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: Eldad Brin
Occupation: Licensed Tour Guide in Israel
Residence: Jerusalem, Israel
College: Received my Bachelors and Masters at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, now working on a PhD from the University of Haifa
College major: Geography
Twitter, etc.: Not on social media at all (but email). I realise I’m pretty much out of the loop for that, but at the same time I gain a lot of extra time and so far, so good.
YouTube: I’ve uploaded a few vids which pertain to my travels, like this one, from the trip that took me overland from Germany to Japan via the Trans-Siberian train.
Short bio: Born in Jerusalem in 1973, I have lived in it for all my life save for two formative years as a young boy in Philadelphia. So far, Jerusalem is also where I got my higher education and my professional training as a tour guide. Jerusalem is not only my home base but the city I study, research and introduce to others—its better sides, and worse—to the best of my ability.
How often do you fly? At least once or twice a year. Being self-employed and my own boss makes it easier. And living in Israel it is indeed about flying, since going overland we can only make it as far as Jordan or Egypt.
How many countries have you been to? 71 countries, of which I’ve travelled independently in 65. These do not include the Palestinian Territories, North Cyprus, the Moldovian breakaway “republic” of Transnistria. and Hong Kong and Kosovo which were still British- and Serbian-controlled, respectively, when I travelled to them. This also does not include Lebanon, in the beautiful south of which I spent a few months as a soldier who got constantly shot at. Would love to return one day as a traveller.
How many continents have you been to? Only four. Haven’t made it yet to South America, Australia or Antartica. Yet.
Earliest travel memory: My mother, now retired, had a chance of travelling free to conferences and sabbaticals in Europe and the US which made it economically possible for the entire family to tag along and see the world as we went. The first such trip had us living in England for an entire summer back in ’84 and travelling across Britain and parts of Scandinavia. I was a young teenager at the time, but no doubt this was what kindled the fire which still burns.
Favorite American city: Despite growing up in Philadelphia and admiring the urban powerhouse which is NYC, I think it’s Chicago—for its cuisine, ethnic diversity, stunning architecture, and its huge Mid-Western heart.
Favorite international city: Istanbul, hands down. I call it the most justified city in the world. And for all of its shortcomings it’s also one of the tastiest, architecturally-stunning and can boast a history and setting that would even surpass those of my native Jerusalem. When Byzantine Emperor Justinian completed the Hagia Sofia he exclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone you!” In saying this he could have referred to his entire city.
Least favorite country: There is no country I truly disliked, but I have no burning desire to return anytime soon to Moldova, or Benin.
I have no desire to go to: No such place exists. Having said that, I am less inclined to visit Nigeria than any other country.
Friendliest people in the world: All countries have better people and worse. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in twenty years of travelling the worlds, that’s that. But generally speaking, it’s in the poorer countries where one meets genuine kindness and friendliness.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: As I’ve so recently discovered, Belarus! But it wasn’t meanness for the sake of meanness, but rather a stern, suspicious and rigid attitude. After all, I did make it in and out.
Favorite World Heritage Site: The list is endless, but I’ll go with Islamic, medieval Cairo.
Favorite airline: Turkish Airlines.
Favorite aircraft type: Never given it much thought. As long as it gets me there, it’s all good.
Aisle or window: Window.
Favorite airport lounge: Ataturk, Istanbul. Best people-watching on the planet.
Favorite U.S. airport: Haven’t been to too many in order to form an opinion, but O’Hare was pretty awesome.
Favorite international airport: Istanbul’s Ataturk.
Favorite island: Zanzibar, especially Stone Town. Gore, off the coast of Senegal, and Corfu in Greece were also spectacular.
Favorite beach: Those of Zanzibar.
Favorite National Park: It’s a tough call between Petra in Jordan and the High Tatras in Slovakia.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: I’ve done thousands of such establishments and never bothered to register their names, such as they even had any. I can, however, recommend the Al-Sha’ab kebab hole-in-the-wall in Jerusalem’s Old City bazaar. I often find myself gobbling-up their kebabs with clients or even alone and was never disappointed.
Favorite bar: Haven’t frequented enough bars to form an opinion, but it was the Hard Rock Cafe in Warsaw which recently blew me away.
Favorite fruit: Pineapple, peeled and sliced on the side of the road in any African city. Heaven in your mouth.
Favorite food: For a foody like me this is an impossible question, especially when I think that your best travel memories have little to do with the sites you’ve visited but rather with what went into your stomach. I think my favorite food must be Asian, especially Chinese, Indian and—my mouth waters just being reminded of it—Korean.
Least favorite food: Ethiopian Injera bread. Even when I was exteremely hungry I had to force it down my throat.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Beer. Its availability, variety and quality are great standards by which to judge a country by.
Favorite travel movie(s): I can’t really think of any movie that was wholly a “travel movie” as such. But travel was set as a background to quite a few. When it comes to backpacking, I can think of The Beach and Transsiberian. Into the Wild was also an excellent movie in that respect.
Favorite travel book(s): This list is very long, but I can, first and foremost, point to Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar.” This book is the Bible of travel books. It made me into a traveller, prompted me to read all his travel titles and to indulge in some travel writing of my own. Bruce Chatwin, Colin Thubron and William Dalrymple are other favorites.
Right now I am reading: Paul Theroux’s “The Last Train to Zona Verde” about his travels from South Africa to Angola.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: I often browse National Geographic’s Traveller to get inspired. There was an Israeli travel magazine, Masa Acher, which I was subscribed to from the very first volume and was fortunate enough to contribute an article to its very last. Sadly, they couldn’t keep up with digital media and had to close.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! When planning a trip, Lonely Planet’s Thorntree forum is quite useful, and where trains are involved there’s really nothing better than The Man in Seat 61.
5 things you bring on a plane: My MP3 player, a good book, earplugs. Airlines today keep you so occupied (and docile) during flights that you really need little more.
What do you always seem to forget? Nothing. If anything, I never fully mastered the art of travelling light and seem to carry a lot of dead weight around.
What do you like least about travel? I could do without flights and especially the tedious before and after procedures of each one. Alas, based in Israel I really can’t get very far overland, and even oversea. I also dislike the feeling I get when it becomes obvious to me, often in crowded and well-known sites, that I’m not the bold traveller I’d like to think I was but just another tourist—a tiny and inconspicuous bolt in a huge industry.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? m&m’s would be more than enough.
Favorite travel app(s): XE is quite useful.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Spain.
What’s your dream destination? Samarkand, Oman, Antartica.
Best travel tip: Every city which has a subway is worth visiting.