You have the old drunk guy to thank for your pain!
And sorry about the Australia comment in the interview 🙂 All the more reason to meet up with you elsewhere, which I of course am looking forward to. India sounds wonderful to me!
No worries. Sometimes I’d block Australia too!! 🙂
Earl, you really do have some of the best stories. When some people ask about our travels, or ask us the craziest things we have done I usually lead into, “Oh, that’s nothing… you should read Earl’s stuff. This one time…”
Shaun is rather addicted to Skymall and makes sure to comment on almost everything while we’re on our flight. I think we were laughing hysterically at electrically heated golf club warmers the last time.
Hey Erica – Just reading the words ‘electrically heated golf club warmers’ has gotten my creative juices flowing this morning! I wonder if I could subscribe online to that magazine 🙂
I just don’t know which answer is the best one here. All so fascinating stories Earl! I knew you are one intersting person but really, great!! 🙂 I’m sitting at a cafe, and I’m wearing a cap so my mouth is only thing people can see but I just couldn’t stop laughing. I might scare people away.
Hey Juno – My apologies if reading this post scared some people away!
As usual Earl, you don’t fail to dissapoint! Much like others who have commented, I am a huge fan of your writing and you certainly have the experiences to back them up! I mean, 60 year old drunk man barging into the bathroom and pouring bear on your head? I just have to settle for drunk teens vomiting on the subway!
Hey Aaron – Hopefully those drunk teens aren’t vomiting on you! That would be much worse than beer, even if the beer was being dumped on me while sitting on the toilet.
Awesome interview! Earl, you get mad bonus points for that Twilight comment…
So many great parts to this interview but for some reason my mind keeps wandering to the shaved armpits…. 🙂
A great interview, with one interesting traveler. Earl has so many great stories, and the writing on his site is easy to read and has you comming back to see what his next adventure will be. Earl, I can definitely agree with the game of game (if you can call it that) of Buzkashi, as I saw a game of this also in Northern Pakistan many years ago. Complete madness is the only way you can describe it!
Another good interview Michael, I enjoy reading these.
Hey Jason – That must have been incredible catching a game of Buzkashi in action! I was quite bummed that I missed it on my visit as making it up to the Shandur Pass is not exactly something I do too often 🙂
Earl is one of my heroes too! I’m constantly amazed by the places he’s been and wish I could tag along with him!!
Ah, I love reading about Earl, such an interesting guy and I bet you would make a great banjo player. Funny about the Japanese, I get frustrated by the bus tours 🙂 But then you meet other independent travelers and its true that they are on some crazy adventures.
Fantastic interview!! Love Earl!! 🙂
This is a great interview – LOVE it!
Wandering Earl. Now, I’m a fan. Thank you for inspiring me with your travel stories. I’ll always remember your post about that “V” guy who stole your car. Nice read.