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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: TravelBlawg
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
It started as a slow evolution about five years ago as my service on professional associations and teaching opportunities outside my full-time private practice job took me on the road, especially to Chicago.
With more travel came more interest in hotel stays and status, and that’s when my internet research started landing me on places like FlyerTalk, Boarding Area and Million Mile Secrets.
My focus on earning and (some) burning has grown in the last two years as I’ve gained a wealth (literally) of knowledge on the topic, especially from making new friends and attending events like Chicago Seminars and First2Board Sessions.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
“Oh look…another travel blogger,” spoken with the unbridled enthusiasm of a wet napkin, was a reaction I wanted to stray away from with the creation of travelblawg.
I talked to several fellow attorney bloggers such as Will Run For Miles and Frugal Travel Lawyer and non-attorney bloggers such as View from the Wing, Mommy Points, MJ on Travel and NoobTraveler about the viability of a travel & law niche and all were pretty receptive to the notion. So, with some self-taught WordPress and a couple great logos by a friend, I was off and blogging!
While certain aspects of the law can be best left to uber-intellectual discussions in lengthy law review journals, there usually is an interesting backstory and twist in the facts that led the parties to the courthouse steps. My job — bring that interesting story to my readers, often times with some “takeaway” idea or lesson.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
As veteran and newbie points junkies alike know, credit card sign-up bonuses often along with some form of a minimum spend, can fill up your points and miles coffers pretty quickly.
Nevertheless, don’t discount the power of changing your method of spending for everything, from utility bills to paying the babysitter, your use of cash or checks (unless Bluebird, ha) should be a last resort.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
During my time working in Beijing, the Chinese government flew me to the Yunnan province near Myanmar (Burma) where I got to witness life in some less traveled parts of China. The experience reaffirmed my love for travel, especially to remote parts of the world to experience different cultures.
Sure, I love luxury travel as much as the next trekker, but the thrill of finding a destination where one can step outside one’s comfort zone brings about an added taste to life. That seems to be when memories get burned in, when life changing moments bloom.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Hobby? Oh, you mean obsession? Kiddin’ (kinda). Well, at first I don’t think they realize the massive potential to having high “travel wealth” with little work and cost. I try to offer advice when solicited, but otherwise keep my cringes and gasps to a minimum when I see a friend paying with cash.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Never underestimate the power of twitter! I’m a pretty heavy user with @palmerlaw and recently added @travelblawg. Not only is it a great tool for building friendships, connections and finding information, it is a growing go-to source to help resolve your travel issues, especially on the fly.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I like to play instant lotto scratch-offs from time to time, especially when my local gas station is on the Freedom card’s 5% quarterly bonus. I thought it was pretty fun earning 150 Ultimate Rewards for a $30 instant card that I often won my money back (2.52 to 1 odds). That was until I won $1,500 on one! I don’t expect to find that in Frequent Miler’s lab, and rightfully so.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Don’t solely rely on various bloggers’ opinions on what are the best airlines, hotels, or programs for such. Evaluate where YOU want to travel, or maybe travel often, and taylor your earning and programs as you think best.
Use tools like blogs, FlyerTalk and Milepoint for research, and never hesitate to directly ask the experts!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I think my diverse work background paints a picture of why I love traveling to see new places and meet new people. I have worked in a restaurant, bar, retail, warehouse, golf course, for an international corporation, for the People’s Republic of China, and as a police officer, prosecutor and federal criminal defense attorney. Life, as work, is a constant journey!
Any parting words?
Step out and travel with purpose. Step out of your comfort zone to experience a different culture, taste a new food, take an unbeaten path (all in a safe manner, of course). Travel with purpose when you can, which should always mean leaving your destination better than you found it, no matter how small your mark.
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
Mark – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!