Meet our Round the World Guru introduces resident RTW expert Sam Willan

Planning your round the world trip can be confusing. There's so much conflicting advice and information, and sometimes you could do with firing some questions at an informed travel go-to-guy. It's for this reason is delighted to introduce our Round the World Guru. Sam Willan is an experienced backpacker and gap year traveller, and is joining Team on loan from our friends at Round the World Experts.

Sam is here to help, not sell you stuff. He's also here to complement our awesome online community, not replace the advice from our knowledgable gappers. He has his own profile and he'll be on the message boards responding to queries, giving helpful hints and top tips, and just generally being inspiring and fun to talk to! To get to know Sam a little further, here's a Q&A interview that explores the guy behind the guru...

Hi Sam. Why are you excited to be the RTW Guru?

Well, I love everything about travel and I'm a bit of a self-confessed flight geek, so it will be great to be able to chat with like-minded backpackers and to offer advice to those planning their own trip of a lifetime.

So what qualifies you to be the RTW Guru?

My current job role with Round the World Experts requires me to source and manage the most competitive flights and fares for people looking to head off on round the world trips, so I am constantly up-to-date (and often ahead of the game) in knowing when and where the best deals will be popping up. I have a wealth of experience working as a round the world travel consultant and have helped plan many successful trips. I also have my own extensive travelling experiences on which to draw. Most importantly though, I love everything about travel!

What will you be doing on the site?

I am here to help in any way I can. Whether you are an experienced traveller looking to seek out the latest hidden gem, a bargain hunter looking to maximise a budget, or a complete newbie planning that first trip away, I'm here to offer friendly and professional advice on how to get the most from your travels.

Be honest with me now, Sam, are you just here to sell flights?

Absolutely not! I am here to share my own experiences and offer expert advice with those looking to plan a round the world trip. I have excellent knowledge of round the world airfares (and even a few insider tricks and tips) which will help anyone maximise their trip of a lifetime.

Cool. What's your number one RTW mistake to avoid?

Over-planning and over-estimating the time you have. It's important to have a few down days built in just in case your plans change or you just need to have a chill out day; there's nothing worse than arriving at one of the seven wonders of the world hungover and tired from a 24-hour flight!

 Sam Willan, RTW Guru

Can you give us five nuggets of round the world advice right now?

  1. Plan ahead - but not too much. Always have a framework of what you want to do, but be prepared to change your plans; things don't always work out in real life as they do on paper.
  2. Think carefully about where you fly to; you will often get much better value (and experience much more) by flying into large hub cities and travelling overland rather than flying into smaller towns and municipal airports.
  3. Keep your eyes and your mind open. The world is a big place with infinite experiences to be had; it's just up to you to go and experience them!
  4. Don't ignore the organised tour! Contrary to what some people believe, most travel in small groups of 12 - 16 people, all of who are there for exactly the same reason you are - to have a great experience or an adventure.
  5. Check you're protected. Ok, so this is a bit of a boring one, but always book your flights through a reputed agent who will be there to help if things don't go quite according to plan (ash cloud anyone?!). If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. Obviously we all want a hassle-free holiday, but if the worst happens make sure you are covered.

Where else can people find you online (Twitter, Facebook, etc)

You can follow me on Twitter or head over to Facebook and give me a little 'Like'.

Where have you been travelling?

Most places that get snowed on… Eastern and Central Canada, New Zealand and a fair chunk of European mountains. I have spent time travelling around the USA, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ecuador, Eastern Europe, Egypt and will shortly be adding Kenya and Tanzania to the list.

What were your favourite / least favourite destinations and why?

Without a shadow of a doubt my favourite place is Cambodia. It's unlike anything else I have experienced and the people are some of the friendliest and welcoming that I have ever met. Although I didn't dislike it as such, Egypt was probably my least favourite experiences; it just didn't quite live up to the pictures!

What's the best / worst food you've eaten abroad?

In my opinion, the world's best food comes from South East Asia. If I had to pick one dish it would be eating fish amok out of a coconut in Cambodia. The worst food was in Egypt - you may have noticed I associate a good trip with good food! - having made a very strange decision to stay in a cheap all-inclusive resort eating dry beef bacon and something that was marketed as sausage… needless to say, I haven't planned a trip back there yet.

What's your top travel story?

Turning up in Hanoi completely unaware of it being Vietnamese Independence Day and finding myself in the middle of the main square; it was one massive Vietnamese flag waving party.

What have you got out of travelling? Why would you recommend it?

Although it's a cliché, travel really does broaden the mind; despite being a geography graduate everything I have learned about the world has been from getting out there and experiencing the world as it happens. I have made some of my closest friends, including my girlfriend, through travelling and have racked up enough stories to keep the grandchildren entertained for years (although one or two may have to be reserved for when they're older!).

I would recommend travel to anyone who has even the slightest interest in what lies beyond their everyday life; in all my years of travelling and working in the industry, I have never yet spoken to anyone who hasn't taken a positive experience away from travelling the world.

Further Information

Ask Sam a round the world question in a private message.

Also, check out our article on 'What is a Round the World Ticket?' - there's even a few flights and ideas thrown in there too!

If that doesn't quite cut it, head to the message boards to chat about round the world travel.