Interview With Travel Blogger Derek Freal Of The Holidaze @the_HoliDaze

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Today’s guest caused an internet storm after being detained then deported over an inappropriate tweet. Please meet Derek Freal of The HoliDaze.

Locked up in Indonesia because of a tweet

Locked up in Indonesia because of a tweet

What is your name?

Derek Freal

Which country do you come from/call home?

I was born in America but now like to think of Indonesia as my new home. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the country because of all the amazing and diverse places there. Plus I have started speaking and blogging in the language too, and although I’m not yet fully fluent that demonstrates my future commitment to the country.

Why have you been spending so much time in Indonesia?

When I first arrived in Indonesia I was only planning on staying for one month before moving on to Singapore, the next country on my RTW trek. However when the Singapore Smog started in mid-2013 I realized there was no point in visiting that minuscule nation if I could not even enjoy the outdoors. So I extended my stay in Indonesia another month.

During that second month I started to meet famous Indonesian travelers such as Trinity and Riyanni Djangkaru. Soon I found myself hanging out with the “in” crowd and by that point I didn’t want to leave. Next thing I know I had done an Indonesian tourism film, a television game show appearance, and had even been interviewed by a magazine, all within three months.

New Famili 100 basically the Indonesian version of Family Feud

New Famili 100 – basically the Indonesian version of Family Feud

Don’t get me wrong, I love the country, the culture, the food, the amazing beaches and volcanoes and the 17,508 islands that all need exploring. But it is definitely because of the amazing friends that I have stuck around so long. Never have I had such good fortune with any place I’ve visited!

Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?

I’m a long-term traveler who bounces between budget travel backpacking and occasional splurges of luxury travel when I get tired of hostels or all the responsibilities of house-sitting.

How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?

Back in early 2009 I quit my corporate career and originally used those savings to fund my drinking expeditions around the globe, however now I make enough online to sustain my travel lifestyle. The shift from living off savings to making money online started in 2012 and was enough to cover all of my travel expenses by 2014.

What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?

Well, I remember quite a few trips around the States from when I was 4-12. The earliest I remember was out to West Virginia when I was 4 and I still have vivid memories of my father catching a fish bigger than me. It was stowed in the boat cooler where the lid was actually a seat and I was forced to sit on it to keep the fish from flopping out. Scared the s@#t out of me at the time!

Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

Japan. I’ll admit, I didn’t know what to expect as it was my first trip to Asia but even if I had, everything I witnessed and took part in would have been completely different from anything I could have ever imagined. Still my favorite country in all the world.

Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?

When I was 19 a half dozen friends and I all spent a night in a Mexican jail after one of my buddies tried to buy something he shouldn’t of off of an undercover. They took our cash, watches and phones but luckily one of the guys had stuffed a hundred dollar bill down his sock before the chaos started and the next morning we were able to get some grub and make it back to the border.

Oh yeah and being deported from Indonesia because of a tweet a few months ago. The whole situation was fun at first, I had beer and my laptop, but it quickly turned bad. They confiscated my possessions and cut me off from the world. After over two weeks in there I was able to buy my freedom and was deported to the States.

Locked up in Indonesia because of a tweet

Locked up in Indonesia because of a tweet

Although they were initially going to blacklist me for life, thanks to the online attention this fiasco received and the outpouring of support, I was instead given a six-month ban. I will be returning very soon, so stay tuned to my blog or follow me on Twitter @the_HoliDaze to see if they let me back in.

Did Getting Deported Disrupt Your Travel Plans?

Yes, totally. My Indonesian visa was nearly up and I was planning to head to Laos and Cambodia next. After having to buy a plane ticket back to the States I decided to instead travel around there for nearly two months (NYC, Texas, Colorado and California) before going on down to Mexico.

Just an ordinary day at the beach in Puerta Vallarta

Just an ordinary day at the beach in Puerta Vallarta


Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?

Kansas, United States. Yes, seriously. Another travel writer once said “you can have as much in Kansas as you can in Paris IF you allow yourself to.” No, you cannot. Trust me on this one. (Unless you like barb wire museums or watching the grass grow.)

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Tokyo, Japan. Lived there in 2008 and that is what kicked off my traveling lifestyle and prompted me to quit my job. Still miss that city every day.

Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?

Yes, I have an epic 366-item bucket list that I first compiled back in 2012 — hence the reason for 366. I created it because I was tired of checking things off my old bucket lists and having to write new ones. I wanted to compile an epic and almighty bucket list that would take even the most hardcore travelers the better part of their life to finish.
Some of the items on it include:

– Visit the infamous Bhangrah Fort in India, so haunted the government has made it illegal to visit after dark. Supposedly anyone who does is never seen again.

– Trek out to the remote Canos Cristales River high in the mountains of Colombia and catch the annual show as the algae changes to bright, rainbow colors for a brief two or three week show in autumn.

– Go hang-gliding through the Grand Canyon.

– Less than 0.001% of the people on this planet have ever been to Antarctica. Become part of that exclusive group.

– Go skinny-dipping on every continent.

And I think I have. Since it’s creation two years ago I have only completed a handful of items on it. Check it out!

Can you imagine life without travel?

Could you imagine life without bacon? No, I cannot. It has been and continues to be a life-changer for me and I absolutely love it, cannot see my life any other way.

If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?

And still alive? Well then probably back sitting in a cubicle like in my prior life, working my way up the corporate ladder as one of the pore souls who never escapes the corporate rat race. (Scary thought!)

What is the name of your travel blog and the url?

My site is called The HoliDaze because traveling for me is not a temporary holiday but rather a perpetual daze of new experiences, a permanent “holidaze.” It is comprised of two parts: the HoliDaze blog ( which features only me as the author and documents my hijinks and misadventures around the globe; and the core, which is a kind of travel community where over 150 authors have contributed stories, advice, and information about 60+ countries around the globe.

When did you begin your website?

I started The HoliDaze in January of 2012. Prior to that I had my original for-friends-only blog,, which documented my life in Tokyo and was solely intended for friends back home, so they would know that I hadn’t died yet. That was started in 2008 and while I have imported all of my old posts (I loathe to call them “posts”…more like drunken rambles) onto my current blog, they would not be entertaining to anyone who does not know me in real life as they lack any real information or substance.

Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?

I write for fun, although the last couple of years I have been able to make some decent money from freelance travel writing (which has been awesome!) and I’ve shifted more towards writing to connect with people. However if given the choice between traveling forever and travel writing forever, I would unquestionably chose the former.

Derek Freal of The Holidaze

Derek Freal of The Holidaze


What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?

Well I have a tendency to write and say things that other bloggers won’t for fear of offending sponsors or readers. Whether you love or hate it, controversy is a conversation-starter and it attracts attention. Although I do have a few different ideas for the future of my site and my global endeavors, I’m keeping those hush-hush for now, at least until the start of 2015.

Do you have any products or services to offer?

Besides freelance writing the biggest percentage of my online income comes from web design work, almost exclusively for other travel bloggers and companies in the travel/tourism industry. Beyond that I also design tours, house-sit / pet-sit, and various other travel-related projects.

What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?

As much as I wish the HoliDaze was ranked #2 in Google for something else, my most popular blog post by far is A Summer Job In The California Marijuana Fields. Although the title gives it away, this article covers how the California cannabis scene works.

I’m also getting a lot of attention on several of my articles about long-term travel, such as How Long-Term Travel Changes People Forever and The Occupational Hazards Of Travel Blogging. These have also been two of my favorite articles to write.

Derek Freal of The Holidaze is all about long term travel

Derek Freal of The Holidaze is all about long term travel

What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)

Although I do love train travel, particularly through gorgeous regions, I think the motorcycle is probably my favorite. It is the only form of transportation that allows you to go wherever you want, to do as you please. The roads and traffic signals are but mere suggestions. Now that I have traveled via rented motorcycles in so many different countries I have begun writing specifically about how to make the most of motorcycle travel in various countries.

Motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail through northern Vietnam with a random new friend

Motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail through northern Vietnam with a random new friend


Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?

Take the road less traveled. This modern, technologically connected world is becoming increasingly homogeneous and finding true cultural experiences is likewise getting exponentially more difficult. See all you can before it is gone.

What has travel taught you?

Travel has taught me that no one country does everything right. Each has different answers to common problems like transportation, technology, electricity, medicine and more. Well all just have to learn to leave religion, race and politics out of the equation and embrace new solutions with an open mind.

Quick fire questions:-

Favourite airline? Emirates

Favourite country? Japan

Favourite city? Tokyo

Favourite beach? Pantai Sundak, Indonesia

Favourite food? It’s a battle between Thai, Indonesian and Japanese and not sure I can declare a winner yet…

Favourite language? Bahasa Indonesia. The slang they have is amazing! Not only that but the language also includes my favorite word of all time, jayus: a joke that is so unfunny and so poorly told that one cannot help but laugh at the person saying it. Tell me that is not awesome!


Please provide the following:-

Website url?

Twitter handle? @the_HoliDaze

Facebook page?

Google+ profile/page? and



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  1. Thanks for the interview, it’s been a helluva year (to say the least). I’m back in Malaysia as I type this and am going to attempt my return to Indonesia very soon — although for obvious reasons I am keeping the date of my arrival a secret.

    • You are more than welcome Derek. It has been a real pleasure featuring you and getting to know you online. Safe travels and let’s hope that 2015 is a travel year to remember for all the right reasons. Happy New Year.

  2. Great to hear from you!! I’m looking forward to following your escapades through Indonesia again!! 😀

    • Lol thanks Tim. The only question now is….how do I top everything I’ve already done in Indonesia to make a grandiose return back? Hmmm…..

  3. Awesome interview and great to know more about Derek, I’ve been following him for awhile (actually one of the first travel blogs I found) and his adventures are crazy fun to follow. I’ve also come to embrace motorcycle travel, it gives you so much freedom!

    • Glad to see you two have come over to the dark side of two-wheeled travel escapades 😉 Shame we missed each other in Malaysia but would appear you two left at just the right time — before all the flooding began. Smart.

  4. Very interesting. Indeed, no country does everything right. And if one did, it might be right for one person but not another. So, everyone keep traveling!

  5. I assume you started the interview just before you got arrested Derek because in the start you talk about living in indonesia then you mention you’ve been deported….?

    • You are correct Stacey, good catch. I had most of the questions filled out but because I am always juggling so much work, I kind of forgot about the interview for a couple months. When The Guy reminded me I just picked up where I left off, answered the final few questions and submitted it.

      However my 6-month ban has passed and I will be returning soon. (I had meant to already but my projects in Malaysia have been delayed on account of all the flooding.) And when people ask where I live, my first answer is obviously out of my backpack — but if they ask for a more specific location, I still say Indonesia. During nearly six years of travel I’ve spent more time in that country than any other. The main reason I settled down there was because of my girlfriend….err, ex gf. My relationship there unfortunately did not withstand the whole deportation fiasco — her father was a retired government official so there was lots of family pressure against me. And of course long distance relationships never work. So long story short I don’t feel the need to return there in between trips anymore. But it is still the closest thing I have to a home. (How sad is that? Lol.)

  6. Awesome interview, with this occasion I learned some of its secrets, from which before I was not truly aware.

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