Welcome another edition of
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Tom from @waegook_tom He is a fab world traveler and a Brit blogger who created #FoodpornFriday, and an overall awesome and funny guy.
Let’s get to know him better!
Could you please tell us more about yourself?
Well, I’m 27 and hail from a small town near Harrogate, in the north of England. After graduating from university and finding that my degree was pretty much useless, I worked in a call centre for a couple of years, and then decided to teach English in South Korea. I ended up in Korea for just over three years. At the end of March 2013, I embarked on a trip with incorporated the USA, Canada, Colombia
and Eastern Europe, and moved a step closer to my dream of visiting every continent before I’m 30 (only Africa remains). On January 14th, I fly out to Taiwan where, fingers crossed, I’ll find a job and settle down for a little while.
How old were you when you started travelling?
It depends how you define travel. When I was little, I’d go with my family – my mum, little brother, and two sets of grandparents – to the English Riviera (Torquay and Paignton) for a week. The train took a good 7 or 8 hours at least and, at the time, it was always such a massive adventure. My first international trip was when I was 10, and I went on a school trip to Belgium, with my classmates and a rather draconian headmistress. I first got on a plane when I was about 12 or 13, and went on a family holiday to Jersey (the largest of the Channel Islands, not the US state). My first international trip alone was when I got on the plane and moved to South Korea, aged 22.
What countries did you dream of visiting when you were young?
I wanted to visit absolutely everywhere. I always had my nose buried in an atlas, and I’d pour over it, memorizing city names and flags. I’d sit on the steps at my Nana Straw’s house and pretend it were a magic carpet going to some far away land. I’d go alphabetically (of course) but usually get bored by the time we’d reach Angola.
In my teens, I desperately wanted to visit the USA, especially New York. Shows like Friends and Will and Grace had left their mark on me, and the city is like no other on earth.
Traveling certainly teaches you a lot of things, can you share some lessons you learned?
Patience. Anyone that knows me personally will know that I’m pretty highly strung when it comes to punctuality. However, things don’t always go according to plan. If a flight is delayed, you can’t do anything but sit and wait. If a road is blocked due to a mudslide, you simply have to wait for the road to be cleared. If a bus doesn’t leave until every seat is filled, or if the Couchsurfer in the new city you’re in is late due to work commitments, you just have to suck it up and wait.
Travel has also taught me to be more confident, too. Shyness has no place in travel, and sometimes you do need to approach someone or step out of your comfort zone in order to get something done, or to enjoy a new experience. Travel really does open doors, and opens your eyes.
Do you talk to people on the road in order to get advice or ask locals?
It depends. If I’m CouchSurfing, I’ll ask whoever I’m staying with for advice. Sometimes people in hostels throw up great tidbits of information, or recommendations. I remember in Istanbul, Mario (of Someone Once Told Me) recommended that I go to a hammam (a Turkish sauna) called Aziziye in Kadikoy, on the Asian side of the river.
The next night in the hostel, I overheard a Japanese guest asking for recommendations and I pointed him to the hammam. When I met him later, he said it was exactly what he was after.
However most of the time, I take to Twitter for advice. I avoid TripAdvisor like the plague, because all kinds of people with different ideas of what constitutes a great trip use it. Instead, I hunt down bloggers with similar travel styles (and budgets) to my own, and ask them for their own recommendations.
When did you start your great blog?
All the way back in 2010. I had even less idea what I was doing then than I do now. When I read some of the posts, they’re embarrassing, but I won’t delight them. They’re part of my blogger heritage, and I’m sure than a few years from now, I’ll cringe reading what I’m publishing now.
Share a funny story that happened during your travels or while living abroad
Everything that my students in Korea said to me. I got told, “teacher, your face is made in China.”
I got told that I should sell my arm hair so that a coat can be made out of it. I got told that a picture of a bunch of salamanders was my family. Those kids kept me on my toes. I was proud of how sassy they became under my tutelage.
Failing that, putting a used condom in a bed occupied by a German girl and a British guy in my hostel dorm in Brasov, Romania. They deserved it. More details here.
You went on a round the world trip in 2013, can you tell us about those adventures?
Well, it all started in the USA, in Boston, and continued down the coast as far as Miami. I found a great fare with Virgin America, which allowed me to hop over to San Francisco. I was amazed at how diverse the USA is, and I’ve only just scratched the surface. Colombia surprised me in a good way – the people there are super friendly, although the local cuisine can get tiresome (more rice and beans?) I adored Medellin and Bogotá. I loathed Cartagena.
A few days in Canada saw me in Toronto, which was OK, and Montreal, which is officially my favorite city in the world.
Then I flew to Berlin, and travelled overland through the Czech Republic
Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, before hopping on a plane to Istanbul, and then to Korea, before coming back to the UK. I also went to the Netherlands, France
Italy and Serbia last year. 2013 was a very busy year. Serbia, Romania, Colombia and the USA are probably my favorite countries I’ve been to date.
You are moving to Taipei, Taiwan in 2014, why did you choose that country?
I visited Taipei in 2011, and absolutely loved it. I have friends in the city, so that helps of course. Taipei is very cosmopolitan but at the same time traditional, and it’s also blossomed into one of the best cities in Asia to be a gay man in, along with Bangkok and Hong Kong. Taiwan has a great location for travelling around the rest of Asia, the people there are very friendly and open, and the weather is pretty good, too – what they call winter, Brits call spring.
Do you have any advice for us travelers and bloggers?
For bloggers – proofread your posts (your vs. you’re, it’s vs. its, their, there and they’re etc.), and it’s not cool to buy followers to distort your sphere of influence in order for tourism boards to want to work with you. Also, go easy on the sponsored stuff – some blogs I used to read avidly seemed to have almost everything sponsored for them in 2013, and it makes me question their credibility as a source of independent travel advice. I stopped reading a number of blogs for that very reason.
For travelers – be respectful of the place you’re going to. If you’re going to a foreign country, you have to adapt to fit in with the culture there, not the other way around. If you’re travelling just to party, get drunk and buy offensive souvenirs from locals, while just eating burgers and seeing nothing of the place you’re in, do everyone a favor and stay at home. Go with an open mind, and you’ll be amazed at the experiences you’ll have and what you’ll see. Eat the local food, drink the local wine, flirt with the young locals and tell the older ones how delicious the food they’ve cooked for you is – and all with a smile on your face.
How can we contact or follow you online?
You can read my blog, Waegook-Tom – new posts are up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Thank you so much Tom for taking the time to talk to us at Traveller Soul. It sure was fun getting to know you more.
We wish you all the best and many Happy Travels in the New Year!
Do you have any other questions you would like to ask tom?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
See you next time 🙂