This week’s NileGuide 5 interview features Andrew Hickey of The Brooklyn Nomad. Andrew has been described by people that know him as a complete “travel junkie.” The New York native is obsessed with finding good travel deals online and will often times coerce others to join him on his bargain ventures (even if it means paying for them). Whether it’s road-tripping it to Canada, downing pints of Guinness in Dublin, climbing mountains in Poland, or devouring fondue in Zurich, Andrew enjoys the fine details of his journeys – and is always ready for the next big adventure. Follow along with him on twitter at @BrooklynNomad.
1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
When I get asked this question, often times people think I am going to mention some lesser known country or maybe a faraway city, but to be honest I think that Brooklyn, New York is extremely underrated. Growing up just 10 minutes away from Brooklyn in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York, my only real “New York experiences” occurred in the city. But as I got older and moved to Brooklyn to be closer to work, I fell in love with “Kings Counry” and plan on being here for a long time.
Most of the time when I tell someone that I am from New York, they instantly think Manhattan. As if all people that live and work in New York are all just living around Times Square (for the record I loathe that part of New York). But it is totally understandable to overlook Brooklyn when you visit the New York City area. I mean Manhattan is Manhattan…it is amazing. But after telling people where I live, it seems to trigger a salesman like mentality, as I then try to convince the person to visit Brooklyn on their next trip to the Big Apple.
There is just so much to see, do, and eat in Brooklyn. It is a shame that since it is neighbors with easily the most popular U.S. city, it gets the cold shoulder from visitors. Come to Brooklyn…we have better pizza than Manhattan! Plus Prospect Park was designed by the same people who created Central Park, and the designers are actually on record saying that they preferred the Brooklyn version.
2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
Well I always have something to read in my travel bag. Whether it is the New York Times, USA Today, a magazine (travel of course), or a book, you will always find me with some sort of reading material. Also, after months of pondering whether or not to purchase one, I broke down and got myself an iPhone. So now I am checking emails constantly, tweeting, playing Scrabble, and reading news online when I have time to kill.
3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?
Recently on a trip to Krakow, Poland I came across what appeared to be a homeless man sitting on the side of the street with about two dozen pigeons circling him. He was feeding them bread, and I was waiting in line for lunch at one of the many Kebab stands around the city. All of a sudden he stands up, raises his arms above his head and the pigeons all start flying upward, he drops his arms and the pigeons all come back down.
Then as some people who saw this stopped to applaud the gentleman’s trick, he points his hands towards the small group of people and about 20 or so pigeons proceed to fly towards them. Some people ducked, others ran away, and a few just stood there and laughed as each bird buzzed by their heads. It was definitely not something you see everyday while waiting to get some food.
4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
It all depends on what kind of trip I just took to get to the location. If I had a small commute, then I simple drop the bags and head out to see the city. But if I am traveling overseas, a shower is a must and then I proceed to just wander about the city. Either way, I always make sure that my arrival day is filled with no real plans and just a day of wandering around aimlessly. People often times rush to all the “must see” attractions right away and kind of miss the point of seeing a new city like a local.
5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
Enjoy the moment and try not to pack too much into your itinerary. Like I said in the previous question, so many travelers I encounter often try to cram in as much as possible when they head off to see a new destination. I understand that you may not be back for awhile, or in some cases ever, but who wants to run around like a mad man on their vacation? Write down all the “must see” attractions on a piece of paper (or your iPhone notepad like me) and then eliminate the ones that are least important. Often times people visit places that don’t interest them or don’t fit their travel personality just because a guidebook or a travel website mentions it.
If you do not want to see the Empire State Building when you are in New York, then scratch it. The time and money you saved can be put towards doing something that will make your trip extra special. Some of my best memories of travel were spent at a hole in the wall pub, a restaurant I just happened to see when walking down a side street, or an attraction that was advertised somewhere in the city for that night. Over-planning can often times make your trip feel like it is work.
[Photos: Andrew Hickey]