As a part of the AOL enterprise, Gadling has been one of the go-to travel blogs for budget and adventure travelers. Originally trained as a Materials Scientist, editor in chief, Grant Martin, likes to stir things up from his home base in Chicago where he pushes the site to stay ahead of the game and on top of the latest travel trends.
We caught up with the chief himself to find out about some of his best and not-so-best moments while traveling. Check out his response to ” the most profound lesson learned through travel”; it’s a priceless tip.
Culture-ist Magazine: What is the best early morning experience you’ve had while traveling?
Martin: We had a 4:00 wake up call for a morning walk through Kruger National Park in South Africa the other day. As the sun rose over the savanna we got to trek across the park on foot and sneak up on a few unsuspecting animals. It’s the closest that I’ve ever been to a wild rhinoceros, and the closest that I ever want to be, come to think of it.
Culture-ist Magazine: Do you have an odd neurosis that emerges before you embark on a trip?
Martin: Travel is therapeutic for me so I’m fairly laid back in the runup to and during travel. The only things you really need are an ID and credit card, right?
Culture-ist Magazine: Have you ever “mysteriously” survived a critical situation?
Martin: By miracle I did happen to slip an extra $20 into my backpack pocket during a trip to southeast Asia one time. On the way home I misplaced my passport and had to venture back into the city to find it ““ only I was out of cash. Without that $20 I might still be on the streets of Kuala Lumpur today.
Culture-ist Magazine: If your life as a traveler could be described through the lyrics of a song, what song would you choose?
Martin: That would be “New York You’re Killing Me” by Ray LaMontagne. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York City, but every time I leave there it seems like I’ve got more baggage than when I came in.
Culture-ist Magazine: Most profound lesson learned through travel?
Martin: Giving people a dumb smile will diffuse almost any situation. One of my favorite things to do is learn the local slang for “visitor” or “American” when I travel and use that when I’m in an uncomfortable situation. Got on the wrong JL bullet train car and sat in the wrong seat? Gai-jin. Knock over a display at the 7-11 while trying to cook a bento box in the microwave? Gai-jin.
I also refuse to check bags on the road. It just ends up slowing me down.
Culture-ist Magazine: Favorite Town/Village?
Martin: Here in the United States I’ve always been fond of the town in which I went to college, Ann Arbor. Good community, good food, good public radio, good Ultimate Frisbee league, good access to the airport. You really can’t ask for much else.
Overseas I might have to go with Rotorua in New Zealand. If you exclude the sulfurous smell of the bubbling springs, Rotorua has a lot to love, with varied, deep green terrain, tons of adventure activities and hidden lodges speckled throughout the countryside. Truly a larger than life experience.
Culture-ist Magazine: Favorite City? Why?
Martin: It really is impossible to pick at this point without a dozen qualifiers. Domestically, New York for my friends and for its pace of life, New Orleans for the soul moving music and strong cultural fabric and Portland for its ability to always surprise and delight me. Overseas, Hong Kong is always a delightful mixture of the east and west, while Barcelona and Argentina are destinations to which I’ll return for the rest of my life. Something about the arid climate mixed with the European architecture really resonates with me. And you can’t beat the design and quality of Stockholm.
Culture-ist Magazine: A person you met while traveling that you still think about today?
Martin: I carry lots of people with me every day and for different reasons, but I tend to shoulder that burden alone. At least I don’t have checked bags.
Culture-ist Magazine: Biggest gripe with traveling often?
Martin: I read a study a few years back that said that the most used word in English conversation is “time,” and I think that most of my gripes come from that idea. I’ve never got enough time off of work. I’ve never got enough time to sleep in and remain lucid during my jet lagged days. I’ve never got enough time to spend with my loved ones abroad. Some day I’ll catch up.
*Want more Travel Talk? Check out our interviews with Joe Diaz of AFAR, Jeff Greif of Travel Squire and National Geographic photographer Ken Kaminesky.