Travel blogger Victor from Victor's Travels here. I've traveled to Antarctica, North Korea, and Venezuela, AMA :-)

Victor Eekhof
Feb 10, 2018

Hi there!

I have visited some odd places like Antarctica, North Korea, and Venezuela, and I am happy to answer any questions you might have about these countries!

I've written about these places on Victor’s Travels, a travel blog curated by me, 30-something Dutch world explorer Victor Eekhof. This blog is all about traveling on your own terms and not following the masses. It’s for people who are happiest with a big backpack on their backs and a smaller one on their front; people who walk where others take a cab, or take a bus where others take a plane.

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What was the most shocking thing about North Korea?

Feb 16, 5:33PM EST0

What's your travel bag like? What are its usual contents? What the essentials and must-haves you can't leave home without when you have to pack light?

Feb 14, 5:54AM EST0

I am the proud owner of an Osprey Nebula backpack (34L, in black) which I carry on my front and an Osprey Fairpoint (40L, in Carribean blue). I like their layouts; they don't feel like big bags, but I can fit a lot in and I can find things without taking everything out. The Nebula backpack can be used as a daypack as it's just the right size not to look too bulky.

When I started traveling, I had a 65L backpack and a 35L backpack, and waaaay too much stuff (23 kilograms of weight just on my back). I had a lot of things with my "just in case". I also had 3 fat lonely planet books with me and some other books to read.

Now, I have everything on a tiny Amazon Kindle which I absolutely love. I used to pack a lot of clothes as well, for very different occasions. Now, I have "invested" in a few nice-looking travel attire which doesn't scream tourist and can be used in many different situations without standing out.

The key for me are  "quick-dry" materials such as merino wool or bamboo, as they will dry over-night, are light, and won't stink.

I travel with my 13-inch Macbook as well. You might say it's a big risk, but I have never had any problems with it when traveling alone. I loved the fact that I could be creative anywhere on the road, and could start making music, doing some writing, watch a movie, edit some photos etc. whenever I had some time (and there is always lots of time when you travel, like waiting for buses, in buses, trains, airports etc.).

One good tip I got from reading The 4-Hour Work Week (highly recommended book) is to bring an emergency fund. Even if it's €200, it means you won't have to bring many things that you would bring "in case something happens". I don't really know what else to tell you so I'll just stop here.

Last edited @ Feb 14, 3:53PM EST.
Feb 14, 3:51PM EST0

As a frequent traveler, you must be shopping for cheap flights all the time, right? Where do you usually get your tickets for cheap?

Feb 13, 11:51PM EST0

I mostly make sure that I book well in advance (2-3 months is perfect) and I look for flights on Skyscanner. I am also subscribed to the Secret Flying newsletter for the latest error fares. It's mostly last-minute stuff, but you can really find ridiculously cheap flights!

Feb 14, 3:30PM EST0

What are your future plans if you spend most of your savings for travel? Do you ever worry that you might not have enough savings left for the rainy days during your later years?

Feb 12, 8:22PM EST0

I guess I'll have to deal with things as they come. I try not to do things "because one should do them that way", for instance in terms of marriage and kids, and this can save you a lot of money already. So I'm planning to just go through life and keep travels in the back of my head whenever I make (financial) decisions. I think they'll be loads of opportunities to travel, as long as you recognize them (or create them). And traveling doesn't have to be expensive at all! yes, the flight might cost more, but living expenses at the destination could end up much lower than back home, and you could make a profit by renting out your place on sites like Airbnb :-)

Feb 14, 3:27PM EST0

How did you manage to go to North Korea? Is the process super difficult and strict?

Feb 12, 8:01PM EST0

It was quite simple, really, I booked a tour and the company organized things like visa's, food, accommodation, and transport. There isn't any other way of doing it at the time, as far as I know. Ther process was easy and didn't take a long time at all. I can imagine it varies per nationality, for instance, the tour company I went with banned American citizens from their tours after a (deadly) incident a little while ago.

Feb 14, 3:22PM EST0

Have you considered writing a book about your travels? And have you considered turning your blog into a book? If so, why or why not?

Feb 12, 4:13PM EST0

Hi Brandy,One of my life goals is to write a book, but I haven't (seriously) given it any thought yet. I figured that I need a lot more content out there first before I can start bundling stuff together. Also, I think there is a lot out there already, so I would have to find a good balance between what I want to tell and what people want to read. So I definitely keep my options open! :-) 

Feb 14, 3:20PM EST0

What’s Antartica weather like? Is it really too cold all year round or did you still see the sun and felt a bit of warmth while you were there?

Feb 12, 10:08AM EST0

At the time I visited it (Dec/Jan) wasn't that cold at all! The tour agency provided me with a thick water/windproof jacket, boots and trousers, but I got quite warm at one point!

The season to visit is from November to March, in the other months of the year it's simply too cold to visit. It was about 0 Celsius to about -10 Celsius when I was there, but the weather is super changeable on Antarctica, and it could easily drop 5/10 degrees in half an hour. The sun also really helped, it was lovely!

Feb 12, 2:58PM EST0

Why choose odd places? Do you enjoy the thrill of taking on the "roads less traveled"? Does it get scary sometimes? What are other places or countries you wish to visit in the future if you had a chance? And what are some places that you've already visited and would love to visit again? (Sorry, too many questions! Super interested about your travels!)

Last edited @ Feb 12, 1:01AM EST.
Feb 12, 1:01AM EST0

Hia Rona!

Let me try to answers all of your questions:

Why choose odd places?

Why not? :-) Every traveler has their own destinations that get them excited, and for me it's visiting places that relatively few people have visited.

Do you enjoy the thrill of taking on the "roads less traveled"? 

Definitely! I love it when am able to get away from the thing "everybody does" and find something else that is more impressive and less known! It fits my personality, I always try to make my own decisions without getting too influenced by others (also I'm stubborn).

What are other places or countries you wish to visit in the future if you had a chance?

This question was asked by another user, let me paste the answer :-)

  • Georgia
  • Iran
  • Norway
  • India (been once, want to go back)
  • Norway (perhaps Svalbard)
  • Also Mexico is on the radar

And what are some places that you've already visited and would love to visit again?

  • As said before, India still has plenty to offer
  • Antarctica, it was such an awesome experience and I would love to visit the continent again
  • South Africa was awesome and cheap to travel in, with still much more to see as well (I did some of the West and South, would love to do the East Coast)
  • Bangkok is always a good pitstop on the way to or from another Asian city, I stayed there last year and was surprised that it wasn't as crazy spoiled as I thought it would be (my last visit was 10 years ago)
Feb 12, 2:49PM EST0

Do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking of traveling on his own the same way as you do?

Feb 11, 12:06AM EST0

I guess the best advice I can give is to make your own plans, be open to talk to other travelers and don't believe everything the media/your family/friends back home says about a country! Don't let fear be your guidance and it's rewarding to be naive from time to time.

Feb 11, 4:54AM EST0

Where do you recommend to stay while visiting the Antarctica? How did you manage to stay despite the very, very low temperatures?

Feb 10, 7:44PM EST0

Well, you don't really have much of a choice I'm afraid. You can't stay on any of the scientific bases, as they simply haven't got enough resources. Your only option is to stay on the boat that you booked your trip with. It's usually a luxurious boat (you have small boats or big cruise ships) and the most budget option is to share a cabin with 1 or 2 people.  I didn't have any trouble at all sleeping on the boat, as there was only a small window I could close (it was summer, which means it was light outside 24/7) and there was central heating.

Feb 11, 4:51AM EST0

At what point in your life did you discover your passion for traveling?

Feb 10, 6:28PM EST0

Definitely after my first solo backpacking trip to Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asia when I was about 23 years old. It was my first trip out of Europe and it thoroughly broadened my horizon. After coming back from that trip all I could think of was where to go next. I managed to save up enough money in a year to go traveling again for another 7 months, something I repeated a few times after that trip.

Feb 11, 4:46AM EST0

Regarding food in Mongolia: What dishes are the best and why?

Feb 10, 3:17PM EST0

I definitely had some interesting food in Mongolia! The capital Ulaanbataar was a lot more Western than I thought, there were many restaurants and cafés that could easily have been in any Western city. I was hanging out in Cafe Amsterdam a lot, where they had great coffee and baked goods. 

I loved the variety of Russian chocolate you could buy in the supermarkets too!

When I traveled outside Ulanbataar the food definitely got more interesting as well. I stayed in a Ger (see pic) and was served bits of a sheep's leg. Also, I had some yak butter milk tea with some stale bread and a sort of buttery porridge.

The best thing? I remember the sheep's leg being very fresh and a welcome source of carbs to fight the cold.

Feb 11, 4:42AM EST0

Is traveling a hobby for you, or has it become more like a life style? If it hasn’t, would you want it to be a life style?

Feb 10, 2:21PM EST0

Can it be both? I feel like traveling is still a hobby, as hardly any of my trips are sponsored yet. But, it is also a lifestyle, as I have seen a bit of the world and am not ready to stop traveling anywhere soon. I feel like things might change when babies will be born, but I know plenty of people that travel with their kids and are loving it! I think it's all about the mindset: what part does traveling play in your life? For me, it's a passion and a way to step out of the hustle and bustle of the city I live in (Amsterdam, by the way).

Feb 10, 2:46PM EST0

Where do you get all of your funds from in order to travel to another country?

Feb 10, 1:45PM EST0

I wish I could give you a golden tip here, but I simply don't have one... I worked as a marketing employee and project manager for a few years while saving up. When I had enough money, I would quit my job and spend it all on traveling for a period of 6-8 months. In the last few months of my travels I would start looking for a job again, and luckily I mostly managed to find something new or to get a position in the same company again. 

Feb 10, 2:43PM EST1

Is Victor’s Travel an initiative you’d like to keep on until it reaches a respectable reputation as a blog or would prefer to maintain it as your best kept secret?

Feb 10, 10:19AM EST0

Great question! I has been my little secret for a long time (3 out of the 4 years my blog exists) and I would only write on the blog myself. I was struggling to put a "label" on the blog as well that could work commercially; there wasn't much of a common denominator I could find in the stuff I had previously written. Then, I think it was during my last trip when I got a few requests for guest posts, I started to think that I should make my blog more of a platform for people that would like to travel in the style that I do (low-budget, adventurous, visiting lesser-known countries or places). I asked a few travel friends for guest posts and accepted a few guest post requests, and now I try to keep a rotation of writing good content without having to find time for it myself ALL the time. I see my blog growing because of it, so I'm definitely out for more!

Feb 10, 2:40PM EST1

Have you ever been on a trip with someone else? How was it? Is there any difference between solo-traveling and traveling with a companion?

Feb 10, 8:39AM EST0

I have traveled for 6 months with my girlfriend last year, which was the first time I traveled with someone for the whole duration of the trip. I think there is a big difference in traveling solo and with a companion. It's not a question of good and bad, it's just a very different style and dynamic. If you're alone, you're much more open to meeting new people and travel with them; other solo travelers usually don't want to hang out with couples on their trip (even if they are awesome). A big pro of traveling with someone else is that you can always share the amazing moment on your trip. Apart from that, you can also share your frustrations (this is huge, I consider this the biggest downside of traveling solo) and share costs (many costs can be split in two when you're traveling with a companion).

If you travel with your girlfriend or boyfriend (or husband or wife or mistress or cousin) is that you share awesome memories much after your trip, and it's a great feeling to relive these moments by looking at your travel pics together...

Last edited @ Feb 10, 2:34PM EST.
Feb 10, 2:33PM EST0

What has been your greatest experience while traveling? And your worst?

Feb 10, 7:33AM EST0

I feel like my trip to Antarctica was considerably different from anywhere else I have been. The serenity of the ice, calm sea and wildlife was simply breathtaking. 

In terms of worst travel experience: I don't really have an experience that completely ruined a trip for me. Of course, there were frustrations, bribes, and I got held back by 4 Chinese karaoke-ladies, but they were all the kind of crazy experiences I wouldn't want to miss on a trip.

Perhaps the time I got scammed on Tiananmen square in Beijing wasn't that much fun. I (seemingly) nice guy about my age started talking to me, and even though I was a bit wary he seemed nice enough and not pushy in any way. By that time I was used to people approaching me on the street, so I didn't think much of it. I walked with him in the direction I was going to, when he proposed a cup of tea in a random shop we passed. I agreed and we had some nice tea up until the moment when the bill (€100) came. He acted as surprised as I was and said that perhaps it was a special (expensive) tea we choose by accident. Not knowing what to do, and being far to kind/polite, I accepted his offer to split the bill. Obviously, he was working with the people in the shop and I was the only one paying here. I left feeling very confused and even then I didn't want to believe I got scammed, until another person approached me for a cup of tea minutes later....

Feb 10, 2:55PM EST0

How do you market your blog? What social media is best do you think for travel bloggers?

Feb 10, 6:01AM EST0

To be honest, I am struggling with this question myself. I tried Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, but everything seems to get the attention span of about 2 people for 0.5 seconds. I am just not the kind of person to spend day and night on social media making up content to share, so I currently focus almost exclusively on SEO. I believe that this is good as a long-term strategy and it means that I can stay nice and introvert, just the way I like it :-)

Feb 10, 2:22PM EST0

Do you remember the first time you traveled on your own? Where did you go?

Feb 10, 4:31AM EST0

Yes! It was during the financial crisis of 2009 where I couldn't find a job, and people were telling me to go travel with the money I saved up. I resisted at first (fear of the unknown I guess) but then went on a backpacking trip through Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. I was really involved with couchsurfing at the time, and I was surprised how easy it was to meet travel buddies and people that will host you for free in their houses. I met some awesome people with whom I'm still in touch and it kick-started my passion for travel.

Feb 10, 2:17PM EST0

What are the most beautiful places to visit while being in Venezuela?

Feb 10, 2:25AM EST0

Hmm, I don't think I can answer that question properly as I have only been to Caracas. I heard the Angel falls are stunning!

Feb 10, 2:15PM EST0

Would you consider this travel blog-writing as a hard industry to jump on?

Feb 10, 12:34AM EST0

I think it's hardest if you have no clear idea of what you will write about. This was my mistake in the beginning, I started the blog kind of like a backlog/diary of my own travels. When I saw that some people liked my stories and tips, I gradually started to shift more to writing for an audience (with SEO in mind) instead of just writing whatever I want. Then after that, I looked at monetizing the blog e.g. through affiliate links. I started my blog a little over 4 years ago.

Feb 10, 2:14PM EST0

Do you have any plans on traveling in the near future?

Feb 9, 7:10PM EST0

See my answer on Hermanaji's question :-) Also, I have some countries on my list to visit in the (near) future:

  • Georgia
  • Iran
  • Norway
  • India (been once, want to go back)
  • Norway (perhaps Svalbard)

The list is every-growing though :-)

Feb 10, 1:50PM EST0

What places would you like to visit in the upcoming years?

Feb 9, 11:34AM EST0

I came back in September last year from a 6-month trip through India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Scotland and Denmark, so I'm taking it a bit easy this year. I have Romania planned in April (tips are most welcome!) and going to Hamburg and Berlin (for the ITB, a big travel event) in the next 2 months.

Feb 10, 1:40PM EST0

Which of the trips you’ve done, considering you traveled to places like Mongolia, North Korea, Antarctica or Venezuela, was the most challenging of all?

Feb 9, 6:13AM EST0

With many trip I've done there is a prominent element of frustration, more than anything else. There were however a few moment on my travels where I thought I would genuinely die:

  • When 12 people (incl me) took of in a minivan racing with 140 km/h on an unpaved road through the jungle of south west of Guyana. There's much more to this story (I had to bribe a bunch of scary-looking corrupt policemen), you can read the full story here.
  • I had a pretty disastrous trip in Mongolia with a couchsurfer. We headed from the capital (Ulaanbataar) to the Khustain National Park and slept in a ger (a Mongolian nomad-style tent) and found out the next day that the car wouldn't start as it was -14 Celsius with a bone-chilling wind. We managed to get the car working (wrapping the car in sheep skin and making a camp fire underneath the engine anyone?) but on the way back to the capital we got into a (luckily minor) car accident which meant we had to wait for the police to handle things. There's more to the story, you can read it here.
  • I spent 3 months traveling through China and I had a tough time communicating (even through body language) and socializing with the locals. It just seemed like there was no interest whatsoever, and the rudeness (in a Westerner's view) in the Chinese culture made me feel frustrated and lonely.
Feb 10, 1:38PM EST0

What is the message you want to express to the world with your blog?

Feb 9, 3:14AM EST0

The biggest theme is that I believe that people should discover the world on their own and not follow the masses. You'll just create more unique experiences that way, and it will feed (or create) your sense of adventure. 4-star resorts in touristy beach towns are one thing, but discovering a white empty beach after a 3-hour hike through a rainforest is truly something else!

Feb 10, 1:27PM EST0

Do you follow any other blog travelers? Did anyone inspire you to do this?

Feb 8, 4:55PM EST0

To be completely honest, I mostly visit other blogs to "check out the competition" and get inspired by their way of writing, their website design or their SEO practices. I have a few fellow travel bloggers as friends on Facebook and I do check out their blogs from time to time purely as a reader. For instance: Sabrina from Just One Way Ticket, Raymond from Man on the Lam and Josh from Go Travel Your Way. Josh is a good friend and we started blogging around the same time. My first guest blog post was on his blog too. Mandatory mention: my girlfriend also has a (much more curated) travel blog and she also writes occasionally for Lonely Planet.

Feb 10, 7:18AM EST0

How do people live in North Korea? What North Korea is really like according to you?

Feb 8, 4:39PM EST0

Hi Ankicagestak,

Based on my own experience, some documentaries I watched and a book I read about North Korean defectors, I have the idea that there is a growing divide between the North Korean people. There are those who truly believe in the Leader's ideology and morals, and those that are (silently) a bit more skeptical. 

An example where I saw this myself is on my tour to North Korea. We had two North Korean guides that were with us practically all the time. One was a man in his 40s (I think) and a girl that must have been in her 20s. One of the people on the tour had been talking with the girl a bit on the bus (we were driven around in a coach) and asked her if she enjoys living in North Korea. "I really hate it, but I can't do anything about it", was her answer. Meanwhile the other tour guide was telling us lots of stories about the achievements of Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung in a very passionate and heroic way....

It's hard to find out exactly how people live in North Korea; you won't be able to visit any homes or have extensive chat with locals. I did write a comprehensive article about the surprising things that Singaporean filmmaker Aram Pan found in North Korea. It could be an interesting read on this topic.

Feb 10, 4:11AM EST0

Considering international media approach to the current situation in Venezuela, would you say the country is as bad as it is pictured on the TV?

Feb 8, 3:12PM EST1

Hi Diazga,

This is a tricky question for me to answer, as I have been there in 2011 where the political and economic tensions weren't as high as they are now. I really liked the people I met in Venezuela; they were friendly, fun-loving and ridiculously good dancers. After a party at about 4 am, a friend and I were walking through the city of Caracas for about an hour without feeling threatened by anyone or anything.  

Feb 10, 3:56AM EST0

Which one of the places you've visited, among Mongolia, North Korea, Antarctica and Venezuela, was the most expensive?

Feb 8, 2:48PM EST1

Hi there Andrej,

It's hard to compare Antarctica and North Korea against any other country, as in both cases the options of visiting the country (and ways to spend money once you're in) are limited.

In the case of Antarctica, you will have to go with a tour, which starts at around $4.000 when you get a last-minute deal. You won't be able to spend too much more money once you're there, as all food and tours are included, and there is only 1 gift shop on the whole continent (An old British post office called Port Lockroy, for those who are interested). \

For North Korea, it's pretty much the same thing. You will spend most money on the tour ($400 - $2000, depending how long you will stay and what you will do) and once you're inside you can keep your wallet in your pocket.

I don't remember Mongolia to be particularly expensive (compared to European/US prices) but not super cheap either. The most common way to visit places outside of the capital is by joining a tour (private or group), I remember that they weren't very cheap. I went to the Khustain National Park with a couchsurfer I stayed with (which ended up to be quite a disastrous trip).

Venezuela (I only stayed in Caracas) was pretty cheap. I remember getting a lot of street food (arepas, a sort of corn-based pita breads) and coffee and not paying much at all! Fun fact is that fuel is cheaper than water in Venezuela.

In conclusion: I guess you can say that my trip to Antarctica was by far the most costly.

Feb 10, 3:52AM EST0
What are the top 5 things to know before visiting North Korea? What’s like to travel to North Korea, being one of the hardest countries to visit?
Feb 8, 12:22PM EST1

Hia Farayola,

To be honest, it was pretty easy to travel to North Korea. As there is no other way to visit the country than to book a tour, it's as simple as booking one with an agency (I recommend Young Pioneer Tours, it's the one I went with). Here's a few things you should know before visiting:

  • If you don't behave like an asshole, things are going to be fine. As long as you don't openly criticize the leader/regime, refuse to place flowers at the monuments and are out to interrogate locals, there won't be any trouble on your tour.
  • North Korean locals are super friendly. I have only seen Pyongyang so perhaps I am biased (only the elite gets to live there), but locals were generally curious and tour groups. Of course, there is the chance that at least some of them were deliberately told to mingle with the tourists, but I don't believe that everyone we saw or met was an actor.
  • You can get souvenirs in Pyongyang like postcards, posters, pins, books (I bought a little book called "Kim Jong-Il, the great leader") and much more.
  • North Korea has solar panels, a ski resort, an annual marathon, a water park, and other things, some that you can actually visit (check the websites of tour agencies such as Young Pioneer Tours and Koryo)
Feb 10, 3:36AM EST0
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