Raymond Walsh is the author of the witty and always-entertaining travel blog, manonthelam.com. He’s had incredible adventures all around the world—from spending New Years Eve at the Pyramids in Egypt (on 12/31/99, no less) to bungee jumping in New Zealand and climbing volcanoes in Guatemala. Besides offering sound travel advice and stunning photography, Raymond effortlessly laces humor in just about all of his stories. In his words he’s a “ranting raconteur, travel enthusiast, responsibility-shirker, aspiring dandy, and deferential drifter.” Sure sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
I recently had the opportunity to ask Raymond a few questions about his experiences as a traveler and writer.
Raymond Walsh: It was a New Year’s resolution that actually stuck for a change. On January 1st of this year, I went out to Cape Spear, Newfoundland – the easternmost point in North America – and said to myself something has got to change. I had followed a few travel blogs for a while, and I thought I had some decent stories to share, so I made a promise that I would start blogging. I went back to my Mom’s place and had my first blog on Blogger within an hour. After a month I bought my domain name and moved to WordPress.
MF: What’s your favorite place that you’ve visited so far?
RW: Michael you know that’s a VERY hard question. I loved South Africa when I was there – I packed a lot into 3 weeks. I also love Central America – especially El Salvador because the people are so awesome. The Philippines as well – great people and so much natural beauty. But I actually think the most awe-inspiring was the Middle East – Petra in Jordan is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen.
MF: Visiting Petra is pretty high on my “bucket list.” What are the top three things on yours?
RW: Only three, eh? Hmmm…the top three right now would have to be skydiving, getting my PADI Advanced Open Water certification, and making it to Easter Island.
MF: What was your first experience with traveling?
RW: The first time I left my home province of Newfoundland, our French class went to Quebec City. I saw my first NHL game, had beer dumped on me, and a knife pulled on me. I was hooked from there.
RW: I did a Great White Shark cage dive in South Africa – that’s probably the most adventurous thing. And I did work for 4 months illegally in Israel, so if you count breaking the law with threat of deportation, then that’s pretty adventurous too.
MF: If you were to show an out-of-towner around your home city, where would you take him/her?
RW: My home city is also one of my favourite places in the world – St. John’s, Newfoundland. I would take them up the trail to Signal Hill, where Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal, because the views are spectacular. You can even see whales or icebergs depending on the time of year. The trail actually takes you through people’s back yards and in some places, right over their patios. Most places people would be pissed that you’re on their land. In Newfoundland, they’re all smiles.
MF: What do you always take with you on your trips? Do you have anything you can’t live without?
RW: Chapstick, laptop, and a credit card, and I’m good to go. And lately, my cheap Android phone I got in Bangkok. Not for the phone itself, but I find it great to write with. It’s a lot easier to type during bumpy bus rides than it is to write in a journal. I use the ColorNote app so then I can just send it to my email or directly to WordPress.
Plus it has Angry Birds.
MF: Well I know about your last bumpy bus ride… I’ll just leave it at that. Name a book or movie that has inspired you to travel.
RW: For book I would have say Holidays in Hell by PJ O’Rourke (love his humour) and Travels by Michael Crichton (just a great travel memoir).
For movie, it would have to be Midnight Express, minus the jail-time and torture and all. When I first saw it I thought Turkey looked so exotic, and it was high on my list of places to visit. The site of the prison featured in the movie is now a Four Seasons. Oh how times have changed.
RW: I’m in Hanoi, Vietnam right now. My Halong Bay trip was cancelled because of Typhoon Nesat, so I’m going to skulk around here for a few days because it would be a shame to miss such a great natural wonder. Plus the food is excellent, the Wi-Fi is lightning-fast, and the beer is cheap, so that helps soften the blow.
I’m flying back to Canada for a couple of weeks in October, but after that I’m heading out again. I have a problem with planning lately, so I’m not too certain where I will head next, but probably back in this general direction.
MF: And finally, what advice would you give to first-time travelers?
RW: This one I’ve shared before, but I believe it to be sound advice:
Be not afraid. Most are there to help, not to harm.
Be not judgmental. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.
Be not an ass. Remember, you are a guest.
MF: Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview, Raymond!