Bob Bales is a History buff, cigar lover, and enthusiast of different cultures and places and he writes about his travels on his blog, The Traveling Fool. He advocates “traveling off the tourist path,” finding those places where most visitors never go that might be right around the corner from the famous tourist hotspots.
Bob was kind enough to answer a few of our questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Bob: I started traveling as a kid. My parents used to take long vacations every summer to all parts of the U.S. Later I served in the military and was stationed at various places around the world and took the opportunity to travel to new places. After I retired from the military, I worked overseas and spent a lot of my free time traveling to various countries and discovering new places and cultures.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Bob: I guess you could call it slow travel. When I get somewhere, I take the time to walk around, talk to people, and discover places most tourists just don’t see or know about.
TA: What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Bob: One of the best places I visited was Bantayan Island in the Philippines. There were very few tourists and it was a great place to just relax, explore the island, and talk to people.
TA: What’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit?
Bob: There are a few still on my list: one is Laos and the other is Myanmar.
TA: What’s one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Bob: I always pack a few extra memory cards for my camera because I always take lots of photos and don’t always have time to download them. I also take a portable charger and wet wipes always come in handy.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Bob: Take some time to explore the areas you visit, whether it is in a foreign country or just a weekend getaway. Talk to the people that live and work there and they can direct you to some really great places.
TA: What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Bob: I love the Philippines. The people are friendly and the country is beautiful. From beautiful beaches to places with a lot of history, it is my favorite location.
TA: What do you think other travelers worry too much about?
Bob: Details and little things. Yes, you have to know when and how to get to the airport to catch the flight, but too many people plan every single detail of their trip and when something doesn’t go right they feel their trip is ruined. I have seen people get stressed out about little things. Take some time to think about where you are, whether it be Bangkok, London, or a winery two hours from home. Enjoy the experience. If the train is late or traffic is bad, so what you’re on a trip: relax and enjoy it.
TA: What’s a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Bob: Pickpockets are a problem in a lot of places. I never carry a wallet or anything in my back pocket or in a readily accessible backpack. I always carry cash, wallet, etc. in my front pocket or in an inside zippered pocket on a jacket. I never leave anything unattended.
TA: For those looking to visit the Philippines, could you describe a few must-visit spots?
Bob: The beaches on the island of Palawan are fantastic but there are several secluded out-of-the-way beaches if you want to get away from everything. If you are a history lover, there are several places around Manila to include: Fort Santiago, The American Military Cemetery, and the island of Corregidor. On the Island of Cebu there are a lot of places of historic significance.
TA: We know Mr. Duterte, the current president of the Philippines, is a little…out there. Should that concern visitors?
Bob: I wouldn’t be concerned with who the current President is, just go, visit, and have a great time.
TA: What’s the best “off-the-beaten-path” discovery you ever made while traveling?
Bob: There are a lot. I discovered the Clink Museum in London which was the site of the Clink Jail from where we get the term being “in the clink.” I was just walking around and found it. I also discovered the Jersey Lilly Pub while walking in London. The Jersey Lilly was named for Lilly Langtry who was immortalized by Judge Roy Bean in Texas when he renamed his town and bar/courthouse the Jersey Lilly. In Berchtesgaden, Germany, while walking in town, I saw a sign on a chalkboard that said “Castle” with an arrow pointing to a stairwell in an alley. I discovered a castle that was once an old abbey that had more artifacts than I had ever seen in a castle including two rooms of medieval armor.
The takeaway is: get out, walk around, explore the area, and talk to people. You never know what you might find.
TA: What countries have you lived in over the years? Any advice for expats?
Bob: Lived in Germany for four years and South Korea for two years while in the military and worked overseas for eight years in the Middle East and Kosovo. I took advantage of traveling around as much as I could during my off time, learning some of the language, and getting to know the people that live there.