18 Surprising Skills I Have Picked Up from Traveling the World

  February 1, 2016 travel posts 🕑 10 minutes read
Need some nanners?

Need some nanners?


I just walked up and down a mini hill carrying a small boulder.


Laugh at me for my wimpy-ness. Mini. Small. I know. Lost my fastball.


Anyway, I work with what God gives me on the road. Tropical paradises are usually a bit too remote to offer you traditional gymnasiums.


Here in Rivas we’re surrounded by stunning beauty. But no Retro Fitnesses.


I’m inspired to get creative wherever I lay my little, square-jawed, head (nice visual right?).


Other Skills


Doing boulder jogs/walks up hills in lieu of squats in a dingy gym is but 1 skill I have developed on the road. It is a skill; gotta fasten the arms carefully around the boulder to avoid breaking a Tico’s – or my – ankles.


The other day I was struck with this thought: “what surprising skills have you picked up from traveling the world, Ryan?”


I turned that same exact thought into a blog post title.


Here we are.


Before We Proceed (Resume Stuffer….)


Note; I am a former:


  • meteorologist (BS in Meteorology)
  • part time fashion model
  • inside sales rep
  • MS Access analyst
  • pier guard


…but each skill/job was acquired PRE blogging from paradise days.


On to the list….


1: Assistant to Cobra Slayer


And he spat no more.


My friend and house sitting mate Reinardt started me on my Spitting Cobra Slayer Apprenticeship.


Here’s how it went:


Reinardt: “Ryan, get a shovel from the shed. A cobra is in the chicken coop!”


Me: “Sure!”


2 minutes later I handed the spade to him. He made quick work of the spitter.


The spitting cobra post fight. I buried him, the dead mamma chicken and the dead baby chick the following day.

The spitting cobra post fight. I buried him, the dead mamma chicken and the dead baby chick the following day.


I got close enough to distract the cobra but not too close. I preferred not to be blinded.


Bonus Skill Added


JUST before this went to press I remember being a:


Grave Digger


I dug graves for: a puppy in Pondicherry(which sucked royally), this spitting cobra plus the mom and baby chicken he killed with his lethal venom, 12 koi in Bali, Harvey the doggie in Bali (which REALLY sucked) and various chickens that Roxy the Chicken Slayer killed with her nasty little habit in Bali.


2: Papaya Picker


This sounds a bit degrading, no?


Like somebody would call you a freaking papaya picker in deferential fashion.


Degrading or not, I learned how to pick papaya in Savusavu, Fiji. It’s one of my more critical digital nomad skills. Because papaya seem to grow all over the tropics.


Savusavu, Fiji

Savusavu, Fiji


You gotta have a 15 to 20 foot long solid, heavy, thick, mostly straight branch. Then you check the color on the pawpaws. If it’s not too ripe or raw – coloring depends on type, from Holland type to local Fijian papaya – you jab at the bottom or top section of the fruit.


Not too hard. You’ll burst it open. Not too soft. You need to bop ’em around to break the stem.


Like the Goldilocks bears, you want it to be “just right.”


After loosening the fruit, experienced showboats like me catch the papaya with one hand while holding the heavy brand in the other hand.


3: Bullet Ant Wrangler




Big jaws.


I reached for a dish and almost got stung by a guy with the most painful insect bite on earth.


Yep, for all you stupid quick Googlers out there, that’d be a bullet ant.


He was pissed too. Something about not liking the local version of dish detergent in Costa Rica.


While living DEEP in the jungles of Buena Vista, bullet ants were a dime a dozen. Everywhere. Twice I had to gently wrangle these angry big guys – picture an inch long, threatening-looking black ant – with a disgustingly dirty dish towel. The dish towel’s filthiness scared me more than the bullet ant.


As I carefully whipped at the guy to preserve his life and my comfort levels he elevated his stinger and mashed his formidable jaws.


In each case, I wound up tossing the dish towels with the ant, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If the baby had the most painful insect sting on earth.


Guess I need to work on this skill set.


4: Poison Dart Frog Scout


My heart sprinted into my throat.


A poison dart frog almost leaped into the doggie’s mouth. Which could mean a quick death for our friend Thunder.


Buena Vista poison dart frogs were a quarter a dozen. Not quite as prevalent as bullet ants. But still all over the place.


While house sitting in BV we watched a monstrously powerful, affectionate, kick ass Rhodesian Ridgeback named Thunder. Ridgeback’s have been aptly called “The Navy Seals of the Canine World.” She climbed VERTICALLY up a muddy embankment for some 30 feet once. Swimming, sprinting, hunting and trying to kill all life forms, this lion hunting dog made me a skilled poison dart frog scout.


When I wasn’t looking out for Thunder I had my peepers out for Kelli and I.


5: Nepali Wild Man Punching Bag/Snack


I was twice attacked by wild men in Kathmandu, Nepal.


One man bit me on the arm. He asked for money. For a buttered roll. I refused politely. He sunk his ferocious fangs into my large biceps and triceps. I evaded him before Jerry Jaws tried to remo


Another wild man – this one, smiling – punched me full force in the shoulder as he grinned as wide as the Cheshire Cat.


I smiled back.


6: Balinese Rubber Band Man


I hit the pavement, flying Superman style.


After hitting a patch of oil around a curve Kelli and I flew off of the motorbike at 15 MPH. She landed on her knee and leg. I flew horizontally, like the Man of Steel, until my lungs and shoulder formed a not too comfortable cushion for my body.


It took me 30 seconds to catch my breath. I felt like 100 angry critics were stabbing me in the lungs and back with Ginsu knives. I felt like I was gonna puke.


4 days later I was up and at ’em. After 4 days of bed rest, of course.


I credit my fitness levels and positive energy for the “rubber band” type bounce back from this wicked accident.


7: Laotian Bus Driver Lacky




We barreled wildly into the ONCOMING LANE of another hairpin curve. On a mountain. Thousands of feet above a valley. Cliff-side curve. No guardrails.


I formed the habit of coughing wildly during our 24 hour bus ride from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chiang Mai, Thailand because our Laotian drivers formed the habit of driving way too recklessly since they believed everyone was sleeping on the bus.


I mean, they will drive recklessly by default. But they were way too reckless as we made our way deep into the trip. I noted the drivers – who took turns – almost nodding off once or twice too.


Of course they were shocked out of their stupor and “License to Drive” driving habits courtesy of old RB’s wet, hacking cough. The Laotian Bus Driver Lacky.


8: Orange Picker


Costa Rican orange juice.


Not from concentrate.


Fish in a barrel time here in Rivas, Costa Rican. I’ve been supplied with a fruit picking device so it’s too darn easy for me to harvest sweet, delicious oranges by the bushel.


9: Banana Tree Hacker (Meaning, “Harvester”)


I have hacked down banana bushels in:


  • Pak Nam Pran, Thailand (failed attempt….they were too ripe…I wound up watching a Thai lizard gorge on ripe bananas until he visited his vomitorium)
  • Savusavu, Fiji
  • Buena Vista, Costa Rica


Here’s the deal: either you climb a ladder to hack off the bushel with the help of a friend or you hack at the entire tree gently so the bushel slowly drops to the ground, for you to seize.


After procuring the bushel you hang it by a chord. Cover with a burlap sack. Keep an eye out for ripening, enjoy.


10: Pineapple Harvester


I harvested pineapple in Savusavu, Fiji.


Check the color. If you’re seeing even the fainest pink, it’s way too early. At least for pineapples in Fiji.


Hell, just use Google to find the optimal color. Then hack at the base of the plant – below the pineapple of course – until you have successful dislodged it.


Feel free to make Upside Down cake with it.


11: Propane Tank Transporter


I carried an empty propane tank two and a half miles into town in Savusavu, Fiji.


This is pretty much my #1 feat of strength, like, ever. 2.5 miles.


Here’s how you do it: clear out a backpack. Strategically position propane tank in backpack. Ask wife to help you secure backpack on shoulders. Start walking. Say prayers. Laugh at Fijians who laugh at you, many of which are so freaking big and strong – including the women – that they could carry the propane tank around like a small purse.


12: Gringo Grocery Sherpa


#2 Feat of Strength, Ever: 1 day each week I carried our groceries for the week plus 2 lap top computers 3 miles into the jungle.


BTG....Before the Groceries, going DOWNHILL into town. The following day wasn't that purdy.....

BTG….Before the Groceries, going DOWNHILL into town. The following day wasn’t that purdy…..


Kicker: I carried this heavy load up a nearly mile high hill. Said hill ranged from a 10% to 30% grade. OK, it was goldang steep!


Kelli called me her Grocery Sherpa. Since we were in Costa Rican I added the “Gringo.”


13: Motorbike Rider Extraordinaire


I guess my Bali experience listed above may cancel out this skill but in truth I am a damn fine motorbike driver. 1 accident in thousands of hours spent on a motorbike, whisking Kelli and I around Bali and Thailand.


The first 5 minutes on the bike? A nightmare. I had to either learn how to ride the bike or pay exorbitant, Farang-driven fees to the then existing Tuk Tuk Mafia in Phuket.


20 minutes later I coolly cruised through Rawai.


I still ride like an old fogey though. Suits us just fine.


14: Dog Shepherd


Artie, Harvey, Jackie and Roxy in Bali.


Thunder in Buena Vista, Costa Rica.


Surrogate hounds like:


  • Daoduk in Chiang Mai
  • Biscuit in Koh Lanta
  • Beebe and Penny in Pak Nam Pran
  • Caballon and Winter in Rivas
  • Fred in Granada


I only shepherded Artie, Harvey, Jackie, Roxy and Thunder from the above lot of das hunds yet found myself feeding or caring for or rushing some of these canines to the animal hospital. Yes; Kelli and I transported Penny from Pak Nam Pran to Hua Hin as she appeared to be deathly ill…..via motorbike!


Shepherding dogs involves pretty much walking dogs off leash in rural areas of Jimbaran, Bali, and Buena Vista, Costa Rica. They run the show. I was a mere accessory.


Actually I *was* leader of the pack. Thunder followed. As did the four some in Bali. I asserted my dominance by showing my teeth. And with the occasional marking of my territory.


15: In Person Tiger Observer


Hehe…..I petted a 400 pound kitty.


I would definitely call this tiger petting thing a skill. 95% of visitors to Tiger Kingdom either spend time handling the adorable, little, tiny cubs or take pictures of the brain dead folks like Kelli and I who enter a cage with three, 400 pound, not quite full grown but terrifyingly large, apex predator, “my head reaches your chest level” tigers.


Yep....brain dead.

Yep….brain dead.


Either we’re brain dead or those 95% of folks need to grow a pair.


I’m going with brain dead.


I petted tigers. I snapped pictures of Kelli with tigers. Kelly laid down on tigers. My heart could be seen beating through my shirt.


I left the cage. I exhaled. My brain power returned.


16: Thai Lady Boy Street Walker Dodger


I eluded 2 Thai lady boy prostitutes in Bangkok.


The Ohhh-some Twosome inspired me to add “whore dodging” to my extensive resume after the Hairy-Armed Couple attempted to yank mis brazos from my sockets (still in Costa Rica).


2 sprints, an awkward smile and 5 pounds of sweat later I escaped their collective 4 armed vice grip to return to the hotel room.


17: Cockroach Magnet (I Shower Regularly, I Promise)


I served as a cockroach dance floor in Pak Nam Pran, Thailand.


My arm was obviously life support to a cockroach in Hoi An, Vietnam.


I’d add a few other excruciating anecdotes but I think you’re ready to yank me off the stage, Vaudeville Style…


18: Machete Man


From hacking nanners in Savusavu to clearing brush in Buena Vista I have become really, really nice with the machete. I’ve yet to adopt the Zen-like swinging motion developed by machete pros but I know how to effectively clean, swing and store this impressive-looking blade after many years spent living in the tropics.


On a side note; if you get a little too critical of me or my blog….remember this skill o’ mine.

  1. Tom Southern says:
    at 11:06 am

    Hi Ryan,

    Well! My life has been quiet in comparison.

    My lessons are that I’m not one for Adventure. I’m happy with my comfort zone. If I’ve been able to push passed it, it’s because it’s fortified me with enough confidence to do so.

    If I’ve learnt anything recently, it’s be okay with your comfort zone. Do what you want to do and you won’t need “Confidence” because, you’ll have all the ingredients people associate with confident people, just because you’re doing what you want to.

    Great read, Ryan. Thanks.


    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 11:22 am

      Nothing like enjoying the ride, right Tom? That’s life’s message; follow your fun. Do what you love doing, wherever it is, and, whatever that doing is. Love your clarity, it’s awesome.

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 2:43 pm

      I figured that’d be the case with you Rosa 😉 It was thrilling and terrifying to me. To Kelli, it was thrilling and she had ZERO fear in the cage.

  2. Renard Moreau says:
    at 2:14 pm

    [ Laughs ] Ryan, you certainly have skills.

    However, I would have never guessed in a million years that you are actually a part-time model.

  3. Adrienne says:
    at 6:53 pm

    Hey Ryan,

    I suppose while on your travels there are definitely going to be some experiences that you have that you never imagined in a million years. For all of the rest of us boring souls who happily sit in the same house day in and day out with the comforts of all the modern conveniences, we haven’t learned squat. LOL!!!

    Yeah, at my age I guess I live a rather boring life but I’m happy. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to travel the world but it’s never been on my “to do” list. My sister is another story but not me. I like routines, as boring as those are…

    So we all get to continue to live our boring lives through hearing what the heck you’ve been up to lately. Now we know all the skills you have and I so admire you for dealing with so much of what you’ve dealt with.

    Bravo Ryan!


  4. Kim Willis says:
    at 10:45 pm

    Hey Ryan

    Being an Aussie I can see you as the next Crocodile Dundee. Wrestled any of those babies lately?

    Or perhaps you could take over from where Steve Irwin left off. Just be careful of those frigging stingrays.

    I do love your crazy stories, Ryan – they always make me smile.

    Although I’ve done tons of travel in the last 2 years my adventure pathway is quite sedate, when compared to yours.

    I can’t understand people who have no interest in travel ’cause no matter how you choose to do it, it’s kinda wonderful.


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