Today’s interviewee highlights how long travel blogging has been in existence. He is the mastermind behind Dave’s Travel Corner which has been going for 17 years, yes 17 years! He also has a lesson for us all on how to read flight times. Please meet Dave Levart.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
USA. However, I also have Italian citizenship.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
For quite a few years now, I’ve been on the road 4-6 months of each year. Some years longer. In early 2014, I will spend 2.5 months abroad – I love taking longer term trips, yet at the same time it is nice to have a place to come back to, even if for a short while. When I travel I travel with slightly larger than a school size backpack. I travel very light.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
I offer tours in Napa Valley California. I try to do as many of these as I can during our busy season (April to October) which helps me save up for travel. However I do travel internationally during those months too (I get restless if I sit still too long!).
The travel site makes some income from advertising and more recently I’ve started working with several larger organizations in regards to promoting their service or region.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
The first trip I took that I can actually remember was when I was approximately three years old to what is called “Petrified Forest” in Northern California. I remember sitting on a rock. That is it. Then my memory fails me for a few more years until early memories are trips to my Grandparents home in Red Bluff, California.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
This would have to be the Middle East before I actually started travelling there. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I try to not be swayed by the media but still you never know until you go there – and it is a big region. On my trips, I’ve found the people very friendly, open to cultural exchanges not to mention there are many areas that do not feel touristy which is refreshing.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I had just spent six stressful and intense months (at the end of a three year project) helping build a solar car during my last year at college. We were so into this that some of the core members failed their classes and had to return to repeat classes. We were regularly pulling all nighters to get the vehicle finished. Just before the race, we trailered the car something like 55 hours straight across the United States to the race on the East Coast.
After a huge emotional let-down and not to mention being absolutely physically exhausted by ultimately not qualifying for the final race qualifier trials, we decided to trailer the solar car down to Florida in the middle of July for a post race “vacation”.
It was extremely hot and humid and there were mosquitoes everywhere. I remember getting out of the car in the Everglades and being surrounded by black clouds of mosquitoes all trying to bite me and then racing to the bathroom – upon arriving inside was still so full of many more mosquitoes that trying to sit still and use the toilet was a nightmare. Oh we also tried camping outdoors in these conditions without tents using large towels to cover ourselves.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
This is both funny and embarrassing – because I fly many times a year. I’ve missed flights because I did not catch on to the 24 hour clock system. Case in point, I showed up for an in continent flight in Budapest Hungary in the afternoon for what I thought was a 6pm flight – the gate agents just laughed when I questioned them as to why no one was there. The flight was actually a 6am flight. And this is not the first time I’ve let this happen to me.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Any place on the globe where its cold and I am not dressed properly. I hate cold weather; some of my most valuable physical things are cold weather gear – I’ve gone to the extreme and purchased some of the most hard core gear meant for some of the most extreme weather locations on the planet. It adds a lot of weight – but to me, staying warm when traveling in cold locations is crucial (and I am one that gets easily cold).
Where is your favourite place in the world?
My favorite place in the world is anywhere high up in beautiful mountains. I love climbing mountains. I crave the inspiration that I have when I’m high on a mountain away from daily life, away from people, away from traffic – and it is just me focused on climbing upwards. With that said, I consider anywhere in the high Andes in Peru as well as Nepal and many parts of the Himalayas to be among my favorite places in the world.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Exploring any country that ends in Stan – specifically some former USSR states.
Exploring the South Pacific
Can you imagine life without travel?
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
Honestly I have no idea. I guess my work would be a product of where I live. Having grown up in and around vineyards all my life I have become interested in wine through osmosis; I currently work part time in the wine industry giving tours. If I lived in Hollywood or Los Angeles full-time I probably would end up working in the film industry in some capacity.
I love being my own boss and the freedom that that entails- which of course has its own challenges. I couldn’t see myself working for a large corporation ever.
What happened for you to be seriously ill up a mountain and being carried down on a woman’s back?
This is a story that has been seared into my brain. I became seriously ill with altitude sickness and food poisoning in Nepal. It hit me hard at midnight at about 4,900 meters. Ultimately I became so weak I could not walk under my own power. A lady in our group ended up carrying me on her back all day after initially being carried down the mountain at night by our guide.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
Dave’s Travel Corner
When did you begin your website?
I began the site in late 1996 as a result of that life changing trip to Nepal. The site has always been called Dave’s Travel Corner, but was hosted on another website for several years until in 1999 I registered and moved over the content to the Dave’s Travel Corner domain.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
When I first started writing it was purely as a creative outlet for myself to explore where I had been and at the same time, provide useful information to others who might be visiting similar areas (aside from the main page, the first section of the site was our Guides).
Today I still write for these reasons but also to make an income. My best writing comes from when I have been inspired by something – something unique I experience on my explorations that perhaps I have not yet discovered in prior travels.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
The site is a unique travel community that encompasses all walks of life, culture and types of travel. It is general and broad that way – you can read about slumming it while backpacking or luxing it on some private island in a fancy resort. I am equally at home doing either and I enjoy doing both types of this travel. I love places that have either character or class and my site is a reflection of that.
The site is also unique in that it has been online more than 17 years now and is an outlet for not only myself but some very good writers who contribute regularly.
You feature a series of interviews on your site. What type of people are you interested in interviewing?
I love interviewing people who are passionate about what they do. Whether it’s in the travel or lifestyle or other field – it doesn’t matter. These are people who are so passionate and who spend so much time and energy building something that they often become well-known for it and recognized.
Which is your favourite interview?
I would have to say the one with Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet. He was my first interview for the website. I met him in person and we just sat down and chatted about travel and all his experiences on the road and publishing over the years; the time just disappeared in a blink of an eye.
Please tell us how you were selected to be a Tourism Australia digital CorOZpondant and what it will involve?
For this particular program, Tourism Australia must have researched a number of online travel outlets – and liked what they saw with what I have done over the years. In addition I was in Australia earlier this year and I reached out to them directly via social media so they knew of my site prior. I am very active in social media across a number of outlets and can provide good value and exposure to organizations that are looking to promote certain destinations.
I’m extremely excited to be working with the tourism board and promoting Australia. I will be in Australia for most of February flying into Cairns and then spending some time at the Great Barrier Reef as well as exploring the world’s oldest rain forest. Then I am flying to Alice Springs, doing some gold-mining (one of my passions) and then taking the train down to Coober Pedy which is where I understand that people live in caves because it gets so warm especially in the summer – which is when I will be there. After that it is on to Barossa Valley for some good food and wine.
My mission is to promote the experiences on this particular trip and share them through all of my social media outlets, my websites and several other sites I contribute to. In addition I will also be going on a domestic trip in the United States in some capacity that involves Australia; I will be writing about my experiences and promoting that as well.
Where did you find the hottest chili in the world? And what was it like?
This year was the first time that I decided to grow the hottest chili pepper in the world, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. I ordered some chili pepper seeds from the website, SuperHotChilies and was able to grow one plant out of about 10 seeds (they are fairly difficult to germinate). Eventually it matured and these were the hottest chili peppers I’ve ever tasted. I poked the tip of a pin in one and then put it on my tongue and for about 20 minutes afterwards, that part of my tongue was numb. So I was curious, where do these grow? Where can I find them?
A little research led me to the island of Trinidad and Tobago in the southernmost part of the Caribbean. This is the home of the Trinidad Scorpion. It originates in Moruga, a small province on the southern part of the island. I met some couch surfers; they were intrigued by my mission to visit Moruga in search of this pepper so they accompanied me there. We drove down arriving at dusk and we met a chili farmer simply by stopping on the side of the road and asking random strangers.
The farmer we met had been growing super hot chili peppers for more than 30 years. He was glad to take us out to his farm and we were able to see the rows and rows of hot chili peppers.
I see videos on YouTube and on the Internet of people eating these particular peppers by themselves. I see them vomit, they turn red and some fall down on the floor screaming. This is a painful experience I never want to subject myself to. I cut out an extremely small piece of one of these peppers and put it in soy sauce with some lemon and then put it on some sashimi a friend caught in the waters off of San Diego. That one slice in a bowl of sauce was enough to burn my mouth for a long time afterwards.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
I work with tourism boards and other companies to promote their products through Dave’s Travel Corner and our social media outlets. We put together packages to meet budgets and goals.
We also selectively sell advertising on the website
Also over the past 7 years I’ve made it a mission to personally taste, visit and write about every winery in the Napa Valley California. I’ve visited more than 740 unique Napa wineries/producers for this project – as a result I know the valley extremely well and I offer customized tours to the region.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
The most successful blog post to date on my site was one that I did not actually write. It was written by my sister. I purchased a burqa for her when I was in Yemen or somewhere in the Middle East and brought it back. She wore it in the Silicon Valley in San Jose (Northern California).
She actually wore it on her first date with who is now is her husband while walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. She gauged people’s reactions at the time. She wore it in a fancy hotel in San Jose where she had some questioning looks; two police came over and questioned the front staff and also they wanted to see my mother’s ID (who was accompanying her on that particular outing). So anyhow it was a very interesting piece outlining her reflections and insights into what she experienced from behind the burqua.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
I would have to say my article on Los Angeles because of my love for this city and all the time and effort that I’ve spent in building this article. It has been a 10 year work in progress which keeps growing with additional sections added to it over time as well as more content.
And within this article, my very long page on the Los Angeles Freeways has been most entertaining to write and update. It has been either the number or 1 or number 2 most visited page on my site for years. Writing about freeways really sounds like such a dry topic but I drive these particular freeways often and I love exploring most everything about them (other than being stuck in traffic). I am also intrigued by how Los Angeles really evolved on the wheels of the automobile.
How can people benefit from the forums on your site?
Forums these days are extremely difficult to maintain and promote. During the early days of the Internet, they were perhaps the rudimentary equivalent of Facebook. Today with social media and Facebook growing forums are a challenge.
With that said, people can benefit by posting their experiences. Post questions about travel. Post tips about traveling; doing so will generally make them a more active part of the website and will benefit everyone who visits this part of the site (and most visitors to that part of the site come directly from search engines looking for answers for a certain topic we have).
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
That’s a toss up. I love how fast I can get somewhere on a plane – yet at the same time I enjoy long distance train rides that involve over night sleeping cars.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Get out and have experiences even if it is in your “backyard”. Watching other people have experiences is not the same as having them yourself. Ultimately you will want to do some international travel. It is incredibly broadening if you are open to having experiences while on the road. Don’t always let reports of danger scare you away – do your research, often hotspots are isolated to certain parts of a country.
What has travel taught you?
To look at things from a middle of the road perspective rather than from the extremes. It has centred my opinions on many things – bringing them in from the extremes in some cases. It has also give me perspective on how people live, cultures, differences, similarities, foods and made me realize how important its is from an emotional point of view to strive for something that combines your passion with a way to make an income from it – and at the same time maintain an independent lifestyle.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Any airline that gets me to where I’m going safely and on time
Favourite country? USA
Favourite city? Bangkok
Favourite beach? Secluded beaches on any of a number of small private islands in the Noonu Atoll Maldives
Favourite food? Fresh Greek Salad
Favourite language? English
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://www.davestravelcorner.com
Twitter handle? https://twitter.com/davedtc
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/davestravelcorner
Google+ profile/page? Dave’s Travel Corner