We’ve started a new interview series – NileGuide 5 – in which we’ll ask different bloggers, journalists and other noteworthy travelers the same five travel questions. Our inaugural interview is with Mike Barish, freelance travel writer, Gadling blogger and self-described “knower of things.” Check out his personal website and follow him on twitter @mikebarish. Enjoy!
1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
I’d have to say Puerto Rico. So often, my friends and I get fixated on exotic, far-flung destinations. But I have been to Puerto Rico twice in the last 18 months and really enjoyed myself. The trick is to avoid touristy areas and resorts. If you can go with a local, even better. Eat as much pork, mofongo and alcapurrias as you can. Go to a cockfight (not saying that I condone it, but it was a sight to behold). Get out of San Juan and take the ferry (or puddle jumper) to the island of Culebra to do some camping. Puerto Rico (and the Caribbean as a whole) doesn’t have to be about all-inclusive resorts that are devoid of culture. It’s a fascinating part of the world and, if you explore things on your own, you’ll find that it’s as amazing as locales much farther from home.
2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
Thankfully, I sleep amazingly well on all vehicles. I’m actually an incredibly boring travel companion when it comes to the time spent on transportation, as I tend to pass out before take off and sleep for hours. If it moves, I’ll sleep on it. When I am awake on buses and trains, there’s something wonderful about gazing out the windows and watching the scenery change right before your eyes. For the minimal amount of time that I am awake on planes, I religiously read the SkyMall catalog looking for new products to review for SkyMall Monday.
3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?
I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of weirdness in my travels. In my opinion, weird beats normal, so I tend to seek out the strange. In Osaka, Japan, we “fished” for eel in the basement of an arcade. I put fish in quotes because we basically just attempted to poke docile eel with hooks and yank them out of a shallow pool. Needless to say, animal cruelty laws vary by country.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
Shower. I always feel like I have a disgusting film on me when I get off of planes/buses/rickshaws. After that, though, I find myself some local food. And not at a fancy restaurant. I go right for the street food. Pies in Australia, takoyaki in Japan, kati rolls in India. Something that I can get into my stomach fast and makes me feel like packing myself into a flying tube with a few hundred morons was worth it.
5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
Choose your own adventure. Not only is that the name of my favorite series of books as a kid, it’s my motto for travel. Don’t feel beholden to what your friends want to do. Don’t feel compelled to travel as part of a tour group. Don’t be afraid to leave your hotel (or better yet, don’t even book a hotel – apartments and hostels are much more fun). Meet locals. Talk to as many people as you can. Be open to new experiences, foods, people. Spend time alone. Experience as many slice of life experiences as you can to help you understand new places. Get out of your comfort zone. And smile. Nothing gets lost in that translation.
[Culebra, Puerto Rico photo by Bluecolt/Creative Commons]