Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers on useful resources, favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Bob Payne
Occupation: Travel Humor Writer
Hometown: Not applicable
Residence: Pelham Manor, New York/Scottsdale, Arizona
Short Bio: Bob Payne is an award-winning travel writer and editor whose work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Outside, Men’s Journal, Islands, Bon Appetit, Brides, and Composite Building Materials Review. He is a Contributing Editor at Conde Nast Traveler, where he is believed to be the only writer ever allowed to put the cost of a Polynesian tattoo on his expensive report. He is the Founder and Editor in Chief of , a travel humor blog that has been sharing accurate travel news and advice since before Columbus landed at Plymouth Rock. Wearing a different hat (a floppy white number that keeps the sun entirely at bay), he is the Travel Editor at , a website/online magazine/daily blog aimed at becoming the authority on destination weddings. Destination: W was created by an ex-Brides magazine editor, Sally Kilbridge, who is one of the foremost experts on all things bridal, and Payne’s wife.
How often do you fly: Enough to be 12,000 miles short of Million Miler status on American, and ready to be really irritated if they disappear before I get there.
How many countries have you been to: 142; 143 if you count New York City, which everyone who lives there seems to.
How many continents have you been to: 7, although I think Australia has disappeared from Google Maps, so I don’t know if we should count it.
Favorite American city: Haines, Alaska, home to my favorite cultural institution, The Hammer Museum, whose collection of over 1,500 hammers is among the largest in the world.
Favorite international city: Jakarta, Indonesia, for the chaos of it.
Least favorite country: To improve on Dostoevsky, I never met a woman, or a country, I couldn’t love.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Bikini Atoll, because it was like the Garden of Eden, except of course that the forbidden fruit was radioactive.
Favorite airline: Pan Am. My dad flew for it for 30 years, and until they merged with National Airlines I was allowed, even as an adult, one ticket a year at a 90 percent discount. More than once, my ticket was for around the world, for $300.
Favorite aircraft type: American Champion Citabria, except when my dad would put it into an inverted stall, clasp his hands behind his head, and say, “Why don’t you fly?”
Aisle or window: Neither. If you travel to gain a broader understanding of the world, and especially if you are a travel writer, you should always request the middle seat, which doubles your chances of having an interesting conversation.
Favorite airport lounge: Air Greenland business class lounge in Kangerlussuaq. The service isn’t anything special, but you are indoors.
Favorite U.S. airport: Oshkosh, Wisconsin, site of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual air show.
Favorite international airport: The red dirt airstrip on Robinson Crusoe Island, off the coast of Chile, because after flying in a twin-engine prop plane across hundreds of miles of very empty ocean, your are extremely happy to see it.
Favorite ho Astra, on Santorini, where my wife and I spent some of our courtship and which my daughter considers one of her second homes, the other being Wheatleigh, in Lenox, Massachusetts, which she visited for the first time when she was still just a heartbeat.
Favorite cruise line: I seldom cruise, so don’t know much about them; but did recently sail from Lisbon to Marseille on the maiden voyage of the MSC Divina, where I was impressed by how adamant the passengers, almost all European, were in their refusal to eat chicken.
Favorite island: I was a contributing editor at Islands magazine for years, and am writing a book about the role islands have played in the creative development of everyone from Paul Gauguin to, well, me. So it’s really the same answer as for Least Favorite Country.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, New York, where summer or winter the menu will make you feel pity for people – if you think about them at all — who are dining elsewhere.
Favorite hole in the wall: Tisa’s Barefoot Bar, a few miles outside Pago Pago, on American Samoa. Tisa has a star map tattoo on her thighs that someone with the proper skills could use to navigate the Pacific.
Favorite fruit: See Favorite Drink, and note lime.
Favorite food: I claim it is undulating white grubs swallowed live after using my machete, just as the Makushi Indians taught me, to dig them out of the fermenting nut of a kokerit palm in the rainforests of Guyana.
Least favorite food: White grubs served with broccoli.
Drink of choice (In the air and on the ground): In another life, I was an editor at Sail magazine, which allowed me to spend an enormous amount of time in the Caribbean, where the only proper drink for a sailor is Mount Gay rum and tonic, with a lime. I continue to honor those roots.
Favorite travel movie(s): Lawrence of Arabia. The desert scenes inspired one of my own adventures, Bob of Tunisia.
Favorite travel show(s): My wife and I used to love Alby Mangels’ World Safari. There was never a misadventure he didn’t have. What happened to him?
Favorite travel book(s): The Great Railway Bazaar, if for no other reason, Duffill. In Trouble Again, because who does not want the experience of snorting something that makes the women of the fiercest men on earth start to look good? And The Odyssey, because how can you not admire a traveler who manages to spend ten years on a journey that even in Homer’s time could have been done in a long weekend?
Right now I am reading: Every book I can find about the relationship between artists and islands. Did you know that the first island to inspire Gauguin was not Tahiti, or Martinique, but a day-trip island off Panama City, Panama, called Taboga, whose waters, somebody I met at the most recent New York Times Travel Show told me, are now oily with the waste from ships?
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines: Conde Nast Traveler, for letting me keep my own voice, most of the time; Islands, back when Joan Tapper was editor, for the five weeks they allowed me to step aboard the first Greek ferryboat that came along, and then the next, and the next, and the next; Everett Potter’s Travel Report, because by saying so he might finally link back to my site.
Favorite travel website(s) – besides Hundredbacklinks.com, of course!: More for her tweets and posts than her website, Heather Poole, who has incredible energy and ambition for someone who is, after all, just a flight attendant. (Just kidding, Heather; just kidding.)
Five things you bring on a plane: As long as I have my passport I can live without everything else. But I do bring a notebook, in case my tape recorder battery dies; a tape recorder for when I can’t find a pencil for my notebook; my Kindle, because after four years of diligent application I have completed only 23% of the 300 complete works of Mark Twain, for which I paid 99-cents; and a Guyanan white grub snack pack, because there is never any fear of someone claiming to be allergic to them.
What do you always seem to forget: Where I am.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport duty free store: Rockefeller Center.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Not mine of course, but when a flight attendant announced, “Would the passenger who left his wedding ring beside the sink in the lavatory please push his call button.”
Worst travel moment: On my way to the North Pole aboard a Russian nuclear-powered ice breaker when I learned the ship was built by the same people who built Chernobyl.
What’s your dream destination: Anywhere I haven’t been, except Detroit.
Best travel tip: Ask for the middle seat.
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