Interview with Kyle Gest – Storyteller and Award-Winning Podcaster

The most challenging thing about pursuing a career as an author is the lack of structured support. With no official guidelines, the only true markers of success is success itself. Whether it’s having an article published online or becoming a Best Selling author, the fulfillment of most writers ambitions relies very much on some sort of final outcome.

During my Kickstarter campaign for Five Weeks in the Amazon, I reached out to Thomas Kohnstamm, the author of  “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics and Professional Hedonism.

This was in the early stages of my transition from the Californicated-self I had become to my true self, A liberated, and free, artist, who travels the world, practicing the art and craft of writing.

Back when I was the Team Manager for Plan B Skateboards. Taking a walk with Ryan Sheckler while on a filming road trip in Oregon, circa 2008.

Thomas Kohnstamm is from Seattle, Washington, which is close enough to my hometown that we both had views of the same snow capped mountain growing up (Mt. Baker). He still call Seattle home, which is where he live with his family and is completing the manuscript for his next book, which is very much anticipated (stay tuned for more info).

As I have traveled and continued to write, Thomas has kindly divulged great advice whenever I have asked him for it. He has been a mentor to me in ways, and from Colombia I reached out to ask him a few questions. I’m really excited to read his next book, and even though he isn’t saying much about it, I’m sure it is going to be worth reading.

Mt. Baker

You can click here to check out his awesome first book, “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” (which I read in one sitting). But first, check out his interview below, and if you want to connect with Thomas, you can reach him through his website, or leave a comment below. Thanks again for everything, Thomas, and may the Spring wind’s bring you nine muses worth of inspiration.

Edited LR -1-3 

Sean Hayes: What are you currently working on? 

Thomas Kohnstamm: I am just finishing up a novel I’ve been working on for a few years. Keeping it under wraps for now.

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?

Worried genius. Although I’d rather come in short of being a genius and experience a mix of worry and joy. I’d pass on being a simpleton just to be more consistently happy.

Who defines good and evil?


Why did you become an author?

I’ve always been interested in stories and trying to better understand the world – especially people and how they related to each other and to a place. I thought for a while that I wanted to be a professor but it was too rule-bound and there was too much emphasis on quantitative research. Writing lets me visit some of the same subjects but allows me to do it however I want.

For a recent high school graduate; Would you recommend 4 years traveling abroad, or 4 years of college?

It depends what you want to do with your life. If you think you want to be a doctor then, obviously, you’d better go to college. It’s a harder call for those who want to pursue a creative career. I’d probably say travel for them but it depends what you do with the travel. Nowadays you could go abroad and still spend all of your time watching Netflix. Just going someplace doesn’t mean much. You’d have to dig in.

Who do you envy?

I try not to envy anyone. That said I do get jealous of those who found a clear calling at a young age and were able to take a lot of risks and make a lot of investment in their careers. I didn’t go all-in on writing until I was 27 or 28. I am also impressed by people who are proficient in a lot of different areas, like Donald Glover.

What are you bored of?

Between writing, having a family, two dogs and way too many other interests, I don’t remember the last time I had open time on my hands, let alone experienced boredom.

That said, I am not a fan of pharmaceutical ads on TV. Am also kind of burnt on social media. I like to read some things on it but am kind of over posting. I can scratch that itch through bigger writing projects.

How would you describe yourself?

I like to do things my own way. I try to be good to the people I care about. I like to push my boundaries. I like to stay up late. I can drink a lot of beers for my size.

What does writing mean to you?

I always try to contextualize my life experience, so it’s a way to get out all of the stuff swirling in my head. I also try to make myself laugh when writing.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Except for a tiny percentage of very famous people, you’re really only remembered by your own family and close friends. The rest doesn’t much matter.

Thomas, on a recent heli-skiing adventure.

Want to check out my last Interview with an Interesting Person? Click Here, and stay tuned for more updates from the road. My Colombia Visa expires soon, and I am starting a new adventure in the United States of America.

God Bless, Sean:)

Travel Psychology Secrets: Why 1000 Words is Worth More Than a Single Picture

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” was written above a pod of breaching Orca whales, on a photo taken somewhere in Puget Sound. The words were written in a haphazard cursive as if to imply the weakness of writing, while proving the magnificence of photography. This was was when I was a young boy, on a promotional poster for the ferry company, during the two-hour ferry crossing to see my grandparents from Tsawwassen to Vancouver Island.

BC Ferries

Something captivated me in that quote. It seemed like a challenge. As though you couldn’t use words to create a replica of a moment, or a feeling. Since then I have written enough to realize with 1000 words you can say a lot.

Take the short story I have included in a PDF for a free download. It’s called Kids will be Kids and I’ve been working on it since I was in living in Colombia last year. This version of Kids will be Kids was edited while living in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Sucking the life out of my chosen existence; trying to find some sort of balance between the act of survival, happiness, and an environment which fosters creativity and focus. It will be included in I Killed a Black Dog, my soon to be published second book.

Kids will be kids

Kids will be kids

They were sitting on the grass across the street. It was dry now, but it wouldn’t be later. The rain always came in the afternoon and most of the time after he had taken lunch. It never lasted long, and it was never cold enough to need a jacket, but every day the rain would come.

It was something the man had come to expect and it didn’t bother him anymore. He wasn’t certain, but they looked like they were wearing the same clothes as last night.

There were two girls leaning against each other and two boys sitting on either side of them. A third boy lay with his head in the lap of the girl with jean shorts and a new tattoo. One of the boys, the one wearing a yellow hat, stood up. He wobbled to the right, leaned to the left, and then he fell down in the same spot he’d been sitting. The group erupted in laughter and across the street the man continued walking.

One of the girls took a sip from a can of beer and placed it on the grass beside her. She pulled out her cellphone and said something to thee others. The girl next to her was playing with the hair of the boy whose head was in her lap. He looked up at her curiously and she smiled. Her cheekbones were framed by her short, slightly tangled hair and she smiled back at him. The boy wearing the yellow hat pointed at the man who’d been watching them.

He looked down when he realized he’d ben caught staring and began waking faster. A nervous wave of self-consciousness washed over him when he assumed whatever they were saying was related to him. The only reason he’d been watching them was because he remembered the girl with jean shorts and the new tattoo. She had come in three times last night, each time a little more drunk.

She spoke with rapid, confusing English words and while the man couldn’t understand it, he liked her voice. It was soft and clear, but also piercing in its honesty. Walking along the sidewalk the man tried to listen to her foreign words and wondered if he would ever learn English.

Across the street he saw one of the boys grab the hands of the boy who had been laying down and pulled him to his feet. The others stood and they all looked towards him.

There was no doubt anymore; he knew they were going to follow him and he walked faster. Without slowing, he bent down and picked up an empty beer bottle from the sidewalk, and stole a quick glance towards them.

The girls adjusted their shorts and tops. One of the boys put his arm around the girl with the new tattoo, but she slid out from under his arm and turned around to face him. Grabbing both his hands she began skipping backwards; leading him, and the group, playfully across the street.

The man saw that they were getting closer. Suddenly he felt rushed. He stubbed his toe and stumbled, but used his good hand to keep hold of the railing as he climbed the short staircase. The group had almost crossed the street when he looked back again.

He wondered how long they had been waiting for him when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a key ring with keys of all shapes. He coughed a little, cleared his throat, and then bent down on one knee to open the giant padlock. He jiggled the padlock loose and with a surge of effort stood, sliding the shuttered metal door upwards. It clicked loudly at each fold until it was open.

He slid a different key into the second door and turned it clockwise until he felt the deadbolt drop into the lock. Swinging the door open made the bell attached to the hinge of the door jingle.

The sound had been burned into his memory and by this point gave him a feeling like deja vu every time he heard it. Taking one final look over his shoulder he shuffled inside as fast as his old body would let him.

The group jumped up the stairs cheering.

The beer store, was now open.

Editing I Killed a Black Dog

At just over 700 words, I hope Kids will be Kids says as much as any Instagram photo I’ve posted. For now, I will borrow a quote from Michelle de Montaigne’s Essay’s. It describes the merit of written verse (and prose) in an illuminating analogy :

 Just as the voice, confined in the narrow channel of a trumpet, comes out sharper and stronger, so, in my opinion, a thought, when compressed in the strict meters of verse springs out more briskly and strikes me with a livelier impact

What do you think? Is a picture worth a thousand words? Or is 1000 words worth more than a picture? Sign up here, I have a new post coming soon!

If you want to read more of my writing, check out my first book Five Weeks in the Amazon