Authors at Google: Robert Reid | "Lonely Planet's The Best in Travel 2013"

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 15.11.2012


ROBERT REID: Welcome to the world of travel.
My name is Robert Reid.
I'm the US travel editor for Lonely Planet.
Kind of feel a little bit of a thrill being at Google,
because I do use Google.
I'm not one of the Bing crowd or anything like that.
So it's kind of exciting just being in the
offices, to be honest.

I guess I'm here because when I was a little kid I had the
dream basically just to go all over the world and live as
many places I possibly could.
And I thought that meant rock and roll.
So I played guitar for a while, but
that didn't work out.
So somehow I ended up with Lonely Planet 13 years ago.
And I've done a couple dozen guidebooks for Lonely Planet.
I got to go to the
Trans-Siberian Railway and Burma.
I got to go to Columbia and Mexico and Bulgaria and
Transylvania, even Queens for working on guidebooks and
things like that.
I've written a lot of articles on travel both for Lonely
Planet's website, but also "New York Times" and "Wall
Street Journal" and "Wanderlust" magazine in the
UK and various newspapers around the States.
A few years ago, I switched positions at Lonely Planet,
and I became this thing--
US Travel Editor, which thankfully involves no editing
So it's kind of a strange title.
What I do is I write things for the website.
And I make videos.
They said go do something viral.
So I just started making videos.
They did not become viral.
But I started making travel videos to throw on YouTube and
use throughout social media and things like that.
And I get to speak about travel, which is
just kind of miserable.
No, it's fun.
It's really good.
But despite all this, a lot of people come up and they ask
how can you be a travel writer.
That's the dream job, vacationing for work
and stuff like that.
And it isn't exactly like that.
And the funny thing about it is, as much as you do it,
there's moments where you have this kind of wide-eyed glory
still about travel, wherever you go, and you
see something new.
And I still feel that, despite having lived in London and
Vietnam and Australia and traveling to all these places,
I still have that sense on occasion, at least,
of just like wow!
This is travel for the first time, just like the Madonna
song says, I guess.
And this year, just last month, I went on a vacation--
oh, I was going to say with that, I still make mistakes
all the time too.
Along with my wide-eyed wonder of travel, there's all these
mistakes that are being made.
So despite being a travel expert, there are still things
that you're learning as you go and do this.
And I realized that again last month because I did a trip to
France, in the southwest of France, Languedoc-Roussillon
which would be more popular if it had fewer French syllables
in it and was something as simple as Burgundy or
something like that.
But this is a great region of France between Provence and
the Spanish border.
It actually produces the most wine in France.
It's very mountainous.
There's knights of Templar castles.
There is a nice coastline.
And I went there because Robert Louis Stevenson in
1878, went and traveled through there with a donkey
and wrote about it.
And it's one of the definitive travel books, because he coins
the phrase "travel for travel's sake."
And it isn't so much about where you're going
but how you get there.
And so I thought I'd retrace some of Robert Louis
Stevenson's steps, without his mustache and velvet jacket,
and without the donkey, importantly.
So I went village to village in Languedoc-Roussillon a
little bit, and I was following Robert Louis
Stevenson's footsteps.
And the last day, my feet were tired.
There was a huge mountain ahead.
And so I took a break and went by car that day, around all
these little great 600-year-old
villages and things.
And someone said, right as the sun was about to go down,
you've got to go up on top of this mountain.
You take this drive up here.
There's a huge plateau, and there's these big stone slabs
up there called [? miniars ?].
And they've been there for 2,500 years.
They're made of granite.
No one knows why or who put them there.
But they were moved for miles, because it's the kind of rock
that is isn't up there.
You should go see it.
You'll love it.
I don't know why they thought that of me.
So I drove up there, going quickly because the sun was
starting to dip.
And suddenly, I found myself in Texas.
It was like this rolling field of cow pastures, and just
beautiful sunlight and mountains kind of cascading
towards the Mediterranean in the distance.
Views unlike I've ever seen before, and I
was completely alone.
And finally, I was driving--
I saw these little mounds in this field.
And I turned on the dirt road, and rocks are bumping against
the bottom of my rental car.
And I'm going as fast as I can.
And I get up to-- oh, I was supposed to show this.
This is what
Languedoc-Roussillon looks like.
That's much more interesting than the field of blue.
I'm new to PowerPoint.
This is like my second time.
But so I get up to this place where these are, and I see a
barbed wire fence.
And it's like, oh.
And here they are, these little guys out here, like
what is that?
What are you supposed to do?
I don't like to encourage people to break rules and
break laws when they travel, but I'm sitting
here at this moment.
I drove all this.
I've been in France.
I leave the next day.
I kind of want to see what those things are.
Do I go out there?
And so, well, you know, yeah, you do.
And so I went out there.
And as soon as I got out and saw these slabs, I looked up
and you see these kind of things just in the middle of
this field.
And this doesn't quite capture how beautiful the light was.
And then I look and I see a whole bunch more over here
that I hadn't noticed.
But these were cows.
And the cows were coming.
And they were coming fast.
And I realized that I had never, ever thought to prepare
myself for basically very simple cow
attack preparation skills.
I had no idea what to do.
Do cows bite?
Will they ram into your pelvis?
That one has horns.
Do cows have horns in France?
Because they don't here, do they?
I'm not around cows.
I have no idea.
I mean, do you play dead with a cow?
One of them's bucking and running, and like the back
legs are going up.
I was honestly looking at that and going oh my god, I really
kind of don't know what to do.
And I was frozen.
And I took picture, picture, picture, picture, picture, as
they got closer and closer.
What do you do?
I ran.
So I thought before I go too much further, I would share
some little travel rules that no one tells you that
sometimes you find through mistakes on the road.
And maybe it'll be of use.
This is the kind of things that I learned really from
writing Lonely Planet guidebooks
and things like that.
Some of them are more silly than others.
But the first thing that I always
say is just ask questions.
As a writer, you go and you're just paid to be curious.
And you're constantly asking questions.
You're asking for permission to gain entry to this castle
that's been closed for 11 years.
Or to go up that tower and see the view up there.
And if you just ask questions, you can get a lot done, just
asking questions.
This right here is one of three Abraham Lincoln hats.
And I went to Springfield recently, because I'm a bit of
a Lincoln nut, and the movie's out.
And I saw it last week on the opening night at 12:01, and
didn't go to sleep, for an appointment the next morning.
It was crazy.
This is one of three of his hats.
And it's in the Lincoln vault.
It's not open to the public.
But I asked.
Said, yeah, I came all the way from New York.
I heard that in the vault, there's one of the hats and
the Gettysburg Address.
Can I see that?
And then I got a Lincolnologist with
plastic gloves on.
And he showed me this.
And so a lot of times, things like that happen.
One of the things I've learned is whenever you go to a small
museum, ask if the curator is there, because they're usually
really quiet and flattered for the attention.
And I was at some stupid dinosaur
museum in North Dakota.
Just a bunch of fossils and stuff, and I didn't know what
to make of it.
I'm not into fossils.
I'm not into dinosaurs.
But the curator had spent his entire life collecting these
fossils on the plains of North Dakota.
And he walked me around, and he had stories for how he'd
collected these fossils.
And it made me appreciate fossils more and gave me just
a new appreciation of how to access it.
So if you just ask, people will let you do things.
I really mean it.
Similar to that is making your own attractions.
I always feel that museums are great.
But they're a little bit overrated, as a day filler
Sometimes there are things that we do on the road, but we
don't do at home.
And so sometimes we go to places, oh, I need to
see this Greek art.
I need to see this Monet, et cetera.
And you sometimes miss kind of how the town lives, the local
scene, et cetera.
And I'm not saying museums are bad, if
you're a museum person.
Or if you own a museum, I apologize.
I like museums.
But I think that sometimes we go to them too much.
But sometimes you can make your own
attractions on the road.
And one example is I actually researched
Kansas for Lonely Planet.
And you see all these grain elevators that are spaced out
apart, and they become like the skyscraper of the plains.
And they mark each town and stuff.
And I was just going you know, I see these things.
They're not particularly attractive.
What's in them?
You just go up and ask, and like the dinosaur guy, people
are very often very interested to show off
parts of their life.
And I got this tour with Glenn in this tiny little elevator
fit for one person--
someone smaller than Glenn probably.
And I'm crammed with Glenn and he's in a jumpsuit.
And I go and get a whole tour of the grain elevator.
And it made me appreciate--
every time you see those grain elevators, I know what it
looks like on the inside.
This is the Montreal Bagel Festival.
And last year I went to Montreal, and it's a city that
has festivals every 45 minutes.
There's another festival.
No place parties harder than Montreal.
And I decided Montreal Bagel--
I don't know if you know, and I hate to say this.
I'm going to go ahead and say it-- is better than the New
York bagel.
It is better.
The hole is bigger, and it's a little sweeter because it's
made with honey water.
But they use wood burning ovens like the old style.
It's much more traditionally made.
You don't have to have cream cheese.
I don't know how you could put lox on something like that.
But it's really good.
If you go to Montreal, you have to go for the bagel.
But I decided just to make a box, and go around and make a
bagel festival and give bagels away.
And I ended up having some of the most hilarious
conversations by doing that.
And people we're just assuming I was local, because it was so
much how people do things in Montreal.
So I think that sometimes--
well, you don't have to create your own museum or whatever
this is-- but sometimes there's ways of just using
your eyes and creating things as you go.
One of the other things is you should always say
yes whenever possible.
Lot of people have strict itineraries of what they're
going to do in a day.
And then they get offered--
these twins with eye patches and their mom are going to a
soccer game and then afterwards are going to their
great aunt's to have a big lamb feast.
But you were planning on going to X monument or Y museum or Z
organized walking tour.
Go with them.
You're not going to have that chance again.
Say yes, whenever you can.
I mean, if it's something scary, don't say yes.
And don't say yes to this, like I did.
I was interested in Mounties.
I can see some of you are probably
Mountie fans yourself.
And I just asked if I could tour the
Mountie boot camp place.
Like in Saskatchewan, all Mounties are
trained to become Mounties.
And they offered me a two-day boot camp pass, so I could
train with the Mounties for two days.
And I got a very regrettable haircut.
I got a regulation Mountie mustache.
And I went through two days, and I'm being hog-tied here.
This was a lesson on how to arrest
people if they are resisting.
And I really don't recommend doing this.
But I'm glad I said yes to this, but I've never saying
yes to that again.
Try to always say yes.
Akin to all this stuff, locals were great.
People like to get local.
It's kind of the buzz in travel these days.
You stay in neighborhoods and go to the places--
the farmers' markets that they what would shop as well.
And you figure out ways to save money and see a town and
almost pretend like you're kind of a local by proxy.
I think the most underrated way to see locals is sports.
I think people forget about how easy it is to go into a
minor league hockey game in Quebec and sit.
And everyone is voicing, and there it's a social gathering.
And even if you don't know anything about hockey, people
will teach you.
I've had very interesting experiences bonding with
people through sports.
And last year, I was in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada,
and I got the opportunity to--
I asked if I could go to a 12-year-old hockey league's
practice and play with them.
I've never played hockey before at all.
I don't know how to skate.
And they let me do it.
It was actually one of my most thrilling travel experiences
I've ever had.
So that goes back into asking for permission and stuff.
But sports--
I think it's an underrated way to see things.
But now, similar to locals are great--
whoops, I pressed the wrong button.
Locals are great, but also locals are overrated.
Same guy.
No offense to him.
He's really nice.
If he's here-- no, he's not here.
But what I mean by that is sometimes an outside
perspective of a place is what you're looking
for more than locals.
Sometimes locals will suggest you go and eat at Applebee's.
Sometimes locals haven't left, and they don't have a
perspective of how you see the place.
So you can't only try to talk to locals and find out
recommendations, because sometimes they have a very
routine way of doing things.

What I always like to say is footfall and eyeball.
The number one goal in travel is just to trust walking
around and looking yourself, because
ultimately it's your trip.
So I'm just kind of joking about this, but you can't
completely be a slave to everything the
locals say, I guess.
Socks and sandals are OK-- whoever said socks and sandals
aren't OK, they're wrong.
They haven't gone to a place that have rats on the ground.
I don't want rats on my feet.
So I think it's OK.
If you take nothing else from the discussion, I think it's
you don't have to wear socks with sandals.
I think it's OK.
I think it's over-criticized.
Seven-- travel's the fountain of youth.
And what I mean by this is that you'll live
longer if you travel.
The reason why I say this is sometimes when you travel, and
you have a good experience, it feels really long.
Like it isn't a bad trip, but you go for a week, and it
feels like-- you go to study Spanish in Guatemala, and
you're living with a family, and there's volcanoes, and
people speaking a Mayan language and things like this.
And it's very different and crazy, and one week feels like
three weeks of your life.
And there's scientific back-up to that.
There's a neuroscience guy named David Eagleman.
He was profiled in the "New Yorker" maybe
about a year ago.
And he monitors how people have near death experiences.
And they say that the life flashes before their eyes, and
things feel slowed down.
And there is scientific truth to that apparently, because
you're going through that process of real danger,
something new and shocking to you, and it slows down how we
perceive things.
It makes us revert a little bit more to like when we're
kids and when time seemed to go slower, particularly Monday
to Friday during the school week, and then the
weekends fly by.
So travel can do that, if you go to more
exotic places, he says.
We've got a neuroscientist saying that
you should be traveling.
And not only traveling in general, but
traveling to new places.
I find a lot of people always go to the Outer Banks and stay
at the same beach and things like that.
That's great.
But if you go to places that are--
at least once every three trips, go to a place that's
new and a little more exotic, you'll live longer.
That's how I like to think, so a little bit maybe.
The one thing the travelers do a lot, and it really changes a
trip, is researching.
And I think that any trip you do, you should make it a rule
to read a book and see a movie about it.
Just as simple as that.
A history book, a travelogue, a novel that's
based on that place.

It's exciting, the pre-research, it can get you
thinking about the place.
And you go and you'll recognize a statue or a name
of a person.
Hey, there's the street that that guy got killed or
whatever it may be.
Research beforehand is a thing that travel writers do.
And it just gives you your own story line once you're there.
This is a picture of a Monopoly board.
I had to go and do something in Atlantic City.
And Monopoly, all those place names on the Monopoly board
are based on Atlantic City.
And it was created by someone from Philadelphia, but they
based it on Atlantic City.
And so I just went simply to all of the places on the
Monopoly board around Atlantic City, some of them were not
recommended to go to, perfectly honest.
But some of them were interesting.
This is outside a lighthouse on Vermont Avenue--
not one of the higher-paying properties.
But that's all right.
But these guys were from Indiana and they had no idea
that they were on the corner of Vermont and Connecticut,
just like the Monopoly board.
I don't know.
Atlantic City should do more promoting that, I think.
Another one that I liked a lot, here in New York.
It's one of my favorite things that I've been able to do is I
was studying about Presidents Day.
And I was going to write something about Presidents Day
for the Lonely Planet website.
And I was researching presidents and I realized only
two presidents ever became president in New York City.
George Washington and everyone's
favorite, Chester A. Arthur.
He's the guy with the big chops.
And he became president because James Garfield was
shot and killed for no apparent reason.
And anyway, he was living at Kalustyan.
It's an Indian spice shop, 23rd and Lexington.
I don't know if you've ever seen this.
It's called Kalustyan.
It's a kind of spice shop, all kind of different Asia and
kind of Eastern European spices and the Middle Eastern
spices and things like that.
That was his house!
And you can go to his house and to his former bedroom
where he became President and order a sandwich.
And I just love that you could get a Chester Arthur sandwich.
I mean, I would like the sandwich anyway, but because I
found out that it was Chester Arthur's room, I was happy.
People talk about bucket lists.
I think a rule is that everyone should put traveling
alone on their bucket list and do it at least once.
I travel alone so much.
But traveling alone is interesting because one, you
can do whatever you want.
You don't have to pacify Uncle Todd and Uncle Todd's needs.
You can just go and do whatever you want.
You will be more patient, at least I am.
A lot of people are.
Much more patient.
You complain less.
You meet people more when you're by yourself.
If you're in a noodle shop in Beijing, and the people next
to you see you by yourself then they might be more
inclined to talk to you than if you're with some other
people talking about football scores.
But it's also very empowering to be
able to do it by yourself.
And I think--
not that anyone would ever want to leave Google but I
think it's something you should put in job description
and put into--
not job description-- but on resume or talking interviews
and things like that.
Just that notion of that kind of travel shows a lot of
strength in self, and confidence in self to
be able to do it.
Everyone travel by yourself.
You might see that guy.
I don't know.
Here's one.
Very important.
Almost finished--
13 of these.
10, wash your hands before you sleep.
The reason is because if you have some Snickers on your
fingers, rats can come and lick it off your
fingers when you sleep.
I know, I know.
Wash your hands before you sleep?
You know that ice hotel thing that people talk about?
Don't do it.
12, travel is not a contest.
I mean a lot of people will debate "real travel," that
cruises don't matter, that Las Vegas or Orlando is silly.
No, it's whatever you want to do.
There's no right and wrong in travel.
It's supposed to be fun.
I made this shirt because I was going to some travel
thing, and we're getting worked up
about a lot of stuff.
You have to remember that it is supposed to have fun and
each person has their own definition of it.
There was an essay in "The New York Times" not too long ago
by someone from Amherst that wrote about "real travel." And
he lamented that it used to be that people would go on
pilgrimages, and they would travel for great quests and
things like that-- sometimes to kill people or find trade
routes and stuff like that.
He didn't put in his essay.
I was invited to talk with him on the radio on
some show on NPR.
And people called in to share their travel stories.
And all these people had these amazing stories about
traveling overland all the way to South America, going on a
boat from Panama to Columbia and skipping the Darien Gap
and taking buses and traveling for months and months.
I would love to do that.
That's great.
But the guy that I liked the most that called in was a guy
that was in Nashville.
He didn't have much money.
He didn't have many means to travel far.
And so he went fishing.
And he said I had never fished before.
I didn't know how to take a fish off a hook or anything.
And he talked about that.
And I really liked that, because he was challenging
himself by something that was easy and accessible but
different nearby.
So I thought if anyone got a ribbon that day, it was him.
So in other words, travel's not a contest.
There's no right or wrong as long as
you're not hurting someone.
The 13th and most important rule--
run from cows.
That's the cow.
I took a lot of shots.
And this is not a zoom.
And I turned and ran and I did make it outside the barbed
wire fence.
It's about 100 yards.
I mean they were like kind of going around me like this.
And I think they were running with me.
I don't know.
They looked nice.
But those are some of my travels.
But I thought that I would talk, because we have these
little Best In Travel books that I worked on.
For 2013--
every year, Lonely Planet covers every
country in the world.
And so we come up with these lists of things.
And based on this book, there are some places that I am very
interested in.
And I just thought I would just mention five places I'm
very interested in 2013 and thought that you might be
interested in it as well.
Next year, if you're thinking of going--
or in the future, you ever want to go to Rio, go quick.
Go to Rio now.
That's the number one best value destination for us.
Not that it's cheap.
There are cheaper places in the world.
But they have the World Cup in 2014.
And they have the Olympics in 2016.
Demand, development is going up.
Now it's going to be better.
If you don't go during Carnival, the prices will be a
little lower.
But it's only going to get more and more expensive.
At the same time, I don't know if you've seen the movie "City
of God" about the favelas and the shantytowns in Rio.
But things have changed in the last five years.
They're policing some of these more.
And a lot of tourists, for better or worse, are going
into a lot of these shantytowns and things.
And there's some very interesting places to stay in
shantytowns now that have jazz concerts and they have--
because they're up on the mountainsides, they have like
some of the best view of Rio.
And it used to be about $40 and stuff.
So I think that if you're thinking about Rio in general,
maybe next year is the year or this winter.
Our number one country for the year is a place I haven't
been, and is a place that you probably wouldn't have gone
till pretty recently.
And that is Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a country that was hit by the tsunami.
And it just got past its Civil War a few years ago.
But tourism is picking up.
And we are convinced that within four or five years,
you're going to see it on the front of every
glossy travel magazine.
Go before that happens.
The price will be a little lower, and before there's too
many crowds.
It's rimmed by just stunning beaches, great wildlife.
There's a national park where you go and there is an
elephant gathering.
And 150 elephants come in to bathe.
And you just see so many elephants just naturally
coming there to bathe and things like that.
There's cooking courses.
There are curries that they have there, and you can take
these curry cooking courses.
But some of the beaches on the east side and the south side
of the coast.
It's a pretty squat little island country south of India.
That is a place that's going to rise, if you happen to be
in the area.
Everyone's looking for a new Asia.
For Europe, our top country is Montenegro.
I've not been to Montenegro.
If you've seen "Casino Royale," that James Bond
movie, that was supposed to be in Montenegro.
It was actually shot in the Czech Republic.
But it's a place that's about the size of Connecticut.
It's on the Adriatic Sea, and it has some coastline.
It's very nice.
But it's better known for its mountains.
The name itself, Montenegro is a black mountain, I guess.
It must be.
But it has about 150 peaks in this area of Connecticut and
Europe's deepest gorge.
And they have these rafting trips that go through there,
just towering between the mountains.
And the water's so clean, you can drink it.
Montenegro and also two countries up, other side of
Croatia, just east of Italy, Slovenia is
another one that's rising.
It's relatively inexpensive.
You have Gothic Venetian style towns for about half the
price, about three hours from Venice on the train.
So those two countries-- everyone's looking for new
Europe and where crowds aren't.
There are crowds, but fewer than you
have in Western Europe.

Oh, I need to talk about Gangham style.
I mean I'm not the last person to see this thing.
I was, actually during the election, I was getting a
little bored of the results and stuff.
And I went and said OK, I'm going to watch the video.
And so I watched the Gangham style video.
I saw Psy on the "Today Show" or something, which I thought
was the greatest performance I'd ever seen.
But South Korea is one of our top countries a year.
if I'm saying it correctly-- is a neighborhood south of the
Han River in Seoul.
It is both really modern and very traditional.
And it has a lot of nightclubs.
It's a little bit upscale.
Our favorite hotel in Korea's there.
It's a new Park Hyatt that's very Zen minimalist.
It just has a concrete wall with a rock
sticking out of it.
But you have the eighth century temples next to malls.
And you can go to the temple and learn how to have
meditation or they have tea ceremonies and things.
And then you can go to the mall right afterwards.
But Korea is on the list, not for that, but for-- it's a
really rising outside destination, activity
You can take bike trips along the DMZ once a month--
I would love to do that--
in between land mines and barbed wire, just like mom
always wanted to do.
Big golfing destination, over 100 golf courses.
But there's a tropical island to the South called Jeju,
which is where a lot of honeymooners go.
I think I'm pronouncing it correctly--
J-E-J-U. It is rimmed by white sand beaches and backed by
kind of black lava cliffs.
And there's a very naughty theme park there called
Loveland, because all the honeymooners go.
And there's very suggestive statues to inspire honeymoons
Kids are not allowed.
But anyway, that's kind of a unique place.
And then the last thing I'm going to mention is our top
country in the Americas.
I just got back.
During Sandy, I was there.
And I was stuck there for several days, because I
couldn't fly back, and that's Ecuador.
People are looking at South America.
We talked about Rio before.
Ecuador is a place that's always kind of hovering, And
it kind of comes and goes.
This is where the Galapagos Islands, that wildlife just
kind of haven, offshore as part of Ecuador.
But people are staying in Ecuador.
It's like doubled its tourism in the last 10 years.
Quito, the capital, I went to, is in the heart of the Avenue
of Volcanoes.
There's like 27 volcanoes around, so you're likely going
to be killed while you're there.
Because the volcanoes-- no, I'm just joking.
But the main reason I think that Ecuador is going to be
big is because of chocolate.
It's number one in chocolate.
And they're starting these chocolate tours.
And you go to these chocolate farms.
And the chocolate is really good.
I honestly had no idea how much chocolate was there,
until I went.
and it's very inexpensive.
So I think that Ecuador is going to-- as people are
looking for something beyond Machu Piccu, for example, in
Peru or going further than Mexico perhaps, Ecuador is
certainly rising.

Those were five things.
That's really endless.
Oh, that's the book.
And here's the cow.
See I got out.
This is the barbed wire fence, so I did make it out.
And that's the cow there.
So I ran, and I was laughing while I was running actually,
because I thought that if I get killed or smeared or kneed
or head-butted, I guess that's really the way to do it, just
be in a French field and just killed by French cows would
be-- it's kind of my dream, you know?
No, I made it.
I think that the rule is to run.
I'm not sure.
But that's what I have.
If you have questions-- if you have trips that you're doing
or any questions about travel at all, I'll take it all.
If I don't know the answer, I'll email you later.
AUDIENCE: What's the most bizarre, unique place you've
ever been to?

ROBERT REID: I'm going to give two quick answers.
One is Yakutsk, Russia.
I did the Trans-Siberian.
This was very far up.
It's like about way above the train lines.
And it's a city on permafrost.
So all the buildings were on stilts.
And it's the coldest city-- over 200,000 people-- in the
world, but I was there in the summer and got heatstroke.
Because it's so hot in summer, people don't realize how hot
Russia can be.
And then Burma, I covered the Burma guide, me and Mark, for
Lonely Planet.
And I don't know where to begin talking about how unique
and wonderful that place and the people are fantastic.
Just the snake pagoda that's like--
of course, there's snakes there and you go up and then
there's this burping little volcano, butane gas that just
happens to be there.
And they guard it with snakes and Buddhas with huge
If you're having problems with your eyesight, you're supposed
to go there.
It's just endless the things that happen in Burma that's
just like--
I saw a guy killing an owl. with a stick, because it made
his mom sick.
And after a while, you just believe that.
There's a lot of different beliefs that go pre-Buddhism.
And it's just a country of just total wonder.
I felt sorry for the owl, though.
But his mom was OK.
I checked the next day.
She wasn't sick.
AUDIENCE: You ever had qualms about finding some really
awesome local thing and not wanting to write on it?
ROBERT REID: Yeah, I understand.

I think it depends on what the destination is and
what's around it.
It's like you talk about the tsunami in
Sri Lanka and stuff.
On one level, when is it too soon to go?
And do you want to talk up a place?
The "New York Times" talked up Sri Lanka right after the
civil war there ended.
And it was too early, and there was
some negative backlash.
So that's one angle of it.
Another is just this kind of oasis, like the movie "The
Beach" or something that you don't want to talk about.
It's outside the guidebooks and all that.
I think that there are cases in the case of Lonely Planet
where Lonely Planet dominates the market.
Thailand, overwhelmingly.
So there's a Thai beach that no one's been to.
What do you do with that?
What do you do?
I think that if it's ready for people and people are going,
you're going to include it.
But you don't have to make it the number one highlight in
the country and make it very big.
Sometimes it's just the power of inclusion.
And close readers can get rewarded by going
to find this place.
And the clue comes just with a couple key words or
something like that.
But it's hard to say.
If it's a place that has no infrastructure, nothing,
whatsoever, then it could be a little bit different, because
you don't want to flood it too much.
Part of it is just how you mention it.
And also in that area, there are some deserted beaches, 20
to 30 more miles north of town if you
have your own transport.
Some people go and look for that.
You might say something like that.
Most people will miss that.
But those who don't, might have the
experience of their trip.
So I hope that answers your question.
It's something that you debate all the time.

Any other questions?
Oh, I forgot to repeat the question.
Sorry, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: You were going through the list of the tips,
the traveling tips, there was one that I think goes between
[INAUDIBLE] same years and locals.

ROBERT REID: What was it?
AUDIENCE: Resist the urge to be lazy.
I was in Kenya recently, and we wanted to go to the center
of town, and at the hotel they told us that you
should take a taxi.
Go on ahead, take a taxi, and we decided to take a local bus
and instead of like five minutes for $0.50 we spent
half an hour because we spent it chatting with locals.
The music was blasting, and [INAUDIBLE] the city around.
And that's one of the things that usually when I talk to
people over their travels, they tend to do that.
Just like take a local taxi or something that they feel is
protected and they don't need anybody and they just go and
ROBERT REID: I think the idea of using local transport or
something like that can be great fun.
I find it fascinating, just to see how people commute, just
looking what ads are in the bus.
How sticky are the bus floors?
What's the ticket look like?
What's the fine I'm paying for not getting the ticket right?
I mean I think it's a very good-- and this goes back to--
I was kind of joking when I said locals are overrated.
But sometimes locals will tell you not to do that.
They'll think that because you don't know the language
completely, you're a visitor, that you shouldn't do that.
You might get lost or something.
Well, that's OK to get lost.
And so that's why sometimes you have to trust
your own kind of--
I love the notion of just giving up a little bit of time
to see what happens.
If you're driving four hours, don't do it in four hours.
Give yourself 12.
See what happens.
And I think it goes in the lines of what
you're talking about.
Not everyone wants to do that.
And that's OK.
But I think that more people would appreciate it than they
realize, perhaps.
AUDIENCE: What have been some of your best sources of trip
inspiration other than Lonely Planet?
ROBERT REID: Well, there's a lot of answers.
I mean, I look at different things.
I look at books and history.
I'm very interested in going and retracing things that have
happened in the past.
It depends on the place.
It could be a campy 1970s movie or a rock song.
One time I used Billy Joel's lyrics, and I looked at all of
his lyrics.
And the lyrics that he talked about Long Island--
because he's from kind of Long Island.
And then I just used that as a guidebook and went.
It's kind of like that Monopoly example.
I wouldn't recommend anyone doing that.
It's not particularly exciting.
But I had a lot of fun because I researched it and then I saw
it for real.
I went to Billy Joel's high school!
I met his former neighbor who got beat up the night before,
apparently, because he had a black eye.
And I saw the village green he sings about, and the Italian
restaurant that--
"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." I saw this stuff.
And then, I'm not a huge Billy Joel fan necessarily, but
won't listen to the music the same way again.
So it's eyeball, footfall.
I'm always kind of looking and thinking about oh, that.
How do I connect that into travel?
And I just find it--
I give myself a quest on any trip.
Yeah, I mean I do this for a living, so I write about it
and make videos.
But I'd do that anyway.
And I think that that's being active.
Pre-research is the best part.
Pre-trip planning is the most exciting part.
And I think that's where it comes, movies, rock songs,
Billy Joel lyrics, Mountie hats.

Any other questions?

Yes, in the back.
Oh sorry.
AUDIENCE: When you go someplace new that's totally
off the map, how do you decide what to do
that's not already done?
ROBERT REID: Well, sometimes it's OK to do something that's
been done a million times.
I mean, you go to Vietnam and everyone goes to the Cu Chi
Tunnels and stuff.
And they're not particularly rewarding, but I did it.
I've done it a couple times actually.
It really varies.
Am I writing about it?
Am I looking for something new and different?
Or am I just kind of a couple days in Istanbul
and see what happens?
I mean, I go to the Blue Mosque,
and I go to the bazaar.
And I pretty much play it as normal.
But I always try to give myself time to just kind of do
something that I catch on a whim.
I don't know how to say it other than that.
I was in Quito, and I went on this little weird kind of tour
around the old center.
And we're going around for four hours and looking at
colonial architecture and seeing markets and stuff.
And I went down this one little street and I saw these
little babies.
These little baby jars with these kind of neon liquids.
I was going wait a second, what's that?
And they say, oh, that's nothing.
It's a [? Bebas. ?]
It's not important.
And I was going no, well, what is this?
And so I found out that these were kind of
like a retro thing.
It was like in the '70s, all the kids used
to drink these things.
And they had them as a joke.
So I bought one, and had it.
And I end up having about 10 conversations with people.
They all went "Ah [? Bebas ?], I haven't seen
those for 30 years.
How'd you get this?
And these old couples come up and talk.
That's just because I just noticed
something a little different.
And I just went off it.
And then I left the [? Beba ?] in the hotel and
they threw it away.
They thought it was just an empty bottle.
I lost my [? Beba. ?]
I don't know.
That's the best I could do, probably.
I think you had a question in the back?
AUDIENCE: Oh yeah, what kind of camera do you
[? guys use ?]
ROBERT REID: I over-document.
Sometimes I'll use the iPhone and tweet things.
I do a lot of video, and I have this kind of Sony, about
this shape.
I forget the number.
I think it starts with an x and something else.
It's about an $800 video camera that
has an external mic.
I can use these mics that we have here.
Because the audio is often more important than the video
quality if you're going to create videos, you have to
have good audio.
And for a camera, I just have a little kind of Panasonic
thing, with a Leica lens.
I remember it was like a $400 camera or
something about this big.
It doesn't have a zoom, so that was--
I mean that cow, when he was running, he was right there.
I don't know what I was doing.
What do you do?
He's just running.
You're going this is going to be a good shot, good
shot, and you know.
I don't know.
Not too fancy.
I don't like to go too far.
I like the idea of using things that
almost anyone could.
I think it's important.
I think there's another question somewhere.
Oh yes.
AUDIENCE: How do you know where to stay?
How do you research just any kind of accommodation?
I always like to have a place to stay the first night.
If I'm doing a trip and I'm roaming around a little bit, I
might not know where I'm going to be the
third and fourth night.
But I always like to know the first night.
And it depends.
It depends on where it is.
To be honest, I get free Lonely Planet books.
So I look at what Lonely Planet says and author's pick,
the right price, OK.
But I'll look online as well.
I look at--
to be honest, I look at "New York Times" articles.
I look at websites with hotel reviews.
And I'll look at multiple sources, just as I do when I'm
booking an airplane ticket, I'll compare.
To be honest, I use Lonely Planet to be honest, mostly.

Any other questions?
Oh yes, hi.
AUDIENCE: Do you find it hugely beneficial if you learn
some local phrases?
ROBERT REID: Yeah, that's a really good question about
using local language and learning a
few phrases and stuff.
A lot of the times when I go to places, even if I don't
have much time, I will try to get a 1- or 2-hour lesson when
I get there.
Because there might be a little school that teaches
Romanian language and then you go and take two hours.
Because when you first show up at a place, I'm often alone.
You're like oh my gosh, what am I doing?
It's crazy.
I'm supposed to be researching this.
And you immediately have an outlet.
There's someone, a local, who's being nice to you
because you're giving them money to teach
you a little bit.
And it kind of settles me in to the new place.
But at the same time, it gives me enough that I could say
where is, how much is, how much, what are the numbers,
and working on my own pronunciation.
Most trips I do learn a little bit before I go.
I don't know French, because I cheated in high school in
French class.
And so I took some French lessons before I went.
That was amazingly beneficial.
It's amazing how much even when you cheat,
some gets in there.
I don't recommend cheating, by the way.
Yeah, but I think it's always good to at
least know a few things.
It's respectful too.
And people will appreciate it, even if you're in a--
in Burma, I learned a few Burmese phrases.
They didn't expect it.
A lot of people speak English there.
And that goes a long way, I think.
It's not that hard.
AUDIENCE: What do you think about the thing called the
Lonely Planet effect where you go somewhere with a row of
cafes all [? lighted full ?], probably share the same
dishes, [INAUDIBLE] very [INAUDIBLE]
on Lonely Planet [INAUDIBLE] with a queue of tourists.
And then, you go to [INAUDIBLE].

ROBERT REID: Yeah, it's funny.
There was, years ago, in Vietnam in Hue, there was a
place that's still there--
I presume.
It was a few years ago--
that's a noodle place that was run by a deaf-mute family.
And Lonely Planet wrote about it.
And of course, you're going to go to the deaf-mute place.
Of course, everyone's going to go there.
So some of this is classic Vietnam.
So they created a place next door, some other people, and
named it the same thing and pretended to be deaf and mute.
I love Vietnam.
That's great.
I think that it's up to the traveler.
I'm sorry when I see that.
It's like that's the problem, when you talk about the
Khaosan Road in Bangkok is a perfect example about just
completely lines a tourist ghetto, essentially.
And almost everyone has Lonely Planet.
And it's just how do you cover that so that you don't have
one with a giant line?
And I think that part of it is tempering your enthusiasm for
places that Lonely Planet dominates.
It's a very subtle thing, but it's like sometimes it's
better to say there's 15 guest houses on this street.
You can get rooms with air conditioning and a silly
little refrigerator you won't need for about $12 for one
person, $15 for two.
And you can go there.
And here's a few examples if you need a number, but there's
a lot and the changeover's very quick.
They come and go frequently.
You'll find something there.
I think that sometimes I'd like to see a little more of
that in those cases, in those cases in particular.
If someone's going to pay $200 or pay more money, then you
can stand to put a more solid review for it, because people
are really wanting to make sure they have someplace
that's very comfortable, that they have all the amenities
and thread counts that they need, et cetera, which is
important too.
But then you would write more about it.
This is in terms of accommodation.
So I like the idea when you just point people
to the right way.
And they're going to find the same thing, but not all at the
same place.
But it's ultimately the traveler.
As people travel more, they get that.
They learn that a little bit.
Some of the first and second time travelers that go to a
place, they don't quite know yet--
that they don't have maybe the confidence, perhaps, to
completely put the guidebook down-- it got them to the
right area-- and go figure it out.
But I think people get there pretty quick.
I hope.
I don't know?
Any other questions?
No, just checking.
AUDIENCE: How much traveling do you do just for you as
opposed to writing an article or researching or making a
video or whatever?
Do you ever not take notes and write them up?
ROBERT REID: Well, there are some trips that you do--
that's the problem is knowing how to turn it off.
And when we do travel writing, you feel like everything you
do, there's experiences you can use somehow.
I have a unique position that a lot of times we're talking
on radio or TV or something about that, so I might have an
experience in Ecuador that I use that way.
I'm not writing about it.
It's just kind of in the back of your mind.
But I don't know the answer yet.
Because I work too much sometimes.
I try to write or make a video about everything.
So they get backed up, because it takes a long time.
It doesn't stop.
I mean, that's a great thing about this work is that travel
doesn't ever stop.
And I see the space tourism stuff.
I'm just going why are you--
Nah, I'm not ready for that.
I think there's enough here to work with.
But I don't have $190,000 or how much ever ever it costs.
But it's hard to stop it, to be honest, work
less, but I like that.
AUDIENCE: Why are travel books so very centered on finding
accommodations, finding restaurants, and having
categories with bars, cafes, and so on.
It's so boring to read.
You can't pick up a Lonely Planet and read
it from front to--
it's too boring.
I'd like to have more description of the
That takes place in this piece at the beginning.
ROBERT REID: A lot of people use them different ways.
It is a reference book on some level.
I mean, to me, I know how to use them in a way that I can
be inspired by it, even if I'm not reading every page.
I'll read the opening.
I mean you sit in a bookstore, and you compare guidebooks.
Read the opening paragraph to several different cities.
And if you're at the city, what's within three hours?
Go to the transportation-- you see three
hours here, three here.
Go and look at those places.
And you can imagine building your own itinerary.
And it has all the information that you can figure out.
Oh, I land here, then I can go see this and this and this.
You're not going to read it front to back, you're right.
It's just not designed to do that.
I would love to be able to see more space about neighborhoods
and a little bit more asides and features
and things like that.
There are some.
And as a writer, it isn't the most rewarding writing.
It's the power of inclusion.
It's what you include and where you place it.
And how much you talk about that guest house that has a
line and everyone's going to, versus that hidden beach and
thinking about the science of how you include stuff.
I know what you mean.
I know what you mean.
But it's just used as a reference.
And then you get the little areas where you can flash your
style in the little box text and things like that.
City guides have more of that than a multi-country guide.
Eastern Europe is going to be much more bare-bone and kind
of reference then the Rio city guide or the Paris
city guide would be.
They'll have more on the neighborhoods in that.
But, yeah, I'd love to not stop writing.
But they got word counts to adhere to.
AUDIENCE: Do you have any bad food experiences?
I've vomited on a lot of different countries.
I'll give you a vomit list later.
Yeah, the funny thing is a lot of people think that there's
street food and you see bugs for sale and little street
tacos and stuff.
And generally speaking, those can be very safe.
I mean, if they're making it fresh and its meats and stuff
aren't sitting out.
And they've been made, and the sauce is getting under the sun
and things like that, then you could have problems.
But generally little kind of mom and pop places and stuff
that are fresh, they have a high turnover of food, you see
a lot of people eating there, those are almost always safer.
I mean, the most sick I ever got was in Vietnam eating at a
very nice Thai restaurant, sitting down, air conditioned,
bamboo interiors, and all this.
I'm the only one there.
And I get ridiculously sick and vomit for days.
And so it isn't about so much the condition.
In Vietnam--
I lived in Vietnam, that's why I mention it a lot--
you go to places with cockroaches and you're fine.
A little kind of outside sidewalk selling pho noodles,
and it's totally fine.
But it's just because you're outside and sometimes there's
cockroaches in Vietnam.
That's fine.
As long as they don't get in the soup.
But yeah, I have gotten sick.
It happens.
Dehydration is the worst though.
Because you forget to drink water.
And you're moving around.
We move so much more when we're traveling.
You're constantly outside moving.
We're in New York, we walk some.
A lot of people don't walk.
And they go somewhere, and then they don't realize
they're out in the sun, and oh my god.
That's what happened to me in Yakutsk, Russia.
I got this unbelievable heat exhaustion, heat stroke thing.
I was completely out of it for two or three days.
Should we talk about crime?
I don't have to talk about that then.
Any other questions about travel?
AUDIENCE: What strategies have you seen effective for people
who want to do open-ended travel but are like us, and
have full-time desk jobs?
ROBERT REID: Quitting.
Yeah, quit your job.
I don't know.
I don't know how it works here.
I mean, you see there is a huge trend of people taking
career breaks.
That's very normal in Europe.
Here, this cursed land, people work and work and work and
have two weeks vacation.
And so we talk about ugly Americans, because they don't
get to travel as much.
And they stick around the United States and stuff.
We don't have as much vacation.
It is hard.
It's a challenge.
But there's a huge trend of it.
There's a lot of books and sites that are talking about
taking career breaks and things like this.
Does Google allow a career break?
Is this controversial?
Are you allowed to take months off?
I think everyone should do that.
It's human.
I don't know what to tell you.
It depends on where you work and what the program is.
And maybe do something you can work remotely, and you can set
up in Nicaragua and surf the waves and work from there for
very, very cheap.
Who knows?
I'm afraid I don't know.
Or you could be a travel writer.

Any other questions?
Anyone planning a trip?
Don't know where to go?
We can figure out your trip for you.
AUDIENCE: Well, I'm trying to decide for next year-- we have
a honeymoon.
[? Would it be ?] better to go to Scandinavia or
do maybe a UK tour.
AUDIENCE: Not like a tour group but just all around.
And when would the honeymoon be?

Do you speak other language-- well, everyone speaks English
in Scandinavia.
Well, I don't know what to say.
I mean, it depends on what you want.
I think England and Britain is one of the most underrated
destinations, because it's so different.
We live in New York.
All of our namesakes here in this country
are linked to there.
And you can talk to everyone.
And there's stories on every street.
I lived in London.
I love it.
I actually like it more than New York.
I don't say that often.
But I do.
And you could have a fantastic time.
Oh but, oh my gosh, you get the fjords
and stuff like that.
Great food in Scandinavia.
Oh my god.
I had a great time in Copenhagen.
Go way up, way all the way up.
Just go to Norway all the way up.
It'd be hard to beat that.
It's beautiful.
I don't know what to tell you.
I don't know.
How would you get around?
You would get around by train, a train pass,
or you would drive?
AUDIENCE: Probably mostly train.
ROBERT REID: I would be tempted to do Norway and back
down through Sweden.
Go all the way up past the Arctic Circle.
You can get the train pass and do that.
Go to the fjords and stuff like that.
That'd be great.
That'd be great.
I haven't done that.
So that's what I would do.
If you need a third, let me know.

Any other questions?
AUDIENCE: Do you travel with a [INAUDIBLE]
or do you [INAUDIBLE]?

ROBERT REID: You mean for my hair?
No, you mean like someone there, that's helping you
research and stuff like that.
No, I mean when you did guidebooks, I would go often
anonymously in places.
And I always love when they say well, Lonely
Planet never came here.
Yeah, actually we did.
We just didn't tell you.
So a lot of it was very, very independent.
I worked in Colombia on the Columbia
guide a few years ago.
And my Spanish kind of dipped sometimes.
And so I got some people to go around, just travel around
with me and I hired some kids and stuff, essentially to help
with language barrier, because I thought it was important.
And I've done that a little bit in other places, but most
the time completely on your own.
You have to figure it out as you go.
It's crazy.

Do you all like travel?
That's good.
Most people do, I think.
AUDIENCE: Any tips about being a travel writer?
ROBERT REID: To be a travel writer?
Well, it's kind of the best time, in some ways.
Kind of the best and worst.
There's never been more travel writers, because of
I mean, people create blogs.
And that's the way to start.
It used to be you had to get clips.
You had to have something.
I got into Lonely Planet, because I'd written for a
newspaper in Vietnam, an English language paper.
And so I said here's clips.
I can write.
Look at this.
And now you can publish yourself, so it's
easier to get in.
And then some people are blogging, and they create
their little niche--
plastic stool, street eats, or something like this.
Very niche kind of things that you have to eat on a plastic
stool and talk about that.
Whatever it is.
I'm just making stuff up.
But if you develop your niche and persona, without worrying
about money initially, through the blog, then things happen.
And it's funny, for better or worse, we're at a time, when
writers are increasingly doing things connecting with
marketing and PR.
And they're getting sponsorship deals with Expedia
and things like--
I don't know if I'm allowed to say Expedia here.
Are you allowed to say that?
I don't even know.
With Bing?
No, I'm just joking.
And so people are finding more unique ways of doing it than
just the old newspaper way.
You could argue there's a downside to that too.
But more people are writing.
And a lot of people want to be travel writers.
There isn't a lot of money.
Rock stars, music stars, movie stars, they all--
you know who they are.
Famous travel writers?
You probably don't know how to name.
I mean, there isn't a lot of fame, and there's isn't a lot
of money in it, but you get to travel.
But I think that I would start writing first.
Guidebooks used to be a very easy way to get in.
It's a lot harder now.
Lonely Planet isn't looking for authors right now because
they have so many already.
And so that changes, but they look for people
with a local expertise.
I mean if you know Delaware better than anyone in the
world, you could be the Queen of Delaware and govern all
Delaware travel content.
Because they want to find someone that really knows it.
It's not the best example, but I'd like
to know about Delaware.
Can you tell me about Delaware?
Do you know?
Oh, OK.

Any other questions about anything?
Well, thank you very much.
I hope that was fun.

Work hard this afternoon.