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Travel Blogger Q & A: Ryan Gargiulo of Pause The Moment

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The best travel advice comes from other savvy travelers, and so we present a new series “Travel Blogger Q & As.” Here, we’ll introduce you to other intrepid travelers. To kick things off, Lifestyle Editor Shayne Benowitz interviews Ryan Gargiulo of Pause The Moment.

Whether it’s the adrenaline rush from his adventurous world travels or practical tips ranging from gadgets to money-saving advice to staying fit on the road, Ryan Gargiulo of Pause The Moment has been spreading his particular brand of inspirational travel gospel since 2008. That’s when he set out on his first solo backpacking trip through Europe documenting it on his blog for friends and family to follow along.

Since then, it’s safe to say he hasn’t let the grass grow under his feet as he’s set out to travel the world and develop his blog, which includes action-packed videos. The 30-year old blogger, along with his girlfriend Liz, set up shop in Mexico’s Playa del Carmen this year where they’ve been based for the last six months (and have become certified beach bums!). We caught up with Ryan to get his insider tips on Playa del Carmen and learn more about his travels.

Name: Ryan Gargiulo
Age: 30
Blog: Pause The Moment
Current Home Base: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Originally From: Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Where in the world is Ryan Gargiulo?
Where in the world is Ryan Gargiulo?

TPG: What do readers get from your blog?
RG: I started Pause The Moment back in 2008 before I embarked on my first solo backpacking trip through Europe. I set it up as a journal of sorts, so that I could keep my family in the loop while I was abroad. Since then, it’s grown to much more than I would have ever imagined.

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve gained a following that inspires me to continue sharing my stories, tips, and experiences from the road. Coincidentally enough, I’ve been told by more than a few readers that I’ve inspired them to take the leap into the world of travel. I’m not sure there’s any better feeling than knowing that the stories and the advice that I’ve shared has directly influenced someone to make such a life changing decision. Everytime a reader emails me to thank me for making their trip such a memorable one, it truly blows me away.

These days, I continue to travel and share my experiences here on Pause The Moment, but I’m traveling at a much slower pace. I used to enjoy bouncing around to different destinations every few days. Nowadays, I enjoy finding an apartment, settling into a destination and exploring the region.

Rooftop relaxation in Playa del Carmen
Rooftop relaxation in Playa del Carmen

Over the course of the next few months, I’m planning on including more articles and tutorials on lifestyle independence and travel hacking, all while continuing to share my most memorable experiences from my travels.

For those of you who enjoy visual adventures, you might be happy to know that I also have a Pause The Moment YouTube channel where I post travel vlogs of my adventures, travel tips, and a wide variety of review videos (accommodation, activities, tech reviews, etc). Be sure to subscribe and please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what types of things you’d like to see me cover in future videos.

What are the top three things to do when visiting Playa del Carmen?

1. Sample the delicious street food– Don’t be afraid to stand in line and eat with the locals at some of the best street food stands in town. As I always say, where there’s a line, there’s great food. If you’re looking for the best tacos in town, do yourself a favor and take a short stroll up to Avenue Constityuentes and 30th Ave. Once you see MEGA (a giant Mexican grocery chain) keep your eyes peeled for a street food vendor called El Rey del Taco. You can find this orange street food cart parked on the left side of MEGA from 8AM to 3 PM and then it moves over to the front right corner of the parking lot of MEGA from 4PM to midnight. It serves up the best chicken, steak and chorizo tacos in all of Playa del Carmen.

2. Visit a cenote– A cenote is a sinkhole in the earth that fills with groundwater and creates a natural pool of sorts. Thousands of these natural pools and underwater cave systems can be found in the Yucatan Peninsula, some of which are completely hidden in the jungles while others have become popular tourist attractions. I highly recommend Cenote Eden located about 15 miles south of Playa del Carmen and easily accessed via Colectivo (shared taxi).

$20 massages at Coco Maya Beach Club
$20 massages at Coco Maya Beach Club

3. Visit Playa del Carmen’s best beaches Playacar is my favorite beach because it’s clean, quiet and uncrowded. Mamitas (located at the end of Calle 28) is popular for partygoers and there’s also some nearby volleyball courts. Tip: Get there early and grab yourself a chair in front of the corresponding bar called Mamitas. It will cost you 30 pesos for the day and you’ll get a waiter that comes around serving drinks and food. Last but not least, if you’re looking to score a cheap massage while overlooking the bright blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, head over to Coco Maya Beach Club (Calle 12/Beachfront). It’s not the beach club that attracts my attention as this part of the beach isn’t the cleanest but what does get my attention is the 70 minute massages for $20 dollars. Yes, that’s right. A 70-minute massage for only $20 bucks! How can you beat that?

What draws you to the road?
I love the excitement of exploring new destinations. I also really enjoy making new travel friends along the way.

How many countries did you visit in the last year?
12: Thailand, Malaysia, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, USA, Mexico.

What was your last trip?
My last big hop was coming down here to Mexico after a brief visit home in December. My first stop was Mexico City and I spent four days wandering around the city before heading to Xalapa, Mexico to spend the holidays with some friends.

What’s your points and miles strategy when traveling?
I have to admit, I’ve only been in the points and miles game for two years now and I still feel like I have a hell of a lot to learn. I recently took advantage of some of the bigger signup bonuses on the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus cards and I ended up racking up 130,000 points during a two week visit back home. I also grabbed an easy 35k miles by signing up for the recent US Airways Premier World Mastercard offer. Going forward, I plan on keeping my eyes peeled for more big signup bonuses and learning how to take advantage of the unique benefits that each of my cards offers.

Fun times at a color run
Fun times at a color run

What’s your most memorable travel experience?
It’s a tie between going on my first ever game drive in South Africa’s Kruger National Park and sailing the coast of the Turkish Mediterranean on an old Turkish gulet. Oh, and how can I forget the time that the off-road jeep I was in rolled over in the middle of the Sahara Desert?

 What’s your favorite hotel?
The most incredible hotel that I’ve ever stayed at would have to be Singita LebomboThis beautiful boutique property is located smack dab in the middle of Kruger National Park. Each of its 15 glass-walled private luxury suites are perched up along the edge of a cliff overlooking the N’wanetsi River and the wildlife below. I vividly remember waking up in the morning and stepping out on my balcony to find a family of hippos bathing in the water below. Between the accommodations and the incredible game drives that Singita has to offer, my stay there remains one of my most memorable trips to date.

What are your favorite travel gadgets?
I’m a total tech geek, so I always have a boatload of travel gadgets with me no matter where I go. Some of my favorites include GoPro HERO3 (for the best adventure photos and video), XShot Pro (for the most epic selfies), Cordcruncher Headphones (for working out on the road), Sony MDR-10RNC Headphones (for long flights and coffee shop work sessions), NomadKey (awesome little keychain-sized charger cable), Neptor Portable Battery Charger (great backup for keeping my batteries topped up). You can find more of my favorite tech gear and gadgets over on my Travel Packing List.

Think fast. What’s your absolute favorite destination? Why?
Thailand. I love how diverse the country is. In the north, you’ve got the jungle, the mountains, adventures and more importantly, one of my favorite cities on earth, Chaing Mai. In the center of the country you’ve got Bangkok, a giant, polluted city filled with more street food and shopping malls than you can bat an eye at. Last but not least, the south is home to some of the most beautiful islands, beaches and diving in the world. Let’s face it, there’s not too many countries in the world that offer such a wide variety of delicious food, dirt cheap massages, endless amounts of adventure activities and sunsets that will blow your mind.

Who’s your travel hero or someone who inspired you to hit the road?
My father is the one who inspired me to take my first solo backpacking trip to Europe back in 2008. When I was younger, he would tell me stories of how he dreamed of traveling to Europe when he was in his mid-to-late teens. He worked as hard as he could to save up as much money as he could for a plane ticket and then he would disappear off to Europe without even mentioning it to his parents. He would tell me stories of how he slept on park benches in Paris, dated lots of foreign women (one of which became my mother), worked a bunch of odd jobs along the way and wandered the streets of several cities across Europe with only a few dollars to his name. If it wasn’t for my father and some of his wacky travel stories, I’m not sure if I would have ever dreamed of a life filled with wanderlust. Thanks, Dad!

Liz and Ryan enjoying the beach at Playa del Carmen
Liz and Ryan enjoying the beach at Playa del Carmen

What do you do to get beyond the surface of a destination?
Whenever I want to dig deeper in a destination, I always go directly to the source. The locals, that is. Some of my most memorable travel experiences have been due to the fact that I’m a social butterfly who has no problem sparking up a conversation and befriending locals. Because of this, I’ve been able to experience things that the average traveler would miss out on entirely.

Where are you dying to visit?
I’ve been wanting to visit Brazil for years. I also want to explore more of the Turkish Mediterranean and the Greek Islands.

If you had an unlimited travel budget for a month where would you go and what would you do?
I would probably spend it on a trip filled with first class flights, luxury hotels and adventure activities that I would never be able to afford on my own dime. For starters, I would say a trip to South Africa would be at the top of my list. Safaris with nights spent at luxury camps, exotic dishes and campfires with friends. That sounds damn good right about now.

Pause The Moment Inspiration
Pause The Moment Inspiration

What’s your best travel advice?
My advice is to take risks in order to find opportunities to travel deeper. These risks can be as simple as mingling with locals or joining an adventure with a few new friends that you’ve met on the road. Many times, the experiences that result from taking a risk end up making for some of the most memorable travel stories.