ANDREW EVANS: He’s Been Everywhere, Man (or he’s on his way)
Andrew Evans has packed a lot of life into his 35 years—he’s a writer, an endless wanderer and (recently) a bus passenger heading from Washington D.C. to Antarctica. The National Geographic Traveler contributing editor got his start by writing the first guidebook to Ukraine. Since then he’s written for a wide range of travel publications, spending months at a time on the road without his wanderlust losing the least bit of luster.
With the story of his Antarctic adventure hitting newsstands in this month’s National Geographic Traveler, Andrew agreed to kick some of his travel wisdom our way. Read on to see why the guidebook writer doesn’t carry one himself, how he avoids jet lag and where he’d go with a free plane ticket.
Johnny Cash sings, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” and I’m trying hard to catch up with him.
I’m lucky that work has sent me to diverse corners like the Maldives, Antarctica, the Faroe Islands, Cambodia, the Kalahari, Bolivia, northern Quebec and Australia’s little-known Macquarie Island—which is home to about one million penguins. I’ve also lived for extended periods of time in France, Belgium, England, Ukraine, and the British Virgin Islands. I feel totally spoiled.
My very first travel memory is visiting Mammoth Cave with my family in Kentucky.
I was four years old and completely terrified by the bats and the notion of being swallowed up into the earth.
Maps inspire me big time—it’s how I start all my trips.
I flip through pages of random maps and wonder each place is like in real life. Then I try to get there—all my journeys are born from a staring contest with the atlas.
The first thing I do when I get to a new place is take a walk.
I love to wander, be it a new city or out in the empty wilderness. I want to get out there and find what surprises me. It’s my first impressions that I remember the most.
I talk to as many people as I can, no matter where I go—the more people you meet, the better you know a place.
If I don’t know the language, I get people to teach me as many words as they can.
Curiosity is the best way to really sink your teeth into a place.
Once I was filling up with gas in this rink- dink fishing village in Iceland’s eastern fjords. I heard some really cool music playing and just thought it was the radio, but I followed the sounds through three closed doors until I found a bunch of teenagers jamming in a garage. They were young fisherman with a band on weekends and I spent the afternoon with them, listening to their songs and sharing a pineapple pizza.
This 68-year old German cyclist named Heinz Stücke is the most interesting character I’ve met on the road.
I was doing research in a very remote part of Iceland and thought it so weird that someone would travel so far on a bike. Come to find out, the man’s a legend—he’s ridden his bike in over 200 countries. All he had with him was a pup tent and a 40-pound bag of potatoes.
What drives me crazy are group travelers who utterly fail to listen to the place they’re in.
…The kind who are so loud, obnoxious, and insidery with each other that they remain oblivious to their surroundings. They can stay at home.
I never carry a guidebook, even though I write them.
In most countries, walking around with a guidebook is like wearing a sign that says, “I’m extremely vulnerable, please take advantage of me.” Also, I feel too many travelers use guidebooks as bibles and not as the reference manuals for which they are intended. Chasing down guidebook recommendations ruins the whole excitement of discovery. If I do read a guidebook, it’s for some random place I’m curious about, or else an old-fashioned guidebook from a secondhand bookshop. I love reading 19th century Baedekers—I get a kick out of Victorian travel advice.
My favorite country to visit is France and my favorite city in the world is Paris.
How cliché is that? I can’t help it, though. I am the biggest Franchophile ever. Drop me in a cowfield in Brittany and I’m a happy man The first international experience I ever had was arriving in Paris at age sixteen and I can feel that same excitement when I go back. Plus, I love showing my friends and family around the city.
I have no desire to return to Orlando, Florida ever.
I was there for one weekend and it felt like watching all the scary scenes from the Little Mermaid in loop. We got so bored we fed chicken bones to the catfish in the manmade lakes (and they ate them).
I want to go back to the Maldives so badly it hurts.
I think it’s the most peaceful place on earth, and definitely has the best diving in the world. The exotic blend of Asian and Arab culture is so different and the thousands upon thousands of jewel-like coral atolls are simply extraordinary. It’s unreal.
I would fly to China (if you were handing out free tickets).
I’ve only ever had layovers there and I have this sense that it demands a lifetime of rather deep and expansive exploration.
Give me an old-fashioned Army-Navy canvas backpack any day.
Marco Polo didn’t have wheels on his suitcase and he did just fine.
I prefer hitchhiking when I can get away with it because of all the great people you meet.
Most recently I hitchhiked all the way around Moorea, in French Polynesia.
The best beach I have ever sat on is in Bermuda.
It has pink sand like powdered sugar, with a slow-sloping bay of crystal and turquoise water that’s always the perfect temperature. I won’t reveal the name here, but you’ll know it when you find it because you’ll be the only person there.
I’m going to Greenland in a few weeks—I’ve been trying to get there for about ten years and dreaming about it for even longer.
I’ve been totally fascinated by that huge, ice-covered island—ever since I saw it on a map. I can’t wait to see all the green.
My favorite street food in the whole wide word are doubles, which you find in Trinidad, usually sold by street vendors at around 3 o’clock in the morning.
They’re like little chickpea pancakes piled high with chutneys, spices and all kinds of Indian-Caribbean goodness that you roll up and pop in your mouth. I don’t know any other food that’s so worth a full day of diarrhea. Absolutely love ‘em.
My greatest travel secret is that I enjoy crossing borders illegally (shhh!)
I will confess to having sneaked into about five non-European countries without ever showing a soul my passport. Don’t try this at home.
I try to fight long-haul jet lag by working out right before I fly and when I arrive.
Doing a heavy-duty cardio session after I land helps me sleep better and jumpstarts my circadian rhythm (I think). Once, after 24 hours of flying, I got off a plane in Tasmania and headed straight to the swimming pool where I started swimming laps. After just one length, a fellow swimmer stopped me and laughed before explaining, “In this country, we swim on the left.”
I can’t stand hustlers, which is probably my biggest shortcoming on the road.
I get very terse with anyone who tries to play me or shouts, “Hey you, my friend!” when I’m about 300 yards away and clearly not their friend. I didn’t do so well in Delhi.
My favorite museum in the whole world is called, “The Museum of One Street,” in Kiev, Ukraine.
They’ve taken a bunch of antiques and actual objects from the surrounding houses and put them together in this amazing display that tells the 1,000-year old history of a single street called Andriyivsky Uzviz.
There’s a playlist on my iPod called “Travel” and I play it when I’m flying or driving to a new place.
It includes all my favorite songs about travel and the spirit of the open road—songs like Nick Drake’s “Cello Song”, the Innocence Mission’s “Song about Traveling” and Camera Obscura’s “Let’s Get Out of this Country.”
I love to travel because that’s when I’m happiest.
I first realized it on a train while crossing Morocco. I found that I just couldn’t stop smiling out the window. When I’m traveling, I never get too sad.
Be sure to visit Andrew at his website WalkedandWalked. You can read more about his bus trip to Antarctica by checking out the National Geographic Blog or reading his article in the September issue of National Geographic Traveler.
“How I Travel” is a new BootsnAll series publishing every Tuesday in an effort to look at the unique and diverse travel habits of some of the world’s most well known and proficient road warriors. Got ideas for who we should talk to? Drop us a note.
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all photographs provided by Andrew Evans and may not be used without permission