This week’s NileGuide 5 interview features Kim Mance, host of Galavanting.tv and editor of the online travel magazine GoGalavanting.com. She also writes a bunch of travel stuff around the internet and is host of TBEX ’10, a gathering of travel bloggers and new media writers (we’re attending, are you?). Follow along with Kim on Twitter at @KimMance.
1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
One of the most underrated places I’ve been would have to be Corniglia, Italy. It’s the hardest Cinque Terre village to reach, especially during the off-season. Waiting for a shuttle or hiking approximately 9 million steps to the town center. The owner of my little apartment didn’t speak English, but he sure ran an amazing, tiny, restaurant. I only saw one other American couple there the entire time, and they were quiet. Yet I did meet some great Northern Italians at the adjacent table; they taught me all about saving local architecture, which was a challenge due to erosion (they were architects on temporarily business). I got a fun inside tour. Meanwhile, easily-accessible Vernazza was swamped with tourists very happy to experience the bustling restaurants and all that version of the Cinque Terre has to offer.
2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
I’m never stuck on a bus or plane, instead I’m inadvertently placed in a cozy spot to sleep or read. That’s what epic biographies about Vivien Leigh or a 1/2 dose of sleeping aid are for. I’m very friendly, planes excepted. After all, that’s the only place I have to read or sleep.
3. What’s the strangest place you’ve visited on your travels?
Honestly, the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced while traveling was my awkwardness as an American trying to genuinely learn from people rather than teach them. And living abroad for a while was an amazing lesson in how much the world knows that I didn’t expect. In the US we’re taught that we’re #1, we’re the most powerful, and the most privileged. But sometimes it’s a privilege to be in a place where spanking children is illegal. And oppositely, it’s an unusual challenge to be in a place where women aren’t allowed to drive. The differences in the world around us can only arouse curiosity and strengthen us — not weaken our principles.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
The first thing I do is wander around the airport until I find a city map, train ticket kiosk, or information desk (sometimes one in the same). Taking public transportation is usually both the most efficient and poignant education a traveler can get about a place. Arriving at your hotel by cab pretty much sets you up to get lost later on during a trip. A subway, train, or tram ride not only provides insight into the local ‘vibe’, it helps get your bearings, for the simple reason that you’re looking at a map (not to mention getting up close and personal with fellow commuters). Plus, if you get lost, it’s a bonus opportunity to interact with locals.
5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
Don’t spend all of your money on souvenirs. First of all, people back home love you and are happy that you’ve traveled, they don’t need you to spend your trip looking for gifts. That said, when you see an amazing roll of fabric, or handmade paper — yes, those are souvenirs. But spending hours or days searching for the perfect gift is not traveling, and little objects and shot glasses made entirely in another country are not souvenirs. In fact those sorts of things tend to screw over the local economy in general, since most of the revenue goes elsewhere.
As an alternative, budget travelers might think back (or imagine) all those great albums at your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents homes. Notice anything about them? The lasting souvenirs contained there are photographs. So if you’re traveling on a budget, I’d recommend taking photos of yourself in the destination, or photos of the people you meet along the way (take notes!).
And a well-placed “Hi Mom, Can You Believe I’m Here?!” sign held up in front of the Great Pyramids might mean quite a lot more than a t-shirt, in the long run. That photo will never get sent to charity, or tossed out.
[Image: Kim Mance]