Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Brian David Bruns
Occupation: Author, Sometimes Publisher, All Times Adventurer
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada
College: University of Northern Iowa
College major: Art History
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Short bio: Brian David Bruns is a bestselling and multinational award-winning author of nonfiction travel adventure books. ABC’s 20/20 featured his “Cruise Confidential” series on two separate occasions. Those four books have been lauded by USA Today and The Today Show and received dozens of awards, including three national Humor Book of the Year.
How often do you fly? Highly variable.
How many countries have you been to? 50+
How many continents have you been to? 4
Earliest travel memory: A disastrous road trip to Texas in order to please my ex-girlfriend when I was 20. Yes, 20. I got a late start on traveling. It was an eye-opening experience only in that I was always outside my comfort zone and not happy about any of it. This included my ex-girlfriend. A decade later it was another woman that led me on a merry chase around the entire planet. Loved every minute of that, so I guess the right woman makes all the difference!
Favorite American city: New Orleans. She’s hot, she’s dirty, she’s got history, and she’s the best time you can ever have. And the food is phenomenal.
Favorite international city: Dubrovnik, Croatia. I can wander that place forever.
Least favorite country: Russia. I spent a week in the St. Petersburg area and was less and less impressed by the day. Everybody looked whipped by a cruel world (their history was indeed such) and they seemed uninterested in changing it. There was no pride in their nation’s treasures; such as Catherine the Great’s Palace, which was hastily rebuilt with chicken wire and stucco painted gold. Everything was either copied or taken from Europe by wannabe politicians and soundly ignored by the populace. Take the Hermitage, for example, where the open windows let rain in on 9-foot Picassos while the guard literally looked on, bored.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Traveling from Romania into Hungary in the middle of a freezing, rainy night, they stopped us for a long, long time. It was straight out of the cold war, too, with acres of concrete and a fur-capped guard armed with an automatic assault weapon. There were about eight of us in the van, mostly little old Romanian ladies. And me, of course. For some inexplicable reason the immigration officer thought I was Japanese and wouldn’t let us through until I provided Japanese documentation. Considering I’m over six feet and two hundred pounds of white dude, this was really quite unexpected. I’d have laughed if he wasn’t so deadly serious.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Sighisoara, Romania. I lived a kilometer from the house Dracula was born in, thus the coolness factor is through the roof.
Favorite airline(s): Alaska Airlines.
Favorite aircraft type: No preference.
Aisle or window: Aisle, so I can pace without bothering neighbors.
Best flight attendant you ever had: Any one who smiles genuinely and gets me a refill of coffee.
Favorite airport lounge: I hit the coffee shop because I don’t drink while flying.
Favorite U.S. airport: Anything not O’Hare.
Favorite international airport: Anything not Charles De Gaulle.
Favorite hotel: I use Marriott a lot because I have a deal with them, but to be honest I prefer places with history and, ideally, ghosts. But probably my favorite is the Queen Mary cruise ship, permanently docked in Long Beach, which evokes all kinds of cool stuff at night.
Favorite cruise line: Wind Star Line, by far. I love small ships that get into the nooks and crannies of history and culture. Windstar Line is expensive, but you get an experience that lasts a lifetime. A tiny ship poking into small Mediterranean ports is the best thing in the world. Most mega-ships can only fit into the ugly, modern ports. True, many ships are getting so big that they are the destination themselves, but that’s not traveling, is it?
Favorite travel credit card: I happen to use Visa.
Favorite island: Corfu, Greece. I’m an island guy at heart, but a road-trip guy, too. Corfu is big enough to give me the best of both!
Favorite beach: The Bahamas has many to offer. Don’t let proximity lower their status! Fiji’s awesome, to be sure, but it’s really no different from the far side of Grand Bahama Island.
Favorite fancy restaurant: I’ve yet to find one I think is worthy of the prestige it’s been given, unless it’s the view you’re paying for.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Now we’re talking. The tastiest ingredient in food is love—I insist it’s a tangible—and you’ll find it in home cooking and holes-in-the-wall. Several places in the States come to mind, such as Tasty & Alder in Portland, Oregon, or El Charro in Tucson. Can I count the entire city of New Orleans? I’ll always have a special spot in my heart for The Burning Spot, a conch shack in Nassau, Bahamas.
Favorite bar: The Groovy Grouper of Montego Bay, Jamaica comes to mind. The sand is so white I swear they bleach it at night. Though I am cynical about upscale restaurants, I am not so about upscale bars. I’ll put on my tux and hit the martini bar outside Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, Monaco at the drop of a hat.
Favorite fruit: Anything off a tree in the South Pacific is divine. Fingerling bananas plucked and peeled on the spot are a revelation into nature that you can’t get from the supermarket. I’m rather partial to papaya, in such circumstances.
Favorite food: I’m a foodie, so always try everything local wherever I go and almost always find I like it. Carnitas is my dish of choice, though ironically the best I’ve had in all my travels has been in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That’s because our pigs are so fat and happy.
Least favorite food: McDonald’s. Period.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): I never drink during travel, such as flights and layovers. When settled I am a rum drinker, always straight or on the rocks. I spent years touring the Caribbean and developed quite a taste for it, though not the way the locals drink it. I can’t do bitters or ginger in my rum.
Favorite travel movie(s): I found The Way, by Emilio Esteves, to be particularly apt about the process of discovering your inner traveler. I relate to the main character portrayed by Martin Sheen, since my own complacency was shredded painfully later in life (well, age thirty) and my way of dealing with it involved travel—travel, which hopefully leads to reflection, which hopefully leads to self-discovery.
Favorite travel show(s): Anything with Samantha Brown. I have a crush on her.
Favorite travel book(s): Anything by Tony Horwitz. I don’t have a crush on him.
Right now I am reading: A book on Sir Richard Francis Burton’s east African explorations.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Hipmunk is all right.
5 things you bring on a plane: Quality headphones for my own music is really all that matters.
What do you always seem to forget? Nothing, I’m meticulous.
What do you like least about travel? Time in transit.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Cigars. Big, fat ones.
Favorite travel app(s): I don’t use any travel apps.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Pretty much my entire book “Cruise Confidential.”
Worst travel moment: While hosting a bus of American tourists in Morocco I was nearly arrested at gunpoint over a paperwork technicality after the bus driver was pulled over for speeding.
What’s your dream destination? Elephant Island, Antarctica. I want to see Shackleton’s hut.
Favorite travel charity: My charities of choice don’t happen to involve travel.
Best travel tip: For crying out loud, talk to locals! Especially about food choices.
Elephant Island is a great stop, tho nothing remains but penguins and a bust of the ship’s captain who rescued Shackleton’s men. The island is a great experience and on my stop, our group included the son of expedition physicist Reginald James. Shackleton’s grave is at Grytviken, South Georgia and I believe his hut is still on the mainland of Antarctica at McMurdo Sound.