In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Frank Thomae, the world traveler behind the blog The Travels of BBQBoy and Spanky. We chat with Frank about what travel means to him, some of his favorite places he and his wife have lived, his favorite things to do in South Africa, and much more. Check out Frank’s best travel advice and find out where he’s headed next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
Hi David. Thanks for including us in your interview series.
I was 8 years old when I moved to Lusaka (Zambia) with my parents. I didn’t appreciate it much at the time but that’s when the seed for travel got planted. It was about 10 years later, when I revisited Africa, that knew that travel was going to play a major part in my life.
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
Travel makes me feel alive. I get bored easily – I need to see new things, have a bit of adventure and face challenges.
I lived the routine 9-5 life until my mid-40’s. I had a good career and lived in an exciting city (Montreal). But I always had the travel bug in my system. We left Canada to travel full-time in 2014 and we wish we had done it earlier. Our life is no longer routine and we have the freedom to do/go wherever we want. That’s what travel has meant to me.
You and your wife Lissette run a travel blog called The Travels of BBQBoy and Spanky. It’s such a unique name! Can you please tell us a bit about the blog and how it came about? What makes it different from other travel content out there?
We set up the blog the year before we left to travel full-time, the primary goal at the time being to document our travels.
We’re full-time, “slow” travelers meaning that we usually stay in one location for more than a month (sometimes even 2 or 3 months). It means that we really get to know a place. You won’t see many of the usual “Top 10” fluff lists on our blog, we write about our experiences, people we meet, and observations about places and/or travel in general. It’s a personal blog and I’m openly opinionated in my writing which sometimes gets me in trouble (I think the worst thing about most blogs is how boring and un-opinionated they are). But as I stated up top, the primary goal was always to document our travels in an honest, uncensored way.
You’ve lived in several locations around the world, including outside of Quebec City, Zambia, Montreal, and Vancouver. What is your favorite place you’ve called home?
We just came up on 5 years of full-time travel and recently tallied up places we’ve “lived in”: there are 22 cities and towns where we’ve stayed at least 1 month since leaving Canada in 2014. We wrote about our best and worst slow travel bases over our 5 years of full-time travel. Those 5 years included a year where we lived in Split, Croatia as temporary residents. If you had asked Lissette her favorite place to call home she would have told you Split…but this summer we spend 3 months in Lviv (Ukraine) and it is now at the top of her list. I also love Lviv. But my favorite place, in a very different way, is Cape Town where we lived for 3 months back in 2016. South Africa is the most beautiful place we’ve been.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year? What types of places do you like to visit?
As full-time travelers, we’re traveling 365 days/year. We’ll give any place a shot but over the years we’ve come to prefer Europe, more specifically Eastern Europe.
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
I want to give readers more depth. Not just on destinations, but on life as full-time travelers and expats. And I want to do it in an honest, no-fluff manner. Travel is not always perfect.
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, the best place to have lunch, the best sightseeing, etc.
Since I mention Cape Town as one of our favorite places: Stay at the Mount Nelson Hotel, hike Lions Head and Table Mountain, take the Hop On Hop Off (which takes you everywhere you need to go in Cape Town) and make sure to see the Kistenbosch Botanical Gardens. Rent a car and drive out to Stellenbosch, visit the vineyards and have some great South African wines. Stay a night at Boschendal Estate, drink more wine and have a springbok steak. Come back to Cape Town, go to the Clifton beaches, have supper at Camps Bay.
How many countries have you visited so far?
I think it’s around 45…
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
Thai, Indian, Italian. If I had to choose one to eat every day it would be Thai.
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
The one that sticks out: Taste of India in Krakow, Poland (otherwise a city we didn’t think much of). Best Indian food we’ve had anywhere. I recommend my usual: Lamb Vindaloo. Get the vegetable samosas and order some garlic naan.
What is your favorite travel movie?
Lissette will tell you Lost in Translation (we were in Japan for 7 weeks and can relate…). I’d have to go with “non-travel” travel series like Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne.
What is your favorite international airport?
Any of the modern Asian airports: Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand. As long as they’re clean, spacy, and have big windows (I’m a bit of a plane geek…)
Which city had the friendliest people?
Places that stick out: Lviv (Ukraine), Lecce (Italy), and South Africa.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
My wife Lissette of course
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
Watching movies or taking notes (it’s usually where I’ll come up with ideas for upcoming posts…)
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
I was CFO for a company in the grain industry. The most “exotic” places it took me were Winnipeg and Geneva. Aside from my previous career, some of the most exotic have been Sumatra and Zimbabwe.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Organize everything back home. Make sure your finances are in order. We’ve met a lot of younger bloggers who have no money to their name and started traveling with the hope of making money from blogging/freelance writing etc etc. Make sure you have a financial plan.
The travel part is easy.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
Excluding Lissette, they would be my camera, my computer and some hiking boots (my passport is an obvious 4th).
What is your ultimate dream destination?
I’d like to see more of Southern Africa. Go to Victoria Falls (which I visited several times when I was younger), see the Drakensburg Mountains and Blyde River Canyon, and go to Namibia.
What is your favorite travel quote?
“Shit happens”. It’s maybe not a travel quote but it’s about being prepared for anything. Because shit happens.
Where are you headed next?
We’ll be spending the next few months in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.
We’re Frank & Lissette from Canada. We’re full-time “slow” travelers, usually staying in one location 1-2 months and using it as a base to explore a region. Our blog, The Travels of Bbqboy and Spanky documents our travels. We write the good and the bad of the places we visit; we think it’s important both for ourselves (and our own memories) as well as for readers of this blog. We’ve met a lot of people who aspire to the same lifestyle. You’ll find a bit of everything: stories, photos, and lots of information and tips on the many places we’ve visited. We enjoy the cultural aspect of travel and connecting with locals. It’s what we love about travel.