Bob Payne is an award-winning travel writer who has visited 142 countries. His work has appeared widely, including in Conde Nast Traveler, where he believes he remains the only contributor ever to put the cost of a Polynesian tattoo on his expense report. His travel humor website, Bob Carries On, has been sharing accurate travel news and advice since before Columbus landed at Plymouth Rock.
Bob was kind enough to answer some of our questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Bob: Let's just say that when I first started, the Easter Islanders may have still been carving statues. What got me hooked was the discovery that when other people might get angry, travelers just have to get packed.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Bob: Any that will allow me to come back with a story to tell that is entertaining, if not necessarily accurate.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Bob: I've never taken a vacation. But my best journey was aboard a Russian nuclear-powered ice breaker, where I became the first person in history to make a phone call from the North Pole and get my own recorded message telling me that nobody was at home.
TA: What's one place you've always wanted to visit?
Bob: Heaven. But that is looking less and less likely. Other than that, anywhere I haven't been.
TA: What's one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Bob: A belief that for a travel writer or blogger the best trips are those that go the most dramatically wrong.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Bob: Always ask for the middle seat. It doubles your chances of hearing an interesting story.
What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
Bob: I tend to scan mainstream travel news sites, such as cntraveler.com and travelandleisure.com, in search of stories that might lend themselves to an absurd twist, which includes just about all of them. Communities? I think I may still have some friends left in the Society of American Travel Writers and the New York Travel Writers Association.
What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Bob: The Hacienda del Sol, in Tucson, Arizona. It is one of the world's best hotels that has let me stay for free, in exchange for mentioning them.
TA: What are the top 3 websites you use for research/inspiration when planning a trip?
Bob: For all my research/inspiration I almost exclusively use The Onion.
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Bob: In an emergency, never identify yourself as a doctor unless you really are one.
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you've ever been given?
Bob: Get out!
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Bob: Getting home. Especially after the holidays. You know, right, that it is only going to leave you depressed?
What's a travel scam travelers should be wary of? And if you've ever had someone try to pull a scam on you while traveling, please share the story!
Bob: If somebody wearing a pilot's uniform tries to talk you into getting on a plane other than the one you are scheduled for, don't listen to them. I did it once, and the next thing I knew he was trying to hit me up for fuel money.
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Bob: The back seat of a rental car at the E. DeVeer Drive-In Theatre on the island of Aruba.
What is the most beautiful and affordable city you've ever visited? (Any specific locations people need to see there?)
Bob: Every city is beautiful, in the right light. But for me the most affordable is New York, because I can stay with my in-laws.
TA: Have you ever met someone while traveling who changed your life? Who were they?
Bob: The guy who picked my pocket in Nairobi, but only until I could get hold of Mastercard.
What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Bob: Any place is best to travel solo. When there's two of you, you learn half as much about what's going on around you. If there's three of you, it's a third. Any more than that and you learn nothing, except more about your companions than you care to.
TA: What's something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Bob: Pretend they are not tourists. It's not like you are fooling the locals.
Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous? Please explain why.
Bob: Paris, Tennessee. It's got almost everything the original does, including an Eiffel Tower, and far better barbecue.