Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler magazine’s “Digital Nomad,” looked at a World Atlas as a kid, pointed to a small, barely recognizable speck out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and said “I want to go there.”
So as an adult, he did. Twice. That “speck on the map” was Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited island in the world.
Andrew’s second trip to Tristan da Cunha was part of his most recent trans-Atlantic journey from South America’s Cape Horn to Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.
No stranger to long voyages, Andrew began his Cape to Cape journey in Tierra del Fuego in Argentina in early March aboard the expedition ship National Geographic Explorer.
Along the way, he returned to South Georgia, where in 2010 he saw the famous “black penguin” — one of the rarest genetic mutations, seldom seen anywhere on the planet — and to Nightingale Island, where last year he helped break a story on his Digital Nomad blog about an oil spill on that pristine, UNESCO-protected island.
Andrew successfully reached Cape of Good Hope a few days ago, and has promised to visit “surprise destinations” while in Africa. As of today, he is in Malawi, “slapping on mosquito repellent & draping my nets for the night.”
It is well worth your time to digitally travel with Andrew as he tweets, blogs, vlogs and “Instagrams” his adventures on NationalGeographic.com’s Digital Nomad blog, his Twitter feed @WheresAndrew and his Where’s Andrew Facebook page.
Andrew was kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding his Cape to Cape journey, unexpected adventures, and more.
ERIC MURTAUGH: You specialize in travel to far-flung, seemingly disconnected destinations. Describe the tools you use to stay digitally connected.
ANDREW EVANS: The world is a very wired place these days. I do most all of my work on my iPhone 4S. When there’s no 3G, I use wi-fi internet from a laptop, phone or iPad and when there’s no internet, I (sometimes) use a portable satellite or satellite phone.
EM: Your current voyage from Cape to Cape gave you the opportunity to once again visit your dream destination, Tristan Da Cunha. Why is this place so special to you?
AE: I love remote places and this is one that called out to me from the World Atlas back when I was a kid. It’s just this tiny island smack dab in the middle of the ocean, 1,500 miles from any land. It’s also quite beautiful–a perfect cone volcano rising up from the sea. It takes a special kind of person to live there, so I find the people pretty one-of-a-kind. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been there twice now.
EM: You encounter rare animal species in your line of work, such as the Inaccessible Island flightless rail, one of the rarest birds on earth. What do you learn from these encounters?
AE: That nature is incredibly fragile and also incredibly smart. The rail is this tiny brown bird that can’t fly, but it’s still so special because it lives on a rock in the middle of the ocean that nothing else can live on. How cool is that?
EM: Your Twitter followers would know the Atlantic gave you quite the ride this time around. How do you cope with a rough sea crossing?
AE: I’ve been on very rough seas before and normally, I head up to the bridge and ride it out with the officer at the helm. Up on top, it’s much more fun, like riding a roller coaster. Down below deck, I’m much more prone to seasickness. It’s all mental really, so you have to keep showing your mind the horizon.
EM: What do you hope to accomplish as a digital nomad?
AE: As a digital nomad, I hope to accomplish the same thing that the early National Geographic explorers accomplished: to discover all that is unique, wonderful, curious, and strange in the world and share it with as many people as possible. We are blessed with incredible technology that lets us share our discoveries immediately and I love using it.
EM: Do you have any advice for an aspiring digital nomad?
AE: The best technology in the world can’t compete with your personal curiosity–that’s the most important tool you can travel with. Experiment with new apps but narrow it down to a small handful that you like. Use digital tools to help you connect with people & animals, to learn about the place you’re in & to educate others.
EM: In your Digital Nomad post “Cape to Cape,” you write that you travel for the unexpected adventures. Why is the element of surprise so important to you?
AE: We’ve created a world that is far too scripted & rehearsed. Even our “Reality” Television shows are heavily scripted. Real travel throws you into the adventure of the unknown. Surprise always delivers the most memorable travel.
EM: Speaking of which, do you care to share any unexpected adventures you’ve had on your current voyage?
AE: I got kissed on the chin by a baby elephant seal. I randomly ran into a long-lost friend from Dubai at Evita Peron’s grave in Buenos Aires. I ate springbok antelope. I learned how to say Thank You in Tagalog. I got seasick for the first time. I crossed the Prime Meridian and watched the sun rise over Table Mountain. And that was only the 1st half of this trip. More to come…
EM: Name one piece of gear you cannot travel without.
AE: My iPhone, which I hold in my left hand like a baby holds a pacifier. But besides my phone, I’d say nail clippers. I always need nail clippers.