How do I explain Andy Snipes? He’s sarcastic, creative, and unpredictable. He is the most Aquarius-y Aquarius if there ever was such a mythical creature. He describes himself as “the love child of Napoleon Dynamite and Anna Nicole Smith,” which is honestly pretty spot on.
The last time he and I saw each other, we met up in the Pacific Northwest where we smoked way too much pot (he would say otherwise — I thought I was going to die), went wine tasting, and lost our Airbnb key in an Uber after being dropped off at a vegan strip club. It was a really weird, good trip. Not too long after, he got the itch to travel internationally. He’s been traveling the world ever since, mainly off the beaten path — the only way he knows how I’m sure.
On Friday, he and I chatted for a bit before he got distracted.
Elly Gibson: Way back in 2014 or something, we both took a drawing class in college. The drawing instructor wanted us to do quick sketches of a movie she could quickly find on Netflix. Before she could even finish asking what movie we should watch, you yelled out “POOTIE TANG!” And that was my first impression of you.
Andy Snipes: Yeah, and it’s funny because I don’t even really remember the plot of Pootie Tang, but I really loved that movie for like three weeks. But I remember it was good. I still endorse Pootie Tang.
EG: Do you still keep up with drawing? Or art in general?
AS: It’s been a while since I’ve done any art — almost six months probably. The last big art project I did was a mural in Sri Lanka and it was just never-ending, but it gave me a lot of direction for what I won’t do during my next art project!
EG: How long has it been since you were last in the US?
AS: I left the US in April 2017. I’ve been doing workaways in different hostels most of the time, but right now I’m just traveling in Morocco.
EG: What’s it like there?
AS: Morocco’s great! It’s a bit colder than I thought it would be, but it’s a really awesome place! The food is amazing, and people are so friendly and chill. It’s also a lot greener than I thought it would be, especially in the north. I’m in Marrakech now and it’s so hectic here. It’s a big city here and when you’re walking down the street, you can hardly go two minutes without someone trying to sell you a djellaba or hash. But it’s not bad; it makes it really easy to find hash. You have to haggle for everything in Morocco too, so I’m getting pretty good at that. It’s a really interesting culture here. The Moroccans all speak so many languages and you can tell it’s been a place people have been traveling to for such a long time. I think that helps them really balance having a lot of tourism while still maintaining their culture and traditions. It’s a very conservative culture still, and it’s not a wealthy country, but it’s still largely very modern here. The trains are a lot nicer than in the US. And by standards of the Arabic world, it’s relatively progressive, I see lots of women with and without head coverings and I see women driving and working regular jobs. Just like any country, it’s got its issues, but it’s an amazing place to visit!
EG: That sounds really cool. What other countries have you been to in the past couple of years? Which place was your favorite? By the way, your Instagram is full of beautiful pictures you’ve taken during your two-year-long journey.
AS: Awe, thank you. 🙂 I started in Israel; I stayed there for two months working in Tel Aviv. Then I went to Germany and the Netherlands for a month, then I worked in Albania for three months, then visited Greece for a week. Then I was in Namibia for two months painting a mural. After that, I went to South Africa; I spent the first and third month staying with friends in Cape Town, and during the second month, I was working at a hostel in the Eastern Cape. Then I went back to Namibia for a month and back to South Africa for a week to fly out of Johannesburg. I went to Sri Lanka and was painting for three months, then I spent two months in India: the first month just traveling and the second month working at a camel safari. Then I flew to Serbia and took a bus to go work in Kosovo for two months; I was leading a pub crawl there. Then I spent about a week in Macedonia, went back through Serbia and spent a day in Hungary to fly to Spain. I worked in Spain for a week when this weird, old British guy who owned the hostel told me and the other volunteer there that we had to leave because of an inspection and we were from outside the EU. So I stayed in Spain a while, and then I took a boat down to Morocco. I’ve been here about a month. It’s hard to say which place is my favorite, but I’m moving to Cape Town, so I guess that says a lot. I also really love Albania and Kosovo. Namibia, too. Morocco might also be on the list.
EG: Have you always wanted to be a serial traveler? That’s probably not the right term for it, but you know what I mean.
AS: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to travel since I was really young. I loved to read about other places when I was little; I would even read the atlas. And it’s been really great. I am excited to move to Cape Town and stay put for a while, but I still will be traveling around Africa while I’m there. Once I graduate, I’ll hopefully still travel a lot.
EG: When are you moving to Cape Town?
AS: This April if I ever get this god damned student visa sorted out. But I’ve got a sham marriage backup plan, too.
EG: There you go. What is one aspect of solo travel that you wish you could magically change or make easier?
AS: Living out of hostels gets old pretty fast. It’s fun still; like, it’s good if you’re in the mood to party, but peace and quiet are hard to come by sometimes. Also, I really wish hostels would just start kicking out people who snore.
EG: Yeah, that sounds super annoying. Have you seen yourself change at all on your travels? Like, physically and/or emotionally? Have you learned anything?
AS: I haven’t had any physical changes really. I gained a bit of weight in Africa, but then I lost it in Asia. My hair’s longer now. I don’t shower as often as I would back home. Mentally and emotionally, I’ve definitely grown but I’m still kind of an asshole. My Spanish did get a lot better in Spain, too! And I can roll joints now. I’ve learned a lot about the different places I’ve been and their cultures. And I think I’ve also gotten better at reading people.
EG: What do you mean by that?
AS: Reading people?
EG: Yeah. Can you give me an example? Like, I know what “reading people” means; I’m not a dummy. But, I guess, how does it come in handy for you?
AS: I think you just meet so many people while you’re traveling so you just get a bit smarter when it comes to people. Like, I know when someone’s trying to rip me off and I’m better at spotting the sketchy guy in the hostel I need to hide my things around. Also, I’ve gotten better at understanding people who maybe don’t speak that much English. I can kind of get what they mean out of what they say, which maybe doesn’t make much sense.
EG: Is it hard meeting new people? Do you encounter a lot of young backpacker-types like yourself on your travels?
AS: No it’s hard not to meet new people when you’re in a hostel. That’s why I’m typing so slow.
EG: Do you keep in touch with any of them after you leave that particular country?
AG: Sometimes but not often — only people I really connect with.
EG: What’s the biggest culture shock you’ve experienced?
AS: Hmmm, I think India was the biggest adjustment for sure. It’s just an insane place.
EG: Have you eaten anything weird or insanely delicious while traveling?
AS: Yeah, lots! I ate zebra in Namibia. Once, I ordered a grilled cheese in Albania and I got a brick of cheese that they put on the grill. I love the meat pies in South Africa. The curries in Sri Lanka are better than India. Some Indian food is so strange, it makes you question what exactly is in the food, but it’s really good still. The tapas in Spain are really great, too.
EG: One last question: What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone before they set out on an extended backpacking trip?
AS: I’d say to go with the flow and don’t over-plan it. Pack light, but bring enough to stay warm. And go to places that you actually want to go, not just places that are trendy.
I told you he was weird. You can follow Andy and his adventures on Instagram @whoevenisandy.