It’s Still Cool To Travel Old-School: Interview With Andrew John Ganner

It has become almost impossible to ignore all the travel options. Multiple sources of information are accessible, lots of people blog about their adventures, offer advice, or write travel guides, and low-cost companies are expanding the possibilities of travel while offering combinations that are literally endless. Being travel-wise can for sure be counted as a crucial skill in modern society. With all the gadgetry we have, we can make it through foreign countries, google cheap accommodations, and so forth. But still, even today lots of people would like to take the “daredevil” approach and step out of the digital nest. They rely on maps and local people, miss buses, get lost, get into exciting situations and enjoy all the adventures that the non-digital world has to offer. Andrew John Ganner is one of those travelers. His almost 30 years of travelling are recorded in travel journals. He was kind enough to schedule an unfiltered conversation with us about why he chooses to stick with old-school ways and what makes non-digital travel unique.

What is so special about writing travel journals as opposed to blogging, for example?

I write journals because I can add more personal data in that format. I tried an online blog in 2002 because I thought it was the way of the future, but because there was an audience I found myself “censoring” the content – I just was not being me. In a journal you can write your innermost feelings, what you did that you enjoyed, the mistakes you made, and so on. My journals are for my eyes only (and my partner’s; I trust her and she feels that she knows me 100% because I’ve let her read them. That makes her trust me 100% and allows me to continue to travel alone). A journal is a tangible thing. It has travelled with you. People have written in it. There are stickers and rubber-stamps from the places you’ve seen. Dead mosquitoes on some of the pages where you’ve swatted them, beer stains, food stains, wear and tear. You don’t get this in the intangible (digital) world.


Photos from personal archive of Mr. Ganner

Have you ever found yourself in situations during travel where you had to rely on gadgets?

I’ve never found myself in any situation where I needed electronic gadgets. Nowadays, everybody has them, and if I need one I ask to borrow one (with an offer of cash). I’ve only had to do this once, in Corsica in 2013. I needed to contact my girlfriend, and Corsica had removed all public telephones, the first place that I’d ever encountered this. So I asked a Swiss guy in a campground and he let me use his mobile – due to this I became friends with the guy – he does paragliding, and my partner and I will visit him this year and go paragliding. This would never have happened if I’d had my own phone. I have many stories like this, just asking folks for directions in a town or village, and then getting invited to stay.


Photos from personal archive of Mr. Ganner

What experiences can happen only to people who prefer the non-digital way of traveling?

Experiences . . . meeting folks. When you see people staring into devices you don’t want to approach them because you feel you are invading their personal space. When you see someone writing a journal, or looking at a map, you go over to start up a conversation. When I was single, many women approached me and asked where I wanted to go, what I was doing, as a result I had many exciting liaisons because I was open for that. Nowadays, I’m 52 years old, I still meet loads of people while travelling, but only for friendship.


Photos from personal archive of Mr. Ganner 

Would you advise young people to leave their digital equipment at home?

I would advise young folks to at first try one day offline and without gadgets. It’s difficult, I know. I run a group in Germany called “Düsseldorf Expat Cyclists” – we have over 700 members. Each year I do the “Digital De-Tox Trip”. It’s an overnighter, camping either in a forest or by a river – the pre-requisite is “No Electronic Equipment” . . . it’s really hard for folks, and when darkness comes we have seen people panic, and I mean really panic when they realised that we really do not have a way of connecting with the outside world. However, in the morning these folks find that they have an amazing sense of achievement and are really happy they did it. Sometimes it looks like they have found God, or at least some version of meaning in their lives. I strongly advise young folks to go out there free of technology and “connect” with nature – and themselves.


Photos from personal archive of Mr. Ganner  

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