This week we’re talking with another soon-to-be heavy traveller, Ernest a.k.a. Fly Brother. He’s a self-confessed aviation fanatic and tells a great story. I’m looking forward to hearing about is upcoming adventures.
Here’s some of the interesting stuff we talked about…
Could you briefly introduce yourself and explain your nickname?
Hi there! My name’s Ernest White II (pretentious, I know), and I’m a nerd and native Floridian. I have degrees in both political science and creative writing, and I’m still enrolled at the School of Hard Knocks. Professionally, I’ve worked on political campaigns and as an English, history, and political science teacher in universities and high schools (which I hated). So, I’ve decided to focus temporarily on my writing and photography, and right now, I’m in-between countries; I lived in Colombia for four years and I’m moving to Brazil in November. Yes, Brazil.
To explain the name Fly Brother, I need to lay down a little cultural background knowledge. In black American vernacular, “fly” as an adjective refers to something attractive, roguishly sophisticated, and well-put-together, be it a possession, a concept, or a person. “Brother,” of course, is a nod to my being an African-American male. The usage of Fly Brother, then, speaks to both my affinity for air travel and my roguish sophistication (*wink*).
You have quite the world tour coming up. Care to give us some insights on why the big trip and how you chose your destinations?
Since I was in undergrad, I’ve been intrigued about doing the modern Grand Tour. As with most things, timing is the catalyst, and for me it happened to be just right: I’m between jobs with no fixed expenses and no kids (that I know of), and airfares are in the toilet, floating right alongside the world economy.
I didn’t know exactly where I’d be going when I first started planning the trip, but I had been invited by a dear friend to visit her hometown of Mumbai a while ago, so that was a must along with Hong Kong and Istanbul, two cities I’ve been yearning to experience forever. Through interacting with people via my blog, London (without my parents this time), Stockholm, and Kuala Lumpur popped up on the route. Berlin just seems cool, so I added that. I felt like I was slighting my people by not visiting Africa, so Cairo appeared as that continent’s most logistically-feasible (i.e. least expensive) destination. Dublin and Abu Dhabi were the consequence of cheap tickets. Australia was almost a no-go; I was invited to visit Oz by a woman I met at the airport in Quito a few years ago. She sent me an email asking if I was planning on visiting this year and I was all set to say “no” until the Spirit of Travel whispered into my ear, “check the airfares.” $650 from LA to Sydney roundtrip was all I needed to see.
Sydney, by Stage88 – How could you miss it?
As a man of color, are you worried about discrimination or violence on your trip?
Honestly, I’m not worried about either. All of the cities I’m visiting on this trip are major tourist destinations, so I’m sure I’ll be treated no better or worse than any other traveler; anyone funny-acting would probably be just an isolated knucklehead. I’ve heard stories about violence against blacks in Eastern Europe and Korea, which would certainly concern me if they were on my itinerary, but then, I’m not typically viewed as a threat to someone’s livelihood or genetic “purity,” which are two main historical reasons for inter-ethnic violence. That being said, I’ve experienced the most discrimination when someone thought I was from that particular place. Both my phenotype and better-than-average Spanish accent (I’m a good mimic is all; my grammar’s crap) convince people that I’m Latino, and in Latin America, people often still associate color with class, despite protests to the contrary. Folks tend to get ahistorical when they forget that Latin America, like all societies established by European colonial powers, was structured with the colonists on top, followed by the conquered original inhabitants (Indians—stained by the world’s most persistent misnomer), then the imported labor (Africans), and that essential hierarchy has never changed, despite centuries of racial admixture. Class then serves as a proxy for color and, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt. In Colombia, security guards, wait staff, and even patrons at fancy restaurants would give me the “corner eye” until they realized I was foreign, at which point crow became that day’s lunch special and everyone would try and prove how non-discriminatory they were; after all, it’s okay for foreigners of any hue to patronize certain establishments, just not for their own darker-skinned compatriots to get too uppity. In Brazil, I was twice confused for a local rentboy because I was in a place popular with foreigners, and was almost barred entry into my hotel in Havana because Cubans aren’t allowed at tourist hotels. Certainly my Gap t-shirts weren’t the cause of the confusion.
Cuba Hotel lobby by Paul Keller
What part of the trip are you looking forward to seeing/doing the most? Why?
For me, this trip is so big that it’s hard to even conceptualize the whole thing. I’m sure I’ll get excited about each destination as I get closer to getting there, but Istanbul, Hong Kong, and the Australian Outback are the places that stand out most consistently in my mind. With Istanbul, it’s the history and romance of being at the cusp of two continents at one of the world’s true enduring crossroads. Hong Kong’s lay-out—skyscrapers stacked between mountains and sea, ribboned with expressways—gives me shivers; I’d love to have been able to fly into Kai Tak. The Outback calls me with its vast orange flatness and what I think will be a strong cultural affinity with the indigenous Australians. Sheesh, then there’s the almost three weeks in India—I have absolutely no idea what to expect.
Landing at Kai Tak by antwerpenr – an experience, alas, I also missed out on
Any tips for getting the best deal on a Round-the-Word trip? You’re a self-confessed airline geek, so what’s one to do if they’re not?
For this, I’ll defer to my own RTW mentor, Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-conformity. To quote “The Wiz,” he is “the ‘x’ quotient, the new math, the common denominator, the main man, the head honcho, el numero uno” of travel hacking and I’ve learned tremendous ways of cost-cutting and finding low fares by following his advice; notably, keeping an eye on the message boards at FlyerTalk.com for ridiculous fare sales and considering a OneWorld airline alliance ticket, which allows for up to sixteen stops on various continents without a mileage restriction. If you’re not of the do-it-yourself mold, I’ve found the agents at AirBrokers.com and Airtreks.com to be very helpful in planning inexpensive round-the-world itineraries. Conventional wisdom dictates that traveling in the spring and fall is almost always cheaper than in summer and at Christmas, but summer deals have been monumental this year. Also, be flexible with your itinerary; have a couple of must-do cities, but then leave the rest to chance and see where you can go for the least amount of money. Because traveling with money in your pocket…that’s fly!
Andy’s Note – great tips!!!!!!!!! And Chris is without a doubt the **expert** on this topic. Fantastic stuff, Fly Brother! I wish you a safe travels and look forward to hearing about your adventures.