Andrew Dobson is a Toronto-based writer and photographer that has visited over 90 countries and runs the award-winning lifestyle site, Dobbernation Loves
What are three of your favourite countries and why?
I love Argentina, Japan and Sweden. I love countries that have a strong food culture, awesome architecture and are generally considered safe and easy to travel. I also love that all three of those countries have great cosmopolitan experiences but also have world-renowned rural romps.
You can enjoy a weekend in Buenos Aires and then enjoy excellent nature experiences at Iguazu Falls or Mendoza wine country, for example. It’s nice to explore a country knowing you can enjoy a balanced mix of city life and small-town charm.
Are there any countries you don’t like visiting?
As an LGBT travel expert, I have to be conscious of countries that are not welcoming or safe for gay travel (external link to this part of Dobbernation Loves). Many LGBT travellers consider a holiday a political decision, so many do not visit destinations like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Uganda.
What are three of your favourite cities, and why?
I’ve always joked if I was a millionaire, I’d probably own property in Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Stockholm. They are 3 big cities I really feel like I could live in and act like a local. I love the food markets, local restaurants and nightlife of all three of those cities. They each showcase a unique flare for South America, Asia and Europe.
What are three of the worst places you’ve stayed?
When I was just out of university, I backpacked around the world for 3 years on a budget. My worst experience was in Boracay in the Philippines. I was being so cheap. I found a hotel at the farthest boundary of the beach which had bunk beds in a makeshift building where ants were crawling across the floor. I definitely got bitten by bed bugs. The shower had frogs jumping around but I was living my “shoestring budget fantasy,” so really just laugh about it now.
I also visited Europe during the summer when the World Cup was in Germany. I ended up staying at a hostel that was a 1-hour train ride from downtown Berlin which was an annoying commute but you do what you gotta do!
Do you have any favourite hotels or restaurants?
Since I’m a luxury travel expert I’ve had the opportunity to stay at many of the worlds best hotels. I’ve visited a handful of properties by Fairmont, Langham, Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La and St. Regis. My favourite luxury hotel brand is Four Seasons Resorts. I believe I’ve stayed at over 30 of their properties now with my favourites being Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, Four Seasons Bora Bora and Four Seasons Langkawi.
La Mamounia has been ranked as the best hotel in the world for several years and is privately owned and not part of a chain. If you ever get to visit Morocco a stay at the La Mamounia makes you really feel like a King!
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
1) I had afternoon tea with the President of Ireland in Dublin during St. Paddy’s Day. You can read about that experience on his website here.
2)I was invited for the relaunch of Burgenstock Resort in Switzerland, one of the world’s most expensive hotel properties. The trip included over 100 travel journalists from all over the world so it was exciting to be able to explore Lucerne with like-minded travel obsessed pros like me!
3) As an ambassador for DK Eyewitness Travel I worked on a honeymoon guide and spent a dreamy 6 weeks staying at the most luxurious hotels in Bali. Every 3 days I’d check in to a new property, many of which are ranked as the best romantic hotels in Asia if not the world. I had so many luxurious spa treatments, decadent dinners, inspiring temple treks and slept each night in jaw-dropping villas.
What are three of your best travel tips?
1) Pack light! On my first solo travel adventure, I packed my backpack for a 2 month trip to Europe and could barely get the bag on my back it was so packed. I now have a policy of only filling my bags half full with the intention that I will purchase new clothes along the way. I now travel only with a carry on which mystifies so many people who I consider to be poor packers.
I ensure I have enough underwear, socks and t-shirts for the duration of my trip and then limit the number of jackets, shoes and shorts. Since when I travel, I’m often moving constantly, I can’t risk checking luggage and not having it arrive. I definitely do not look glamorous when travelling, but I also never have luggage holding me down!
2) Research in advance! I read several travel guides to a destination before I book my tickets. It’s important to be aware of the ideal weather and festivals that can impact your enjoyment of an area. I’ve met so many travellers who never took the time to research where they were going and arrives in Santorini in November when essentially the entire island shuts down, and all the beaches are closed because it’s so cold.
Festivals can also drastically affect the affordability of a trip. If you find yourself looking for hotels and they all see overly expensive or curiously booked up during an odd time a year, double-check to ensure you aren’t booking your holiday during a film festival or sporting event.
3) Eat like a local! One of the greatest joys of travelling is being able to easily and affordably enjoy the authentic local cuisine. If you consider yourself a picky eater, try and use the travel experience as a way to conquer your fears and open your eyes (and tastebuds) to new possibilities.
Do not eat McDonald’s on vacation in France! If you’re a westerner used to consumer coffee every morning when in Asia, fall in love with the region’s obsession with high-quality tea.