What are the places on your bucket list? And, why haven't you gone yet? Even for the most enthusiastic travelers, it's easy to come up with excuses as to why we can't or shouldn't go where we want.
One person who has left the excuses behind? Professional explorer JD Andrews. He's been around the globe several times, amassing an incredible knowledge base and collecting experiences most of us dream of.
But that's not all: JD also has gained an enviable social media following, with 147,000 followers on Twitter, 8,000 on Instagram and YouTube videos that garner thousands of views on average.
I sat down with JD to talk about the impact of social media on travel. In the process, I learned about the "Traveler's Code," heard about what's up next for him, and talked about his perspective on leaving our ifs, ands, and buts behind when we want to live a life filled with the things we're most passionate about.
Laura Cococcia: You've had an amazing career as a producer, traveler, explorer and storyteller. Is this what you imagined you'd be doing when you were growing up?
JD Andrews: Growing up I wanted to do something different every week: astronaut, cowboy, fighter pilot, submarine captain...you know, the usual little boy stuff. But if you think about it, in some way, I kinda get to do all of that. I was invited to NASA for a tweetup and shuttle launch, I've been in numerous planes, helicopters and subs, and I've been on many horses, donkeys, elephants, and even camels.
LC: You've been involved in social media since the beginning. In many ways, it helps bridge your experiences to your audience. What's the biggest change you've seen in social media in the past few years and do you see it continuing to play a growing role in peoples' daily lives?
JD: I started June 20th of 2007. I'm that big of a geek to know that. And since I'm a geek, I was always into the latest and greatest tech stuff -- computers, the Internet, gizmos, etc. So when Twitter came along I signed up. I had no idea what it really was or what I was going to do with it but slowly it became a lot of fun. I was chatting with different people from all over the world. Back then it wasn't so compartmentalized, it was like "Hey, are you on Twitter? So am I, let's follow each other." Now people (and businesses) have "strategies." We just had Twitter friends.
When people ask me why I'm on Twitter or why I use it, I say "Anytime, day or night, I can 'tweet' something and someone, somewhere will respond, re-tweet or comment right then, right there in that moment, in the NOW!" It's like when I was younger, I'd always prefer listening to the radio over watching a VHS movie because I loved the idea that other people were also hearing the same thing I was right then, at that very moment. I felt connected.
I believe the biggest changes have been the companies and businesses who are now using social media to sell. I think that's okay, but they need to remember, it's social media. If a company has a Twitter account and they only broadcast the entire time, it's just an RSS feed. If you don't engage with people or worse, your customers, it's like having a business phone that rings and rings but you never answer it.
LC: What is it about travel that gets you energized?
JD: Everything. Dreaming, planning, researching, organizing, packing and going. I still get butterflies in my stomach when visiting a new destination (and some old ones too) It's that "kid" feeling of excitement and wonder. Something new and mysterious that will unfold according to plan or if it doesn't, that's when it becomes an adventure. Some of my best experiences and most memorable trips have been from things not going right.
LC: Can you give us a preview into some of the places you'll be visiting this year?
JD: I've already got to experience Alberta Canada and Yosemite this year, and I'm excited to be going back to South Africa in late March. There are a few other trips in the works, but until I have a flight reservation, in my mind, it's not real. Some places I want to explore are: Galapagos, Arctic, Japan, Malaysia, The Greek Islands to name just a few.
LC: Is there a place you want to return to?
JD: When people ask me my favorite place, I usually always say Bali. But I haven't been back in 15 years. I just hope it's as beautiful and amazing as when I was last there.
LC: What advice would you give to others looking to live their passion?
JD: It sounds easy, but for some people it's not: just do it. The excuses are just that but for many they are real but I think a solution can always be created. "But I have too many bills. But I don't have any money. But I don't...But I cant...."
I always say, you can "BUT" yourself out of anything. I love to travel and I like to share. It was called the "Traveler's Code" back then. You shared information and helped fellow travelers out. This was before the internet and social media. I still believe in that code, and since I'm an oversharer, social media really helps. Overall, I found a job that let me travel and now twenty years later, I'm still exploring.
To follow JD's incredible journeys, visit www.earthXplorer.com. There, you'll also find links to his social accounts that document his journeys.