Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
Name: David Farley
Title/bio: Author of An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town and contributing writer at Afar magazine.
Twitter/website: @davidfarley, www.dfarley.com
Born in: Dubuque, Iowa
Currently living in: New York City
1) Where would you rather be right now?
In Oaxaca with an empty stomach.
2) Tourist must-see you think is actually a "must skip":
The hourly "show" that the astronomical clock in Prague performs. The clock itself is gorgeous, but the mechanical performance it does every hour - one in which huge swaths of humanity crowd around to watch - is a snooze.
3) You'd be mortified if people knew you did what when you travelled?
I only travel with a carry-on-sized bag, even if I'm on the road for a couple weeks. The trade off, one that I'm happy to make, is that I have to wash my clothes in the hotel sink. I don't stay in luxury hotels too much when I'm travelling but when I do, it probably looks quite odd to the cleaning staff to see clothes drying in the shower.
4) Best (or worst) person/people you've had to sit next to while travelling:
A teenager on an overnight Nha Trang-to-Saigon train who not only insisted on letting everyone listen to the Vietnamese pop music on his radio, but he kept playing the same song over and over again all night. I wanted to take one of the cockroaches scurrying on the floor of the train and smoosh it into the radio speakers.
5) If someone was visiting your town, what's the one thing you'd show them?
Times Square-so we can get it over with.
6) Travel-related invention you wish existed:
A cure for jet lag. A way to make Americans less isolationist and more curious about the outside world. A wallet that's impossible to steal. A way to get free internet access at hotels that charge an arm and a leg for it.
7) Your most embarrassing travel faux pas:
Asking the maharajah of Jodhpur : So is it good to be the king ? His answer : not as good as it would have been before the Partition. But one of the best happened to my dad, thanks, of course, to me. My parents visited me when I lived in Prague and I told my dad that a popular word for 'friend' was pica (pronounced pee-chah), but it is actually a vulgar term for the female genitalia that Czechs reserve for heated moments of intimacy or heated moments with an adversary. It was quite amusing seing the looks on my Czech friends faces after I'd introduce them and my dad, thinking he had some insider info, would say 'Nice to meet you, pica'.
8) Most unique souvenir:
Library card from the Vatican Library. It's long expired but I still keep it in my wallet. I'll go out on a limb and guess they're unlikely to ever renew it.
9) Most unusual item you have travelled with:
I used to spend months at a time in a medieval hill town near Rome. Once, when returning to New York, a friend in the village gave me a 2,500-year-old shard of Etruscan pottery. I was nervous, fearing I'd be stopped for taking it out of the country or by US customs. I also had a huge wheel of cheese in the same bag. Fortunately, I made it through safely.
10) The place you don't want anyone to know about but are willing to divulge here:
Da Enzo, a restaurant in the Trastevere neighbourhood in Rome. But please, don't go there.
11) Travel-related film or book that inspires you to pack your bags:
The film Before Sunrise was really inspiring when I was in college. Also, I had a crush on Julie Delpy.
12) The travel story you'll never stop bragging about:
Talking my way into Lee Harvey Oswald's former apartment in Minsk, Belarus (which you can read about in the May/July 2011 issue of Afar magazine).