I am thrilled to share my new series with you – “Thursday Traveler”. Each week I will feature someone who inspires me to see the world. I hope by sharing the personal stories of these individuals that you too will be inspired. Without further ado, I am excited to have Howard Blount as our first featured traveler. I couldn’t think of a better person to share with you. He is the founder of Backroad Planet which is a “road trip and fly-drive travel site”.
Backroad Planet promotes the philosophy that taking scenic routes, scouting offbeat sites, stopping at roadside attractions, and getting immersed in local flavor are the best ways to travel.
Howard Blount is also the founder of TBIN (Travel Bloggers Influencer Network), a group of 100 highly engaged professional travelers who network, mentor and work together to promote one another. Learn more about TBIN and it’s members here.
Howard and I actually will be sailing to the Dominican Republic with Fathom Travel in June along with several other travel professionals. I can’t wait to share our experiences with you.
It’s an interesting and inspirational story.
I have been traveling all my life, so making travel my second career was a no-brainer. My parents were missionaries to Latin America, and I got my first passport at age eleven. When I retired from a 35-year career as a public school teacher last year, I knew I wanted to travel even more. I had published several educational books back in the 1990s. So it only made sense that I merge my two interests and become a travel writer. I launched Backroad Planet in September of 2013, even though I did not have much time to devote to it. Even so, it was ready to go, and the last year has been a whirlwind of travel, writing, and building the business side of the website.
Howard and his travel partner Jerry Woods
When I reflect on the past year, I tend to count my blessings more than my successes. It is true that I have worked very hard growing Backroad Planet, but I have also been fortunate that travel brands such as Viking Cruises and tourism boards like VISIT FLORIDA have validated my efforts, and reached out to partner with us. Getting paid to travel is a great way to live!
To choose a favorite destination would be like a parent choosing a favorite child. I don’t think I can pick just one. But I can say there have been some memorable moving moments during my travels. Tears springing to my eyes at the first glimpse of Bryce Canyon, attending Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School Class in Plains, Georgia, cruising Europe’s grand rivers, and the surreal experience of climbing Dunn’s River Falls have all been unforgettable experiences. But without question, my favorite getaway is Pinebox, my North Georgia mountain cabin.
Following my response to your previous question, my answer may sound ironic to some. But I think I was most disappointed in Jamaica. This Caribbean country is a place of natural beauty — an emerald isle in a turquoise sea. But the politics, sense of entitlement, crime, and lack of hospitality have made it a difficult place to visit. It is a sad and shocking experience to be confronted by grim reality on the other side of the resort walls. Still, I believe a strong, honest leader could turn the nation around!
Howard, age 14, with his sister Carla, age 7, somewhere in Brazil 1972
Although they don’t travel much anymore, I would have to say my parents are responsible for planting the love of travel, and especially roadtripping, in my heart. My father, totally blind since age eleven, and my mother, a sharecropper’s daughter, left it all behind, with two kids in tow, to follow their spiritual calling to Latin America. One lengthy road trip I recall from that period was driving from our home in Central Florida to Guadalajara, Mexico, and making the return trip one year later after my parents completed Spanish language school. But the most epic journey of all was a loop road trip we made with another missionary family from Chile, across the Andes Mountains, through Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay in December of 1972. Without a doubt, travel is in my DNA!
I am so glad you asked! I love quotes, too, because they are food for thought in a nutshell. A couple of years ago I started a series of original travel quote memes on Backroad Planet, and I have to say my favorite travel quote of all time is by Mark Twain. He put it simply, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”. So many people never leave their hometowns. So their worldview is myopic. They live their entire lives seeing the world through a shortsighted lens. When you travel, you see other cultures, other lifestyles, and you learn that everyone is not just like you. Travel sets you free to love and accept all kinds of people without condition.
I understand that everyone cannot travel as much as those of us in the travel industry. But I would like to encourage our readers, and especially nine-to-fivers, to make travel a priority. When I am not on the road, I look for new bike trails, and hiking trails, and historical sites in my area. One of the best ways to do this is to use free mobile GPS apps such as Field Trip to find cool destinations in your hometown. And if your employment demands that you schedule your vacation for once a year, go somewhere you have never been. I know of people who go to Disney World or the same beach condo every year, year after year. It is time to break out of that travel rut, and go on a fresh adventure!