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Clint Johnston — How You, Too, Can Watch a Volcano Explode

Clint Johnston — How You, Too, Can Watch a Volcano Explode

Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere but thought that it would be unaffordable? Do you dream of taking an African safari, backpacking through European mountains, or simply visiting a different part of the country? The costs of flight tickets, hotel rooms, good food, and tourist attractions can make an adventure seem daunting these days. However, Triphackr founder Clint Johnston doesn’t believe that has to be the case.

Clint is an expert when it comes to “travel hacking.” He’s traveled to over 100 countries, visited almost every MLB stadium, and discovered the world’s best pizza (it’s in NYC, of course)—and he’s done it all while being a full-time student or having a full-time job. Over the past ten years, Clint has discovered the best tips for saving money, upgrading features, and successfully navigating locations all across the world. He shares these tips for free on his website, Triphackr.com, which can help you save hundreds of dollars on all of your future travel plans.

Saving so much money doesn’t have to be a hassle, either. That’s the beauty of Clint’s mission. He claims that everyone can and should fly for free at least once per year, and his tips on Triphackr can help you do that and more. Did you know that you can earn frequent flyer miles without ever stepping onto a plane? Traveling really can be easy.

What makes Clint Johnston interesting isn’t just the fact that he’s traveled the world. Sure, his story about sleeping on a crater rim and watching a volcano explode is pretty interesting, but even he says that traveling isn’t just about laying on the beach or visiting big attractions (though those things are great). What really keeps his passion for adventure alive is connecting people from different cultures.

Clint gets his inspiration from Anthony Bourdain, who looked to experience new places by eating, drinking and interacting with the people who live there. This love for the world’s people was evident in Clint’s trip to Haiti, and it is one reason why he created Run4Haiti, a non-profit organization that donates proceeds from running events directly to a school and orphanage that made an impact on his life when he was there. What is traveling without a love for the people you meet? Opening up to all the world has to offer is what really makes Clint interesting, and he simply wants to share that joy with others.

We caught Clint on the ground and asked him to share his most memorable experiences and best tips for current and future travelers alike.

Clint Johnston Triphackr Triple F.A.T. Goose

1. What is one travel hacking tip you would recommend everyone do?

I’d recommend everyone fly for free at least once per year. You don’t have to become a travel hacking expert to enjoy the perks of frequent flying. Earning enough points or miles for 1-2 flights every year takes minimal effort and offers a great reward. Anyone can become a travel hacker no matter how often you travel and you can earn the majority of those miles without ever flying on a plane.

2. You’ve traveled quite extensively and have seen many different cultures. If you could live outside the US, where would you live and why?

My answer to this has evolved over the years. When I was backpacking in college I would’ve said Thailand because of its access to SE Asia and cheap cost of living. However, now I’d probably like to be closer to friends and family so we can visit easily. At this stage in my life, I’d say London because it is a short and direct flight from NYC. It is also a great home base to explore Europe and flying to Africa is much easier. Planning an overland Africa trip is one of my biggest travel goals and it would be a little easier to manage if my flight time was cut in half from the U.S. If you ask me in 10-15 years, I’ll probably say on a beach in the Caribbean somewhere.

3. I have $500 and a week off to travel. Which city offers the most bang for the buck?

Start off by booking a flight with miles or points if you have them. If you don’t have miles to burn, use a tool like Kayak Explore or Skyscanner and search “everywhere” to find the cheapest possible flights from your home airport. Also, following accounts such as The Flight Deal and Secret Flying on Facebook or Twitter is a great way to find ultra-low fares. If you are solely looking for a place to visit, look for a destination where the dollar goes along way. Southeast Asia is one of the cheapest places to visit in the world and once you arrive you will be able to stretch that $500. If you prefer Europe, focus on Eastern Europe where you can really maximize your travel budget.

4. Where is the best place to travel for adventure? And for relaxation?

If you are looking for the adventure of a lifetime but prefer not to rough it, then a safari offers the best of both worlds. Head to a country like Tanzania and book a high-end safari with luxury tents to come home to each night. I’ve experienced both ends of the comfort spectrum in East Africa and they both have something to offer. My favorite combination was actually gorilla tracking in Uganda where I had a comfortable lodge to come home after hiking in the jungle all day, followed by a volcano hike in the DR Congo. We spent the day trekking to the top of an active volcano where we slept at the crater rim and watched the lava explode from the crater below. I like to combine adventure and a few days on relaxation on any trip. This way I don’t burn out and return home feeling refreshed.

Clint Johnston Triphackr Triple F.A.T. Goose

5. One of the many issues with traveling across the world is the issue with the changing time zones and the jetlag that comes with it. How do you deal with jetlag?

Jetlag can be a massive challenge to overcome on long-haul flights. I find staying hydrated, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and adjusting my sleep patterns on the flight is a great place to start. Once I land I like hit the ground running. I drop my bags off and set off to the see the city on foot. I even find hitting the gym is a great way to wake up if I land in the morning to beat jetlag.

6. You mentioned that one of your biggest influences is Anthony Bourdain. What have you learned from him? And have you ever considered hosting a travel show?

Anthony Bourdain is the best. He experiences new places through food and people and tends to avoid the most common attractions. He takes us to places we know little about and connects cultures better than anyone else could. He’s inspired me to travel the world and I’ve learned a lot from his early days on No Reservations. I’d love to host a travel show about the adventures of travel hacking by taking people to the lesser-known corners of the world. I started Triphackr with the goal to help people maximize their travel experiences and show them they can achieve the same. Traveling is all about connecting people and cultures, and that is something I would love to share through a travel show.

7. New Yorkers swear that they have the best pizza. As a person who has traveled the world, which place do you think really has the best slice of pizza?

New York City hands down has the best pizza in the world. There is nothing else like it anywhere. Picking a favorite is impossible for me in NYC but no place does it better.

8. How do you deal with the language barrier as you travel abroad? Have you had any issues with things getting lost in translation?

The truth is English is widely spoken throughout many countries and popular destinations around the world. Younger generations are learning it more now than ever and it has become a common language for many nationalities when they travel. Ideally, Americans would learn more than one language but I don’t think it is necessary. I try to learn a few basic phrases for any country I am visiting but it’s not reasonable to become proficient in a new language before visiting a place on vacation. The best we can do is make an effort and locals will respect that. I’ve been in plenty of circumstances (good and bad) where neither party speaks each other's language but in the end hand gestures and even a translation app can convey most messages around the world. Be patient and don’t get frustrated. Remember you’re a guest in their country and do your best to get your message across. Most of the time it will work out just fine and don’t let a language barrier deter you from visiting a new place.

9. When traveling, do you follow a schedule or do you just (excuse the pun) wing it?

I find a healthy balance between planning and winging it is key to an enjoyable trip. The idea of showing up with no plan is great but in reality it is nice to research a few things to do and lodging before you arrive in a new place. Leave room for excursions you learn about on arrival and ask locals for the best places to eat. A nice mix of planning and improvising will create the best type of trip experience.

Clint Johnston - Triphackr - Triple F.A.T. Goose

10. We understand you are on a mission to visit all the MLB ballparks. Each stadium has their own unique features, hidden treasures, food and atmosphere. Which stadium is the best all around?

I am extremely biased here because I was born in Kansas City, grew up in Boston and went to college at Kansas. I will always love going to Royals games and they’ve made some great improvements to the K in Kansas City, which is also a fantastic city that is often overlooked. I also love the classics so Fenway is my all around favorite. I even built a mini replica of Fenway in my backyard as a kid with my friend. It had lights and everything and was home to some great memories growing up. San Francisco is another favorite of mine and I’m not a Giants fan. I prefer the classics and I think some parks are doing too much today which is why Yankees Stadium feels doesn’t even compare to old Yankees Stadium for me. It has been a slow quest to see all 42 stadiums (30 teams plus rebuilt stadiums since I started the quest) but I am hoping to see my final four next year.

11. What is the best meal you’ve ever had in the world. Where and what was it?

I’ve had some delicious meals around the world but the most memorable and tasty was in Carcassonne, France. It was a cold winter night and I arrived in a sleepy town after lengthy delays and almost missing the last bus from Toulouse. I was planning to meet my family for dinner inside the old castle walls of the city but I had no idea where or what the restaurant was called. My mom was supposed to leave me a note on the door of our rental house but it had blown away down the street. Luckily, I was searching for WiFi I could borrow from a neighbor and stumbled across the note with directions to the restaurant. We flagged down a taxi and made it to dinner for the best tasting cassoulet I’ve ever had in my life. That is a meal I will never forget.


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