Forms of identification: Matt Goldberg
Matt Goldberg and son Aidan hiking in Mount Aspiring National Park on New Zealand’s South Island.
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
1. Where would you rather be right now?
Right where I am -- on an intercontinental flight that will take me to four international cities across 24,000 miles over the next eight days. Gotta love travel!
2. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3? As an American, I’d have to go with either Canada or Mexico. These are two amazing countries that those of us with wanderlust from the States seem to be saving for some distant future holiday while we travel further afield. Now that I live in Australia, I think I’ll prioritise these fantastic destinations for some serious exploration.
3. You’d be mortified if people knew you did what when you travelled?
I’m a sucker for the first class lounge. I have the status to use it and the food’s great, but I always feel like I’m cheating.
4. Your most stranded, “oh-my-[deity]” travel moment:
I was on the road from Cuzco, Peru to Lake Titicaca, Bolivia with my (now) wife Liz. The rental car companies wouldn’t let us hire a car to drive there, but I couldn’t take no for an answer so I found a driver with his own car. A soldier at a late night checkpoint seemed concerned to see us on the road: “No puedes continuar” – you can’t go on. So I did what was customary and paid a small sum to continue down the track. As it got colder and darker, we ran into a small group of banditos who had blocked the road with large boulders and held primitive torches and farm tools as weapons. We stopped in our tracks. Then the driver said, “No te preocupes, amigo. Ya me he encontrado el Sendero Luminoso antes” -- Don’t worry my friend, I’ve dealt with the Shining Path before.
I thought it was the end. Liz smartly held me close and told me to stay quiet. But it took only a brief word of camaraderie and a pledge of the equivalent of $5 cash and we were off. It could have been a lot worse.
5. Best (or worst) person/people you’ve had to sit next to while travelling:
My wife and children, whenever I can get them to come with me. The best, of course.
6. Best celebrity encounter while travelling:
I recently ran into Heston Blumenthal (the English celebrity chef) on the street in London. I told him what a fan I was, he said he loved Lonely Planet -- and then one of my colleagues pulled me away thinking she was saving a helpless stranger from my unnecessary overtures.
7. Most unusual item you have travelled with:
I frequently travel with a belt that has a secret compartment where I hold a fresh 100 dollar bill. I got this idea from my father many years ago. I figure if I get into trouble on the road and lose all my belongings, I will at least be able to go to a local bar and buy a round of drinks.
8. The place you don’t want anyone to know about but are willing to divulge here:
Lots of people travelling in Borneo take a boat up the Batang Rajang River to visit Iban longhouses. Not too long ago, I travelled with a Lonely Planet author who paved a new independent travel route deep into the jungle up the Batang Ai river in Borneo, simply because a local Kuching tour company said it couldn’t be done. As I watched the Iban villagers carve a newly-slaughtered wild boar for a local wedding celebration and talked with an 80-year-old Iban warrior who told me his life story through his body tattoos, I was amazed by the authenticity of the cultural exchange.
9. The travel story you’ll never stop bragging about:
Nothing compares to bonding with a child on the road. I recently spent three weeks in a campervan with my wife and three kids (and survived). We decided to spend a day trekking on one of the world’s finest one-day walks: the 10km Rob Roy Glacier trail in Mount Aspiring National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. It was a tough hike – five kilometres ascending through steep and winding alpine terrain rewarded by amazing views of the glacier and the 50 or so waterfalls glancing onto a rock face below. My oldest son, Aidan, who just turned eight, refused to turn back without achieving the goal. As we completed the four-and-a-half-hour return journey, we were equally delighted by his tenacity and how much fun we had doing it together.
10: Lay on us a priceless bit of travel advice or wisdom:
Travel is of course a great metaphor for life. It’s a lot more fun with some thoughtful planning while leaving room for spontaneity. Do a great job on the things within your control, but for those things outside your control, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.