Amazing Nomads: Daniel Scheffler - Thou Shalt Talk To Strangers

In this episode we meet travel writer Daniel Scheffler who travels the world in search of human connections by seeking out conversation with strangers.

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Amazing Nomads: Daniel Scheffler

Daniel Scheffler is traveling the world, searching for humanity. His mantra is to seek out conversations, to talk to strangers. Daniel aims to inspire travelers to be open to meeting people and to be generous.

What’s in the Episode

01:48 The abandoned town

04:24 Rejigging the travel sphere

07:24 No need to overcrowd Venice

08:38 Clean the Sydney Opera House

12:15 Guess who Daniel would "die" to have on his show?

15:19 Visiting Tasmania

18:00 Daniel disagrees with Phil

22:34 Defend the decor

23:52 Next week

Quotes from the Episode

"All this head knowledge was starting to drive me crazy. Every magazine you opened, every website that came sort of attacking you, was 10 best, 5 cool bars in Barcelona. And I don't need to tell you about five cool bars in Barcelona. I need to tell you how to be in Barcelona."

 "I did, however, get super lost, and I had a sort of confrontation with a kangaroo..."

"...which is like this game I like to play called Defend the Decor, which we could play right now, if we were in the same room, but you could play it together. It's when you have an item, which is possibly not the most beautiful decor item, you have to play Defend the Decor. So you have to give us a reason why it exists."

Who is in the Episode

Daniel Scheffler is a New York Times and Conde Nast published travel writer, he is also the host of “Everywhere” iHeartMedia’s first-ever original travel podcast. Its mission is to support travelers in their quest to overcome fears and ditch preconceptions about travel.  I want to help travelers to engage fully with the world and its humanity in a deeply meaningful way.” 

Google Daniel’s site and you’ll find he is passionate about Health Warriors, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating employment opportunities for young people from economically disadvantaged South African communities in well-being professions.

Daniel in Indonesia at the Amandari, a blessing ceremony for travelers.

Daniel is currently writing his first novel.

Resources & Links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Mark Olive, also known as the Black Olive, is an Indigenous Australian chef and Bundjulung man. Read this story about an Indigenous food festival 65,000 years in the making.

For further reading on Daniel’s pop-up dining experience check out Fervor working in partnership with local communities, Traditional Owners and businesses to promote the beauty and assets of each region across Australia. With strong ties to the land and environment, Fervor leaves no trace of an event upon completion.

More on chef Analiese Gregory and Adam James.

And to find out about Kath and Kim, click here, “toot sweet ploiz”.

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Next Episode: Palau

About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Speaker 1: The World Nomads Podcast bonus episode. Hear amazing nomads sharing their knowledge, stories and experience of world travel.

Speaker 2: Thank you for tuning into this episode, where I'm not exactly sure how to begin my introduction. Daniel Scheffler is traveling the world, searching for humanity. They're his words. In fact, as you will hear, his mantra is to seek out conversations, to talk to strangers. Daniel is carefree, and he's relaxed, so I'm guessing, Phil, he qualifies as an amazing nomad, because he demonstrates so much connection.

Phil: Connecting locally, that's right. He has a book coming out soon. He's written countless publications, been to 127 countries, and now has his own podcast, good on him. Everywhere, the first iHeartRadio original travel podcast, promising to take listeners on an adventure across the globe.

Speaker 2: I love how patronizing you sound.

Phil: Oh, do you want me to do that again?

Speaker 2: "Good on him!" No, not at all.

Phil: No, why?

Speaker 2: Daniel will love that. The thing about Daniel is he is a big fan of Australia, and the Australian sense of humor. He's one of those guys, I reckon, if you have him in your life, then your life would be richer for it.

Phil: I agree.

Speaker 2: A couple of things to point out. His favorite TV show is an Australian comedy, he references that, Kath & Kim. he says it a couple of times, and two of the characters in the show are Prue and Trude.

Phil: Prue and Trude.

Speaker 2: We'll put a link in Show Notes so you get a bit of an idea.

Phil: And look, we caught up with him while he was in the lounge of the airport in Rome, after he'd visited my home state, Western Australia.

Daniel: I went to [Para Badu 00:00:01:32].

Phil: Yes?

Daniel: And, well you'll hear this episode when it comes out, because it's really funny, but I went to this kind of really, really remote part, which, in fact, I went into that town, which has now been decommissioned, and there are only three people. All of Australia was talking about it. There are only three people that still live there because of the asbestos.

Phil: That's Wittenoom. You went to Wittenoom?

Daniel: I did, by accident.

Phil: It's the only reason really.

Daniel: Do you guys know Paul Iskov? He has a company called Fervor, and they do these amazing pop-up dinners in the bush. Gorgeous. Really special. And I went with Mark Olive. He's a chef. Yes, he's kind of the quintessential, aborigine Australian chef. He's fabulous, and just so much fun. I did, however, get super lost, and I had a sort of confrontation with the kangaroo, but I'm an Aussie now. And this, again, nonsexual confrontation. It was almost sexual, because this kangaroo, I think, had a crush on me. Wasn't sure if I was going to had sex with this kangaroo, or if I was about to get beaten up in Para Badu.

Speaker 2: What a way to end. You are a New York Times, and Condé Nast published travel writer, and now you are with iHeartMedia, doing a travel podcast. So 26 episodes, and what's the mission?

Daniel: Well, we now decided that it's not just 26 episodes. We're going to do kind of as much as we need to. I was contractually obligated to do 26, so I got into trouble for saying that, because it's supposed to just keep going. The more I travel, the more stories there are. So I guess I could just keep going.

Phil: Well we're up to episode 76 so far, and we feel as though we've only just got going too.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I know there are some-

Daniel: Exactly.

Speaker 2: ... yeah, podcasts with 300, 400, 500 episodes that are released weekly. That's a commitment, but once you start, Daniel, you've got to keep going.

Daniel: I agree. Well the thing that started this whole thing off was my situation with the travel media was that it was endless amounts of lists, and lists, and do this, and must do, and go eat here, and stay here. And I just felt that I didn't need to tell people where to eat, or where to stay. Google does that for you, or the millions of other websites, or travel agents or friends. I need to inspire you to be a certain way, to get into a head space, to open yourself up. So I wanted to kind of ... Well I think I'm calling it something like rejigging the travel sphere, because, to me, it feels like there was too much vanilla. And I was like, "We need something that feels more from the heart.".

Daniel: All this head knowledge was starting to drive me crazy. Every magazine you opened, every website that came sort of attacking you, was 10 best, 5 cool bars in Barcelona. And I don't need to tell you about five cool bars in Barcelona, I need to tell you how to be in Barcelona. I need to inspire you to open yourself up to meeting people, to always talking to strangers. I need to inspire you to be generous whilst you're traveling. And those things, I think, is how we find human connections. And isn't that the reason we travel in the first place? We don't get onto the plane because I'm going to go see, and check off five interesting bars in Melbourne, or five new restaurants in Sydney. That's not why I'm on the road. I'm on the road to some lose myself, to find myself. Right?

Phil: Yeah. Look, and that's why we made contact with you because we have the same philosophy here at World Nomads. I mean we actually even have, we call them our pillars, which are you've got to connect with locals when you travel, because that's the essence of it. Hopefully you're going to learn something from them, and get some sort of new experience. The old collect experiences, not positions thing. And of course giving back, it's kind of a duty, in a way, if you're going to be a responsible traveler. And doing all that while staying informed, so you're not a blundering idiot when you go back there, and you can keep yourself safe. So we feel very much the same way.

Phil: As a matter of fact, we've just had a ... I mean we have a lot of blogs as well, and we've just had a change of format. We now write everything ... Well we don't write, we get people to write for us, in the first person. So this is their take on Barcelona.

Daniel: [crosstalk 00:06:17].

Phil: So this is their take on Barcelona. And it's not "Do this," it's, "This is how I traveled in Barcelona," as inspiration. So you go and find your own thing. Because what you think is a cool bar in Barcelona might not be what somebody else thinks is a cool bar in Barcelona.

Daniel: Right, well there's just all this noise online, and there's all this noise, and all these travel publications, and I want to take away from the noise, and I want to give you a little bit of silence, a little bit of stay with yourself. Travel, and feel this, don't do this necessarily. And it doesn't mean that ... I mean I say things like, "Imagine going to Rome, and not going to the coliseum." Or, "Imagine going to Paris, and just skipping the Louvre altogether." And I think those are valid things to think about. Why do I need to do all the tourist thing?

Speaker 2: I walked past it and then googled the Mona Lisa online, and thought to myself, lucky I didn't line up for that, because it's like a postage stamp.

Phil: You see one of our-

Daniel: I feel the same way.

Phil: ... general manager in the Americas, Christina Tunnah, she's been on the show, and I've spoken about this many times. And it goes to over-tourism, which we'll talk about in a second, but she said if you like crusty bread, wine and cheese, any village in France will do.

Daniel: And I think there's another responsibility that we have as people who working business, is we need to deter people from crowding Venice. There are such beautiful places in Italy, which I'm going to Julia for for the week. And one of the reasons I like Julia so much is because it's not overly touristy. And I think it's our responsibility to remind people to travel outside of these kind of popular places, and to go and create their own sense of adventure, and to find interesting things in places like Knoxville, Tennessee, Greenville, South Carolina, Para Badu, Western Australia. And those places, I think, are there for us to explore, and to spend our money, and support small businesses, local businesses. And I think all of that feels so much better than actually lining up to see the Mona Lisa, or having to go to the Sydney Opera House. You can see it from a distance. It's lovely, and it's beautiful, of course. But there's so much more.

Speaker 2: Needs a good wash.

Daniel: Oh it does need a good wash. I was going to say something, but I didn't want to upset the [crosstalk 00:08:49].

Speaker 2: No. You know that a piece of equipment that you can buy called a Kärcher? You heard of that thing?

Phil: Yeah, like the Gerni thing.

Speaker 2: Yeah, the high pressure. It needs someone to go around it with a high-

Daniel: I have a dream of using a high pressure thing all the time on almost everything, and on some people.

Speaker 2: We need you use it.

Phil: Well speaking of which, one of our work colleagues, her father is a big fan of the high pressure washer as well. And she said she came home from work one day, and she could hear the pressure washer working somewhere, and she actually went upstairs and he was cleaning the tiles in the shower. And sort of put up through the window upstairs, and he was cleaning the bathroom tiles.

Speaker 2: That's almost a dream, isn't it, Daniel?

Daniel: My husband would love that.

Phil: Yeah.

Speaker 2: Your husband would love that.

Phil: Yeah. Well, when she was telling me, she was telling me as a joke against he dad, and I'm going, "Jesus, that's a good idea.".

Speaker 2: Well it is. It is a good idea. So this podcast, obviously they send you to these places that you're featuring, unlike Phil and-

Daniel: No, it's not.

Speaker 2: Oh, no? Okay.

Daniel: It's not true. I just go, and these are the benches that I sat on the past, and I just travel. I am one of those people that just don't say no. So I just get onto the plane, and I go somewhere new, and I try new things, and I explore, and meet friends, or I just do all of that. So these stories that come from the places that I've been traveling over to the last 30-something years, because some of the stories are from my childhood, and traveling with my parents, and others are stories from me as a teenager, kind of finding myself, and my voice, and my kind of opinions by going to places like Israel, and Palestine, by going to China, by going to Brazil. And I've kind of created this 35 year sort of story thread of my life, and using that to tell stories. Because I think that's more interesting than listening to me being sent by a company to go somewhere necessarily, and do something.

Daniel: I think there's so much of the need to feel like I'm giving people something that feels personal, and vulnerable. The vulnerability for me is such a beautiful place to be creative in. And the podcast, the power of audio, the fact that I sit in your neck, in your ear, and you've chosen to spend this 30, 40 minutes with me, it feels intimate. And that relationship, to me, is so crucially that I don't offer your bullshit. That I keep you something really vulnerable, and beautiful, that you will want to share with a friend. And that's why I always say, in every episode I want to make you both cry and love. That's life.

Speaker 2: It is. What did Kylie Minogue offer you? Tears or laughter?

Daniel: I haven't done that yet. So once I have the green light with that, I will let you know.

Speaker 2: Good. Tell her there's another great travel podcast that she must on in her home country of Australia.

Daniel: I am talking to her people, and I will mention this to her.

Speaker 2: Thank you very much, Daniel. Appreciate that.

Daniel: I'm willing to give her up, and give her to you. [crosstalk 00:12:08]. That would be the generous thing to do.

Speaker 2: And we'll get you Kath & Kim.

Daniel: Oh my God, I'd die to have Kath & Kim. Maybe I want Prue and Trude.

Speaker 2: Yeah, or you can come to Sydney, and there are plenty of Prues and Trudes. When I first arrived in Sydney, I was in this shop in Manly, where I live, and this woman was saying they've got ham jam.

Daniel: Ham jam.

Speaker 2: Yeah, ham jam, and fig jam, but no plan plan.

Daniel: You need to get on audio. That's amazing. I love Australia, and I've spent time there, and I have Aussie friends, so I get that humor. Americans do not understand that humor. My husband, I played him some Kath & Kim, he didn't get it. And then I was like, oh, well once we get to Prue and Trude, he'll totally get it, and he'll be laughing. It did not happen. He slinked off, and pretended to be on a phone call.

Speaker 2: Oh, that's devastating for you. Look, I'll send you a few links to a couple of other great Australian shows that you might like. Just on that, we had some feedback about our podcast recently, which the majority of listeners are in the US, and one of the criticisms was that we put each other down a lot. But that's what Australians do.

Phil: It's because I love you kids.

Speaker 2: Exactly. It's how we-

Daniel: Should I say something mean about you now?

Phil: Yeah, go on.

Speaker 2: Yeah, go on.

Phil: Now we're friends.

Daniel: Yeah, I should put you down. Oh, Manly. How could you live there?

Phil: Yeah, that's it.

Daniel: It's revolting.

Speaker 2: Exactly.

Phil: Although I actually do say that to her.

Speaker 2: Yeah, he does say that. He does say that. And I also say I'm going to cross the river, and he says, "It's not the river, it's the harbor.".

Phil: It's the harbor.

Speaker 2: All right. Pick me up.

Phil: Roll my eyes.

Speaker 2: Socially isolate me there.

Phil: Jeez. And don't get us started on Tasmania, whenever you do.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Phil: Hang on.

Speaker 2: You've visited Phil's home state of Western Australia. Have you dared to travel south to Tasmania?

Daniel: I did. I just did this on this trip, and I had the most spectacular time. One of the things that I really loved about Tassie was I had such, such, such kind of no expectations. I was able to really be like, oh, what's Tasmania? I have no reference point. I was talking to my friend, who works at the UN, and you'll hear her on one of my episodes. And she was stationed in Eritrea, and she did this kind of two year stint for the UN there, and one of the things we talked about ... That's the coffee machine in the background you can hear. One of the things we talked about was how nobody has a reference point for Eritrea. You can't Google photos. There's almost kind of no information about Eritrea. So going there feels really kind of out of this realm, and off social media, which I love.

Daniel: And I had an almost similar feeling about Tasmania, when I felt like I didn't have a strong reference point, which means that I was able to arrive, and just take it all in. And I met so many beautiful locals, and people doing amazing things. This guy, Adam [Ruff 00:00:15:23], who owns [Ruff Life 00:15:24]. And he ferments anything. And this girl who owns this incredible restaurant, and she was telling me about how she forages, Analiese Gregory. And I also spend time at the museum, of course, which I think was one of the most spectacular museum experiences of my entire life. [crosstalk 00:15:43].

Speaker 2: Mate, I've been trying to tell Phil. I've been trying to tell Phil. He went once, with his ex wife, and that left a bad taste in his mouth. But how good is MONA?

Daniel: MONA's incredible. Oh, you've got to go now. You just need a new girlfriend, or boyfriend, and go with him, her, she, him.

Speaker 2: Well he has a new wife.

Phil: I do have one, yes. I do.

Speaker 2: And I've only been-

Phil: It's only been 20 years. So maybe I should go back.

Daniel: So get a boyfriend, and take your boyfriend.

Speaker 2: Yeah, Phil's bi-curious. [crosstalk 00:16:12].

Daniel: I could tell that about you on the phone.

Speaker 2: Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Phil: Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Speaker 2: [crosstalk 00:16:23].

Phil: I do have to say, at my second wedding, also to a woman, I said, yeah, "Hands up everybody who thought I was gay the first time they met me." And she put her hand up, of course. So I get how it happens.

Daniel: Yeah. I mean people say that about me, too. But the thing is I do have a husband.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Phil: Yeah. That's a bit of a giveaway, yes.

Daniel: Yeah. There is this thing. So the thing is, I love Tasmania, because I feel like it sort of embodies something quintessentially Australian. And there's an inclusiveness, which, of course, I realize that it was one of the places in the world where some of the most horrific things happen, there's an inclusiveness now that I really appreciate, where people are so friendly, and open. And the very fact that they built that museum there means that there's a kind of anyone is welcome, everyone's welcome, and that is Australia. That is the beauty of your country, and I love that. And you can travel anywhere, I always say this, and you can definitely meet some Aussies, and you will know that you will have a good time with these Aussies no matter what. And I love that. That's such a compliment to your country.

Speaker 2: Well thank you. Yeah, that was very nice to hear.

Daniel: Sorry, now I should say something mean.

Phil: Yeah, be mean. That's it.

Speaker 2: Yeah, say something mean.

Daniel: I don't know you well enough to say something mean to you.

Speaker 2: Well what do we sound like?

Phil: No, what's the one? What's the difference between Australia and ... the difference between Australia and yogurt. Yogurt's got a culture. That one?

Daniel: I disagree. I feel like Australians have such an incredible culture. One of the things that I love is you get to Australia, and the cab driver is like, "Why are you sitting in the back seat? You should be up front with me." And that's a culture, and I think that that's very special. It does mean that there's an inclusiveness, and a friendship opening, and all these incredible opportunities. People travel all the time, and they're too scared to make friends. One of my episodes, I talk about thou shalt always talk to strangers. And I've done that for 30 plus years, and it's been this kind of testament to my travel life. I'm never afraid to talk to strangers. Some of the best friends I've made have been next to me on a plane, and we're still friends years later. And I wish we could just get people to think in that way, to just open yourself up, and not see the difference. See the similarity.

Speaker 2: Conversation is great.

Daniel: Well, okay. And then there's the other version of this. And I was on a flight recently to somewhere in America, and there was a Trump supporter with MAGA hat sitting next to me. And I am not a Trump supporter, I do not support him, but I felt my duty as a New Yorker, as someone of the world, as a traveler, was to talk to this person who sat right next to me. So we did. We had a conversation, and we discussed, and I didn't argue with him. I just wanted to care his point of view. And it was fascinating, and I affirmed his beliefs for him. And I was like, "Great. Those are your beliefs. I'm in no way challenging whether you are allowed to have those beliefs." And it's this beautiful sharing moment, and we had this at 34,000 feet in the sky flying over Kansas City. And I don't know if I would have necessarily had that if I wasn't traveling.

Daniel: And this person was so different to me. This person had never spoken to a person, for instance. He said to me I was the first homosexual, well that he knows of.

Speaker 2: Yeah, come on.

Phil: Yeah, no come on.

Daniel: That he spent time with. And at the end of the conversation, he sort of said this thing to me where he was like, "I had prejudice when I saw you." And I thought, wow, I mean I had prejudice, when I saw you.

Phil: You're wearing a MAGA hat.

Daniel: You're wearing a MAGA hat. And I love that I was able to overcome that at 34,000 feet, in a enclosed space. And , what travel teaches you to just remind yourself that those moments are important. And this person and I, I mean our beliefs are so different, but we were the same. We will just one thing. Traveling. I should say something funny. This is very serious. But I am kind of serious.

Phil: Well no, but it is serious. I think a lot of that is missing in discourse at the moment. I mean everything is polarized quite a lot. And it's I'm right, you're wrong, and I'm not going to let you say your opinion. And that comes from both sides. And I'd like to get back to a more pluralistic type of attitude, where I always forget which famous ... Was it Rousseau? I don't know. Who said, "I don't agree with your opinion but I will fight to the deck your right to say it." And we don't have that so much anymore on. And I think, and I'm sure you agree too, when you travel, you have the opportunity to have your say in exactly the way you described.

Daniel: And when you travel, you are confronted by these things that may not be of you, or of your own beliefs. It's good to challenge those beliefs. I mean, I remember, and this is probably kind of more an obvious example, but spending time in India, I had to really challenge my own beliefs. And I spent time in ashrams, I spent time kind of all over India, and it came up so many times where teachers, or just people I met, would say to me, "Why do you have these beliefs? These old beliefs. Are you willing to become the witness to these beliefs and assess them?" And it doesn't mean that I have just throw them out. It just means that I have to be able to defend them. Which is like this game I like to play called Defend the Decor, which we could play right now, if we were in the same room, but you could play it together. It's when you have an item, which is possibly not the most beautiful decor item, you have to play Defend the Decor. So you have to give us a reason why it exists. [crosstalk 00:22:39].

Phil: Can have a go at the shirt I'm wearing right now, if you want to.

Speaker 2: That shirt. Phil's shirt. What do you think of those shirts that have the buttons on the side, where you can roll them up, Daniel, and then sort of tie them, so that they end up short sleeve shirts.

Daniel: Hard no. Hard, hard no.

Phil: All right. That's it. It's going in the bin immediately.

Daniel: I mean I want to burn that shirt for you. I will supply you with a new shirt.

Speaker 2: It's been so great to talk to you. Everywhere is on iHeartRadio. And welcome to the podcast club.

Daniel: Thanks, guys. Big Love.

Speaker 2: Big Love to you too, Daniel. I just love you. We'll have a link in the Show Notes to Everywhere, which, as you can tell listening to Daniel, we've already said he takes a care free, and open approach to travel, and you can just hear that. Encouraging listeners to explore the world freely, in a meaningful way.

Phil: And please have a conversation with us. Get in touch with us via email at [email protected], and listen to our episodes by grabbing them from wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Do subscribe, so that you don't miss an episode. And we love it if you could tell your friends about us too, please.

Speaker 2: Yep. And we're on Facebook, the World Nomads Podcast.

Phil: We are.

Speaker 2: It's what it says on the can. We also, like Daniel, are available through the iHeart app. In our next episode, we're off to Palau.

Phil: Fantastic, bye.

Speaker 2: Bye.

Speaker 1: Amazing nomads. Be inspired.

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