In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Daniel James, the travel writer, photographer, and videographer behind the popular travel blog Dan Flying Solo. We chat with Dan about the importance of travel, how his previous work as a restaurant manager helped prepare him for a life of travel, his favorite destinations around the world, and much more. Check out his advice for aspiring travelers and find out where he’s headed next!
About ten years ago I travelled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a few friends who were samba dances, and it was the most incredible trip. We were there for carnival, but as they were dancing, I got to go to many of their rehearsals in the local community, meet people, see these beautiful performances and the love of the community, and see just a whole new world. It was from that trip I knew I needed to save up some money and go see the world, and get to know the amazing cultures I knew so little about.
Travel for me is education. For sure, there are a lot of fun, non-serious moments to it, but for the main part, it’s the lessons and learning we get from it that I think are so important. Geography, history, politics, economics, religion, food, culture – all classes you are taking constantly while travelling if you let yourself do it, and those first-hand lessons and experiences are way more powerful for me than anything learnt in a classroom. The more people, friends, and contacts you make around the world, the more connected and caring you become to individual issues globally, while also being more aware of your own actions and footprint.
I wish there was some grand story behind this, but I came up with the idea while flying to Norway, travelling solo, and my Mum came up with Dan while I was born – so putting the three together in a rush to get a domain name, that’s where I ended up. In a way, I kinda wish my name wasn’t in the blog title, to give me more freedom to expand the site – also, might be kind of a liar if I start dating someday!
Yes for sure, a huge part of travelling is meeting new people, trying to understand things, dealing with problems that arise unexpectedly and long miserable days spent on bus journeys – so working in hospitality is kinda the perfect warm-up for that. I don’t really get stressed if things go wrong, or communication is hard, or if the days are really long as that was my life before, but now I get to have those ‘problems’ while seeing the world, not just a dining room!
I grew up in Bournemouth, Dorset, in the south of England – the city itself has one of the best beaches in the UK (way better than Brighton, which is rocks not sand) and it’s an awesome destination to start a road trip on the Jurassic Coast, the rocky and dramatic coastline of England named due to the dinosaur fossils which are found along here. So absolutely send a couple of days road tripping that, stopping off at different beaches and eating the fresh seafood which is fantastic here. You can also sleep in some really cool beach huts on Bournemouth beach which is cool.
For the first few years I was travelling, it was pretty much full time. Since moving to Portugal it’s perhaps six-months of the year, though I try to group trips together now to minimise on the number of flights I’m taking. There isn’t a particular type of place I like to visit, as I just love soaking up anything and everything, though lately I’ve been moving away from cities and more to wildlife and nature destinations, hiking in the mountains of Tajikistan for example, or heading to the mountains and stargazing spots here in Portugal.
I guess just to look a little bit deeper on any trip. Even in the most popular places, there are little gems still and local experiences and interactions to find. While most of my travel guides are pretty standard, its the more narrative and story like articles I enjoy writing the most, to give readers a sense of place and a reminder of the value of human connections.
Impossible question to answer, as the list seems to change based on my mood, but here are my current favourites:
I’m gonna go with Oman because it’s an incredible country that does not get enough attention so:
I think it’s 67, but I love going back to places I’ve visited before – especially Indonesia and Italy, so while exploring new countries is amazing, my count is starting to level out now as I keep going back to places I love!
Indonesian, Italian, and Lebanese.
You can’t go wrong with a margarita pizza from Sorbillo in Naples. I’m not sure if it is my favourite, but the flavours, atmosphere, and simplicity of that place is all that is coming to my mind right now!
Tracks, set in the Australian Outback – it was that film that got me really interested in the interior of Australia and lead me on to learning a lot more about Aboriginal art and culture when I was there.
Singapore, without a doubt, and I haven’t even been there since the new Jewel terminal opened. I could spend a whole day in that airport. In fact I have, waiting for connections, and it’s an awesome space to relax in. Also, Dominica airport, as it’s tiny and you just have a soursop juice and then walk over onto tiny plane!
Tough questions, but I think Yangon in Myanmar is up there – I visited in 2014 and the hospitality throughout the country was just insane. So friendly, and helpful and kind, even in the cities, which isn’t always that common everywhere.
This is a hard question – not wanting to leave anyone out! I actually really love traveling with my parents, I moved away from home at 16, so it’s really nice when we have some adult adventures together – in the last few years we’ve road tripped Australia and island-hopped in Indonesia, and it’s nice to share it with them.
In the blogging work world, Nicole from Adventures of Lil Nicki is awesome to travel with. We actually connected and met on Instagram, and then a few months later flew to Oman to road trip and wild camping there, which was amazing, and have gone on to have a few epic trips together.
Learning new skills – get on YouTube and watch a tutorial, or download articles for reading on long bus rides – I’ve self-taught myself my whole career while travelling, and thus, never had to stop!
The Falkland Islands were pretty insane, so remote and far from anything, and walking among King Penguin colonies was just a moment I’ll never forget. Also, I guess Mauritius was pretty incredible – it’s somewhere I never dreamed I would be able to visit, so that was an amazing opportunity and it is such an amazing island, way more than beaches… oh, and Raja Ampat, in Indonesia, for the best diving in the world.
Save more money than you think you need – and try to say yes to as much as possible new adventures, new ideas – embrace them all, they nearly always lead to new opportunities or connections.
Camera and comfy shoes – as long as I’ve got those two I’m set!
It always used to be Antarctica, but since visiting the Falkland Islands last year, I think it might be South Georgia, so not quite Antarctica itself. The dramatic mountains, icebergs, and insane amount of wildlife on South Georgia just look incredible, and the remoteness and lack of people would make it such a unique adventure.
Honestly, I can’t think of one – Instagram and blogs have made travel quotes way to overused and now I kind of cringe at most of them!
The Alentejo region of Portugal, seen as in these COVID times, going abroad isn’t an option, this year I’ll focus on exploring this beautiful country I now call home. The Alentejo region is full of lakes and vineyards, hiking and dark-sky gazing – and it’s only about an hour from my house so I’m excited for some nature!
Dan is an ex full-time traveller, spending four years on the road before settling down in Portugal. He’s obsessed with meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and getting completely lost with just a camera in hand. He’s lucky to have explored over sixty countries and has an obsession with goats and penguins.