Today I’m delighted to feature an Irish travel blogger who who doesn’t have a bucket list. To find out why please meet Andy McFarlane of Window Seat Preferred.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
Ireland, but I’ve been living in Malaysia the last few years and would consider that ‘home’ for now.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
I’ve been all of them at some point; now though, I’m mostly a business traveller and short break traveller.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
I work full-time leading a technology start-up, so that funds my travelling now (aside from business travel). In the past though, anything that made the sums work to get moving!
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
The first trip by myself was at 16, to London. Even though Ireland is a very short hop from the UK, I felt like a wild rugged adventurer heading off by myself.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely. One I love to give the example of is Niagara Falls – I expected a beaten-down path through the wilderness and me delicately pawing away the foliage. As if. In fact, the whole place is nothing at all like that and is more like Las Vegas than any wilderness. Mind you, the opposite has happened where I expected a place to be far more developed than it was.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Definitely – travel is great, but nobody has really travelled if you haven’t properly had the downsides. Between non-stop (tablets did nothing) two-week sickness in India, to the constant never-ending scams, the first few of which I more or less fell for in Beijing, I’ve had quite a few very hairy experiences.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
Plenty, but one of my favourite experiences was being invited to a Vietnamese ‘family party’ by the hotel owner of the place I was staying in, in Ho Chi Minh City. I presumed it would be pretty quiet and a sober affair; completely the opposite. The party dragged on until early in the morning and not a single person was left sober at all. It was the most hardcore family party (even among my own family) I’ve ever attended.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Honestly, I’d be flat out lying if I didn’t answer Delhi here. I know arriving to India is a culture shock no matter where you arrive, but for me just everything about Delhi wasn’t pleasant. I know travel is to embrace another culture and see life through other’s eyes, but there’s times, I think, when every traveller just ‘doesn’t enjoy’ a place no matter what. For me, Delhi was that place.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I’m not sure – I love my home of Dublin, Ireland and it’s a beautiful city in its own way. Having said that, I love the heat, the great food, the beautiful places and sights of interest and the people here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysia has so much diversity both in terms of people, attractions, sights and much more.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
I don’t actually – I never thought about it and don’t really want to be left feeling disappointed if somehow I didn’t make it to the end in time. I prefer to just take everything as it comes and at least then I don’t feel disappointed.
Can you imagine life without travel?
I can, but I know I’d be a very different (and probably much more mundane) person for the lack of travel. Travel is a great tool – that I believe every young person should spend some time doing – that broadens the mind, yes, but also teaches you about yourself, what kind of risks are acceptable, how the world and its people will generally give to and help you if you do the same back. I think without travelling, I’d be a much more shy, risk-averse and jumpy individual.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
Probably working for the same company since having graduated like so many others for very little money, inwardly dissatisfied with life and wondering if this is what it’s all about. Sounds grim I know, but that seems to be the truth of it.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
My blog is called Window Seat Preferred, and it’s at WindowSeatPreferred.com
When did you begin your website?
I actually started this blog in late 2009 under a different name when it was a mishmash of my personal thoughts on life, travel, culture, etc. Last year, with more of my time spent travelling, I re-branded it to the current name and design.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
Completely therapeutic, and also, it helps jog my memory – whenever I’m trying to remember details about a trip or what or where I’ve been the previous few years, I just search it on my site. Having said that, there’s such a huge and active travel community on Twitter and Instagram and I’ve enjoyed bouncing off others, even if that means clashing opinions from time to time.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
Honestly, there’s so many travel blogs out there now and we’re all unique; we’re all telling upfront our travel experiences whether we travel solo, group, whatever and whether we stay in luxury hotels, cheap hostels, whatever it is. On my blog, I don’t try to be all things to all people; I tell my story very honestly (if it’s terrible, I’ll say so and vice-versa) and I try my best to write clearly and humorously and take beautiful photos to go with my writing (I never use or take anyone else’s photos).
Do you have any products or services to offer?
Right now, no I don’t. I’ve spent a lot of time working out how to ‘game’ frequent flyer programs and hotel programs, and learning how to ‘engineer’ the cheapest airfares; I even have a program that lets me see availability on flights so I give a lot of (free) advice and help to people looking to make the most cost-effective trips and travel experiences, because I know most of my readers and followers, like myself, are very budget-limited but want a great experience. Maybe one day something will come out of that, as I can frequently beat online travel sites for price, but for now I’m content just to share my knowledge.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My most successful post was a complete surprise; before I left Ireland again in 2013, I visited the magnificent Powerscourt Gardens in Wicklow, Ireland. Being honest, I was at a loss on what to write before heading back to Asia, so I penned this one quickly and threw it on the blog. It’s done very well; well over twice the popularity of the next nearest.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
In 2013, I expanded my short stories slightly and put the best all together into one short e-book, Bitten by the Travel Bug (available on Amazon). Although many of the stories were already written and just needed some fluffing, it was great to write a few more words on these old adventures and also, to be reminded of many of them again.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
I know slow-travel is a popular topic right now and I do thoroughly enjoy train travel within a country, but as a very mild aviation geek, I probably most enjoy air travel. I find there’s still something incredible about being able to get such a huge and heavy piece of equipment into the air and for the traveller, to get off a few hours later safely in somewhere with a completely different culture, climate, time-zone and so much more. For most of us, without accessible air travel, life would be completely unrecognisable and certainly travel blogging almost wouldn’t exist.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
For aspiring travellers, it’s simple – get out there and get going. When you start out travelling to discover and see things, don’t worry about a big budget or any of that, or pre-planning too much (something I’ve been guilty of in the past), just make a rough plan, save what you think is a right amount of money, and then go and get it done. Don’t be scared or shy, push your boundaries – you’ll be surprised how much you can get away with as a traveller – and commit all the best experiences to memory.
What’s next on your list of places to see?
I’ve still got a huge amount of Asia left to go while I’m lucky enough to be living here. In the next year, I’d love to break out of seeing the same few countries near Malaysia and start travelling further north towards Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China. The only problem with Asia is it’s just so gigantic and it can be challenging to know where or how to go about tackling it!
What most annoys you about travelling?
Honestly, aside from debit/credit cards being stopped when you need them most, I’d have to say needing to get a visa. No single other thing factors so much into my travel-making decisions as they’re costly, often take up a lot of time in applying and, as an expat, take up an otherwise extremely valuable page of your passport’s real estate.
How has travelling changed over the years, do you think?
Without a doubt the proliferation of phones, tablets and laptops people bring them these days and how that’s had a bit of an unfortunate knock-on effect on our communication skills. When I started backpacking, we really had no option but to talk to each other – and half the e-mail addresses we’d swap would be long lost before reaching home! I remember the first hostel I stayed in with free WiFi (only in the immediate lobby area), I thought I’d nearly died and gone to heaven. Now, oddly, if someone asked me what I thought, it’d be closer to hell because it’s just taken over so much of our travelling, some for better, but much to the detriment of interaction.
What has travel taught you?
Much more than I can possibly explain. How to get by with no language and little money, the kindness of people, how to know what you can and can’t get away with, how to respect and admire some of the greatest sights in the world. How much more time do you have?!
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Aer Lingus (My home carrier, and so friendly)
Favourite country? Canada
Favourite city? Tokyo (What a crazy place!)
Favourite beach? Khao Lak, Thailand
Favourite food? Spicy fried rice
Favourite language? English
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://windowseatpreferred.com
Twitter handle? @windowseatprfrd
Facebook page? Facebook.com/windowseatpreferred