An Interview with Gary Arndt: I Catch Up with the Godfather of Travel
I met Gary at my first TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange) in Jerusalem, and it's safe to say that when it comes to the travel industry at large, perhaps no one knows it better. Gary runs the enormously popular travel blog, Everything Everywhere, which essentially serves as a headquarters for all he's up to as far as travel goes (hint: he's up to A LOT.) He's been "on the road" since 2007, and has seen some 180 countries and all 7 continents. It's not an exaggeration to suggest that he's one of the most respected travel bloggers and photographers on the planet.
I'll save you a rundown of his list of awards, as you can check them out on his site, but needless to say it's a rather exhaustive list, which has phrases such as "Travel Photographer of the Year," strewn about it with dizzying consistency. More than that, I was able to squeeze in some time to talk to him at the conference, and I found his advice to be pretty darn invaluable, and that was largely because he wasn't afraid to look me square in the eyes and bluntly say, "nope, that idea won't work." I mean, as someone who is trying to make it in this industry, I can certainly keep my mouth closed for a minute or two and listen to someone who is the definition of "made it," at least in my books.
At the conference, he was the opening speaker, and he did a fantastic job communicating what it takes to develop your brand and have a fighting chance at getting some attention in this industry. He's not a man who butters things up, and his speech was one of many wake-up calls I heard loud at clear at TBEX - a wake-up call to shift things into the next gear, which I feel I'm in the process of doing.
I think his direct, no-nonsense style of communicating comes across strongly in the interview, and that's probably a good thing in a world filled with heaps of overly flowery eloquence. If I'm seeing Gary around more, it likely means I'm pursuing my dreams, so I'll kindly add that I hope I see him around more in the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Gary Arndt.
1. Was your foray into the travel industry intentional or did it happen more or less organically?
It happened out of necessity. I took a trip around the world, and my blog became popular. I sort of ended up having to work with the travel industry just given the nature of things.
2. What’s one country that you think is often overlooked when it comes to tourism, but is bursting with potential?
There are several. Oman, Jordan, Samoa, and the Micronesia are all great places which don't get as many tourists as they should. They are great places that I wish more people would visit.
3. When did you know that you could make a career as a travel photographer, blogger and influencer?
I was about 9 months into my trip when I seriously started to think about making something out of this. At the time no one was really making a living online from travel. However, I knew the long term trends were in my favor. I knew that if I built an audience, eventually money would come to me because the internet was going to kill all the old media. It hasn't worked out perfectly like that, but overall it sort of has.
4. You’re someone I really look up to for a number of your accomplishments, but what accomplishment would you say you’re most proud of?
Being named Travel Photographer of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers. It is by far the most prestigious award I've received, by the oldest and most prestigious organization.
5. The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you’d basically been on the road for ten years. What’s the one memory from that time span you’re sure you’ll never forget?
There are so many, it is hard to pick one. I'd have to say doing a landing and take off on a nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S Truman. Very few people get to do that.
6. What advice would you give to a new travel blogger who is dead-set on entering today’s ultra competitive climate knowing what you know?
Don't go into this looking to make a lot of money, or looking to make money right away. Do this because you love to travel. I made no money the first 4 years I was blogging. It was just a labor of love.
7. Why do you travel? Why do you think people travel in general?
I can't speak for other people, but I enjoy traveling because I enjoy learning. The Earth is the biggest school there is. Every day you travel, you learn something new.
8. I have to ask, if you had choose just one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life, which country would you choose and why?
I'd probably have to go with Japan. I love Japanese food and I never really grow sick of it.
9. Which country did you visit and realize that you completely off base about it. Was it in a positive or negative way?
Generally speaking, the Arab world. The image we get though the media makes it out to be a very dangerous place. In reality, most people just go about their lives like anywhere else. I recently went to the West Bank, and despite all their problems, I found life there to be quite normal, given the circumstances they are under.
10. What’s next for the man who has seemingly seen it all?
I wouldn't say I have seen it all. There is still a lot for me to see and do around the world. Places I haven't been and places I would love to visit again.
What did you think of the interview? Have you followed Gary's writing or met Gary in the past? Have you come across his photography? Any and all comments are welcome below!