Palle Bo is a long-time radio- and podcast producer from Denmark. In 2016, at the age of 51, he started his life as a full-time traveller and digital nomad. He sold his house, car, and furniture and set out on a quest to visit every country in the world and documenting everything in his podcast The Radio Vagabond. As of this moment (April 2021), he has visited 92 UN countries, 16 territories and 42 US states.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
South Africa – and Cape Town in particular
There is just something about this place that has a big place in my heart. The first thing that comes to mind is the stunning nature with Table Mountain, Garden Route and the fantastic drive down to Cape Point. The modern city, the affordable living, and the people are also some of the reasons I keep coming back to “The Mother City”. I’ve spent a long time in Cape Town than anywhere else outside of my home country, but I’ve also made a road trip from there to Johannesburg, and that was also fantastic.
I was there for three weeks a few years ago and really fell in love with the country and its people. I made a friend who took me with him on a visit to an orphanage that he supported and got to see a lot of this beautiful country. As I’m answering these questions, I’m in Panama – heading north, so I hope I will be able to re-visit soon.
And number three…?
It’s simply not possible for me to mention a third favourite country because that would mean leaving out so many. There are so many great things to say about most of the countries I’ve visited in the Americas and Asia. And being from Europe, I often forget how many great places there are in my own backyard. Also, it might be one of the countries I still haven’t been to.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Travelling with my kid
In 2016-2017, my youngest, Clara, had a gap year, and I managed to persuade her to come and travel with me for four months in Asia. We were in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, North Korea, South Korea and Japan. Yes, we were also in North Korea.
Sharing travel memories like that with one of your grown-up children, being together 24/7 – and not having a single argument is something I will cherish forever.
Making friends all over the world
This is not a specific travel moment – more in general about meeting people and making friends worldwide. It takes some getting used to meeting someone, knowing that you’re leaving soon and might never meet them again. Not all of them, but a lot of them are still people that I chat with regularly. And for me, that is truly something that makes me feel rich.
I have been on the Nomad Cruise three times. It’s not the cruising life itself that makes me chose to put it on this list; it’s the many friends I made. If you don’t know, The Nomad Cruise is like a conference for nomads on a ship, but it’s so much more than that. When we’re confined on a ship, you get really close to this community and do everything together. After the lectures and workshops, you eat, drink, play games and sing together. We’re all in the same boat (pun intended).
Some of my closest friends are people I have met on the Nomad Cruise. I see them as my extended family. You can always reach out for advice, and I’ve met many of them around the world.
Do you have any bad travel moments?
No, I haven’t had any real bad travel moments. I’ve never been robbed, I’ve never been in any real danger, I’ve not been in a shipwreck, and I’ve never been really sick, except for the time I got pneumonia in Morocco. It wasn’t that bad, and I got some surprising help from one of the locals who went out of his way to help me.
However, two months later, when I was in Ethiopia, my retired doctor back in Denmark (that I sent the X-rays to) indicated that he saw something in the pictures that could look like cancer. So, for a week until I could get a check-up (and was in the clear), I was terrified and felt very alone.
Having said that, I’ve been scammed (or tried being scammed) a number of times. Like the time I was in Beijing, and a tuk-tuk driver offered to drive me around for 3 yuan – and said it very clearly. After 15 minutes, when he stopped, it was 300. This is a typical small ‘I-don’t-understand-the-language-scam’ that has happened many times around the world. Whenever something like that or other minor inconveniences happen to me, I always remind myself that I get a good story for my podcast.
I would say that my worst travel experience would be from a hostel in London. It was cheap but so bad in so many ways. I had a bunk bed that was more like a shelf. The bunk above me was so close that it was impossible to sit in the bed. The first morning I woke up at 6.30 and thought I would sit in the kitchen and do some work on my computer. When I did that, I was rudely kicked out because there was a sign saying that no one could be there before 8. I can understand that they have a rule so people won’t party all night, but I was just a middle-aged man with his computer. There was no flexibility and no kindness in the request, so I had to pack up and leave.
Then I sat on the staircase since there was no other place to sit. Again I was told I couldn’t be there. I then asked them where they would suggest I sit, and the response was: On your bed”. Remember what I said about the bed?
There were no smiles and no empathy in any of these communications. This experience was topped with a severe rash from bed bugs the next morning. That was the straw, and I left – without them willing to give me a refund.
What are three of your best travel tips?
“When in doubt, say yes.”
When I started travelling, I made a rule for myself that I should say yes, if I were confronted with a choice. Unless it’s something that would get me in danger or just plain stupid, I always say yes.
This has given me some serendipity moments, like driving down a dirt road in a forest in The Gambia on the back of a motorcycle with one of the locals, accepting surprising dinner invitations, or going for “Badminton & Beers” in Kuala Lumpur.
And guess what I said when I was in Macau and asked myself if I should do the world’s highest bungee jump. I said yes – and got a sound recording of my scream for my podcast.
Sometimes when I’m walking around in a city or driving around on a smaller island, I turn off my Google Map – and get lost. It’s an excellent way to go places that not many tourists go and see parts of a place that you wouldn’t usually see.
Smile and have an open mind
I’m going to put a few things under this headline: Emerge as much as you can into the local culture. Try to communicate with the locals, learn a few words in the local language. Using Couchsurfing and hostels are great ways to make friends – local and other travellers.
Remember that “stranger doesn’t equal danger.” 99.9% of people don’t want to hurt you. Of course, you should use your common sense and don’t walk down a dark alley alone in the middle of the night in a place where you look different.
And smile…! The shortest distance between two people is a smile. That’s one of the reasons I can’t wait for the day when we don’t have to wear a mask wherever we go. I want to smile at people in the streets and shops – and have them smile back at me.
Favourite travel book
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. It was a massive inspiration in planning my journey – and for the name of my podcast. So, it was exceptional to meet Rolf and have him as a guest on my podcast.
You can listen to his podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast or wherever you listen by searching “The Radio Vagabond”.
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