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Freelance Travel Writer Interview – Ben Groundwater, The Backpacker

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Today, I’ve managed to score an interview with an Australian Freelance Travel Writer, Ben Groundwater, who writes a regular column for the Sydney Morning Herald called ‘The Backpacker’.

Freelance Travel Writer - Ben Groundwater

I recently met Ben on an awesome travel junket to South Africa and he was silly enough to answer a few of my questions and create this interview.

You can follow Ben on Twitter @bengroundwater, and check out his website.

Here goes!

Chat with Ben Groundwater – some Freelance Travel Writer Tips

The Travel Tart: Thanks for your time Ben! First of all, what inspired you to become a Freelance Travel Writer, and can you share some tips on how us mere mortals can escape the constant grind of the cubicle and get paid to travel?

Ben Groundwater: My inspiration was probably the same as most people’s – I love travel, and tried to come up with a way to get paid to do it! I’ve been a journalist since leaving uni, so the transition into fully-fledged travel writer seemed like a natural progression. For people hoping to become a Freelance Travel Writer, all the tools you need are already there: the internet. Start your own blog, and get writing. If you’re doing a good job, people will start to notice you.

The Travel Tart: A while ago, I wrote an article called ‘Travel Personalities Explained‘. I figured out that I was a combination of the Pisshead and the Minimalist. How would you describe your Travel Personality Style? Any new ones are welcome!

Ben Groundwater: Tough one! I’d probably put myself somewhere in between the Pisshead, the Madman and the Nerd. I like a drink when I’m travelling – then again, I like a drink when I’m not travelling. The Madman is someone who likes to take a few risks when they’re travelling – whether that be cruising around in a Guatemalan chicken bus, or jumping off a cliff with a rope strapped to your chest. And the Nerd? What can I say, I like my research!

La Tomatina Spain

The Travel Tart: I really enjoyed the trip we had to South Africa recently, especially the bits where we undertook 2 bungee swings within 3 days (See the my posts about bungee swings at Moses Mabhida Stadium and Oribi Gorge). I think my adreanlin glands burst on that trip. Are you the adrenalin junkie type who loves to risk his life so that you don’t run out of dinner party conversations (like myself!)?

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Ben Groundwater: In a word… Yes! I don’t actually want to hurt myself, but for me the idea of travel is to do things you wouldn’t normally do at home, so if that includes jumping off a cliff, or clinging to the back of a Vietnamese scooter, or eating scorpions, then so be it!

The Backpacker - Sydney Morning Herald

The Travel Tart: With your first book, 5 Ways to Carry a Goat, you travelled around the world and stayed at some of your reader’s places. When Brian Thacker tested the Couch Surfing concept for his book ‘Sleeping Around’, one of his main concerns was that he wanted to stay with fun people who weren’t axe murderers. Did you come across any psychopaths at all on your trip?

Ben Groundwater: I was certainly a bit worried about that, given I had no way of vetting the people I was staying with. For some of them I just had a single email inviting me to stay, and that was it! Without giving too much away, I met some real characters, but for the most part I found everyone very genuine and friendly. By the fourth month of staying at strangers’ houses it started to feel really normal! I was glad to get back to my own couch at the end though.

The Travel Tart: What’s the funniest, or most bizarre thing you’ve encountered on your travels to date?

Ben Groundwater: Funny ones are pretty hard to quantify, but one of the most surreal experiences I had was in this little village on Lake Malawi, which is on the truck tour route that most travellers in Africa pass through. Anyway, the guys there have come up with the idea of naming themselves after famous people so tourists will remember them and come back to buy things off them. So, I ended up having dinner at Mel Gibson’s house, bought a carving off Don Bradman, and had a chat with George Bush. And all this on the shores of an African lake…

Mel Gibson And Ben Groundwater
Mel Gibson and Ben Groundwater

The Travel Tart: Funnily enough, we both like beer. I was reading your post about Michelada, which you’ve described basically as a feral mix of beer, lime and tomato salsa (I’m still struggling to find the reason why such a brew exists!). I’ve had unusual combinations of food/drink before, such as Tea With Egg, Shaved Ice With Red Beans, and Cows Nose With Peanut Sauce, but I don’t think I want to go anywhere near this Michelada thing! Do you think it should make an appearance in my ‘Beer Index‘, and is this possibly the worst beer you’ve ever tasted?

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Ben Groundwater: The beer itself was fine! It’s usually one of the light-style beers, like Corona or Sol, which on their own are great, but mixed with lime and salsa become the work of the devil. It’s not as bad as “Bilk” though. That’s a Japanese drink, a mix of beer and… milk. I actually can’t think of a worse combination.

The Travel Tart: Urrgh. Bilk sounds feral! I always ask my interviewees where and when they were bitten by the travel bug. What was the specific experience where you thought ‘Hell yeah, I love this travel thing?’

Ben Groundwater: Not really one in particular, because I’ve been lucky enough to have been travelling with my parents since I was about two. Travel’s something that’s always been part of my life, and if I have things my way, it always will be. It’s an expensive habit, but a good one!

The Travel Tart: That’s awesome! Thanks for your time!

Another Freelance Travel Writer Great Story!

Check out Ben’s book, 5 Ways to Carry A Goat, and you can see his regular updates of ‘The Backpacker’ online.

Australian Travel Writer Ben Groundwater 5 Ways To Carry A Goat

There you go – if you’re keen, why not become a Freelance Travel Writer yourself!

Just take out some Backpackers Travel Insurance!

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8 thoughts on “Freelance Travel Writer Interview – Ben Groundwater, The Backpacker”

  1. Avatar Of Michael

    Great to see another Australian on the path to fame… if we don’t have enough already. 😉

  2. Avatar Of Maria

    Great interview – felt as though I were sitting at table with you both, listening to a chat between old friends catching up. Fantastic style!

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