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: Conner Gorry
Occupation: Journalist, Writer, Bookseller
Hometown: New York
College: NYU (BA) & Monterey Institute of International Studies (MA)
College major: Latin American Studies & International Policy
Facebook: Cuba Libro
Short bio: After writing more than 20 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, native New Yorker Conner Gorry moved to Havana in 2002 from where she works as a journalist and writer. She has contributed to numerous anthologies and written for major newspapers and magazines including Scientific American, the Irish Times, The Lancet, New York magazine, and more. Her most recent books include “100 Places in Cuba Every Woman Should Go,” “TWATC” and the coffee table book Cuban Harleys, Mi Amor. After she founded Cuba Libro in 2013, (she arrives at work on a 1946 Harley-Davidson), one observer noted: “Conner’s Cuba is where Shakespeare and Company meets Easy Rider.” Her blog Here is Havana has been called “the best writing that’s available about day-to-day Cuba.”
How often do you fly? Three or four times a year.
How many countries have you been to? I find keeping count, like notches on a belt, pretentious. Travel, like many things in life, is about quality, not quantity. Besides, some of the most transformative travel experiences can happen in the town just next door.
Earliest travel memory: Camping on Martha’s Vineyard in the 70s and my mom picking up hitchhikers; mixing little kids with hitchhikers? Dicey!!
Favorite American city: Hilo.
Favorite international city: Havana.
Least favorite country: Right now? The USA.
I have no desire to go to: India.
Friendliest people in the world: From where I’ve been: Cubans.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt.
Favorite airline: JetBlue—their direct HAV-JFK commercial flights literally changed my life after flying on the HAV-MIA charter and then on to NYC for over a decade. That flight usually took upwards of 15 hours (w the connection) and always cost more than $900 RT.
Favorite aircraft type: The type without screaming babies.
Aisle or window: Aisle!! I’m long-legged.
Favorite U.S. airport: Portland, Maine.
Favorite international airport: Merida, Mexico.
Favorite hotel: Casa del Mundo, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
Favorite island: The Big Island (Hawai’i).
Favorite beach: Tough question for someone who lives in the Caribbean and has spent major time in Hawai’i! I’ll go with Halape on the southern coast of the Big Island.
Favorite National Park: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: MOGO (Asbury Park, NJ).
Favorite fruit: Coconut.
Favorite food: Chicharrones (if that can be considered “food”).
Least favorite food: Arroz con leche (AKA, cinnamon flavored vomit).
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Water (potable, please! I’ve had giardia repeatedly) and espresso; I can double fist these any time, any day.
Favorite travel book(s): “The Traveller’s Tree: A Journey through the Caribbean Islands,” Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Right now I am reading: “Kill ‘Em & Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul,” James McBride.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: AFAR, Monocle, National Geographic (nothing is better for armchair travel).
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! I have to admit I don’t read/frequent many travel websites (Cuban dial-up internet isn’t conducive) but I do find TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet helpful occasionally.
5 things you bring on a plane: Headphones, water, a book or magazine, drafts to rewrite/edit, a light sweater.
What do you always seem to forget? Nail clippers—so many travel applications!
What do you like least about travel? Airlines charging exorbitant amounts for baggage—anyone traveling to/living in the developing world is ALWAYS heavily laden. How else would we assure our stores of parmesan cheese/tampax/condoms/protein bars?
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Anything edible.
Favorite travel app(s): Maps.me; Lyft.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Lake Titicaca, the Peruvian side. My face got so sunburned it was blistering and those blisters were oozing, despite having used sunblock. Leaving the hostel to take a walk around town, I noticed an aloe plant in the lobby. I snapped off a piece thinking “burns, aloe, soothing.” I applied the aloe to a particularly harsh burn between my lips and nose and headed out to explore. As the afternoon grew into dusk, I noticed people on the street looking at me oddly—stealing a glance at me and then quickly looking away or at the ground. I figured it was just the usual “gringa with good Spanish but out of context” reaction I get a lot traveling solo around Latin America. Not until I returned to the hostel and looked in the bathroom mirror did I realize that the aloe had turned the blisters jet black and they had formed a perfect Hitler mustache under my nose.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: New Orleans.
Worst travel moment: Realizing my backpack had been stolen within five minutes of my month-long assignment embedded with Cuban doctors in Port-au-Prince following the 2010 earthquake. Living in a tent in post-quake Haiti, sharing a bathroom with a dozen others, no underwear, no toothbrush, no clothes, no maxi pads—not pretty. But as is often the case, the worst travel moment turns into the most inspiring (or at least there’s a silver lining!): the Cuban docs pooled items and gave me all sorts of new and used stuff and we bonded instantly. That month in Haiti turned into one of the most formative travel and reporting experiences of my life.
What’s your dream destination? Big Island, Hawai’i (rivaled by Lake Atitlan, Guatemala—I’m a sucker for beautiful natural landscapes!).
Favorite travel charity: Immigrant Families Together.
Best travel tip: Ditch your guidebook or app and follow your nose/sixth sense; find your own path and favorite places. (Second best tip: read travel literature from the place you’re visiting, while you’re visiting).