Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a Gringo?
A: Depends on where you are, but in most places “gringo” means a foreigner who is white, usually from the United States. See this post for a more detailed explanation.
Q: Did you win the lottery or something? How do you travel so much?
A: No lottery luck. The answer to this question is extremely long, but can basically be broken down into 2 main reasons:
My savings & static, personal income.
When I was in the “real world” (aka working in the US), I saved basically all of my money. I had no girlfriend, no car payment, didn’t eat out much, didn’t blow stacks at the club, hardly ever bought new clothes, etc.
Instead, I used a decent chunk of my savings to buy & renovate a house with my parents and brother. We know rent it out every month to college kids, and although this isn’t huge income, it helps a lot if you know how to travel cheaply.
I don’t travel like your parents do.
I hate spending money. I’m cheap. I sleep in my ENO hammock when it makes sense. Hostels>hotels. Markets & street food>restaurants. Hitchhiking>local buses>taxis>rented cars>chartered vehicles. Beer>cocktails. I use Couchsurfing & Workaway a lot.
Traveling like this is more fun, in my opinion. Backpacking hostels are GREAT places to meet fellow travelers who are looking for fun stuff to do. Use Couchsurfing correctly, and connect with the coolest locals around, use Couchsurfing incorrectly & well, anything could happen.
Spending a little more time in one destination & aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty? Check out services like Workaway, HelpX, WOOFing to work in exchange for accommodations & food, and give back to the local community.
Q: Is Ford Quarterman your real name?
A: Yes. Actually, Christopher Ford Quarterman is my full name, but I “changed” my name in 1st grade because it took me like 5 minutes to write “Christopher Quarterman” at the top of every school assignment. Plus, I just thought Ford was cooler.
Q: Latin America is dangerous – are you dead? If you aren’t dead, are you going to die?
A: Fortunately I haven’t been killed before. One thing that I’ve learned from traveling is that NOWHERE is as dangerous as they say it is. Who is they? The news, the reports, the studies, just….they. Why do they say that there is dangerous? Because shocking & scary news is the kind that sells & spreads. The good stories are made into documentaries or 60-minute specials, the bad ones make the headlines.
Unfortunately there have been high murder rates in Latin America in the past few decades. But guess what? There have been in Chicago too. Now that we’re on the subject, New Orleans has a higher murder rate than Mexico City, & most other cities in the world. Are you scared to go to Mardis Gras?
The point is that I don’t allow the news to define my comfort zone, dominate my opinions, & educate me about the world. I prefer to go see for myself, and obviously exercise caution & common sense to avoid iffy situations. Plus, those places are hardly ever as dangerous as they say it is.
Q: Do you ever get lonely on the road?
A: The only time I can ever remember feeling lonely when traveling was when I first saw the Eiffel Tower. I was alone and remember thinking to myself, “Man, this would be a little better if I had a girl with me right now.”
Actually there was one other time too: when I moved to Costa Rica alone to learn Spanish, and obligated myself to speak only Spanish. I felt a bit lonely for a little while because I couldn’t communicate well with anyone.
If you want to totally immerse yourself in another language then feeling a little isolated is a normal part of the process, but there’s other reasons why I never get lonely while traveling, even when traveling alone. It’s because there are always other travelers around doing the same thing as you. Its unbelievable how many young, adventurous, like-minded people you meet from all over the world while you travel. You don’t realize how true this is until you actually go backpacking. As mentioned above, staying in hostels, using tools like Couchsurfing & Workaway, going on group tours, and using public transportation are all great ways to meet your new best friends.
Q: Do you use travel agencies or do you plan everything yourself? How do you know what to do?
A: I have never used a travel agency. Unless you find a RIDICULOUS deal, I believe they are a waste of money & unnecessary in today’s day and age. There are so many resources, online & offline nowadays, that it is pretty easy to find the best things in a destination before you go there.
In addition to globally-known resources like Lonely Planet & TripAdvisor, there are now so many travel blogs by brilliant & talented people that I’m actually pretty stupid to try and start one myself.
But if you really want to know my highly underrated & underutilized secret, I’ll give it to you – it’s called TALKING TO LOCALS.
Q: What is your favorite country?
A: ‘MURICA – BACK TO BACK WORLD WAR CHAMPS BABY! Just kidding. I do love the USA, but I don’t know if I could pick a favorite country. That’s like trying to pick your favorite Beatles song – it just can’t be done.
Also, I would feel dumb trying to choose a favorite country because I haven’t been to, I don’t know, like 175 our of 206 countries anyway. I will say that some highlights from where I’ve been so far would have to be Indonesia, Brazil, Greece, Mexico, Vietnam, Spain & Thailand.
Q: How did you learn Spanish?
A: First off, I’m still learning.
Secondly, I moved to Costa Rica in September of 2013 to teach English and learn Spanish. While there, I met a beautiful latina girl on the beach (true story) who ended up becoming my girlfriend. We then flew from Costa Rica to South America, had the World Cup experience of a lifetime & backpacked through a few countries, before coming to Mexico, and then Cuba.
But besides actually physically being in Spanish-speaking countries during most of the last 2 years, I have actually really TRIED to learn Spanish. That means doing things like homestays with Spanish-speaking families, avoiding speaking English at all costs, pulling my hair out in frustration after taking minutes to piece together one sentence, & downloading & listening to Spanish music/podcasts, amongst other things.
Q: What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen/done?
A: I didn’t go to any crazy sex shows in Amsterdam or Bangkok so sorry guys, but I have:
Rescued a young, nearly dead boy out of the highway after wrecking his motorcycle in Vietnam,
Seen a full-blown cocaine bar/nightlounge in Bolivia
Walked around in an entire airport of Japanese people wearing face masks for fear of coughing on each other
Been interviewed in Spanish on a primetime Costa Rica gameshow when I couldn’t speak well
Lain down on top of a full-grown Bengal tiger as it slept like a housecat
Seen the same 4 tank tops, worn by every single white male, aged 19-26 in Southeast Asia for 3 months straight
Slept in my hammock on the beaches of Oaxaca for 2 weeks
Barely escaped an angry, rioting mob & as they destroyed the streets of Buenos Aires
Made the police in Bali beg for forgiveness
…walked around Portland, Oregon at night. Actually what am I talking about, walking around Portland is definitely the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.
Q: How often do you get sick? Can you drink the water?
A: I hardly ever get sick. Call it luck, call it a strong immunity system, call it having the stomach of a teenage rhinoceros, I don’t know. After traveling for a while you kind of develop a 6th sense for avoiding things that could make you sick.
Regarding water drinkability – it depends on where you are. Of course most of the developed world will have drinkable tap water, but many developing countries do as well. Furthermore, just because you can drink the water in some areas of a country, doesn’t mean you can’t in another area (Cocles Cleanse anyone?).
The best thing to do is just ask the locals, and when in doubt – buy bottled water. If you’re in one place for a few days in a country where the tap water is not clean – there are usually big, cheap jugs for sale (called garrafones in Spanish) that can be delivered on a truck to your door.
Q: Have you ever been robbed or had anything stolen?
A: I have been robbed at gunpoint in Charlotte, North Carolina (later caught him with “Find My iPhone” app!) & also by 8 women at one time in Vietnam (yep, that was me I mentioned earlier lol). I’ve had other smaller things taken from me like my headlamp in Costa Rica, and my water bottle in Holland, but that was because I left them unattended.
There have been some other close-calls. For instance one time my brother & I caught 3 dudes trying to make off with his bag in a bus station in Mendoza, & or the other time that a couple soccer hooligans tried to steal the Messi jersey off my back after they lost the World Cup Final in Buenos Aires, but luckily nothing was lost.
The same rules apply everywhere in the world, whether at home or far away – look after your stuff, don’t be alone at night, don’t accept candy from strangers, etc. I’d also like to mention that I was reimbursed for the value amount of my robbed iPhone by my travel insurance company World Nomads.
Q: How long will you keep traveling?
A: That’s a great question. I predict that my current trip to travel from the United States to Argentina, & visiting every country that I can in between to take about 2 years – but on the road, plans usually get thrown out the window. After that, I would like to see more of Asia, and do some missions work in Africa. I’d also like to go back to Europe to do it right. Last time I went, I was a 21-year old knucklehead who spent too many days sleeping in after long nights of partying.
I guess the short answer would be that I want to see the entire world, & only God knows if I will manage to achieve that, and how long it will take!
Any other questions? Please ask me! I’m an open book & want to share as much as I can!