Every Thursday, A Dangerous Business will be shining the spotlight on a world nomad, travel blogger, armchair adventurer, or just someone really cool in the travel world. This week, the traveler is Harvey of H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke. Harvey, AKA ‘H-Bomb,’ has sung karaoke in 27 countries on 6 continents — plus Easter Island. On his website, he blogs about his ongoing World Karaoke Tour as well as his general travel adventures. When he’s not gallivanting around the world, he works as an attorney in New York City.
1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?
To me me, being a traveler is fundamentally about a mindset — having an innate curiosity about the world and wanting to learn as much about it, and experience as much of it, as possible. A traveler recognizes that reading about a place on Wikipedia or a blog is no substitute for seeing it firsthand. It’s no accident that travelers also tend to be interested in such disciplines as geography, history, literature and architecture, because those all involve various aspects of getting to know more about our planet and the people who’ve lived on it.
Under my definition, I’m a traveler because I’m obsessed with always needing to know as much as I can about everything (that’s why I enjoy trivia competitions), and my wanderings around the world go hand in hand with my pursuit of that goal. Just as important to me as adding a new location to my World Karaoke Tour is exploring that location, finding out what makes it beautiful and unique, and delving into its history and culture.
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
When I was on safari in South Africa, my first game drive was a magical experience. It was an evening drive, and since it was still the austral winter (my trip having occurred in the month of September), darkness fell early. The driver pulled over and turned off the engine. We sat there in the SUV in the darkness, with lions skulking around and the occasional animal call audible in the distance. Looking up to the sky I could see millions of stars, as well as the full moon which was an amazing shade of red that night. That moment was so serene and beautiful, and I wished it could last forever.
3. How about your proudest travel moment?
Going to Egypt in September 2012. Earlier in the year I had been sick and at times I had wondered whether I would ever be able to travel again, let alone go to other continents. I worked hard to recover, but I still had doubts. So to know that I’d made it all the way back, and would be able to again do what I love, was a tremendous feeling.
The Egypt trip was also satisfying for another reason: right before I went, small-scale protests had erupted outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Some friends and family back home urged me not to go through with my trip, saying that as an American I would be in danger. I had doubts myself. I know that the people who were begging me to cancel were only doing so because they cared about me, but in retrospect I think they’d been influenced by media-driven fearmongering. I never really felt threatened at any point during my stay in Egypt, and I was so glad that I’d gone ahead and not given in to the naysayers.
4. Have you had any travel mishaps or bad experiences? If so, have these influenced how you view the place where they happened? Would you go back?
Getting robbed by a taxi driver in Mexico City, and then being forced to get out of the cab and abandoned in the middle of nowhere, would probably fall under the heading of “travel mishaps.” I would still go back to Mexico City, but I would pay much more attention next time to safety warnings from the U.S. State Department such as “Don’t hail a random cab that’s driving drown the street.”
And then there was the time when I was chased by three killer dogs on Easter Island. Most of the stray dogs there are docile and just want to be given scraps of food; but these canines were barking furiously at me, and I was pretty scared although I did manage to outrun them. That was the kind of thing that can happen anywhere, of course.
Having an airline lose one of my bags permanently was also a suboptimal experience (and I had to fight the airline to get reimbursed for the full value of the bag and its contents).
5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.
I’m going to cheat a little here and name three items. I can’t travel without my two cameras (a DSLR, plus a point-and-shoot that’s more portable and shoots HD video), as well as my tripod for long-exposure night shots. Documenting the places I go and the things I see is very important to me. Lately I’ve started using my smartphone much more as a camera, especially since joining Instagram; but I would need more features and capabilities from a cameraphone before I could rely on it exclusively.
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
My cameras and tripod. They add bulk and weight. Plus, bringing the cameras results in more chargers to have to remember to pack, and more devices to have to constantly recharge while on the road.
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
That people everywhere are generally decent and friendly. Most people you’ll meet, no matter where you go, will judge you as an individual and not on the basis of your citizenship. If you open yourself up to others, they will reciprocate and do the same.
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I feel very fortunate to live in New York City. If I were to permanently relocate, it would have to be to a place that met certain criteria, such as: no car required (because I refuse to drive ever); lots of cultural amenities and other fun things to do; and a location that serves as a good base for exploring a wider region. So I’m basically describing large cities that aren’t too isolated. Among cities that I’ve been to, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Istanbul, and Paris would meet my criteria. São Paulo might be a possibility, but I would need to learn more about it, having only spent a total of one night there so far. Singapore and Seoul would probably meet my requirements, although I haven’t experienced them yet in person (but they’re both on my short list!).
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
Singing karaoke in Antarctica, the only continent where I have yet to sing. It’s a massive project — getting to Antarctica is difficult and expensive under any circumstances, and to actually be able to do karaoke there, I would need to make it to McMurdo Station, a scientific base that’s over 2,000 miles from the peninsula where cruise ships from Ushuaia (the usual point of embarkation for travelers from the western hemisphere) typically put in. McMurdo also doesn’t welcome tourists who won’t advance its scientific mission. BUT … there’s a bar at McMurdo that has karaoke nights! So I’m determined to make this happen somehow.
10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to approach and meet people, especially locals, when traveling solo. Just because you’re traveling independently doesn’t mean you have to spend your time alone. Relatedly, it’s so much easier to just gravitate towards other North Americans or Europeans whom you may meet while overseas, but it can be more rewarding to learn about a place from those who know it best.
Are you a travel blogger who has something to say on these topics? Do you know of somebody really interesting in the travel universe that you’d like to see interviewed? Speak up! The Thursday Traveler needs some interview subjects.