Welcome! I am Derek, publisher of Debrian Travels and owner of Debrian Media. I am a native of Atlanta, GA and live with my family in the city's northern suburbs. I love to travel domestically - I have been to all 48 of the continental U.S. states - but have begun to venture abroad. After my first visit to Europe in 2014, I developed an unquenchable thirst for international travel. I am very thankful that my wife enjoys and values travelling overseas as much as I do. Unfortunately, travel is only a hobby and not my career. I currently work as a financial professional for a Fortune 500 company. Other interests include investing, reading, volunteering with the technical production team at my church, and attempting to play tennis. I am a die-hard Georgia Tech football fan and have had season tickets since 2000. Through the midpoint of the 2016 season, I attended 112 consecutive games, home and away, so that afforded many travel opportunities over eight years!
First class experiences at economy class cost
Fundamentally, my travel philosophy is to maximize the experiences I have when I travel - the flight, the hotels, cultural exposure, etc. - without busting my budget. In other words, I want to have first class experiences at economy class cost. While overseas, I want to experience not only famous locations popular with tourists but also a glimpse into how locals live. I prefer to travel in comfort so that I am well-rested with as much convenience as I reasonably can. A bit of luxury is nice but not essential! My wife and I are hardly rich by any definition, but we are blessed enough financially to be able to indulge this wanderlust. We have been to Europe each of the three years we have been together, four including my solo 2014 adventure. These trips have included business class transatlantic flights, first-class rail tickets, stays in centrally-located, four-star hotels and dining in some of the most expensive cities in the world. That certainly sounds like we are dropping a lot of money as we travel, and, to be fair, we are not taking the frugal jaunts discussed on budget travel blogs. While we have enough disposable income to travel regularly, we could not go as often as we do if we were paying full price. Our expenses, even including luxury touches, are manageable for a couple that can be defined as upper middle class by taking advantage of free and deeply discounted airfare and hotels made possible by travel points and miles.
Points and miles - a means to an end more than a "hobby"
I started collecting Delta SkyMiles in the late 1990s. One of the first credit cards I obtained after college was the American Express Delta SkyMiles Optima. A few years later, I began to collect hotel points. For almost two decades, I did little to earn points and miles aside from flights and stays coupled with putting all my credit card spend on the Amex Delta card. Over that time I used SkyMiles for domestic first class award tickets and for fare reductions on domestic economy flights. For my first trip to Europe, I used 95,000 Delta SkyMiles and paid $202 in taxes and fees for a round-trip economy ticket. I thought I spending my miles wisely - and my European ticket was not a bad use of miles - but, in retrospect, I now know just how inefficient those awards were. I only had a surface knowledge of how reward currencies worked. I truly did not know what I did not know. Then I stumbled across points and miles travel blogs.
After going to London and Paris that first time, I wanted to go back to Europe...soon. As I was researching my return, I found two blogs that remain must-reads: One Mile at a Time and Million Mile Secrets. I learned that, not only was I not getting the most out of my miles, but also I could be earning many more rewards via credit sign-up bonuses, spending on the "right" credit cards, and shopping online via rewards portals. Reading these blogs, I often saw the term "hobby" applied to the pursuit of points and miles. For me, points and miles are not a hobby. Though I am more well versed in earning and using reward currencies, they are a means-to-an-end. Points and miles allow me to travel more frequently and in comfort at a reasonable expense. I can also experience aspirational travel products that are otherwise well beyond my financial means. Points and miles basically resonated with me because they help realize my travel philosophy by both maximizing experience and reducing cost.