Ask A Traveler: Dan Choi

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With the departure date of my 1st ever Around The World (RTW) just a mere months away, I wanted to tap into the collective hive mind of some my most traveled friends to get some key insights and wisdom on life, sanity and survival on the road. For the complete series of interviews, please click here.

Everyone, meet Dan. Dan, meet everyone.

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It was another scorching Central Texas day and Dan and I were team members at the annual Central Texas Tough Mudder. Up until this point, I will admit I didn't know very much about Dan, only meeting him once before we were set to torture our bodies and flail around in the mud. To my amazement, I found out that Dan was quite the traveler knocking out 30 countries in 3 years, including a trek to Everest Base Camp! We have since conquered that treacherous race and I'm pleased to catch up with Dan who is currently based in Vietnam chasing his entrepreneurial dreams.

Cheers,

Nico

"You only use 15-20% of what you pack... It's helpful to have something that you can access the internet with, a camera, headband flashlight, and a Kindle." 

Looking back, what items did you pack in the past that you now think are vital, nice to have and utterly useless for long term travel?

I wouldn't consider anything really vital, except for necessities like prescription drugs. A lot of what I brought with me was utterly useless. You only use 15-20% of what you pack, at least for me on my first run. It's helpful to have something that you can access the internet with (mostly because I don't trust those desktops you find lying around at hostels), a camera, headband flashlight, and a Kindle.

On my first RTW travel, I packed clothes for every weather and occasion. Everything was in excess. I didn't realize that I could pick up everything necessary on the way. On the flip side, at the time, I packed quality goods so it was difficult to throw them away.


What advice on money do you have for someone trying to save up for a trip, and also manage that money while on the road?

Before taking off, live below your means. Put 60-80% of your after-tax earnings into a checking/savings account, and link to a Charles Schwab account (for Americans). When traveling, transfer in increments of US$250-500 to prevent splurging. I tried keeping a budget but found it too tedious. It is tough to explain but I looked at the amount I was willing to spend, researched the cost of traveling to different countries, and then planned accordingly. The biggest way I found to save money on the road was finding a travel buddy. Find someone who you can trust (although I still keep my main bank card and cash in my pants while sleeping), skimp on lodging but splurge on food.

Dan on his Everest trek

Dan on his Everest trek

How do you to go about selecting which destination to go to and also plan what to do in each place?

Using Google Maps, I researched countries with money-earning opportunities and drew an imaginary line to that country. Then, I see how much I have in the bank and how long I can travel (be sure to set aside some money for your final destination). That usually determines where I go. My background is in sales so projects normally found on freelance websites, such as Upwork, didn't work for me. Teaching English in the area I was in ended up being the biggest money making opportunity for me.


Any tips for keeping yourself and your belongings safe?

You really only have two vital belongings: your passport and your ATM card (Charles Schwab ATM card for me). No-fee credit cards are great, but not vital, in my opinion. I keep both sealed in a ziplock bag inside a money belt that is always on me. Finally, seek hostels with personal lockers to secure your belongings.

"My perspective on life has changed from that of a race to a marathon, thus allowing me to take more risks and enjoy the ride." 

 

How has your life changed since returning from your travels and what things do you differently as a result of it?

It is cliche but travel changes you. My perspective on life has changed from that of a race to a marathon, thus allowing me to take more risks and enjoy the ride.

Diving in Akitsushima (Palawan, Philippines)
Diving in Raja Ampat

You can follow Dan and his adventures in Vietnam on Instagram.


Nico Atienza is a Philippines born, Sri Lanka raised traveler who sold everything, quit his job and escaped the rat race to travel the world in 2016. Apart from his love of travel, he is an award winning volunteer, miles + points aficionado and perpetually epicurious story teller. You can peer into his life by following him on Twitter, Instagram or send him an Email.