The Favourites of Gary Arndt

Gary Arndt is a known travel photographer who has visited more than 200 countries and territories. He is the author of the travel blog Everything Everywhere and he is based in Minneapolis between trips.

What are three of your favourites countries, and why?

Number one, I’ll go with Namibia. I spent five days out in the deep desert of Namibia, way out in the sand dunes, and it was an amazing experience. There’s really nothing like it. The Namib Desert is so empty and devoid of anything that it’s a really unique experience, especially the area when you get right on the coast. The skeleton coasters with lots of shipwrecks, plus you have like a 100-meter high sand dune abutting the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a fantastic thing.

Number two, I’m going to go with Samoa. Love the Pacific. It’s my favourite part of the world. I just had a very good time there, whether it’s the country or American Samoa. Wonderful people and great weather. I just really enjoyed it whenever I’ve been there.

Finally, I’m going to go with Jordan for number three. Lots of history, lots of amazing things to see. I’ve been to Wadi Rum and Petra a couple of times. I could easily go again and probably see things that I never saw before. There’s lots of other historical sites in Jordan that I still have yet to see.

What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?

Nuclear aircraft carrier
Number one, I’m going to go with landing and being launched from a nuclear aircraft carrier. Several years ago, I was invited to visit the USS Harry S. Truman by the United States Navy. We did an actual carrier landing on an A to Greyhound, which are small supply planes that fly to aircraft carriers, their wings can fold up, and we stayed on board the ship overnight. Got to see how it works. Again, great experience, something that most people never ever get to do. In fact, even though there are 5000 people on an aircraft carrier, the vast majority of them will never land or take off on an aircraft carrier. There’s just too many, so they get on and off when it’s at Port.

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Antarctica and South Georgia Island
Number two, I’d probably say visiting Antarctica, and South Georgia Island, probably South Georgia Island more than anything else. Getting off the beach there with all the penguins is an incredible experience.

Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef
And then, for number three, I will go with probably scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Getting out there. Actually, I’ve been there a couple of times. First time I actually took a helicopter just so I could get some aerial photos of the reef near the Whitsunday Islands. But the other times just a great experience.

What are three of your worst travel moments?

Denied entrance into Kiribati
Okay, number one, that’s easy. Denied entrance into Kiribati. At the time, this is in 2007; Americans needed a visa to enter Kiribati. Pretty much everyone else didn’t but Americans did for some reason. I went out of my way. I got the visa, I went to Fiji. I did everything. I met people at the embassy in Suva, and the visa wasn’t a sticker for your passport like most countries. It was actually a rubber stamp. So they rubber stamp my passport, and they filled the dates in with a ballpoint pen. Then from Fiji, I went to New Caledonia, I went to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. When I was in the Solomon Islands, I got caught in the rain on one of the remote islands, and my passport got wet, and the ink bled off the page, especially the ink used in the ballpoint pen to fill in the dates.

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When I arrived in Tarawa, they wouldn’t let me in the country. A guy would not let me in, and I threw a massive fit and still wouldn’t let me in even though I had my outbound flight. I had my hotel already booked, and I ended up sending an email to the Minister of Tourism and told them that no one won by this. You didn’t get my money. I didn’t get to see your country. It was a loss for everyone. Three months later, Americans didn’t need a visa to go to Kiribati anymore, and I still haven’t been back.

Sick in Argentina
Second worst experience would probably be I got really, really sick when I was in Argentina visiting Los Glaciares National Park. I got caught in the rain on the glacier, and I just came down with one of the worst colds in my life, and it was just miserable. I was there at a conference, and it was a pretty horrific experience.

Sick in Kuala Lumpur
I got I was sick briefly in Kuala Lumpur, and I think I actually got food poisoning at a Kenny Rogers Roaster, which is actually a Western chain it wasn’t anything I ate that was Malay.

What are three of your best travel tips, and why?

Don’t over plan
People way over plan things, where they’re going to be every single day. I feel it’s a lot better to allow serendipity to figure out where you’re gonna go. You discover things you’re on the ground that you wouldn’t have known before you arrived. Obviously, there are some things you have to plan if you’re scheduling something in advance. You know, a tour, you know, some sort of transportation, but for the most part, try not to have as much scheduling as possible.

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Don’t overpack
Second, is to not overpack or put too much thought into that. When I first started travelling, I got special travel pants. Nowadays, I don’t even care anymore. I’ll just wear jeans or whatever. It doesn’t matter. I don’t put as much thought into it.

Connectivity or roaming wherever you go
Tip number three would be to make sure that you have connectivity or roaming wherever you go. The world has changed a lot since I started travelling in 2007. It’s very easy to get online, and having a smartphone has almost made travelling like cheating. It’s so easy now with translations and maps. Any concerns that a lot of people have about travelling, I think, go away if you have a smartphone because you don’t have to worry about the unknown. You know where you are, you can communicate, you can get a room, you can get help, you can get transportation no matter where you are in the world.

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