Forms of identification: Gary Arndt
Gary Arndt on Easter Island.
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas
1) Where would you rather be right now?
I'm writing this in Fort Worth, TX where I've been staying with my friend for a week. After having been on the road for so long, I have come to accept wherever I am at the time. I'll be running all over Europe over the next few months - I'm in no particular rush to be anywhere else right now.
2) Tourist must-see you think is actually a "must skip":
Up until a few months ago, I would have said the pyramids in Egypt. If found the camel touts so aggressive it almost ruined the experience. I met with some guys from Egypt Tourism at the New York Times travel show who said that they might have been removed because they supported the old government.
Now I'd have to go with the Mona Lisa. It is really tiny close up and behind three feet of glass. The only reason you should see it, is to see the crowd around it more than the painting itself.
3) Everyone asks what's #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what's your #3?
I don't have a set list, but I think I'll go with Lake Baikal in Russia. Probably not a popular answer, but it is always somewhere I've wanted to go.
4) You'd be mortified if people knew you did what when you travelled?
I always try to make one visit to McDonald's in every country I visit. Every country's McDonald's puts a regional twist on a very common theme. Some things about a country will really stand out in a background of McDonald's. In Malaysia they call hamburgers "beefburgers" because they are a Muslim country and don't want to confuse people that there might be ham in a hamburger. In Fiji you will see any product with beef in it clearly labeled on the menu because so many of the population are Hindu.
5) Your most stranded, "oh-my-[deity]" travel moment:
I was denied entry into the nation of Kiribati once because the ink on my visa stamp bled off the page.
6) Strangest meal abroad:
It would probably be a snack of grasshoppers I had in Bangkok. They are very crunchy.
7) If someone was visiting your town, what's the one thing you'd show them?
I am originally from Northeast Wisconsin, so I would have to take people to Lambeau Field. If you don't know anything about American Football, it is a great place to learn, and if you do know about American football, it should be a pilgrimage.
8) Travel-related invention you wish existed:
A Star Trek type teleportation device. I love visiting new places but I could do without sitting in airplanes for long periods of time.
9) Your most embarrassing travel faux pas:
I had been going around Thailand saying "Sawatdee-ka" as a greeting only to find out that is how you should say it if you are a woman. A man says "sawatdee-koph".
10) Most unique souvenir:
Easily my Cook Islands drivers license. To rent a motorbike in Rarotonga you have to get a driver's license complete with your photo and lamination.
11) Coolest mode of transport you've taken:
I took the world's fastest car ferry from Muscat to Khasab, Oman. It just so happens that the world's fastest car ferry has never actually transported a car because they never built a ramp to get cars on the boat, but that's another story.
12) The place you don't want anyone to know about but are willing to divulge here:
I'll freely divulge it: Micronesia. The reason I'm so free in divulging it is because I know few people will ever go there because of the location. It is more beautiful than many of the islands in the Pacific, English is spoken and they use the dollar. Nonetheless, there is little tourism because you have to fly through Hawaii or Guam to get there.
13) Travel-related film or book that inspires you to pack your bags:
Lawrence of Arabia. It is my favorite movie and the reason why I spent two days in the desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan, the location where it was filmed.
14) The travel story you'll never stop bragging about:
Probably the 10 hour trip (one way) on the back of a motor bike in Cambodia to see Preah Viher temple where Thailand and Cambodia soldiers were actively shooting at each other. I was told two Thai soldiers were killed by land mines just hours after I left.
15) Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
The ability to adapt is more important than the ability to plan.