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: Harvey “H-Bomb” Silikovitz
Occupation: Litigation attorney at a boutique international law firm
Hometown: West Orange, New Jersey
Residence: My home base is New York City, and specifically Manhattan
College: Johns Hopkins University
College major: Political Science and Philosophy
Law school: Georgetown University Law Center
Website: H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke (hbombkaraoke.com)
Short bio: H-Bomb was born in Illinois and grew up in northern New Jersey. Although H-Bomb has warm memories of family vacations to Atlantic City and Cape Cod, he didn’t fly on an airplane for the first time until his senior year of college. As an adult, he has made up for lost time. While his law practice is demanding, H-Bomb travels whenever he can get away and has now been to over 50 countries on six continents. He also combines his love of traveling with his passion for karaoke singing, and as of January 2017 he has done karaoke in 46 countries plus Easter Island, as well as 29 U.S. states and territories.
How often do you fly? 2016 represented a new high for me in terms of amount of air travel. I took 39 flights last year. 2017 will likely be similar. My flights are often clustered; for example, I have an upcoming trip to Asia this spring that will include ten different flights in a period covering a little over two weeks. Overall, I’ve been averaging one to two airplane trips per month.
How many countries have you been to? That depends on how you define “country”! But I’m comfortable saying that I’ve been to 53 of them. That total includes 50 United Nations member states, plus Vatican City, Taiwan and the Palestinian Territories. Some people would also break out Hong Kong and Macao separately from mainland China; if you did that, I’d be at 55 countries. Regardless, I don’t count Poland or Argentina, in which I’ve had airport layovers but never made it out of the airport in either case.
How many continents have you been to? Six. Antarctica has thus far eluded me. Not only is it expensive to get to the great southern continent under ordinary circumstances, but I want to sing karaoke there. To do that, I would probably have to get to one of the scientific bases. My research indicates that some of those bases have bars with karaoke nights. The big hurdle is that understandably, the bases don’t tend to welcome short-term travelers who wouldn’t contribute to the scientific mission. Plus, while most visitors to Antarctica arrive via cruise ship, the scientific bases tend to be far from where those ships dock; so even if I could find a base that was willing to work with me, I would have to come up with an alternative means of transportation. I’m hopeful that I can resolve the considerable logistical hurdles and make it to Antarctica within the next two to three years!
Favorite American city: New York! My favorite American city that I don’t live in is Las Vegas.
Favorite international city: It’s impossible to pick just one! On my short list would be London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Budapest, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Cape Town. Yes, I even have trouble making my short list short.
Least favorite country: I don’t have any least favorite places. I’ve had positive experiences everywhere I’ve been, and I think every country offers interesting things to see and do.
I have no desire to go to: There is no country on Earth that I don’t want to go to. I want to see as much of the world as possible. With that said, I regard it as prudent to avoid countries like Syria that are war zones—but only so long as they remain dangerous.
Friendliest people in the world: In just about every destination I’ve traveled to, I’ve found the people to be friendly. I think world travel reveals that folks everywhere are fundamentally kind and generous. One incident stands out in my mind: in Istanbul a few years ago, I found myself talking to some locals in an Irish bar on New Year’s Eve. When I was ready to go back to my hotel, they insisted on riding with me to make sure that the taxi driver safely delivered me to the hotel.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: I have yet to experience problems with immigration officers anywhere, or to have any of them treat me meanly. Even when I went to North Korea, the immigration officers in Pyongyang’s airport treated me in an unremarkable manner. They were thorough in inspecting my stuff, but their interactions with me were civil.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Memphis and its Necropolis—the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur in Egypt. (Yes, that’s the full name of that particular WHS.) The staggering antiquity of the Pyramids and the Sphinx elevates them slightly for me above the other amazing World Heritage Sites that I’ve visited.
Favorite airline: Any airline that isn’t one of the U.S.’s legacy carriers.
Favorite aircraft type: Airbus A380, even though I haven’t yet been fortunate enough to be seated on the top floor of one.
Aisle or window: Aisle. I like being able to get up and walk around whenever I want to, without having to worry about whether the passengers next to me are sleeping or have their tray tables down and meals on them. Having the aisle on one side of me also makes for a less claustrophobic experience.
Favorite U.S. airport: My home airport, New York JFK. Not because of its aging terminals and lack of amenities; but because from JFK I can get direct flights to a large portion of the world.
Favorite international airport: Singapore Changi Airport. Although it’s more that I like the idea of it, as I’ve only flown through it twice so far and haven’t been in it long enough to enjoy its amazing entertainment and relaxation options.
Favorite island: Manhattan island! Among islands that I don’t reside on, my favorite is Easter Island, with Santorini a close runner-up.
Favorite bar: Any watering hole that has karaoke!
Favorite fruit: A tie among bananas, olives, and avocados.
Favorite food: My favorite cuisine is Greek. My favorite single dish is a Turkish one called iskender.
Least favorite food: Tomatoes. Although oddly enough, I like sun-dried tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato juice, and I love pizza. But uncooked tomatoes make me gag.
Drink of choice (in the air or on the ground): I never drink alcohol on airplanes, because the air in the cabin is dehydrating. When I’m on terra firma I’m kind of boring and rarely drink anything other than light beer and red wine. Among nonalcoholic beverages, I mostly imbibe diet Snapple, aloe drink, and coconut water.
Right now I am reading: “Chariots of the Gods” by Erich von Daniken. Originally published in the 1960s, it was the first book to bring the idea of “ancient aliens” into the mainstream. While the book’s content is widely derided as pseudoscience, it’s entertaining. And I’m definitely open to the possibility that extraterrestrials visited the Earth thousands of years ago—and perhaps even more recently!
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Leeabbamonte.com; The Planet D; MostTraveledPeople.com; Atlas Obscura.
5 things you bring on a plane: My laptop; my Kindle; my smartphone; my phone charger (together with a portable battery to plug it into); and my sunglasses.
What do you always seem to forget? I’m always leaving my sunglasses on airplanes, in the seatback pocket in front of me. The items I most often forget to pack when starting a trip are a toothbrush and toothpaste.
What do you like least about travel? Red-eye flights and jet lag.
Favorite travel apps: The airline apps, seatguru, Hotel Tonight, XE (for currency exchange rates).
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Niagara Falls, especially since it’s in my own state!
Worst travel moment: Being robbed by a taxi driver in Mexico City, and then being forced to exit the cab and left behind in a quiet part of town, several miles from my hotel, at about 2:00 am on a Saturday night.
What’s your dream destination? As mentioned above, Antarctica. Other than that, I want to visit as many places as possible that I haven’t yet seen. One particular interest is to see some of the world’s great waterfall systems. Not only Niagara, but also Iguazu Falls and Victoria Falls, and possibly others.