I’m Mike! Professionally, I’m a digital marketer and web developer. My home base is in San Diego, but since my work is almost entirely online, I can work remotely from pretty much anywhere in the world. If I have a WiFi connection, I can support myself. This allows me to be pretty much anywhere I want, so I’m free to travel practically at-will. It’s very, very cool. I was born in Los Angeles and didn’t travel much until I was an adult. I love mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, camping, jiu jitsu, other action sports, brewing my own beer, writing, and dabbling in photography (who doesn’t these days, right?). I stop to pet almost every dog I come across, and I once got way too drunk in Mexico. That story is not going to be reprinted here though.
1. What’s your website, and why did you start it?
I actually don’t have a travel “website” right now, though it’s in the works. I’ll let you know when I do! I have volunteered and worked with lots of other travelers around the world, though, so you might have seen me on some other peoples’ sites around the web…
2. Can you recall a specific moment that sparked the “traveling bug” in you?
When I was a kid, we used to go on big summer road trips across the United States every summer. We’d pack up our Jeep Cherokee and just hit the road for a few weeks. We must’ve hit every state in the contiguous United States. We never made it to Alaska or Hawaii, and as a kid I never even made it to Canada. I was very well-traveled in my own country but never visited any other country, except for the one time my family went to Tijuana, which I hardly remember. In college I attended school in San Diego, so all of a sudden I was visiting Mexico a lot. And midway through my college career, I went on an 8 week archaeological excavation in Jordan. This kickstarted my travel bug, I think, more than anything else. While I was out there I went to Israel and Egypt as well. Within a few years of returning home, I visited Canada, Ireland and Great Britain, Peru, Costa Rica, Australia, and China.
3. What is your dream trip/destination and why?
My dream destination is definitely Botswana. I know some people at this great sustainable, ethical tour company in Solana Beach called Aardvark Safaris - they offer some awesome Botswana Safari packages and since they’re so close to me and I know them, I think I can make that dream a reality pretty soon. Botswana is cool because it has the most wildlife and wildlife tours of any African country, and it is booming in popularity now but for so long was considered a sort of a “poor-man’s Kenya” or “South Africa” that it hasn’t been over commercialized. There’s still a pristine-ness there that’s really appealing to me. It’s growing in popularity, but it isn’t over crowded yet, and it still feels sort of wild. There’s also the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, a ton of UNESCO sites, and the birthplace of modern homo sapiens… what’s not to love?
4. What does “traveling” mean to you?
Traveling means expanding horizons, which is cliche I know, but that’s what it means to me at its heart. That’s the “personal” aspect of it for me. But on a broader level, travel is a really interesting phenomenon because the concept of world travel is so common now. Traveling the world is something attainable for almost anyone, because as a global community, we have embraced the necessary technology and the intercultural climate to facilitate people moving very rapidly between vastly different societies. So “traveling” for me now includes a whole lot of Responsibility. See we’ve moved past “exploration” and into “global consciousness”. Since we are a global community, and growing more so every day, we almost have an obligation to understand other cultures, other politics, other lifeways. And the best and most fun way to do that is to actually travel to those places and open a dialogue with the people who live there. Don’t sit in the resort. Get out into the street. Mingle with people. We’re citizens of the same global society now, someone in China might as well be your neighbor, so we’ve got to know them and support them where we can.
5. How are you “creating change,” through your traveling or otherwise?
These days I travel as much as I can, and wherever I go I try to spend at least some of my time volunteering. I worked for my stay on a rainforest preserve eco-lodge in Costa Rica, and have gone on multiple archaeological ‘trips’ that allowed me to explore a country while also participating in the expansion and development of that country’s culture (also, dig sites do wonders for the local economy of impoverished regions). If I can’t volunteer, I try to spend my travel dollars with responsible and sustainable tour operators. You’d be surprised how many tour operators in countries around the world donate a portion of their proceeds to development and conservation initiatives in their home region. You just have to ask around or do some Google-Fu to find them!
6. If any, Which organizations that drive change do you support?
There are a lot of organizations doing a lot of good out there, but I’m big on wildlife and environmental conservation. One such organization that not a lot of people know about is Tusk Trust, based in the UK. They focus primarily on the conservation and rehabilitation of elephants and rhinos, but they also support crucial education initiatives in African countries, as well as community development in the same. Conservation and education go hand in hand, after all.
7. What do you ask (or would you ask, given the opportunity) people to do to support those organizations? How do you help?
Oh, there are a lot of ways people can help Tusk and organizations like it. The easiest and most obvious way to do it, without needing to leave your desk, is to donate online. That’s basic. But Tusk has a lot of events around the world that are well worth attending, where a portion of the event proceeds go to charity. A great example that I especially love, since I love to run, is the Safaricom Marathon. This marathon takes place within the Lewa Conservancy, so while you’re running, you’re aware that you’re basically “in the living room of nature.” So you’ll see rhino and giraffe and gazelle just casually hanging out, yards away from the trail you’re running on. It’s pretty intense, to be so close and so vulnerable, but to be participating in such an amazing event. The marathon itself directly benefits Tusk and the Lewa Conservancy, donating money to development and conservation initiatives. The Safaricom Marathon does a lot to combat poaching, which is one of the biggest threats facing these animals now.