Lisa Singh

Lisa Singh is an Interactive Producer at TravelChannel.com. Her multimedia career has spanned print and online publications. One of her first stories involved following a convicted felon into the Mexican desert in search of gold; she’s been hooked on travel (and gold) ever since. While Lisa has spent time in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, her big love is all things America, especially road trips. Her favorite places include Montana, where she’s gone horseback riding, and San Diego, where she placed in a tandem-surfing competition.

Posts by Lisa Singh

What lies beneath: For 30 years, the Greenbrier Resort’s west wing was home to a top-secret bunker for Congress. (All Photos: Greenbrier Resort)

It only took 16 days, millions of dollars in lost revenue, and the threat of a credit downgrade. But with the shutdown countdown finally underway, all eyes are on Congress like never before. Among the potential solutions that could have expedited the 2-week government standoff was this nifty idea from one American: Lock Congress in a bunker out in West Virginia until they could all hash out a plan to end the latest round of government gridlock. Not just any bunker, either: The Greenbrier Bunker.

For more than 30 years, this vast underground bunker (picture, bottom) existed beneath the Greenbrier Resort, located just outside the town of White Sulphur Springs, in Greenbrier County, WV — all completely unknown to the outside world. It all began in the late 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, when the US government approached the swanky, 1,500-acre West Virginia resort, which opened back in 1858, about building an emergency shelter for Congress in the event of a nuclear fallout.

Greenbrier Resort, home to Greenbrier Bunker

Bunker sketch: Artist’s once-classified rendering of what the underground bunker would look like in relation to the West Virginia Wing of The Greenbrier. The bunker’s construction stretched from 1959 to 1962.

The thinking went that no one would ever suspect Congress was hiding out in plain view, under one of America’s most famous resorts. And with Washington, DC, just a few hours away by car (and a stone’s throw from a nearby airport landing strip and train, the latter conveniently located next to the resort) – as well as the surrounding Allegheny Mountains to catch nuclear fallout debris — the idea for a bunker beneath the resort (codenamed Project Greek Island) seemed to make a whole lot of sense.

The only thing is the worst never happened, and Congress never got a chance to settle into the top-secret digs. But for 30 years, a small staff, known as the innocuous-sounding Forsythe Associates, kept the massive, 112,544-square-foot bunker in a state of constant operational readiness: Medications for every member of Congress were kept current; food rations were routinely rotated; sheets on bunk beds in the 18 dormitories routinely changed (see picture, bottom) and the maintenance and upkeep of medical, entertainment (like TVs) and exercise equipment were continually updated with the latest models. All of this at the taxpayer’s expense, to the tune of $14 million to build and several times that amount to stock with the needed provisions through the years.

Bunk up: Original bunk beds, intended for members of Congress, in one of the 18 dormitories at the Greenbrier Bunker, beneath West Virginia’s famous Greenbrier resort.

That all changed in 1992, when the Washington Post ran a cover story exposing the Greenbrier Bunker – and questioning whether taxpayer money was wisely being spent on a nuclear fallout shelter that had never been put to use. The bunker was soon decommissioned, and in the years to come it was opened to the public for tours — among the highlights are the Governor’s Hall, which was originally built as a chamber for the US House of Representatives; the cafeteria, which could feed 400 people in 1 seating; and the press room, with a tapestry image of the Capitol ready for any live TV shots. The vast facility is also used as a data storage site for a private sector company, CSX Corporation, which allows tours under the proviso that the public not photograph the premises.

Data storage is great and all, but the whole idea of gathering up Congress for a sit-down session might do wonders for expediting negotiation in the event of future shutdown scenarios. In our view, there’s something about being 720 feet deep into the West Virginia hillside, without the light of day, that may just make an elected official want to hurry up, get the job down and … maybe end a potential shutdown. Who knows, maybe the $14 million cost for this hideout could be well-spent after all.

Check out Travel Channel’s intriguing tour of the Greenbrier Bunker:

Government shutdown, whatever!: The Statue of Liberty joins the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and national park sites in Colorado and Utah in reopening.

Give me your poor, your tired, your shutdown masses yearning to travel free. On Sunday morning, the Statue of Liberty, the very symbol of American resilience, not to mention beaucoup bucks for New York’s travel industry, reopened her doors to the public for the first time since the partial government shutdown began 12 days before. But don’t thank Congress — New York State will foot the bill of $61,600 a day over the next several days to keep Lady Liberty’s doors open.

The news comes amid some partially hopeful news for travelers and national parks lovers everywhere: On Saturday, Grand Canyon National Park reopened its doors as well, with the state of Arizona forking over $651,000 for the next 7 days to keep the Grand Canyon open. (That amounts to $93,000 a day — less than the $112,000 the feds say is needed to fund park operations each day.)

However, moves by both states – as well as South Dakota, which sees Mount Rushmore reopen beginning Monday, along with national parks in Utah (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, and Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments) and Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park) – are the exception. Yellowstone, America’s first national park, remains closed. “Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government,” says a spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead.

In the case of New York State, a lot is riding on the Statue of Liberty’s reopening: The iconic landmark sees 3.7 million visitors a year, generating nearly $200 million in economic activity and supporting over 2,000 jobs. Already Lady Liberty had seen a tough year and a half, suffering extensive damage, along with nearby Ellis Island, from Superstorm Standy. It took a year of extensive rehabilitation before the Statue of Liberty reopened, in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony just in time for July 4 celebrations. Then came the government shutdown, just what everyone needed.

Since the shutdown, roughly 400 jobs have been lost at the Statue of Liberty and nearby park sites, reports CNN. And while the Statue of Liberty just reopened yesterday morning, with state funds temporarily allowing visitors to take the ferry over to the monument on Liberty Island, the state budget is only a temporary fix. While New York has given the green light to fund Lady Liberty for the next few days, it will then assess its financial commitment every 2 days if the federal shutdown continues, says Cuomo.

No no telling what will happen after next week. So if you’re looking to see these great American landmarks, and you’re within traveling distance, now’s the time to visit.

Actual lifeboat from Maersk Alabama, on display at the Navy Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, FL.

Friday sees the release of Captain Phillips, the biopic starring Tom Hanks that tells the story of a merchant mariner and his crew who are taken captive by Somali pirates.

You may recall it was in April 2009 that the crew of the cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, was traveling on the high seas, 240 nautical miles southeast of a Somali port city, when terror struck: The ship was seized by 4 Somali pirates, and a harrowing ordeal soon followed.

In addition to the 2.5-hour-long film, you can learn the story first-hand at the Navy Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, FL, where the actual lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama now has a permanent home. Plus, for a deeper look into the actual story of what happened that day off Somalia’s shores, check out our own Don Wildman’s recent take on Mysteries at the Museum:

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Tell cancer to take a hike

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month now in full swing, dozens of organizations nationwide are sponsoring events for survivors and supporters to get out there, have fun … and become a little more courageous. What better way than through travel?

It’s important to participate in an annual Race for the Cure — find one here – but why stop there? Adventures can come in simple treks, even a hiking trip near your home.

Diane Mapes, DoubleWhammied.com blogger, on a Seattle-area hike last October

That’s what Diane Mapes (pictured, left) found. In the weeks before this Seattle-based writer, and blogger of the very fearless (and funny) Double Whammied blog, underwent a double mastectomy in April 2011, she hiked up Tiger Mountain, a small peak just east of Seattle. After surgery, and before chemo, Mapes went to Dungeness Spit, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca (a few hours west of Seattle), and walked all the way to the end and back — 13 miles, in all, that felt pretty good.

“Getting out in nature makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger and that challenges aren’t insurmountable,” says Mapes, speaking from her Seattle home just 2 weeks after undergoing reconstructive surgery. “Travel has been really important to me,” she adds, “even the small trips.”

Beat Cancer, Have an Adventure

Dozens of organizations nationwide promote adventure travel on the road to beating cancer – and both survivors and supporters can participate. Every year, Climb Against the Odds supporters climb the nearly 15,000-foot-high Mt. Shasta in Siskiyou County, CA – sign up for the 2014 climb here. For climbing adventures abroad, check out Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.

Or grab an oar, the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission sponsors dragon boat teams. Bike up for Tour de Pink, which sponsors rides from coast to coast – next one up is in Southern California, Oct. 18-20. Love to fish? Join Casting for Recovery on a fly-fishing retreat in the great outdoors. Or catch a wave with Boarding for Breast Cancer.

Check out There is Life After Breast Cancer for more travel adventure ideas.

Austin City Limits is here. The annual 3-day music fest kicked off Friday morning in Austin’s Zilker Park, and will draw an anticipated crowd of 6,500 music fans over the coming days.

Just in case you can’t make it to the Lone Star State capital this weekend, though, the event has something new in store for attendees this year: For the first time ever, Austin City Limits will unfold over 2 consecutive weekends. That means if Oct. 4-6 doesn’t work for you, you still have Oct. 11-13 to head on down to Austin. Between now and then, there’s a whole lot in store — here’s a roundup of highlights of Austin City Limits 2013.

The beer alone makes a trip to Austin worth it. This year, Austin City Limits has opened a beer lover’s dream — the brand new, 20,000-square-foot Barton Springs Beer Hall. This playground for beer lovers features 15 brews, from local drinks like Hill Country’s own Real Ale, to brews from around the country. Kick back, drink up and enjoy a game of football on big screen TVs in the hall.

And, of course, there’s food, lots and lots of food. Austin Eats Food Tours will be on-hand, featuring local restaurant delicacies, as well as plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Expect to find foodie favorites such as chef Tim Love’s Love Shack, Austin’s Pizza and Second Bar + Kitchen by chef David Bull, alongside new culinary favorites such as La Condesa, Frank and mmmpanadas.

The good part about the money you spend: A portion of funds raised will go toward supporting the Hill Country’s Conservancy’s Violet Crown Trail, a 30-mile hike and bike trail in Austin; additional support will go toward a carbon offset project spearheaded by the Texas Climate & Carbon Exchange.

For tips on staying in and getting around the city that keeps it weird, check out our Austin City Guide. Plus, if you love music as much as food, you’ll want to take an Austin Foodie Foray. And once you pack up and leave, send us a postcard from Austin — we’ll want to know how it goes!

Family on Bikes hits the Andes. (All Photos: Nancy Sathre-Vogel)

Having traveled through 15 countries — on a bike — with her kids, Nancy Sathre-Vogel is Our Type of Traveler. The founder of Family on Bikes, Nancy quit her day job of teaching, for 21years, to hit the road with her husband and twin sons. What followed was an incredible journey, captured in one of Nancy’s 4 books about bike touring, Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World.

Having logged 27,000 miles throughout the Americas, including Alaska and Argentina, Nancy knows all about family travel. Recently, Traveling Type caught up with Nancy, who now she lives in Idaho, where she pursues her passions of writing and beadwork. Here’s what Nancy had to say about traveling with kids — including her top picks for destinations every parent should take their kids, and how to live out your life’s passions. Plus, she lets us in on the time she found a man in her bed … naked … at 3 a.m. … and it wasn’t her husband. Hmm … let’s get going!

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?
Nancy Sathre-Vogel: It was an accident. I actually started an online journal — a place to document our travels for ourselves and where my mother could follow along. I had no idea that people actually read blogs — or that there was such a word as “blog,” for that matter. I was stunned when we started getting messages from random strangers telling me we had inspired them to get out and live a more adventurous life.

What’s your blog about?
My blog started as documentation for our bicycle adventures. Now that we are back home, I’ve morphed it into a site to encourage and inspire others to grab life by the horns and steer it in a direction that is more fulfilling and satisfying.

How many countries, cities, and continents have you and your family traveled to?
As a family, we have ridden our bicycles through 15 countries. Before we had kids, my husband and I cycled probably another 15 or so. And then there are dozens of countries that we’ve traveled in, but not cycled.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Ethiopia is amazing for the sheer beauty of both people and scenery. And Honduras for my basic personal growth.

Sippin’ in style: Family on Bikes’ Nancy Sathre Vogel

Has it ever been a challenge on agreeing on a place to go?
It’s never been an issue. If there is one place that any one of us really feels strongly about, we all respect that. For example, one of my sons said he wanted to go to Yellowstone National Park, so we routed ourselves through Montana and Wyoming rather than along the coast in order to go there. Another desire was to see Chichen Itza, so we planned our route through the Yucatan.

What are the benefits of traveling with young kids — isn’t that tough?
Not at all! Kids are great travelers — even easier than most adults. Kids are so flexible and enthusiastic; they’re willing to do just about anything. And, of course, they have an energy level that allows them to go and go and not get tired.

What’s your family’s favorite place to get away from it all?
Our cottage on the Connecticut shore.

What are the most overrated places to take your kids on vacation?
Pretty much any place that advertises itself as “kid-friendly.” What we’ve found is that the best places are those that are not listed in guidebooks, they are not publicized.

What places should every parent should take their kids?
The 4 destinations I think every child should experience are: 1.) Northern British Columbia — it’s like taking a safari through an African savanna with all the wildlife on the side of the road; 2.) Ica, Peru — seeing conehead skulls in the regional museum, then on to mysteriously carved stones found in the desert, and culminating in a flight over the Nazca Lines, this area will get you questioning some very basic “truths” about our world as well … oh yeah, and the sandboarding in the massive sand dunes is a blast as well; 3.) Chinese New Year — seeing these celebrations should be a must for every child! We lived in Taiwan, so got to be a part of the celebration there; 4.) Ecuadorian New Year — Ecuadorians know how to do New Year right!

What’s your must-have item when traveling — especially with kids?
A Kindle. One for each person.

Tell us your funniest travel story/experience.
Probably the time in Colombia when I found a naked man in my bed! It’s a long story.

Family on Bikes hits northern Alaska’s Dalton Highway

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten while traveling, and where?
If you asked my kids, one of them would say lomo saltado from Peru and Bolivia. The other would say plain ol’ beans and tortillas in Mexico. For me? Pretty much any and all Ethiopian food. Except the raw beef — couldn’t bring myself to do that one.

How do your family healthy while on the road?
I think the trick to staying healthy is being active in the outdoors. There is something about Mother Nature to take care of us. That, and we try to eat semi-healthy food, but we don’t stress over it.

What’s the best hotel you’ve stayed at as a family?
In general, we prefer the small locally owned Ma and Pa places over large chains.

Where’s “home”?
Boise, ID. It’s where I grew up, and now – after many years of living all around the world – where we’re living again.

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?
Do what the locals do. In the summer, take an afternoon to tube down the Boise River. In the winter head up to the ski resort at Bogus Basin. Listen to music at Alive After 5, walk around the farmers’ market on Saturday morning. There is always plenty going on.

Nancy and family on Tierra del Fuego

You say everyone should pursue their passion — what would you say to someone facing challenges?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I know, I know … that’s trite and cliché and all kinds of boring, but it’s also true. You will find a way to do what’s highest on your priority list. The key is to honestly reevaluate your priorities. What do you value more than anything else? Make a list of your top 5 priorities, then take a good solid look at your life. Are you living in a way that is consistent with those priorities? If not, why?

What’s No. 1 on your bucket list?
I’d like to explore Europe someday. We’ve traveled all over the world, but still have managed to explore much of Europe. Need to change that!


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Our Type of Traveler: Johnny Jet

Our Type of Traveler: Nomadic Matt

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. When we compiled our list of Things to Do in October, we sure were betting on Acadia National Park and the Grand Canyon as 2 great spots to spend quality travel time this month. Then a little matter called the government shutdown occurred, and soon enough what seemed like 2 really cool travel ideas turned into one big letdown.

We’re sorry, guys, and for what it’s worth, we’re as bummed as you as we watch the news reports. Since Tuesday’s shutdown, Grand Canyon visitors have been turned away en masse, ditto for Acadia National Park. In fact, all national parks, which “belong to the American people, and the American people should have the right to come in,” are now closed until further notice. We can’t even check out their websites, including the adorable panda cam at DC’s National Zoo.

You don’t have to plan a big trip out West or along the East Coast to realize the impact of this shutdown. Something as simple as a jog around a favorite local park is now off-limits, if it’s under National Park Service stewardship – and lest you think of even trying to set foot on NPS ground, you could face arrest. We wouldn’t want that. But we don’t want you to idle your month away, either.

So in the spirit of American resilience — and because, well, we can’t let the good ole boys and gals in our nation’s capital get us down — we propose these travel alternatives. You will have fun this month – government shutdown or not!

Let’s start with the Grand Canyon. As you drive away, grumbling under your breath that the great off-season trip you were hoping for won’t happen as planned, take heart: The Hualapai people have you covered. This Native American tribe oversees a swath of land to the west of the Grand Canyon – and that includes the part where you’ll find the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Check out Hualapai Tourism (yep, their site is up!) and get Skywalk info.

As for Acadia, well, we’re not going to lie: Its closure is a major blow to leaf-peepers everywhere. But Main’s office of tourism suggests that visitors enjoy the fall colors other ways. “While Acadia National Park is one of our featured attractions, there are so many other things to enjoy in Bar Harbor and on Mount Desert Island,” says Chris Fogg, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “The area’s brilliant fall foliage will be at its peak over the next few weeks, businesses are open, and there are many ways to enjoy some of Maine’s most beautiful coastline,” he adds.

And let’s not forget the state parks – they’re all open, coast to coast, and they could help save your vacation. Everything from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Red Rock State Park, are open to visitors – check out Wiki’s full list of state parks.

Government shutdown or not, let’s make this a month to remember!

October is Family History Month, and with it there’s ample opportunity to dig deeper into your family roots. An estimated 80 million Americans are following that interest, making genealogy one of the most popular hobbies in America. For travelers, a focus on genealogy can also translate into a deeper travel experience — check out these tips from genealogist D. Joshua Taylor of FindMyPast.com for uncovering your family history while traveling:

• Contact the local genealogical society in advance of your visit, they might have evening hours or be willing to open their doors for you to help with your research. Local volunteers often know cemeteries, historic sites and other key areas.

• Use old city directories at the public library to find the address where your relatives might have lived. Go visit (but be sure to check older maps in case street names have changed).

• Search for local newspaper indexes – or the newspapers themselves – at local libraries.

• Take some crayons and large paper along to make rubbings from gravestones. Preserving symbols and inscriptions can be a wonderful “keepsake” when you return home.

• When visiting capital cities, visit the state archives or historical society to conduct research. Always, always, always check the family files at local archives and societies. They often contain one-of-a-kind resources not found online.

• It never hurts to schedule a few moments with distant relatives – who knows what letters or diaries they might have!

• Keep coins nearby – many local libraries and other repositories require payment for copies in change.

Breaking Bad tour

Meet the Trolley Guys: Jesse Herron (left) and Mike Silva, owners of ABQ Trolley Tours

“Yo, yo, yo, 1 4 8 3 to the 3 to the 6, to the 9, representin’ the ABQ.” With the final episode of Breaking Bad now here, fans of the landmark series can’t get enough of Albuquerque these days – and Albuquerque locals Jesse Herron and Mike Silva, founders of ABQ Trolley Co., are delivering on the goods.

For the past year, this business duo has offered visitors a custom-tailored tour of Breaking Bad’s shooting locations, from Saul Goodman’s office to Gus’s Laundromat. Hop aboard the trolley with these guys — Silva, with his Walter White-inspired black porkpie hat; Herron with a jersey sporting the words “Pinkman,” and get ready to embark on one wacky 3.5-hour odyssey through the heart of the show. And just in case you can’t make it to Albuquerque this season, fret not – this tour isn’t breaking bad anytime soon – here’s what ABQ Trolley’s Jesse Herron has to say.

Traveling Type: What does your Breaking Bad tour cover?
Jesse Herron: The tour is 3.5 hours — it covers about 38 miles around Albuquerque and the show’s major recurring locations: Jesse’s house; Walt’s house, Los Pollos Hermanos, which is about 20 minutes from the center of town, Jesse and Jane’s duplex, Walt’s condo, Saul Goodman’s law office in the Northeast Heights, the A1A car wash, Gus’s house, Gus’s laundry, Mike’s house is on there this season, too … the locations are spread out all over town. There are also many minor locations that riders will recognize seeing briefly from the show. There’s also Breaking Bad trivia with very cool prizes donated from local businesses.

Jesse Pinkman's house

Jesse Pinkman’s house (Photo: ABQ Trolley Co.)

Where do Breaking Bad visitors come from?
Last season it was mostly locals just because they snatched up all the tickets when news of the tour broke locally — this season it’s probably a 50-50 split between locals and visitors from all over the US and the world, like Germany, Australia, the UK, Mexico, the Netherlands, Paris, Singapore and the Philippines.

What surprises people on your Breaking Bad tours?
In the case of locals, they’re surprised that some of the sites — like the Laundromat Gus operates – have been around for years, and they have been driving past it without even noticing it for years. Same goes for Saul’s law office — it would be difficult to identify if someone didn’t know where it was and the fact that there is not, in fact, an inflatable statue of liberty adorning the roof. For out-of-town visitors, a lot of times they expect to see Albuquerque as just a desert — they’re surprised it’s not 115 degrees here … that we do have 4 seasons, there’s a river here, mountains, we have the largest urban forest in America here, one of the best preserved stretches of Route 66 is here, and there’s volcanoes. I think visitors arrive not knowing exactly what to expect but they leave blown away by the landscapes, culture and attractions here.

Is Breaking Bad’s portrayal of Albuquerque fair?
I don’t think Breaking Bad’s portrayal of Albuquerque would be something that would keep a fan of the show from coming to visit. A Breaking Bad fan would never say, ‘I’m not coming to Albuquerque because there’s a meth problem there.’ It’s not a problem here, and that’s not what the show is about — and in no way does Breaking Bad glorify meth or drug use. The locals that say they don’t like the way the show portrays Albuquerque are often the same people who have never seen the show. And, let’s not forget that it’s a TV show, it’s fiction! The show really highlights all things Albuquerque — from the local hamburger chain, local shops like Gertrude Zachary Jewelry to showing the characters drinking local beer, it’s all pretty accurate, down to the zip codes and neighborhoods.

Breaking Bad tour

Stop by Gus’s house (Photo: ABQ Trolley Co.)

How has Albuquerque embraced Breaking Bad?
I think that a lot of the locals are enjoying the new attention that Albuquerque has received because of the show. A handful of businesses have really embraced the show and are having fun with it. There’s a Breaking Bad beer, a Biking Bad [bike] tour, Breaking Bad bath salts (called ‘Bathing Bad’) … Marble Brewery is offering Heisenberg/Walter White-themed beers… you can even buy a sheet of blue candy from Great Face & Body that comes with a mallet and smash it up like Walt and Jesse do on the show.

With the show winding down, how are your tours doing?
This season of Breaking Bad, the tours sell out months in advance and are sold out through the end of October. For those people not booking months in advance, the next best thing is our Best of ABQ city tour — Tuesday through Sunday, twice a day, we have an 85-minute trolley tour of Albuquerque, and if you’re a Breaking Bad fan, we’re pretty accommodating — when you board the trolley (and you let us know you are a fan) we can point out 5 or 6 different locations – like Jesse’s house, the Crossroads Motel, the Railyards, Tuco’s headquarters … visitors can also see the Denny’s showcased in Seasons 4 and 5. Plus, a restaurant in East downtown called the Grove, seen in Season 5, so there’s quite a bit to see on just the city tour.

And what happens when the show ends?
Even though Breaking Bad is coming to an end, we are keeping the tour going — the Bad tour will return next April. We’re going to keep Breaking Bad’s legacy alive in Albuquerque well into the foreseeable future. As long as visitors come to see Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s Albuquerque, we will be here to show it to them.

As an expert in how to travel the world on $50 a day, Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, is definitely our Type of Traveler. Since this Boston native quit his day job in 2006 and started travel blogging at 23, he’s gone on to visit 70 countries, hundreds of cities and 6 continents. On his No. 1-ranking travel site, Nomadic Matt (and in his book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day) Matt dispenses tips on how to travel longer, better and cheaper. We caught up wtih Matt, who’s currently on tour in Europe, to answer your questions. Whether you’re seeking to become a world traveler yourself or start your own successful blog, Matt’s got the insider look at what it takes.

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?
Nomadic Matt: I created my blog in 2008 as an online resume in the hopes of becoming a freelance writer. I wanted to write guidebooks and in a roundabout fashion, that’s what I do.

What’s your blog about?
I teach people how to travel the world on a budget.

How many countries, cities and continents have you traveled to?
I’ve been to 70 countries, countless cities and 6 continents. I’m only missing Antarctica.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Picking a favorite place is a little like picking your favorite child. It just can’t be done, but I would say my top 3 are Thailand, Sweden and France.

What’s your favorite place to get away from it all?
My apartment. I love sitting on my couch, ordering Chinese food and watching movies. That’s my vacation!

What’s one place you would just as well not see again?
Vietnam.

For the budget traveler, what budget-friendly spots should they put on their radar?
Greece, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Ukraine and Nicaragua, to name a few.

What’s your must-have item when traveling?
For me, I never travel without my iPhone. I love music too much. It makes me tremendously calm and happy, so I always like having access to my music while traveling. It’s especially great on long, long bus rides.

What’s your favorite travel app?
I don’t use apps other than ones related to airline loyalty programs, so I can check my miles. I would have to say my app is now my favorite. I’m building an app that will help people track expenses and budget their money on the road.

Tell us your funniest travel story/experience.
I once got lost in a jungle in Costa Rica with a few friends. We took the wrong path, got lost and before we knew it, it was nighttime and we didn’t have a flashlight. In retrospect it was funny. At the time, we were really scared.

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten while traveling, and where was it?
The best thing ever? Tough question. I’ve had so many delicious meals. If I had to pick one meal that stood out, it would definitely be the paella I had while in Valencia, Spain. That was phenomenal.

What’s the best hostel or hotel you’ve ever stayed at?
My favorite hostel in the world is The Flying Pig in Amsterdam, though it’s a bit on the pricey side. For absolute value, I love Aboriginal in Budapest. That place is a great bargain, with great stuff and a big breakfast.

Where’s “home”?
New York City.

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?
My hometown is a little suburb outside of Boston but we do have the Deane Winthrop House, which is one of the oldest historic houses in the area and famous for its slanted walls!

Any recommendations for anyone wanting to start a travel blog?
Be an expert in something. A general blog isn’t good. Focus on a topic, no matter how narrow, and be the best at it.

What’s No. 1 on your bucket list?
Going on safari in East Africa for 3 months.

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