Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: The Travel Economist
Josiah writes The Travel Economist to debunk the myth that traveling is too expensive for everyday people.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points around the end of 2013. I was always afraid of credit cards because I worried about having to pay interest and getting into debt.
After receiving an offer in the mail to get a $150 sign-up bonus, I decided to learn more about it and credit cards. At 1st it was just cash back cards for some extra free money.
After my 1st solo backpacking trip through the Caribbean and Central America in 2014, I found out about travel hacking. I fell in love with the concept and dove headfirst.
I started looking for everything there is to know about this hobby and always tried to figure out if I could make other blogger’s techniques better.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I actually started my blog because I wanted to share my adventures.
Hitchhiking all of Central America, staying in monasteries, and Red Crosses, and volcano boarding, are a few experiences I wanted to share with my family and friends. I also wanted to share stories about the incredible people I met and cultures I’ve experienced.
After I learned about travel hacking, I was thrilled and realized I couldn’t wait to start writing about it so my readers could learn how to travel for next to nothing. Now, along with my adventures, I want to show people that anyone who can make the time, be willing to make sacrifices, and trust in people can travel.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Without a doubt, the easiest and fastest way to get more miles is by pairing minimum spending techniques with credit card sign-up bonuses. This can allow anyone, no matter how little or how much they may spend each month, to earn travel that they may never be able afford otherwise.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
That’s really hard to narrow down. It would have to be either hiking to and camping on the Santiaguito Volcano in Guatemala and getting to watch it erupt in the night. Or spending multiple days in Iceland with fellow travelers, who I met hitchhiking, watching the Northern Lights, seeing the glaciers, and the incredible landscape.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My family is very proud of everything I have been able to achieve through it, and although they worry about my safety, they are very supportive.
My parents are also very happy that I was able to help them book a week in Paris, the destination my Mother has dreamed about her whole life, for very little cost.
My friends wish they could do it too, but sadly, many still believe it’s out of their reach. They’re all very happy for me as well, but as is with many people, they don’t believe they can make the time, afford the cost, or they think that I’m going to end up in prison.
A lot of people would see a million dollar check with their name on it and tear it up because they believe somehow it will come back to haunt them.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Not so much of a trick as it is a strategy, I’d say that what I’ve found especially useful is using British Airways Avios points to catch cheap flights from major cities. By transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to British Airways, I was able to get from Florida to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to Boston to catch some great flight deals to Hong Kong and Iceland.
This has allowed me to save my miles for when flights are expensive, like my $2,000 flight from Scotland back to Florida that I got for free using American Airlines miles and points from my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I think the least expected way I earned some points was when I got the Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards card. The bonus was supposed to be for 45,000 points, but I received a second bonus of an additional 15,000 points to my Wyndham account for no apparent reason.
I also have received additional points for a card that not long after I signed-up, a new, higher bonus came out. Most banks will honor the higher offer if a new customer calls and asks for it.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I really wish I knew anything that I know now when I started out. I wasn’t very organized and I only knew about cash back, so I took flight prices as they were and ended up spending a lot more than I needed.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m a serious Whovian (I love Dr Who!). One of my favorite travel memories is visiting the land of my ancestors, in Cardiff, Wales, and meeting a retired friend of mine Couchsurfing. It turns out he gives Dr. Who tours, including film locations for fun, so along with going to the Dr. Who Experience, I got to visit a lot of famous locations.
I am also tracking the distance I have hitchhiked and I’m on my way to reaching the radius of the Earth and eventually, the circumference.
Any parting words?
Yeah, aside from points and miles, the most valuable thing for me, not only in travel, but in life, has been trust.
It’s hard for most of us to trust people these days. But if we realize that people are generally good and we are willing to trust them, there’s no limit to where we can go or what we can do. Don’t let any fear prevent you from living the life you want to live.
Josiah – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!