Photography and Food Poisoning: An In-Depth Interview with Dustin Main

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Traveler's Toolbox  

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Dustin Main is a technology geek, a climber, a photographer, a food poisoning expert, and above all else — he’s a full-time traveler. Dustin documents his travels on his personal blog DustinMain.com and operates a travel technology site titled, “Too Many Adapters.” One thing he’s certainly not — is boring. Not only does Dustin travel to the farthest reaches of the world, he dives into the local cultures, eats local cuisine and takes his somewhat frequent bouts of food poisoning with a grain of salt.

Dustin’s currently in Chang Mai, Thailand, catching up on work and organizing his endless amount of photos and stories from recent travels in Burma and Bagan. We were fortunate enough to have a chat with him as he worked on laptop in his newly rented Chang Mai apartment. We asked some interesting questions, and he countered with exceedingly more interesting responses.

LR: What’s the weirdest item you can’t travel without?

DM: I carry a pair of nail clippers that I’ve grown so attached to. I won’t put them in my carry-on because I’m afraid an overzealous TSA agent will try to confiscate them sometime as a weapon. Those guys are the worst.

LR: What country has the best street food?

DM: Thailand or Malaysia. Malaysian Indian food is awesome. Let me give Malaysia this one, because everybody says Thailand.

LR: Have fluids ever exited your body in a particularly embarrassing way?

DM: Geez, more times than I’d like to mention. As an example, just a few days ago I found myself with a case of food poisoning. By the time the night was through, I had vomited three times, crapped in two pairs of underwear and even the bed. My dearest apologizes to my neighbors, the guesthouse staff and my favorite laundry lady.

LR: What is your beverage of choice?

DM: Water. So refreshing! In the western world, you can even just turn on the tap, and you can drink all you want. This is one of my favorite things about visiting the West.

LR: What is your travel garment of choice? rsz_1dustin-main-lets-roll-9

DM: Ninety percent of my clothes are merino wool. Now that I think about it, all but my two pairs of pants and a single pair of shorts. They’re lightweight, dry quickly and if I can’t wash for a while, they go days before they begin to smell. They regulate temperature well (they’re warm when wet) and can easily layer. The only downside is that they are quite thin and are more prone to small tears.

LR: Where are you dying to go that you haven’t been?

DM: Bhutan and East Timor. Bhutan has been high on the list for a few years, but their policy of a $200-$250/day tourist tariff has kept me away so far. I’d love to wander through the mountain passes for a few weeks there, but they’re not really set up for independent travelers.  I’m hoping I can make this happen in 2014.

East Timor is a country trying to right itself after years of fighting for independence. It’s a little harder to get to, a little rough around the edges and full of potential adventure. Sounds about perfect.

LR: What destination disappointed you most?

DM: Egypt. It was summer, it was hot, and aggressive touts were all over me trying to sell me junk. All I wanted to do was climb a pyramid. When you try to climb a pyramid at Giza, you quickly find that a host of underpaid Egyptian military men will yell very loudly and run towards you waving their machine guns in your direction. That’s when you stop.

There’s so much more to the story there, but that’s just one reason why Egypt and I don’t get along.

LR: What kind of climbing do you like most?

DM: I do a lot of high-altitude trekking and stuff like that, but I don’t do a lot of mountaineering. If there’s something there, I probably want to be on top of it. The view is always better when you’re on top of something.

LR: Where was your last climb?

DM: My last kind of bigger trek was in the Canadian Rockies. My father, my brother and I went, and I convinced them to hike in school girl dresses. So we hiked for five days in the Canadian Rockies where it’s cold and there are lots of bears, and we did it in school girl dresses.

LR: Do you travel with your dad a lot?

DM: Yeah he got me into hiking years ago, and in the last four years since I left Canada, we’ve met up a few times and I think we’ve probably gone to six continents. And we’ve done some climbs in Africa together and some climbs in Canada together. I just met him a month ago actually. I was in Jordan, and he happened to be on a business trip, so I convinced him to meet me in Jordan. We went hiking around the desert. So yeah, we do a bunch of stuff together — but not enough.

LR: Have you ever been arrested in a foreign country?

DM: Not yet, but there’s a first time for anything.

LR: What’s the last book you finished?

DM: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Brene’s a rock star whose work on shame and vulnerability has had a profound effect on how I choose to live my life.  Be open, allow yourself to be vulnerable. By embracing uncertainty and emotional exposure, you are putting yourself out there in a way that will allow you to show the real you to the world, and that’s important to me. The book’s name comes from this speech given by Teddy Roosevelt in 1910, which I think is excellent.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

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LR: Would you cut off your own limb if you had to?

DM: I’ve thought about this more than one probably should. I’d love to be able to say YES, but I just don’t know. I also hope to never find out. Always hike/climb with a partner!

FN: Where was the most beautiful sunset you’ve seen?

DM: Where to start, so many great ones to be honest.  I just spent a couple of weeks in Bagan and had two “WOW” moments watching the sun set over the plains. The most amazing colors in the sky, the thousands of temples in silhouette, the glow of the trees, the smokey haze from the villages. It takes a lot to wow me, and I had two wows in two weeks there.

LR: How’s the internet in Burma?

DM: Um, it’s like the worst in the world, and not only do I spend time there, I spend a lot of time there. It’s just too awesome.

LR: Writing or photography?

DM: Photography all day everyday. I’m much better at expressing myself with my photography, though my writing improves with practice. I do think that they compliment each other, and working on my writing will only improve the stories I’m able to tell with my photos.

LR: Your photos are definitely incredible. What kind of camera do you use?

DM: I travel with a couple of cameras. I travel with a Nikon D7000 and a modified Nikon D90. They’re DSLRs — bigger than I should be carrying around. I have a collection of lenses that I carry around too — it’s really stupid. I have a little side bag that I’ve modified that doesn’t look like a camera bag at all. I have another crappy backpack – another one that doesn’t took like a camera bag, because people want to steal camera bags.

I weigh like 125 pounds, I have tiny arms and I carry around all of this stupid camera stuff, but then when things are right, when you’re at the right place at the right time, then it’s totally worth it — all of the back ache, sore shoulders and all of the sweat stains.

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LR: Cash or credit?

DM: Credit if I can. It’s all about the points. I’d say over the past few years I’ve saved thousands thanks to points from my credit card.

LR: Coffee or tea?

DM: I don’t like tree-flavored water.

LR: Buy new or carry extra?

DM: I don’t buy new things for my travels unless I’m replacing something else.  I just can’t be bothered carrying more and more stuff around with me. Years ago, when I started traveling full time, I would buy things and send a package “home” every six months or so. Now that stuff just sits in a box in a closet, and the artwork adorns the walls of my Mom’s house.

LR: Hostel or hotel?

DM: There’s a place for both. A smaller, more personal place is key for me. A quiet guesthouse where I have my own space but can also meet people when I’m up for it is a great mix.

LR: iPhone or Droid?

DM: Whatever works, as they both do the same stuff at the end of the day. You get more for your money with Android though, so my last two phones and two tablets have been Android.

LR: Price is Right or Wheel of Fortune?

DM: When I was a kid, I watched the Price is Right all the time.  I’m sure if I could have gotten on the show, I could have won it all. Now, I have no idea how much everyday things cost in North America. Plus… Plinko!

LR: Luggage or backpack?

DM: Backpack. Too hard to roll luggage on the sidewalks of Yangon or up the sides of mountains.

LR: Spam or spray cheese?

DM: Starve.

LR: Tic Tac Toe or Checkers?

DM: Pass the Pigs.

LR: Shark or bear (attack)?

DM: Bear.  I’m Canadian, so if anyone knows the best chance of surviving a bear attack, it had better be me.

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About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves.

Comments:

  • @Cynthia Would you believe I was chatting to an entrepreneur yesterday about his new wool (travel) clothing company. I was the perfect client case study :)

    I’ll let him know you’re the gal to talk to when he works on the women’s line.

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