NileGuide 5 with Farryn Weiner, Editor of Jetsetter.com

NileGuide 5 — By Amy Widdowson on July 28, 2010 at 7:00 am

This week, we are super psyched to feature Farryn Weiner, Editor of Jetsetter.com, and known to most of you as @jetsetfarryn. Raised in Miami, Farryn got the travel bug after a Semester at Sea. This, combined with her rapier wit, dashing charm, and natural ability to connect with people led her to the Gone Green Adventurers team as an on-air host. She’s traveled the globe twice and back, ranging from China to Belize, Cambodia to Chile, Israel to Myanmar.

In her ‘down time’, Farryn has worked at MTV Production & Development and National Geographic TV, as well as an assistant to Zac Posen. Her work has been featured in Daily Candy, Gotham & Hamptons Magazine and Elite Traveler. She earned a Film and Television degree from NYU’s Tisch, and is developing her Masters Thesis at NYU on authenticity in travel.

Serving as Editor of Jetsetter.com, Farryn gets to work with premier hotels around the world, curating properties and adventures for members of the site. Starting Friday, Jetsetter will offer members exclusive access to some of the world’s hottest party destinations! [Ed. note: Where do I sign up?]

Blancaneaux Lodge Image: Austyn Weiner

1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?

Belize is one of those places that anyone would visit, but it’s not necessarily on their top 10 list. And it should be….

I went to Belize two years ago and was simply amazed. With one part in Central America, and the other floating in the Caribbean Sea, Belize offers a dreamy combination that really satisfied both my need for a vacation, and an adventure.

On land, the national parks, ancient Mayan ruins, and abundant wildlife make it hard to stay put. Forty percent of the country is protected in one way or another, so natural beauty abounds. And, tucked away in the tropical jungles are some of the world’s most spectacular properties. Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge is set in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, one of Belize’s oldest national parks. The 21 thatched-roof villas (and my personal favorite, hammocks) are built into a hillside above the swift-moving Privassion Creek and waterfall. It is all natural, totally tropical and perfectly indulgent after long days of exploration.

Blancaneaux Lodge Image: Austyn Weiner

On the other hand there’s 185 miles of reef; the coast of Belize has a string of tiny islands or Cayes that are full with snorkelers, divers and kayakers gliding from spot to spot. The boho-beach town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye is where I set up shop for a perfectly lazy getaway. Grab a cerveza at one of the ramshackle bars and introduce yourself; Belizeans are beyond friendly and eager to share their countries astounding history and biodiversity with travelers. Oh, and the strict “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” policy… well, that makes it even better.

2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?

I shoot photos. The view from the bus or plane can be illuminating; you never know what lies around the corner. When I drove from Delhi to Jaipur overnight, it completely changed my perspective. Instead of feeling trapped like a fish in fishbowl, I recognized what a unique vantage point a vehicle offers – that of a true observer. I witnessed the morning rituals – mothers waking up their children, collecting water from the creek, preparing dosas for breakfast. While you’re only seeing a small piece of any given culture, that which is roadside or from a distance, you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn about a place. My biggest problem is not jumping out of the car – it takes serious self-control.

3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?

I spent the summer filming a TV show in India and the crew and I were stationed in Leh, Ladakh – Jammu & Kashmir, India – about 12,000 feet above sea level. Set in a valley, surrounded by desert and snowcapped peaks, the weather can fluctuate 30 degrees in one day, which makes packing light and staying healthy slightly difficult. Upon arriving in Leh, we spent a day or so acclimatizing, as all visitors to the region are advised to do. In such high altitudes, you breathe almost 50% less oxygen, which makes even a 4 step walk quite an endeavor.

A “drive” out of town really means a roller coaster ride in a Scorpio, the Indian version of Land Rover (only half as stable and twice as noisy). Each town in the region is nestled in valley, so visiting them required traversing the Himalayas on a one lane, two-way path that twists up the craggy peaks. In other words, the term “off-roading” doesn’t exist here because there are no actual roads.

On our third day we were scheduled to visit Khardung-La Pass, which until recently was the highest motorable road in the world. This spectacular setting of glaciers, snow-capped mountains, and waving Prayer flags required us to climb up icy rocks to reach the highest point at around 18,700 feet, which lead to my first case of altitude sickness. Think of a hangover mixed with a severe cold, and you will have some idea of just how excruciating it is.

The best part was the solution: our driver sped down to a valley about 45 minutes away and pulled up to a small clearing where a group of yak-wool tents were set up, surrounded by herds of sheep. He carried me inside where a family of nomads were sitting around a fire, and passed me a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label Whisky. “Drink” he said. Next thing you know, the sickness had passed, I’m playing with a baby Himalayan sheep, and being offered a job as the family’s nomadic babysitter. Although altitude sickness really isn’t funny, I can’t help but laugh every time I think about it.

4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?

I unpack everything, even if I am only there for one night, and go for a walk. If it’s a boutique hotel, I’ll walk around the neighborhood to get a sense of the place – sort of trial run before I head out to explore. If I’m staying in a large resort, I tour the facilities, walk through the garden, grab a cocktail; It’s a great way to get your bearings and get advice on things to do and see in the area. Bartenders always have great tips.

5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?

First, always spend a day off the beaten path, whether it be a lesser-known island or peripheral town. Let go of the guidebook and forget your plan. Mingle with the locals and trust in their local markets. Bring an extra duffel for the way back. Seek out some monkeys. Try everything at-least once. And challenge yourself, because at the end of the day, that’s what travel is all about. Oh, that was more than one tip wasn’t it? :) [Ed. Note: TOTALLY worth it!]

Tags: Belize, China, farryn weiner, India, jetsetter, Miami, NileGuide 5, TV

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