Buckley resident Kyle Frawley, 32, has been traveling nearly non-stop since his first overseas flight to London in 2005.
In the last 11 years, he estimates he’s seen half of what the planet has to offer, having set foot in 101 countries and traveled to all seven wonders of the world.
And for the most part, he’s been able to use frequent flier miles to cover the vast majority of his flights.
But travel is more than going from Point A to Point B, Frawley said – it’s about meeting new people and gaining new perspectives
“‘The world is a large book. Those who never stray away from home only write a small page,'” he said, quoting some graffiti he saw on a Peru hostel wall.
From the mat to the sky (at little cost)
After graduating from White River High School in 2002 as the state wrestling champion, Frawley went on to college North Idaho College and Lindenwood University to become a three-time All-American wrestler.
“Wrestling was my life for 12, 15 years,” Frawley said. “But I wasn’t going to be able to make the Olympic team, so there was no point in pursuing wrestling past college. So I decided to travel.”
His first flight out of the country was to London in 2005. For spring break he went down to Mexico, but the scene wasn’t for him.
“I was with a bunch of guys that drink so much that they don’t remember what happened,” he recalled. “Why not travel and see some things that you were going to remember? It seemed like a no-brainer to me.”
For his 2007 spring break, Frawley traveled to Amsterdam, but was bumped off his flight on his way back.
Frawley received a $1,000 voucher for being bumped from his flight, which he used to fund a trip to Ecuador, as well as getting to and from Lindenwood, raking up miles the entire way.
This is when he started to discover how to use the airline’s frequent flyer miles system to his benefit.
“I probably wouldn’t travel if it wasn’t free to fly, because it’s so expensive,” Frawley said.
Starting in 2007, Frawley started to cobble together a complex system using airline credit cards to accumulate large amounts of frequent flyer miles.
Frawley would sign on with an airline credit card to receive the frequent flier miles signing bonus. Occasionally, the signing bonus was available as soon as he signed up for the card, but more often, he had to at least use the card at least once, or spend a specific amount of money in a certain time frame.
Frawley would then pay off his credit card balances and then canceled them, as many came with a yearly fee but the signing bonus rarely, if ever, renewed itself annually.
By 2008, he had enough miles go on three separate trips to Cancun, Venezuela and Turkey.
Soon, Frawley ran out of cards he could sign up for. But as the airline’s contracts with banks renewed, switched or fell through, a whole new line of credits cards (and new signing bonuses) would become available so he can repeat the process.
And despite this shuffle in credit cards, Frawley said his credit hasn’t been hit that hard.
“I’ve never been late on a payment,” he said, saying the worst hit to his credit was when his home flooded when a sprinkler broke while he was traveling. “That’s the hit on my credit. But before then, I was in the upper 700s, even signing up for these cards.”
Frawley also starting planning his trips around busy times of the year through popular airports in the hopes of being voluntarily or involuntarily bumped from a flight. Getting bumped from a flight, he said, would give him extra miles or vouchers for future flights.
With this system, Frawley estimates 90 percent of his flights with American airline companies were free between 2007 and 2016.
Adventure in unlikely places
Frawley has been to many of the large vacation spots many travelers visit, from Belgium to Egypt and the Vatican City to Japan.
While he was in these well-traveled locations, he started to notice a pattern.
“I traveled around the world and I was always meeting people, but they all had the same stories,” he said. “If they went to Asia, Thailand is really popular. If they went to the states, it’s L.A., Vegas, New York… I want to get to the farthest places on earth. I want to be different.”
Suddenly, Frawley started to find himself in countries people rarely visit as tourists, and some many people have never heard of: Seychelles, Brunei, the Marshall Islands, Kuwait and more.
He’s even been to Svalbard, the island closest to the North Pole.
“There’s 24 hours of daylight. Polar bears running around. It’s a good 500 miles north of the furthest point in Alaska,” he said.
Getting to these faraway places is difficult, Frawley said, because he often can’t just fly there. So he flies as close as he can, and then utilizes any nearby ground transportation, be it an all-terrain vehicle, boat, bus or even hitch hiking to get to his final destination.
“It’s quite an adventure. It gets old at times,” he said, explaining that he often travelled on an empty stomach, or transportation would be unreliable and delayed. “But that’s half the adventure, is getting there.”
Even though he’s been to Mongolia and Tunisia, Trinidad and Vanuatu, Frawley still hasn’t found a place as beautiful as the Pacific Northwest.
“The Pacific Northwest, it’s got some of the best nature in the world, out of everywhere I’ve been,” he said. “It’s incredible here.”
Frawley has uploaded several videos of his travels to YouTube and can be found by searching “Frawldog.”