“I’m crazy about planes. And mad about trains”. That’s how Arun Rajagopal explains himself as simple as possible. I have been in touch with Arun on twitter for as long as I remember and have had some fascinating conversations with him both online and offline.
Arun has been a top-notch marketer for over 8 years now and for the past 16 months or so he has been at Emirates, carving and executing their social media strategy and loving his dream job, where the worlds of marketing and aviation meet.
Inviting Arun to be a part of the GlobeTrotter series was one of the easiest decisions I have made, partly because he is a passionate globetrotter for real and partly because I selfishly wanted to understand his mindset about travelling. Arun has been on the pages of this blog in the past, we had a great conversation for this series and I hope you all enjoy reading it as well:
- What is your greatest motivation to travel? I vividly remember reading one of your tweets few weeks back where you couldn’t hop on a BOM flight but you still flew, albeit on some other flight. That is astounding enthusiasm. Tell me your motivation for that?
Arun – I love the sheer joy that comes with getting on a plane. I belong to the school of thought that the journey is as important as the destination, sometimes more important than the destination. In this particular instance, I was supposed to fly to Mumbai, but I couldn’t get on my flight. As I walked out of the airport, I realised that it was not me to not get on a plane when I had made my mind to do so. As luck would have it, I just remembered that there was a flight to Ahmedabad, which was leaving 10 minutes later. I walked back, got myself on that plane and eventually reached Mumbai. When I want to get on a plane, I always manage to get on it because I really, really want to. It’s also a mix of karma, luck and persistence.
- Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Of all the hundreds of flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you would like to share?
Arun – I love the flying part more. I have two very memorable experiences topping the list. One is the Emirates inaugural flight to Seattle in March 2012. I’m a huge Boeing 777 fan (Vishal’s note: See the cake in the picture above) and it was a dream come true
for me to be on that first flight (a 77W) to the home of Boeing. I bit the bullet one day before the trip, deciding that the high-fares wouldn’t stand in my way. The dream turned even better when I got to see A6-EGO, the 1000th 777 with its paint coat fresh on a Boeing factory tour, right before its delivery ceremony.
The other one has to be celebrating my 30th on an A380 upper deck, which was another big dream come true. On the B-day, all Emirates A380 flights were full, but I scored a seat to Hong Kong, and then did a turn-around to Dubai via Bangkok. My flight touched down at Suvarnabhumi exactly when the clock struck midnight and I got my first birthday call. The crew even had a special birthday surprise for me. I was away for 30 hours, most of them spent on a plane. I’ll take that day with me to the grave.
- Which is your favourite airport and airline? And why? (Barring DXB and Emirates)
Arun – My favourite airport has to be Muscat International. I grew up in Muscat and I flew out of MCT for a good part of my life. It’s a not a huge airport, but I’ve some very special memories.
My favourite airline is a very tough question, because I love most airlines out there and some even more such as Emirates. Any airline that makes flying more personal and special always gets my vote.
- Nicely played there Arun, Tell us about your favourite city, and any memorable experience you had there?
Arun – So many cities, many visited and many more yet to visit. Again hard to pick one, so I will go with New York, Seattle, London and Bangkok. As to a memorable experience, seeing snow for the first time in my life in Seattle was super special. I only had to wait 29 years for it to happen.
- High five, I haven’t seen a snowfall ever myself. When you travel, is there a particular website, guidebook etc. you consult before making plans? What’s your research like?
Arun – I’m not a Lonely Planet guidebook toting kind of person. Where I stay is massively important for me – so I do my hotel research via TripAdvisor, Hotels.com or Booking.com. I talk to people who have been there before and once I’m at the destination, I try to get local insights. But the most magical moments are spontaneous and happen when you are not expecting them. In many of the cities I travel to, I try to connect with friends or acquaintances I have there, which adds a whole new personal experience to my journey.
- Talking bit more about the journey part, Is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)
Arun – Airports play a huge role in enriching your travel experience. I wish more airports had showers. Also, airports are often the first point of contact between a tourist and a foreign country – so smiling; friendly immigration officials would always be welcome. Muscat and Jakarta get my votes there. San Antonio has some amazing rocking chairs where you can lounge on and watch planes. One of my favourite airport experiences has been pausing for a minute to watch a musician perform at Atlanta, in the midst of milling crowds. Give me anything in an airport that makes the travel experience more relaxing and welcoming. I hear Seoul Incheon is amazing and I look forward to a trip soon, only to check out the airport.
- Spoke like a true #AvGeek there. You have a successful career, what advice would you give to all those who might not be financially sound but still harbour dreams of traveling the world?
Arun – I firmly believe that one can make things happen when you are passionate about something and you give 100% to pursuing your dreams. I was not financially sound when I decided to become a globetrotter. As long as you put your goals ahead of you and work towards them, you can make it even to space.
- We know you’re a social media expert, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?
Arun – Social media has not only enabled travel brands to connect better with their customers, but has also fuelled a massive appetite for travel and made the world a smaller place. There is a very active aviation community on Twitter, sharing common passions, interests, knowledge and information.
- And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your three favourite twitter user accounts to follow?
Arun – Very hard to pick 3, but I’m going to run with
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- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Shashank Nigam (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Heather Poole (vishal1mehra.com)
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- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brian Kelly (The Points Guy) (vishal1mehra.com)
Being a longtime listener and viewer of the Amateur Traveler podcasts I jumped at the first opportunity of speaking with Chris Christensen about travel and his perspectives of things that enable and supplement our travel experiences.
Chris of course is the host of the Amateur Traveler, an extremely popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. The Amateur Traveler audio show started in 2005 and has averaged 1 million downloads over the last 3 years. Chris also is one of the 3 hosts of the award winning This Week in Travel podcast. Clearly the only thing “amateur” about it all is the name of the show itself.
Chris is a regular speaker at various industry events as well, and was recently involved in couple of sessions at TBEX 2013. TBEX is where world’s most prominent travel bloggers, writers and new media content creators gather to talk all things travel.
Apart from travel, I share with Chris another huge interest, that of podcasts. I like to describe myself as a podcast junkie and by his own admission Chris subscribes to over 70 podcasts himself. The idea of “The Amateur Travel” was germinated through his obsession with podcasts.
Excerpts from our chat:
- I read that your love affair with traveling started way back in your childhood through your parents. Those road trips as a kid taught you a lot. That fascination has clearly trickled down quite well. I was curious to know if you’re a full time traveler now?
Chris – Actually I have a day job, I only worked as a full-time blogger for 8 months in 2010. While I did quit my day job last week, I plan to support myself with software development, not blogging.
- With all the high quality work you produce regularly, it’s hard to believe this is not your full-time job. What do you think about flying? Any recent and notable flight experience?
Chris – I love flying. You get to soar through the air like a bird. I don’t see how anyone can tire of that. I had a chance to fly on one of the first Boeing Dreamliner 787s out of San Jose to Tokyo recently as a guest of ANA. Great plane to a great destination. (Read his report here)
- Airports are an integral part of flying. Which one do you prefer?
Chris – I like San Francisco, which is my usual airport. Modern, spacious and my gateway to the world.
- And which city has impressed you most while traveling? Any outstanding experience you would like to recall?
Chris – I loved Istanbul, Tanzania and Egypt. Egypt and Istanbul for the history, and Tanzania for both the wildlife and its people.
If I had to pick my very favorite day traveling it would probably be visiting the Ngorongoro Crater on a safari in Tanzania. Being three feet away from a lioness (fortunately with a good strong car window in between us) when she growled was outstanding all right.
- How would you like to improve the current crop of airports? What one addition (except Wi-Fi) can be most helpful for travelers in your view?
Chris – Lots and lots more places to plug in a laptop.
- Traveling is not your full time day job but you still manage to balance your passion with profession pretty well. What advise can you give other aspiring travelers reading this?
Chris – Don’t quit your day job might be an odd advise to come from me, so let’s say at least don’t over estimate how much money you can make as a blogger until you are making money as a blogger. It can take a while to build up an audience and most full time bloggers are either a second income or live someplace cheap.
- Wise words. Tell us your deep dark secrets of pre-travel research.
Chris – We look up hotels on TripAdvisor. I like visual guidebooks like the Eyewitness Guides and often where I go these days is influenced by episode of Amateur Traveler where someone has come on the show and told me of some amazing place.
- And finally Chris, give us your 3 must follow twitter accounts.
Chris – My passion for travel predates social media by decades but I do like keeping in touch with social media. Some of my favorite twitter accounts to follow are:
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- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – an Introduction (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff (vishal1mehra.com)
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- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time) (vishal1mehra.com)