In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we chat with Alexander Travelbum, a world traveler and travel vlogger who values having local, authentic travel experiences. We spoke with him about his experiences traveling the United States by van and backpacking through Europe, and also shares his favorite travel tips and much more. Learn more about his top travel destinations and where he’s headed next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
I can’t pinpoint an exact time or place. What I can guess is that it’s just a natural thing for me. I like change, I like adventure, and I try to experience everything new that I can. Travel is inherently all of those things, and so it was a natural path for me.
How many days/weeks are you traveling in any given year? What are the types of places you like to visit?
Lately, I’ve been traveling about 8-10 months per year. I’ll spend a few months at “home” visiting friends and family and making extra travel money. I like experiencing a variety of destinations, but I prefer to go a little off the beaten path where I can have a real experience to take with me and share with my following.
You spent the first half of 2018 exploring the United States by van and the second half of the year backpacking through Europe. Can you share a significant experience from that year of travel that had a profound impact on you?
Traveling by van really changed things for me. I’d backpacked many times and traveled with a suitcase, but I had never built a little home and been able to bring it with me. The experience allowed me to travel to the far corners and reach places that would have been difficult if I’d been relying on the usual: planes, trains, buses, and taxis. I had no schedule to stick to, and no temporary visa. From this, I learned that there are many ways to travel, a plethora of places to see, and that we should all get out of our guidebooks sometimes and just wander, because that’s when you’ll come across the real gems.
Traveling the United States by van is something a lot of people dream of doing. What are some of the benefits and challenges of living the van life?
Like I just stated, one of the benefits of traveling in a van is that you have your home and your transportation with you. So you can go where you want, when you want, and you don’t have to stick to train schedules and bus stations. It’s easy to get off the beaten path, because you literally just drive in the other direction. It’s beneficial to have your bed with you at all times, and a steady supply of food. It’s cost efficient because, once you have your van, you already have accommodation paid for, and you’re mostly just paying for gas and food from supermarkets (which is usually cheaper than dining at restaurants while traveling).
It’s challenging in many ways. Living in a van is like camping every single day. Typically, you have a deluxe bucket as a toilet. If you have solar panels for energy to charge your phone and cook with, they don’t work very well in the winter, and then you can’t cook for yourself or go on your phone. Parking can be difficult. It’s actually illegal to sleep in your car, so you can get a knock on the door from the cops in the middle of night sometimes. Overall, the benefits far outweigh the challenges.
On your channel, you share lots of tips about how to travel with little to no money. What is your top money-saving tip for travelers?
Couch surfing. A lot of people are afraid of it. They think it’s weird or they don’t think anyone would have them as a guest for free. But it’s an incredible platform. It’s always my number 1 tip because when I first really started traveling, I went to Europe for 6 months with less than $6,000.
On that amount of money, I traveled to 15 countries, took trains, buses, ferries, ate at restaurants, had nights out, went to museums, and much more. That amount of money wouldn’t have gotten me through even 2 months if I was paying for accommodation every night. Couch surfing saved me, and that trip changed my life. *The best part of couch surfing isn’t the money-saving part, but that’s what this particular question is about!
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
The main thing I try to get across is that everyone can travel and should. I’ve been able to make it happen on a very small budget, as an introvert, traveling alone, traveling in a group or with a significant other, I’ve been to “dangerous” places, expensive ones… It has always worked out and it’s enriched my life. I want everyone to have those experiences. Most people have excuses, especially when it comes to finances, but that shouldn’t stop you. You can get around that.
On the base level, what I’m trying to say isn’t about travel at all. I’m trying to show people that it is indeed possible to live your life according to what makes you happiest. In this day and age, there’s no need to settle for a life that doesn’t completely satisfy you every day. It may be a struggle to get there but that’s what makes it sweeter in the end.
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
Naming a “Top 3” is tough, but a few of my favorites have been Indonesia, Spain, and Vietnam.
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, best place to have lunch, best sightseeing, etc.
- Go to Hanoi, an interesting, bustling city and great jump-off point before seeing the rest of the country.
- See Ha Long Bay by boat. This is one of my top 3 views anywhere in the world. The landscape is incredible.
- Hit the alleyways of Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City to find the best bhan Mi, the most famous sandwich of Vietnam
- Go to Mui Ne. Less tourists go here, and it’s amazing how the landscape changes. You’ll see white sand dunes, red sand dunes, and Fairy Stream, a stream that you’ll walk along jungle, orange desert sand dunes, and finish off with a waterfall and a tiny village.
- Try the street food. Vietnam is one of the best countries in Southeast Asia for street food. I would name them, but there are too many and you should just try it all. It’s also very budget friendly, with meals ranging from half a dollar to 3 dollars.
How many countries have you visited so far?
I’ve visited somewhere around 24-28 countries.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
- Arancini in Naples, Italy
- Green chili burger in New Mexico, USA
- Pad Thai on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand
What is your favorite restaurant in the world?
Typically, I don’t go to the same place twice. I have tried hundreds of restaurants, so I don’t have any favorites. But one that I frequent at home is El Farolito in San Francisco, CA. It’s just a hole in the wall restaurant and the food is great. According to multiple sources, this place serves the best burrito in the US.
What dish do you recommend there?
You have to try the super burrito. I recommend carne asada.
What is your favorite travel movie?
Into the Wild. Even though his life eventually ends, it’s inspiring how he decided to leave everything behind and venture out into the wild to completely fend for himself and see what humans are really capable of.
What is your favorite international airport?
Singapore, the best airport in the world.
Which city had the friendliest people?
Who is your favorite travel companion?
The best companion is a local because they take you to the best places, teach you about their food, culture, and way of life. You just learn so much more than traveling alongside another tourist.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
Well for me, it’s editing videos. I highly recommend taking lots of pictures and recording videos, even if the footage is just for yourself. Then, when you have downtime, go through it, edit and organize it. That way, you get to spend more time with the things that you probably only saw when you were passing by quickly.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
Myanmar. I traveled there a few years ago, and tourism is growing a lot now, but at that time it was great interacting with locals who didn’t see many people from outside their country.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Open yourself up and value new experience over anything else. Try the foods that you would never have touched before, talk to people who look different than you, go places that you hadn’t heard of. It’s in these moments, where you’re completely open and vulnerable, that you discover the best things about travel.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
My camera, a good pair of boots, plain white T-shirts, travel underwear.
What is your ultimate dream destination?
India. I have wanted to experience this place my whole life. Fortunately, I’m looking into flights now.
What is your favorite travel quote?
This isn’t my favorite, I have many and can never remember when it comes to it, but for now, this will do: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!'” – Hunter S. Thompson.
This quote says to take risks, live fast, have fun, experience things, and do all of the things that make us human, rather than choosing comfort and the safety of home and people we already know. This thought is how I plan my travel experiences.
Where are you headed next?
I’m currently booking flights to a few destinations: India, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico. I am also getting a new van so that I can drive around the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, and dip into Canada.
I’m Alexander Travelbum, a travel vlogger showing people the world through my camera. My aim is to get more people outside to experience the world, get out of their comfort zone, and ultimately to find happiness. I try to show people how to travel on a budget and how to have real experiences outside of tourist traps. I’m originally from San Francisco, CA and have been traveling since I was very young. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. I think travel should be a part of everyone’s life, just as health, education, and socializing are. Growth happens when you get out there and experience things you’ve never done before.