Forms of identification: Don George, travel writer
Don George, with his wife, on a ferry off the coast of her home island, Shikoku, Japan.
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
Name: Don George|
Title/bio: Travel writer, editor, blogger, broadcaster, teacher
Born in: Connecticut, United States
Currently living in: San Francisco Bay Area, United States
1. Where would you rather be right now?
Place I’ve never been: Angkor Wat
Place I’ve been: The restaurant La Colombe d’Or in St-Paul-de-Vence, on the Cote d’Azur in southern France. I’d like to be sitting in the sun on the terrace there, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, feasting on the artwork -- Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Miro -- on the walls all around and the culinary masterpieces in front of me.
2. Famous person (dead or alive, real or fictional) you’d most like to go on a trip with:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the magical Japanese cartoon character Doraemon
3. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
4. Your most stranded, “oh-my-[deity]” travel moment:
On my first trip to Asia, I was staying in a primitive guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. The toilet was a hole in the floor in a stinking, foul-floored, three-by-three-foot closet at the end of the hallway. Also, there was no light and I didn’t have a flashlight. At dinner I ate something that vehemently disagreed with me and I spent all night getting up, feeling my way down the mossy hallway walls to the gross-beyond-words closet, trying to position myself over the floor, slipping on the don’t-even-think-about what-it-is slickness, disgorging from both ends everything I’d ever eaten -- hopefully into the hole -- then feeling my way back down the hallway to my room, all the while trying not to wake everyone else up. I did this so many times that I lost count. That was probably the longest night of my life.
5. Best (or worst) person/people you’ve had to sit next to while travelling:
When I went to Japan on a two-year teaching fellowship straight out of grad school, I was seated on the flight next to a lovely, lively American woman who was my age but had previously lived in Japan. I didn’t know anything about Japan and was quietly freaking out about committing to stay there for two years. Over the 13-hour trip I poured out all my fears about living in an unknown culture in an unknown country. She listened kindly and then told me tales of the wonders of Japanese culture and countryside, of the art and the temples and the mountains and the beaches; she described the amazing food and the incredibly hospitable people. She assuaged my fears and by the time we landed, I couldn’t wait to experience Japan.
6. Coolest mode of transport you’ve taken:
Riding Arabian stallions for two hours into the Saharan desert
7. Travel-related film or book that inspires you to pack your bags:
Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger, with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider. The premise of the plot – a traveller adopting another traveller’s identity – seems the perfect metaphor for all the possibilities that suddenly present themselves when you set foot out the door. Plus the footage shot in the Sahara and Spain is seductive.
8. The travel story you’ll never stop bragging about:
A) Deciding on a spontaneous youthful whim to climb Kilimanjaro – and succeeding. B) Travelling with my wife and two children to the Galapagos – there was no spectacular challenge to overcome, but it was simply the best, most transformative trip of our lives.
9. Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
Cultivate the fine art of vulnerability: the more you open yourself to the world, the more the world will open itself to you. And plant seeds of love wherever you go.