My Travel Blogger Interviews series continues this month with Efraín Villa, the editor, writer and photographer of Aimless Vagabond. An adventure lover and self-confessed travel junkie, Efraín never misses an opportunity to wander far and wide across the world. But in the process, he doesn’t fail to entertain his readers with funny and inspiring anecdotes. His style of writing is so naturally bright and entertaining that it’s difficult not to be amused by his stories.
1. Tell us a little about yourself: Who are you? Where are you from?
I’m incredibly good looking, tall, and intelligent… oh, and above all things, I am exceedingly modest, unbelievably humble, and painfully honest. Just kidding, I’m not really tall… The rest is all true, though. Again… kidding!!!
I tend to get into trouble by making the assumption that everyone has a similar sense of humor to my own, or that they know that I’m kidding when I’m trying to dish out sarcasm. Apparently sarcasm is not a universal form of humor. While in Cambodia, I tried to explain the concept to my Cambodian friends.
They deliberated in Khmer with looks of bewilderment and finally turned their attention back to me and in beautifully accented English asked: “Sarcasm is when people say lies and other people laugh?” Wait… what was this interview question about, again? Oh, yeah. “Who am I?” If my résumé is an indicator of who I am, I am one sick puppy. I’ve been a pharmaceutical vaginal cream salesman, a police simulation pseudo perp (actor), and a professional body fondling recipient at a hospital. I’ve had normal jobs, too: marketing director for the New Mexico Tourism Department, owner of a small communications firm, business consultant on… blah, blah, blah.
All those things are facts, but facts have little to do with truth. The truth is my jobs aren’t my identity. I’m obviously a rambler, in the figurative and literal sense. I think the best way to describe myself is as: purposely lost. I’ve been to scores of countries (should one be wearing a top-hat when saying the word “score”), and the more I travel the more I realize how clueless I am.
Recently, I discovered that writing about my aimlessness helps me become more comfortable with being clueless. As for “where I’m from,” I’m from a quaint little ghetto in the beautiful city of Albuquerque, New Mexico (Yes, the Breaking Bad city).
2. What is your blog about and how did you start blogging?
People like to say that “we are all the same.” I think it’s very fortunate that those people are absolutely wrong. There are many universal aspects of the human condition, but we are NOT the same, and that’s what I like to write about.
My blog deals with the messy clashes between people of different backgrounds; the travel tales of perdition and bliss that demonstrate that we are painfully similar and wonderfully different. I write the type of stories travelers tell in the dark around a campfire. You know, the ones only the absence of light and sobriety can bring out.
As an omnivore, I also really enjoy writing stories of beautiful experiences with food. All my pieces are short, and hopefully they are also disturbing, inspiring, and funny. In addition to writing, I also like to make short video clips.
3. Do you travel for business or for pleasure?
Neither! Travel for me is a form of dysfunction. It follows the same pattern as addiction. When junkies first embark on their all-consuming, and often tragic, self-induced destruction, they first begin with recreation. Similarly, travel started as a fun activity for me.
I am the first person in my family to make it to high-school, so to have the opportunity to study in Europe as a college student was transformational. After that very first trip, I was hooked. From there, as addictions usually go, my habit required higher and higher doses to satisfy my need to feel… to feel anything!
The flights got longer, as did the travel periods. One of those journeys took me on a two-year venture gallivanting around South America, Southeast Asia, as well as India and Nepal. I don’t want to make it sound like my travel compulsion does not come with many moments of pleasure. However, the trips I think make for the best stories are the ones that involve some kind of conflict, tension, or even crisis.
People are much less likely to want to hear about how I went paragliding in Turkey than they are about the time I was almost beheaded by Al-Shebab on the Kenya/Somalia border (true-story). I think that the worst thing that can happen to a traveler is that things go as planned, which is why I don’t plan. Not planning also forces me to travel alone, which is a godsend. Some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve ever made, have been on the road… even if they are short-lived.
Travelers have a way of celebrating aimlessness and serendipity… or maybe I’m just describing the kinds of travelers I like to hang out with. Back home, my friends are awesome, but just grabbing a beer requires a scheduler, chief of staff, and countless caucuses to discuss where said beer should be had.
On the road, by contrast, I can casually ask someone if they are interested in crossing a border into the hinterlands of Uganda to track wild gorillas and they’re likely to think about it for a second and say, “Sure, I was going to read a book and relax on the hammock, but gorillas sound cool. Let me get my camera and let’s go.” I guess what I’m saying is that with so many interesting humans everywhere on this planet, it makes little sense to import friends. It’s like bringing sand to the beach. Milk to a dairy farm. A bigot to a Trump rally… you get the point. Leave your friends at home!
4. Other than travel and blogging, what other interests do you have?
Eating! I have a voracious appetite and a bottomless pit for a stomach. I’m also very much an omnivore. The more exotic the food, the better. I’ve eaten beating snake hearts and iguana in Vietnam, live chile beetles in India, and lime ants in Peru. One of my favorite things in the whole world is to share a delicious meal with a none-picky eater. Good conversation, good food, and good company are all the things in the world I need to be happy. For some reason, those things are easier to find while traveling. Also, I love photography.
5. What is the one thing that is too large or impractical to travel with that you wish you could take with you when you travel?
I always wish I took less with me when traveling, not more. We need so very little to have an interesting time. One of the most traumatizing things about coming back to my home in the US after a long trip is realizing how many things I “own,” although it sometimes seems like they own me. I have things to clean things with, things to put things on top of, things to put things under, and even things to help me get more things.
Also, I find myself wearing the least amount of clothes possible while traveling, which always makes me question my compulsion to pack more clothing into my backpack. Short answer to this question: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I don’t miss any material possession when I’m traveling.
6. What is your favorite mode of transportation? (airplane, boat, train, or car)
All of the above. I would add ostrich, camel, elephant, etc. They’ve all been amazing forms of transportation, although the ostrich venture was very short-lived. In Colombia I also rode a device that functioned with a motorcycle atop a platform attached to the train rails. That was an ingenious and liberating way to travel to a village that was otherwise inaccessible at the time.
7. Do you have any funny travel story?
Well, the whole shtick of my blog is that I tell disturbing, inspiring and funny travel tales of wanderlust, so hopefully I have funny stories in there somewhere. I have a lot of anecdotes of bungee jumping gone awry. I did a naked bungee jump in Thailand that left me with two black eyes.
Another time, in Peru, I hit a tree. Then there was the time in Ecuador I tried to shoot a selfie of myself as I jumped and ended up busting my lip with my camera. There have been a lot of times when I get confused for Jesus. If I could turn water into wine, though, I would never leave home!
8. What has been your most successful post so far and what is it about?
I’m relatively new to blogging, and a bit dismayed by social media, but I do have a widely shared post that landed on The Good Men Project this week about male privilege while traveling in Africa.
9. What is your greatest passion?
When I find it, I’ll let you know.
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