Episode #
011

Sold House, Packed Up and Photographed the World with Gary Arndt

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Episode Summary

Do you know how rare it is to meet someone who has been to all 7 continents and 140 countries? How can you keep up with all the memories? There’s a way to do it: Take photos of your adventure! That’s exactly what Gary Arndt did. He sold his house in 2007 and has been travelling ever since. He is one of the few people who can count the countries he has not visited or lived in - a true-to-the-bone modern day nomad.

Andrew Jernigan and Allen Koski, the hosts of The New Nomad, are quite the travellers themselves. Joined by Gary, they entertain and educate their audience with their adventures, challenges, and tips on how to travel safely while basking in the experience. This episode described in detail the places and the faces they three have seen, actually getting a good look of the world through their eyes!

From the episode

What You'll Learn

Timestamps

[3:17] West is the way to go

[8:23] The 50 State Club

[10:04] Safety tips for travellers

[10:14] Nothing good ever happens in a nightclub

[16:16] Photography is not rocket science

[17:56] Canada’s hidden jewels

Show Transcript

Allen  

Welcome to The New Nomad. We have a great guest today, Gary Arndt will join us, a gentleman who literally has had most some of the most amazing experiences travelled to some of the most amazing places, taking some wonderful, incredible photography. Somebody who does something that I think all of us would like to do, which is just decide at one time that you're going to go see the world. He'll explain that and also have a quick conversation on perhaps tips that if you're going to do that, and maybe some cautionary tales, too, on, you know, things that you might want to avoid. But before then I like to introduce my co-host, Andrew Jernigan, Andrew himself has made some very adventurous decisions. And Andrew, I think today, the word of the day is adventure and exploration and some of your exploration and adventure ideas.

Andrew  

Oh, wow. Yeah. Hi, everyone, Andrew here. And that question just took me back to the Plaza in Kansas City. I remember one day, we're sitting at one of those beautiful fountains, my brother asked me what I was gonna do what I wanted to do, he's 10 years older than I am, and this was 30 years ago. And that's spured, and adventure streak in me that has lasted for many years now. And I'm married that non American, I'm from the US. I've lived around the world now and raised my kids across many continents. And so adventure for me did take place when I made my first trip to Europe, and decided this is it. Allen, you're a quite an adventurous guy that, you know, you've got some practices, when you go to another country, you you make sure and do some specific things that take you deep into the culture. So it's gonna be fun to see what Gary does when he goes into a new culture as well.

Allen  

Yeah, just to tie into that, like when I travel overseas, I tried to get a haircut in whatever country I'm in. And that haircuts between Jordan and Ukraine and other places. And as we talk to Gary, I mean, it's interesting. You know, you look at the list of things like the Dead Sea, then I've also learned a few lessons like don't shave, before you go into the Dead Sea. It's very painful as the salt gets in, even if you didn't feel you cut yourself. So with that, I think let's bring Gary into the conversation. And, and Gary, welcome aboard. And, you know, tell us a little bit about when you when you decided to make a decision. And I think it was 2007 that you know what I'm going to, I'm going to pack up, I'm going to sell my house, and I'm going to go, you know, travel, see the world and how to even build a list. Because it's a really unique, unique thing.

Gary  

I made the decision actually in 2005. And it took me about 18 months to tie up all the loose ends. I had gone back to school, I was at the University of Minnesota, I went back to study geology and geophysics. I had to sell my house, the housing market was kind of soft at the time. So 2007 turned over the keys to my house and I set off and I didn't really have a any sort of bucket list. I had a general direction, and the direction was West. If you ever want to travel around the world, my advice is always go to the west regardless of where you want to go simply because it's easier on jetlag than it is to go east, because you just stay up a few hours longer and you're fine.

So when I started, I basically kind of went by land to Los Angeles, flew to Hawaii learn how to scuba dive in Maui, and then spent the next half of a year, island hopping across the Pacific, visiting most of the the island countries that were there, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, all those places as well. And I told everyone that was going to be gone for about a year. In the back of my mind, I really thought I'd be gone for two years. I ended up being gone for about 10 years. And I just kept going.

Allen  

That's amazing. And you know, you're kind of going west I did by exactly 2008 around the world ticket, and just continue to go west, because you can fly the red eye and land somewhere else. And then and then try to head about, I mean, how did you methodically move like that? Or was it like, I'm gonna stay at a location until it's just time to go? I mean, what what prompted you to keep moving on? Was it the experiences or the timing or what?

Gary  

Yeah, there were there were places where I would stay an extended period of time. So for example, when I arrived in Saigon and Vietnam, I just stayed there for like a month. I got off the bus. I came in from Phnom Penh. And there's a woman there. I had no place to stay. She had a book and she said, Sir, do you need a place to stay? I said, Yes, I do. And she had a book with pictures ever guesthouse and I said, how much is it? she goes $15 a night. I said, Do you have Wi Fi? She goes Yes, I do. I stayed there a month, that's got close.

And there's been times like that where I've stayed for an extended period, mostly to rest. But I have, you know, I love travelling and I love exploring and learning. And so it was always just kind of going to see the next thing. And one of the things that I started doing on my my travels was visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And that became one of the big things for me. And so that often involved going to more obscure out of the way places that a lot of people don't visit. There's a lot of world heritage sites that are, you know, in big cities, and they're pretty popular, but the vast majority of them are really kind of out of the way. And you have to, you know, figure out ways to get to places that the mostly don't get tourists.

Allen  

Actually, oh, by there's our junior underwriter, adding a few comments. But when you were travelling about the World Heritage Site List, was there a particular place that you would say like you mentioned, Cambodia, I loved Cambodia. And of course, people go to the killing fields, but it was when you actually got into the communities and you stay there for a couple weeks. And you saw the people in their day to day, what what was that is fulfilling is actually seeing those amazing sights.

Gary  

Well, in the case of Cambodia, one of the things that you realise right away is that this is a country that had been really traumatised and still hadn't gotten over it. What happened in the 1970s there of you know, they a huge part of their population was killed by the Khmer Rouge. And you could see it everywhere. People were, you know, missing limbs. It was a very young population, you saw very few old people. And it was, that was something you don't get by just looking at pictures of you know, Angora Watt in a guidebook is really what that happened. And there was, of course, places like the Killing fool Fields in the Tuol Sleng prison, that are kind of, you know, mementos to that period of time. But it's very hard to, to understand unless you go and you see it yourself.

Andrew  

West on Gary, you've got you've seen so many unique new, unique things over that 10 year period. I was looking at your site. And you've got a map that shows the countries where you've been things like that, if you were to pick the next three countries that you've never visited. What are those three you think if you if you had to pick three?

Gary  

Greenland, Mongolia, and probably Peru?

Andrew  

Nice.

Gary  

Peru's actually pretty popular country. And I just I just haven't gotten to Peru. Yeah, yeah. And the most obvious place I have not been to is Jamaica. It's super easy to go there. You know, I have a cousin who's only been to one country outside of the United States, and the one country she went to was Jamaica. So she has that up on me on that one.

Andrew  

Yeah, yeah.

Gary  

But I've been to, you know, pretty much every other tiny little place in the Caribbean. And it's one of those things that because it's so easy to get to. I just haven't done it. So

Allen  

he's so with all your travels. Are you also in the 50? state club? Have you been to each one of these states also?

Gary  

I have been to each state twice.

Allen  

Oh, that's fantastic.

Gary  

And I'm very close to visiting every National Park, I would have done that last year if it wasn't for the pandemic. And they've added a new park since then. So I now have six parks I have to visit. But they're all pretty easy. I've been to the hard parks. I've been to all the Alaska parks and American Samoa. So I just have to and I've been to every Canadian province three times have been every Australian state I've been to every state in South Africa, Germany, a lot of places like that.

Allen  

So when I travel, and I've been to 70 countries, not quite as extensive or exotic as yours, you know, I might like little checklist of things to make sure I stay healthy, out of trouble. I try not to wear the blue jeans, the sneakers, you know, I tried to not know there's a kind of a little travel checklist. What do you do to kind of prepare and to protect yourself that you could share with others, that that might help keep them out of harm's way and and one of the things I mentioned that made me really smiles. I too was in Thailand, once in the middle of a protest. And it's kind of nice to be not sticking out like a sore thumb. So I love your experiences protecting yourself and staying safe.

Gary  

While you're in Thailand. If you're a white guy, you're you're sticking out right? You're obviously not Thai. And when I was there during in 2010, during the red shirt protests, people were actively, they wanted me to hear their message regardless what side they were on. So I didn't really fear anything when I was there. The dumbest little thing that I do for safety and I've done this since day, one of my travels. I now even do it when I'm not travelling, is I put my wallet in my front pocket, I have never been pickpocketed I have never to the best of my knowledge been robbed while travelling. I don't stay in dorm rooms in hostels, I get a single room. Just because I'd be the creepy old guy at this point I saw, I'm not gonna stay in a dorm room. And I always put the Do Not Disturb sign on a door, if I'm not staying for an extended period of time. Even if I am I'll do that. And maybe like on the fifth day, I'll let someone clean the room or something. But if no one's in your room, that will ensure that all your stuff is safe. And I usually have a lot of electronics.

But the biggest thing is, you know, put your just putting your wallet in your front pocket makes it harder to pick pocket and a pickpocket is going to go to someone else probably. They'll just you know, they're gonna they're looking for the lowest hanging fruit. And that is the lowest hanging fruit. And also, if you have a backpack, which I often have, because I have a camera, the zipper on the back, put the zipper all the way down on the side don't have the zipper at the top. Because if it's at the top, it only needs to be open a little bit. And you can get your hand in there. If you zip it all. So the zipper is as far down as it goes. You have to zip it like halfway in order to have it not noticeable. So tiny little things like that can make a huge difference.

Andrew  

Interesting. Wondering, in this in this world, where we've all got technology, we've got our you know, our, our phones and which are mini computers. have you encountered much cyber crime in your travels prior to the pandemic and all because, you know, many people don't use a VPN on their phones. And that's a place where we check our bank accounts. So you have all this data is that something you've encountered or is have you been lucky to to avoid that?

Gary  

No cybercrime, most cybercrime involves, you know, the, the first thing, there's gonna, they're gonna target large companies, because that's where they can have, they can find, you know, 20 million credit cards rather than trying to get one. And when I've used a VPN, it's always been to stream something that I can't stream in that country, or something else like that. So I don't think that, you know, those sort of man in the middle of cyber attacks are something. And also when I first started, cyber cafes were a big thing. And you'd be more at risk at a place where it's not your computer, someone may have installed a key logger or something like that. You don't see cyber cafes that much anymore, because everybody has a phone now or laptop. And even when I was at a cyber cafe, one of the things you can do if you have a keystroke logger, let's say you're typing in a password is it can only detect the keystrokes. So let's say you open up a notepad and you type in the first letter of your password, then you type in five random letters on a different app, go back to it, type in two letters of your password, and they're not going to be able to figure out your password. If you do it like that, you can screw up keystroke loggers. So if you're on a computer that's not yours, that you don't have any control over, that's a very easy way to just sort of ensure that you're making life difficult if someone would be tracking

Allen  

you. That's really interesting. You know, you know the other thing about safety, and I love the fact that you do the same thing, which is make sure that there aren't a lot of people accessing your room. Even people who trust like the hotel safe, right? Because if you forget the combination, there's always somebody who can run upstairs and unlock it. So

Gary  

I almost never use the hotel safe

Allen  

Oh, yeah, I never use it either. And you say to yourself, Well, if somebody can lock it, unlock it that quickly. And then of course, things like you know, in certain countries, you don't want to stay higher than six floors, because that's as high as the fire engines could get the ladders or you don't want to be near the front entrance, the case, cars my

Gary  

number, my number one safety tip. I always tell people and this is something that you don't usually hear people never, ever go to a nightclub. Nothing good happens in a nightclub. I've seen I remember I was in Thailand one night and it was New Year's Eve and I heard all these sirens going off. Oh, I figured New Year's Eve next morning I wake up 20 people got killed in a nightclub fire. People getting date rape drugs, putting their drinks, people getting pickpocketed, extortion, scams. All nothing good happens in a nightclub. And if none of those bad things happen, you're still gonna end up paying hundreds of dollars for overpriced drinks for something you don't need in an environment that's loud and dark and crowded. Go to a pub, go to a cafe. Stay away from nightclubs because you are going to be a target for all of these things. If you go to these places. And I remember I was in Singapore. And I was you know I met this one guy and the next day I said we all went to a nightclub he spent $500 drinks? Like, what? What do you do? You could take that $500 and just cat a pint of beer or something or hung out? So yeah.

Allen  

Well, you know, it's funny. It's just like our parents always used to say, and depending on the parent, nothing good happens at midnight after midnight, nothing good happens after 11, depending on what the what the timing is there. I'm really curious about your photography, because I think it's really great that you took some fantastic pictures, you've catalogued your story. You know, what, what do you use as equipment? What, you know, is there some tips for some of our audience that does a lot of travel, I mean, obviously, most of us just now take out our phone and try to take an interesting picture. But the photos that I saw that you took, obviously, were at a much higher level than that, some tips that you might have for folks on kind of cataloguing your adventures, the

Gary  

The vast, vast majority of people put their camera in automatic mode. And that's it, they pointed at something and they press the button. And that consists of their photography. And most cameras have buttons and dials that do things. And those things are there for a reason. And they actually can make your photography better into learn what those are.

Photography is not rocket science, there's only like three things you really have to account for, you know, you have your shutter speed, your aperture and your ISO. And that's about it. And if you just know what those are, and also edit your photos, use something like Lightroom. You know, if you think back to the days of film, what was the difference between a high end photographer then, versus taking your, you know, your film from a camera and you send it to Walmart, and then they come back with a bunch of prints. The difference is, is that that professional photographer is going to be in a darkroom that they control where they can control things like exposure and colour, whereas at Walmart, they're just gonna put it in a machine and it all comes out the same. So that still applies when you take a picture with your phone or with some camera and you don't do anything to it. That's the equivalent of getting it developed at Walmart. Whereas if you actually take a few seconds, you don't have to do much beyond sometimes even hitting the auto button to improve the contrast and the colour and the sharpness of your image in a programme like Lightroom, or there's lots of other programmes that do similar things.

Allen  

So I think that's tremendous. I tried to catalogue and it's some sometimes it seems just work perfectly, but So one question for you, and given your adventures, so you've obviously travelled about, could you share with us an overlooked person, place experience, and given that you've had so many, if you have a couple you want to share because you know, people are out there, you know, looking for for experiences, but the overlooked ones, tend to be closer to people's heart.

Gary  

I'll give you three that are all in Canada. And a lot of people overlook Canada, you know, they want to go to do a road trip with US National Parks, and they forget that the 49th parallel is a completely arbitrary line. Right, cool stuff keeps going on when you're above the border. So one of the greatest parks in the world is Nahanni National Park. most Canadians haven't even heard of it. And it only gets 800 visitors a year. It's in the Northwest Territories of Canada. And to give you an idea how significant it is, when the very first batch of 12 World Heritage Sites was created in 1978. It included the Galapagos Islands, Yellowstone National Park, and Nahanni. That's the kind of level it's at. But most people don't know about it has one of the biggest waterfalls in the worlds some of the most majestic mountains, you're ever going to see some incredible canyons. And the reason why no one goes there is because there are no roads connecting the park to the rest of the world. You have to fly in.

Allen  

Wow.

Gary  

And it is well well worth it. And like I said, I talk about this park all the time. And I don't think it's ever seen an uptick in visitors. And I even mentioned that, because it's it takes some effort. And you basically have to fly you have to you can drive to one of two places Montreal Lake, British Columbia, which is in northern British Columbia, or fort Simpson, Northwest Territories. And from there, you can hire a plane. And you can you know, your options are basically like two weeks or a day trip. Because there's rafting expeditions that go down the Nahanni river which is amazing. Or there are flights where you can actually see the whole park in a day and do several landings on the river and some of the lakes.

The other place I'd recommend is Torngat Mountains National Park. This is on the northernmost tip of Labrador, like Nahanni there's no roads connecting it to the outside world. It's run with a local Inuit people who live there. And it's the one of the only places in North America where you can find fjords, actual fjords, and it's absolutely stunning. I remember one day we went on a boat we went to the end of a fjord and some of our guides said here's lunch and they gave us fishing poles. And we had to catch our lunch. And we caught arctic char it was the best fish I've ever had in my life and fantastic experience. But again, it's a difficult place to get to, and they have a very short season. And the other place that I would highly recommend is the best place in the world to see polar bears. And that is in Churchill, Manitoba. I was up there, I had the the experience of being on the last tour of the season, which is in November, and we saw on one day 43 polar bears.

Andrew  

And wow, that must have been amazing.

Gary  

Yeah. And we, you know, you're in a tundra buggy, which is basically a cross between a school bus and a monster truck. So the polar bears can come right up and stand up and they can't reach you because the tires are like six foot tall tires. And you stay in a thing called the tundra buggy Lodge, which if you know, like the sleeper cars on a train, it's like that except, again, crossed with a monster truck, and it's out on the tundra. And, believe it or not, there's a group called Polar Bears International that has a research station there where they'll do like live videos and stuff of polar bears. And they've worked it so they have a wireless internet signal from town, and in the middle of the tundra. Nowhere can't even see another light, right? 100 megabit internet connection. Oh, it's under a buggy, because they had this setup. So that was also an incredible experience. And they have different levels of things. So you can stay in town if you want at a local motel and do day trips to see polar bears. And it'll depend on the year of course, because of the weather. The year I was there was actually the sea ice came in late, which is bad for polar bears, but good for watching polar bears, because they all just sit there and wait for the sea ice to come in. And the year after that I had a photographer friend who was on the same trip, and they didn't see a single polar bear. So but it's it is the best place in the world because all the polar bears come and congregate in one spot. Because it's the first place the sea ice comes in.

Andrew  

This has been so much fun getting a look into the world from your eyes. We all have different eyes. We all see through things through different filters. And I believe that those who are listening today should tune into your podcast and learn more about you. How can people do that? And if you can share those links, it's going to be in the show notes. But go ahead and tell folks now if you will.

Gary  

Yeah, so I do a daily podcast. And it's like a you know, seven to 10 minutes long. And it's stories of different people, places and things from around the world. So I have done stories on why french fries are called french fries. I have done stories on Hetty Lamarr, the actress who actually invented spread spectrum, radio communication in World War Two. I've done shows on the I just redid one on Richard Nixon, they wrote a speech for if the Apollo 11 astronauts died on the moon that he never gave, but they've recreated it using a deep fake. And so I actually play the speech he never gave about the death of the astronauts. Oh, I've done it on just it just everything. It's a new thing that you about something you probably don't know anything about. And I've had so many people the shows grown so fast, who are just saying, you know, once you once you listen to one, they end up listening to 100 because they just become obsessed by it and have to get through I mean, because they're so short, you know, you can easily do it on a commute. I have parents that listen to it with their kids, when they take him to school so they can learn something new every day. And it's called Everything Everywhere Daily. And you can get it wherever you listen to podcasts.

Allen  

Oh, well you sold me on that I'm gonna I'm gonna listen. I'm first off the conversation today was fantastic and, and learn a lot in and also when people look at your LinkedIn page, or check out the different places that you've been absolutely incredible. Gary, we'd like to thank you once again for joining us and hopefully we can we can have another chat again soon. But I definitely the seven to 10 minute overview of something really interesting. That sounds fantastic things.

Andrew, we've learned a lot today. And I'll mention one thing I think I learned the most and I agree quite a bit with with Gary on this is Canada is a really unique place for folks to visit and often overlooked. And you know, people always tend to think that you have to go a really great distance away. And by the way, I hope post pandemic come soon because I was going to go to Canada this year and go to my first Grand Prix that was going to happen up in Montreal. Doesn't look like it's going to happen. But Canada an interesting place to think about beyond things. What did you learn today and take Andrew

Andrew  

well beyond my my, I didn't have much of a desire to visit Canada even though I do want to go up and visit because I was just on the phone with my my favourite Canadians Liam Martin of running remote. And you know it did stir my desire to go to Peru. Gary and I share something in common we both want to go to Peru is one of our next destinations. So it's been a good show today. I'm looking forward to tuning in to his channel and both on Instagram anEverything Everywhere and the EverythingEverywhereDaily.com. So, this has been good.

Allen  

Thank you, Andrew. And for those who want to catch more of The New Nomad podcast, please look us up at TheNewNomad.net or InsuredNomads.com Thanks for listening and stay adventurous. Thank you, everybody.

Sold House, Packed Up and Photographed the World with Gary Arndt

About the Guest

Gary Arndt

In March 2007, Gary Arndt sold his house in Eden Prairie, Minnesota in order to travel the world. The initial plan was to travel for about a year and a half, however he decided to continue his travels indefinitely. Since 2007, he has traveled to about 140 countries and all seven continents. Arndt did not maintain a personal residence, living only in temporary locations until he decided to finally “settle down” in 2016 when he got an apartment, his base where he could return to between trips. He chronicles his journey on his travel blog, Everything Everywhere, which has approximately 100,000 readers monthly. The blog includes both comments on the places he has traveled and photography. He also co-hosts the podcast This Week in Travel and has contributed articles and photography to websites including The Atlantic and HuffPost, and The Four Hour Work Week. Arndt has won awards from the Society of American Travel Writers and other organizations. In 2010, he was one of 25 selections for Time magazine's best blog list.