By Kim Weiss
Andrew Ingersoll is well known to readers of Rick Ingersoll’s popular blog, The Frugal Travel Guy, for the images of people, places and cultures he’s captured around the world. At age 29, Andrew has already visited 47 countries and, armed with all the free and frugal travel techniques he’s learned from his father, he’s not about to stop.
“The tips I’ve picked up from ‘Pops’ have allowed me to continue traveling at reasonable prices and to share my experiences through my photography,” Andrew said recently.
Rick Ingersoll is a retired mortgage banker who became a “travel hacker” as a hobby so that he and his wife, Katy, could spend his retirement years traveling the globe. He began blogging about his tips and techniques for gathering frequent flier miles and other free-travel techniques in 2007 (his current “bankroll” of frequent flier miles is up to 1.5 million) and authored the book The Frequent Flier Guy Handbook in 2010. The hobby became a business as readership grew and the travel industry began advertising on it.
It wasn’t long before Rick’s entire family joined “the game,” as he calls it — including Andrew, who quickly learned that “the world is a fascinating place, and I want to be able to share some of its glories with others who are not able to pick up and go.”
He uses his photography to do that – photography whose quality defies Andrew’s “amateur” status.
“It would be great if I could inspire others to travel through my photos,” he said. “Traveling and experiencing cultures and customs opens up minds and challenges the ignorance and prejudices portrayed by the media.”
Growing up in Traverse City, Michigan, Andrew graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 2004. He started traveling to Europe in holidays and during summer breaks while he was in school.
“That’s when I discovered that the world was so much larger than white, middle class America,” said the slim, sandy-haired photographer who is currently ensconced in Antarctica. “This inspired me to absorb as much from other countries and cultures as possible.”
Andrew began his photographic journal with a “point and shoot digital camera,” he said, and picked up a Nikon Coolpix in a Malaysian market, “mostly because the price was right.” But when he made the decision to visit all seven continents before he turned 30, he knew an upgrade was in order.
“I got a great deal on a Nikon D5000 at Costco this last December and Antarctica was my trial backdrop.”
He moved to Seattle, Washington, after he graduated from Michigan State. “It was at this time when we, as a family, started discovering the true benefits of frequent flier miles,” he said. “My first trip to Asia was on a United Mileage Plus reward ticket that took me from Seattle to Tokyo to Singapore. My eyes were now fixated on cultures so different from Northern Michigan, I was hooked. And to this day, I love Asian culture.”
On a 28-day Intrepid Tour of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, Andrew met an Australian man who gave him the idea of pursuing a postgraduate degree overseas.
“When I returned to Seattle, I found the Masters of International Public Health program at the University of Sydney,” he said. “Calculating the cost benefit analysis of attending a university in Australia versus America, I was ready to jump ship. I made the commitment to pursue Australia, but not without ticking off one of the things on my ‘bucket list’ first.”
Andrew’s “bucket list” – which he insists he made long before the movie “The Bucket List” came out — was actually a Top 25 list that a friend suggested he make. She could see he was struggling with what direction to go in his life after he’d received his undergraduate degree.
“So she had me jot down the top 25 experiences I wanted out of life,” he recalled. “I still have that list today.”
The list inspired him to join a medical mission to Mali, West Africa, where he worked alongside local Malian doctors and nurses at a hospital for women and children. His job was part of a relief team that assisted local staff with high-risk childbirth.
“Again, my eyes were opened and my mind raced. I was so grateful for the opportunities I had been granted,” he said. “So after some very emotional times in Mali with some of the most amazing people, I joined another Intrepid tour to spend 15 days in Morocco. That was my first taste of Arabic and Muslim culture. And I wanted to experience it as unbiased as possible.”
In February 2008, Andrew moved to Sydney, Australia, where he received his MIPH degree and occasionally worked as an evacuation and repatriation nurse — nurses who bring sick and injured people to Australia from South Pacific islands for treatment they couldn’t receive otherwise.
“This is great fun and very rewarding — flying off into the South Pacific to pick up someone and bring him or her to Australia for treatment,” he said. “I’ve gone to New Caledonia, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Kirabati, Tahiti, Norfolk Island, Tonga and Vanuatu.”
Andrew is now working part time in clinical research before he begins pursuing a Juris Doctor degree at the University of New South Wales in February, a three-year postgraduate law degree designed for professionals entering into a career in law.
“I’m confident The Frugal Travel Guy blog will continue to provide me with the necessary tools to allow me to fulfill my personal goals of travel,” he said.
What’s next on his agenda? “Caving in Malaysian Borneo and camper-van travel in New Zealand,” he said. “And I’m still in the planning process of visiting the Great Wall of China with dear old Dad.”
Also on his wish list: Nepal, Ghana, Bolivia, Mongolia, Croatia, and Maldives. No one doubts that he’ll fulfill his wishes, least of all his father.
“I wish I had the courage to undertake some of the adventures Andrew has been on,” Rick said. “Not only does he see the world at prices he can afford, he does it at times in the most basic of native accommodations. He really gets in the culture more than I have ever been capable of. I’m just a tourist when I compare my travels to Andrew’s. He is a true world traveler.”
Andrew posts his travel photos and humorous commentary on The Frugal Travel Guy blog every Wednesday and Sunday. To see an archive of his posts, visit http://frugaltravelguy.blogspot.com.