Kevin May is editor and co-founder of Tnooz.com, a news site for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry focusing on travel technology, social media, digital marketing and electronic distribution. A journalist of 17 years and armed with a criminology degree, Kevin has worked on a newspaper for the Metropolitan Police in London, was a crime reporter on newspaper in East London before moving to business magazines with Media Week. He spearheaded the development of Travolution before leaving in August 2009 to help create Tnooz.com. Kevin speaks regularly at conferences and other events and can often be found hanging around on Twitter at @kevinlukemay.
1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. A pearl in the middle of a politically turbulent and physically battered region of Indonesia, Lake Toba is the remains of one of the last supervolcanoes to erupt anywhere in the world. The main “island” in the middle has a wonderful, small town known as Tuk Tuk to service travellers who make the long journey from Medan or Jakarta to get there. Swimming, walking, cycling, glorious scenery, laid-back atmosphere and frequent soccer matches with the locals ensure it is extremely difficult to leave.
2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
Read. Most often than not a book about the place I am heading to (was always the Lonely Planet back in those days!), but for longer journeys a good political biography or history book. I am not a great fan of fiction, although I read the Bourne books in 2000.
3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?
Stuck on the Tonle Sap, Cambodia. There are many ways to get from Phenom Pehn to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) – fast boat, slow boat, bus, motorbike, etc. My travelling companions and I decided the slow boat might be a bit more relaxing, so opted for what was meant to be a 24-hour trip along the Mekong River and through the famous Tonle Sap lake. What we didn’t realise is that “boat” was actually a barge, where the only place to hang out/sleep/cook was a small area above the engines at the rear of the vessel. And the 24 hours turned into 72 as the captain used to enjoy sampling the local delicacies along the way. Couple this heavily extended stay with an ear-battering environment, lack of food and insects that had clearly developed a strong defence against repellent and it would’ve been a horror story if it wasn’t so surreal and rather amusing towards the end. Take the fast boat or the bus.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
Find somewhere to stay. I would imagine with online booking and reservations in many places around the world far more prevalent now than they were in 2000, this would be less of an issue. But not then. Almost every time at a new destination we would simply jump off the bus/boat/bike, open the guidebook and start wandering around attempting to find somewhere to stay. It was part of that new arrival protocol. Find a bed. Visit the nearest cash machine. Stock up on provisions. Get some food. Explore. The spontaneity of it all was always rather exciting, especially in a new country when also trying to fathom out a bit of the language, new currency and general orientation all at the same time. Of course, in many places you often have a, err, handy group of local accommodation owners (“my brother has a hostel”) waiting conveniently for you as you jump off the bus. Avoid those at all costs.
5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
Don’t go travelling to “find yourself”. Travelling is simply about understanding and learning more about the people you’re exploring the world with and the people you meet along the way. Those that go travelling with the sole purpose to “find themselves” are not only inevitably a bit dull but should loosen up and have fun – finding other people and cultures should be a lot more motivating than finding yourself, mainly because you have a whole lifetime to work on the last bit. Pretending that the prism of travelling reveals the *real you* is naive and fanciful. Unfortunately real life (back home, jobs, relationships) has a tendency to shape that part of the psyche, not 12 months travelling around Asia or elsewhere.
[Images: Kevin May]