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A pilot’s experiences and travelling tips

Updated: May 7

Stefan Drury is a pilot based in Melbourne, and when he’s not in the pilot seat, he’s in the passenger seat. His travel vlog YouTube channel, Stef’s World, has 15.9k subscribers and has been running for two years as a secondary channel to his main aviation content.


Stefan Drury (Photo: https://www.stef747.com)


For the benefit of students interested in travel, how do you, personally, plan your travels?


I usually start with the big things like the purpose of visiting a country (an event, a time of year, etc.), then try and look for flight sales or ways to use points to make a booking. I try and keep the itinerary pretty loose and I’ve learned that one or two nights in a new place is never enough. Nowadays, I’d rather visit less places for longer than try and ‘do more’ when I’m travelling. 


Use Google Maps to create a custom map of places you want to visit and places to eat on an upcoming trip. One of the big things when travelling is deciding what to do and/or eat on any day. Having a custom map with options makes it a lot easier on the day if you’re feeling a bit stuck for ideas. 


Finally, always remember that you can’t (and don’t want to) do everything you planned to do on a trip. I always like to leave things for the next time I visit. You never want to ‘tick off’ a country and say you’ve done it, because you never will.



What made you get into travelling?


I was very fortunate that my parents liked to travel. Growing up in the UK, we had Europe on our doorstep, so I had the chance to see many new countries from a young age. That love of travel and curiosity to see the world never wore off.



Do you have any budgeting tips?


The biggest expense, especially travelling from Australia, is usually the airfare. This is where I try to save the most. I try not to pay full price for a plane ticket for international trips if I can help it. 


Always, ALWAYS have a credit card that earns air miles so your everyday spending also accrues points, which you can turn into flights. If I can’t use points to book the base fare, I will look for ways to upgrade my cabin class using points instead. 


For most of my trips, they start as speculative ideas with a margin of time, e.g. ‘I’d like to go to Japan, maybe in Autumn’. I then set alerts for fares (through SkyScanner or direct with the airlines) for that location at that time and if a sale fare comes up that coincides with my travel wishes I can jump on them and book quickly. I also have a travel savings account that I transfer the same amount into every month whether I have travel plans or not, and I only pay for travel things (airfares, hotels, cars, food, etc.) from that account. So if I haven’t saved enough, I don’t travel. 


Use a travel card (I use the Qantas Money card, but others like Revolut etc. also exist) and transfer local currency onto that card before travelling. Never spend your local currency overseas even though it’s easy just to tap your card nowadays. The transfer fees really add up fast. And look for good eSim deals through companies like Holafly rather than your local telco. You can often get good deals on unlimited data if you buy a package up front, and having mobile data when travelling these days for things like Ubers, Google Maps, etc. is really useful.



What are some places you've travelled to? Do you have any favourites?


It’s hard to pick favourites, but a stand out for me would probably be the Nordic Countries. I love the culture, food, and people of places like Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway, although I’ve only scratched the surface of those countries. I’d love to fly deeper into Northern Sweden and Norway, for example.

 


What are some crazy experiences you have had?


Flying over the glaciers of Greenland is probably one of my standout experiences. Seeing 10,000-foot mountains rising out of a frozen North Atlantic is incredible and a sight I’m very lucky to have seen with my own eyes. But also, I did visit India a few times when I was younger and every experience there was crazy in its own way! 



What are some of the worst experiences you've had?


I’m lucky that I’ve never really had terrible experiences when travelling. I try to see things like lost bags or missed connections as part of the experience. But I did get really sick on a trip to the USA once. I spent a week in a hotel recovering and wishing I was home. That’s one of the few occasions I was not happy to be away on a trip.



What are some of the best?


So many to list! Visiting an elephant sanctuary in Thailand and just hanging with animals that have been rescued from otherwise horrible lives was very humbling. I also loved spending a few days in East Timor just hanging with the locals and travelling to some of the islands. Such a warm, friendly, but often overlooked country. 


Despite not loving huge crowds of people, I also really enjoyed visiting Tokyo and Osaka. Japan is somewhere I’d love to travel more of. And walking behind 80-metre-tall waterfalls and flying drones over glaciers in Iceland was a special experience. I could go on, but those are some that come to mind.



Do you have any tips for students interested in travel?


Be curious. My favourite travel experiences have been the ones where I pushed myself to try new things. Never book a full-priced airfare unless you absolutely have to travel on those dates. Embrace the stopover on longer flights, don’t just blast through from destination to origin. If you can stop along the way for a night or two it’s like getting a bonus trip for free! Most importantly, slow down. It’s not about comparing how many counties you’ve visited compared to your friends. It’s about the experiences you have along the way and the peace and happiness you can find from widening your lens on life by viewing how different people live in different parts of this brilliant world.



You can check out Stef’s channel here:


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