Through my years as a college journalist from Wisconsin (covering the wars in the Middle East and never letting school interfere with my education) and then as a correspondent for Newsweek, I traveled to 151 countries.
Currently, I spend about 300 days a year traveling the world, either for my nationally syndicated radio show (broadcast from a different location around the world each week) or on assignment as the travel editor for CBS News.
I’ve seen astounding beauty and staggering poverty and tragedy.
I’ve seen the worst and, in my admittedly charmed life, I’ve also seen the best: from the favelas outside Rio to the guarded mansions of Cairo, from the backroads of Calcutta to the precious Cote d’Azur; from the top of the Jungfrau to deep caves in Australia; from the barren Chukchi Sea above Alaska to the intense heat of the Wadi Rum in Jordan. If the list seems endless . . . that’s because it is.
But this book is not about how to collect frequent-flier miles. It’s not even about destinations as a primary focus. Instead, the destinations in this book are the enablers to the best experiences. If you define “travel” as one of the great experiences of life that are meant to be shared, then I am happy to share my experiences with you. I don’t have a personal bucket list. I’d like to think—as self-serving as this sounds—that I am a living bucket list.
Not surprisingly, I am constantly being asked by just about everyone to name my choices for best, and the travel categories are almost endless. After resisting for many years (partly because I didn’t think I could give it the completeness it needed), I’ve now been able to compile The Best Places for Everything. It’s based on my personal travel history of comparison and constant points of reference, relevance, and long-term value. In this book, I answer the question of “best” with a caveat: It’s not done in an arbitrary way, but by personal experience, measured by relative terms, not absolute or impossible ones.
This book is not about where to go or how to get there. It’s about how to get the best experience when you get there. It’s about accessibility—to be able to do things when you’re there that no one else knows about or think they can’t experience. Things like:
• Circumventing the tourist-filled tango shows of Buenos Aires in favor of dancing with the locals in a tucked-away milonga
• Getting access to one of the most coveted private golf course in America AND finding the affordable public golf courses that are, well, on par with the iconic spots
• Finding the exact whitewater rapids, mountain biking trails, and ski slopes to suit your level of expertise
• Tasting—and then learning the secrets of how to make—your favorite dishes, from Mexico to Italy to China
• Discovering the best place to shop for specialty items, whether you’re in the market for perfume in Paris or custom-made suits in Hong Kong
Believe it or not, I hate top 10 lists and words that end in “st.” You know these words: most, greatest, loveliest, coolest, and yes, of course . . . best. Words that end with “st” are the tyranny perpetrated—often with the best of intentions—by the travel industry. These are red flags that concern me as a journalist and as a consumer. They are often confusing, if not intentionally misleading, and in a world already overrun with hyperbole and absolute terms, they should bother you as well.
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