This week’s NileGuide 5 interview features Andy Hayes. Andy’s twitter profile (@andrewghayes) says he’s “that travel guy,” but he’s also been called 1. a twitter addict (when is he not online?! He’s also the man behind @MatadorNetwork) 2. an overworked entrepreneur (author shall remain nameless) and 3. a travel writer/consultant extradonaire (by Jetsetcitizen)
In his words: I’m in love with all things travel. From my popular travel blog to my small business consulting work and all the other things in between, I do manage to get on the road somehow and enjoy seeing new destinations just as much as I enjoy returning back home to Edinburgh, Scotland.
1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
People are tired of me harping on about it, but you’ll just have to endure this one last time: Brussels!
I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much they dislike Brussels, or worse, skipped it all together for fairy tale Bruges or art in Antwerp. I love Brussels because of the great food (best steak and chips in the world), the crazy juxtaposed architecture (I did live in Holland for many years so perhaps my senses have been warped), great city parks, and of course, beer. The shopping is nice in that the high street stores have both the French and the Dutch brands, so there’s lots of choice. Oh, did I mention there’s good beer?
2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
I am an avid reader, because I enjoy it and because I think it’s essential as a writer to read voraciously. Whether it’s business books (Seth Godin, anyone?) or pure fiction, I never ever travel without plenty of reading materials. Hence I love exploring English-language bookstores that you sometimes find on your travels – they can be pricey but once and awhile you strike gold.
3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?
Well, it’s not really strange but more just unusual. It was something we noticed in Cambodia – and as any Westerner who has been to Asia knows, everything in Asia is a little odd at times. When you arrive at a temple or tourist attraction in Cambodia, the second the car door swings open you’ll generally be swamped with children hoping to tempt you with their latest discount wares and souvenirs.
What I found so unusual is the language skills these children have – tiny little enterprising entrepreneurs they are. We chatted with one girl who one day will be one sly saleswoman – she couldn’t have been more than 10 yet spoke four languages and all of them (well the ones we knew) fluently. Just by selling to tourists. She actually didn’t beg like the others nor did she rush upon us – she caught us at an off moment and used classic marketing tricks I’ve seen seasoned business folk use. Maybe she tried selling to a marketer once and traded tips? I dunno – it was pretty surreal.
A similar thing happened on TOP of a temple – one of those ones that takes half an hour to work your way up. My travelling partner got real attitude from a little boy who didn’t believe that she’d hiked to the top of this temple without her purse. The scene could have played out in a Manhattan apartment. Did I mention he was only about 8 years old? Sad but hilarious.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
If I haven’t had time, I make sure I’ve got a good mental picture of the layout as well as the metro, if there is one. I hate flopping around with maps and generally can get my way around quickly by having a good review first.
I also check opening times of the things I really want to see, then head for a café for cakes and coffee. This is only way to figure out what you want to do during your trip.
5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
A tiny amount of planning before you leave goes a long way. I’m all for serendipity, but for god’s sake, at least check out a subway map and museum opening days, would ya?