Phoenix author’s world travel adventures chronicled in new book | Phoenix New Times

Phoenix author’s world travel adventures chronicled in new book, ‘Just Go’

Drew Binsky’s book "Just Go" reflects the wisdom gained from visiting all 197 countries.
Phoenix native Drew Binsky visited all 197 countries before writing his new book.
Phoenix native Drew Binsky visited all 197 countries before writing his new book. Drew Binsky
Share this:
If you were lucky enough to attend travel vlogger Drew Binsky's recent book signing in his hometown of Phoenix, you probably heard some great stories about his world explorations. His new book, "Just Go: A Globe-Trotting Guide to Travel Like an Expert, Connect Like a Local, and Live the Adventure of a Lifetime" is a chronicle of his globe-crossing, decade-long trip around the world to all 197 countries. He finished that voyage in 2021 and has put together some of his best stories and secrets to share with readers.

Phoenix New Times talked with Binsky via email about everything from being safe in strange places, to his scariest moments and even the most haunted spot he's ever experienced. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned traveler his book is an essential packing item for anyone escaping their zip code for an extended vacation.

Phoenix New Times: Why is this book important to you?
Drew Binsky: As a YouTuber and someone who focuses on making videos, it's nice to have a different platform to communicate stories. A lot of people who read books don't use YouTube, and ideally my book, "Just Go," will reach a different audience. A book is also tangible. The fact that you can hold a book in your hands has a great appeal to me. I love the idea of my book living in peoples’ homes, on their coffee or bedside tables. And it’s just too cool to call myself an author and not just a video producer. "Just Go" took me many years to write it and I’m thrilled that the dream has finally come to fruition.

What is one common thread you discovered that is universally shared among the cultures you have visited?
I have realized that everyone is the same. People are more similar than different, despite their diverse backgrounds, cultures, and appearances. All humans — no matter what they look like, where they come from or their religion — have the same wants and needs. Everyone wants to love and feel loved, Everyone needs to work, eat and have shelter. The people I’ve met on my journeys have been nice, friendly and hospitable people who have gone out of their way to share their lives and cultures with me. And the beautiful thing is that anyone can meet them. You first just must take a leap of faith and travel to experience what’s on the other side.

Young Americans are notoriously rambunctious and insensitive when they travel outside the U.S. Any advice for young explorers who are going somewhere for the first time?
My advice for Americans is to just be spontaneous — don't overthink! Often, we make up excuses for not following our dreams: lack of funds, not wanting to get sick, work is too busy, fear of the unknown. That’s all understandable but at some point, you must trust your gut and make it happen. Often, letting go and going with the flow is the best thing you can do. Sometimes if we overthink, if we get too caught up in our own thoughts which prevent us from doing what we want to do. We make up excuses to postpone our plans, which often prevent us from traveling at all. I think the best moments in life happen when you step outside of your comfort zone and act spontaneously. To sum up my advice in two words — which is my motto — just go.

click to enlarge A book cover.
Courtesy of BenBella Books

What is the most dangerous thing you ever encountered while traveling?
Yemen. I did an eight-day road trip in mainland Yemen with a local guy and found the country to be in a state of anarchy. No rules, no laws. The country is divided between the Emirates and the Saudis — both vying for power. There are militias, checkpoints, terrorism threats and ISIS. I felt like I was being watched my entire time there and at time, felt in jeopardy of being kidnapped. I responded by keeping a very low profile. We drove around in an old, unsuspecting beaten-down Toyota Corolla and I made the effort to dress locally and respect the local customs and culture. That is how I was able to feel and stay safe.

Have you explored “haunted” places? What were your paranormal experiences?
I'm not really a big, haunted traveler guy but I have been to several haunted places. The one that sticks out most to me is Saddam Hussein's old palace in Iraq. Located on top of a hill near the ancient city of Babylon, the palace cost between $40 to $50 million to build. And it’s haunted. There are stories of people being hung there and there are unsettled, creepy spirits everywhere.

I’ve heard that when you travel you should act like you know what you’re doing in big cities. Why is that important?
It's always important to appear confident and act like you know what you're doing. Walking with authority and purpose lowers the risk of being mugged, questioned or taken advantage of.

How do you feel about space exploration? Would you ever go into space?
I would love to go to space. I recently returned from a big trip to the geographic South Pole, which was awesome, but traveling to space and the moon would be a dream come true. I feel that I will be able take these trips during my lifetime and look forward to it.

What big thing is happening next for you?
I'm just starting a book tour right now; 10 different cities starting with Berlin and ending in Manila, with eight U.S. cities in between (including Phoenix). This book tour will provide an amazing opportunity for me to meet people and hopefully inspire them to travel more. I also have a docuseries coming out that was shot in the last five countries I traveled to (Ghana, Ecuador, Venezuela, Palau and Saudi Arabia). I’m currently shopping it around to be picked up by a streaming service, which is exciting. And of course, I’m creating more YouTube videos. My mission in life is to tell better stories. Right now, I’m making longer videos with the hope of impacting more people.
Can you help us continue to share our stories? Since the beginning, Phoenix New Times has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix — and we'd like to keep it that way. Our members allow us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls.