Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: The Art of Non-Conformity
Chris writes The Art of Non-Conformity to share the story of how to change the world by achieving personal goals while helping others at the same time. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
For as long as I can remember, but it definitely picked up in 2002 when I first went to West Africa to volunteer on a hospital ship. On a flight back to the US, I was upgraded — and I thought, “Wow, this is nice!”
A few years later I relocated to Seattle and officially began my quest to visit every country in the world. Miles and points (and all things travel hacking, to be precise) were a huge part of allowing that goal to become feasible.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started The Art of Non-Conformity because I felt like I had something to say. I initially wanted to chronicle my travel quest, but I also wrote about goal-setting and how to live an unconventional life. Over time I realized I was much better at that than I was in writing about destination travel.
I think what’s special about it is that I try to provide a space for people to accept themselves for who they are. My one-sentence manifesto is “You don’t have to live your life the way others expect,” and I try to reflect that value in all my projects.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Hmmm. I’m assuming most people who read Million Mile Secrets already know about credit cards, shopping and dining programs, etc. So I’d say the best other thing to do is to keep an eye out for special promotions and the miles & points equivalents of mistake fares.
See below (answer #8) for a few of my historical examples. Some of those opportunities can exceed all others, at least when they last long enough for you to take advantage of.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I’m honestly not sure I have a single “most memorable” one. For me I’m grateful to be able to travel week in, week out. I finished going to every country nearly 5 years ago, but I’m still traveling almost as much.
I’ll pick a few highlights: Sydney, Australia (my favorite global city), Vientiane, Laos (my favorite spot in Southeast Asia), and South Africa (because South Africa).
Because this blog is focused on miles and points, I’ll also pick my favorite lounge: the new First Class Pier lounge operated by Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong. Free foot massage!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
I think of the apocryphal Gandhi quote: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Except at least in my case, it wasn’t quite that bad. I’d just say that at first they thought it was strange, but then when I started booking free trips for them, they came around quickly.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
It’s not a trick, but every year I usually purchase at least one Round-the-World ticket, which I then use in several extended stints throughout the rest of the year (re-positioning back and forth using award tickets most of the time).
I love these tickets because if you can begin in a faraway locale where the cost of origin is more advantageous, you’ll save money while getting 16 global segments to use throughout the rest of the year.
And because they’re paid tickets, they also go a long way toward re-qualifying for status. These days I have maintained both Executive Platinum on American Airlines and MVP Gold 75K on Alaska Airlines, so that requires a lot of flying. I also recently picked up JetBlue Mosaic and Delta Platinum status through different challenges—next year is going to be a problem!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
- Borrowing a homeless guy’s shopping cart to help return $30,000 worth of dollar coins to the bank (I had purchased them at face value using a credit card, back when such a thing as possible—thanks, US Mint)
- Registering for and receiving a hair-loss consultation in exchange for 20,000 Delta SkyMiles (thanks, Bosley)
- Buying $6,000 worth of useless stickers in exchange for 800,000 US Airways miles (thanks, Trackitback—which for some reason is now out of business)
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I fly at least 200,000 miles a year and am constantly traveling—but when I’m home in Portland, Oregon, I live by a routine and don’t get out much. I go back and forth between my home and my office, a 10-minute commute, and everything I need is within 10 minutes of either place.
Any parting words?
Thank you very much for featuring me on Million Mile Secrets! I’m a fan of you guys and your active community. If I can be helpful to any readers, give a shout anytime. Or just catch me in your choice of airline lounge…
Chris – 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!