Devin Galaudet is the editor-in-chief of IntheKnowTraveler.com. He is the author of the bestselling travel memoir “10,000 Mile with My Dead Father’s Ashes.” During the last 17 years as a professional travel writer, he has visited more than 80 countries.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
Ugh. This is such a hard question. Most of the time, I end up falling in love with the country I’m visiting. This said, Mexico has to be on the list. I’ve travelled to and through Mexico more than fifty times and typically visit a couple of times a year. The people, food, culture, architecture, history are all part of the equation. When I practice Spanish, people are patient. Remarkable! Really, there’s just too much to love for me. After I got my first vaccination, I immediately thought of returning to Mexico.
Japan is endlessly fascinating for me. On the one hand, it’s all about modernity, convenience, and design while maintaining a relationship with its ancient history and religions. Shintoism, one of Japan’s main religions, is pervasive and focuses on nature, spirit, and ancestors, while it lacks structure. All of this in one of the more orderly countries in the world. I rarely knew what I was eating. Japan is where chaos and order meet.
Thailand is earthy and unpredictable. It’s the best food and terrifying tuk-tuk rides in torrents of rain. It’s peaceful reclining Buddhas and tropical thunderclaps so loud it rattled my teeth. Thailand is a place that reminds me that I’m alive and I can accomplish anything. It is the microcosm of why we travel.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
I remember dogsledding in Greenland outside of Ilulissat, which is a very small town, to begin with. In five minutes, we were in nowhere. It was nothing but a snow-covered blanket of white as far as I could see. I had an overwhelming sense of smallness at the vastness of the world. For me, one of the few times the word breathtaking applied.
In the Midlands Meander in South Africa, at the Capture Site Museum that detailed the story of Nelson Mandela. Behind the main museum is “the Long Walk to Freedom” (named after the Mandela autobiography of the same name), which led to a wonderful sculpture of Mandela at the end of its path.
As I took pictures, multiple buses filled with local students showed up. Within a few minutes, there were 200 kids spilled across the scene. They wanted their photos taken. They laughed and ran about. Many wanted to see the photos I took of them and Mandela. Many of the kids wanted to know about me, and I wanted to know about them. It lasted for a glorious 30 minutes. I left with a profound sense of hope for the future.
I was on assignment to visit the Marriott in Puerto Vallarta. They invited my wife to come along when they discovered I had recently gotten married. After several fun days, they took us into town, and we found ourselves walking by the iconic Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral. On a lark, I asked my wife, why don’t we get married again in there right now? A writer friend who was walking with us said, “I’m ordained.” I said, “Great! You’re presiding”, and I handed her my ring.
In the cathedral, as our friend talked about the importance of her relationship with her husband, I thought about the things I didn’t say during our first round of vows. While I thought the whole thing was a bit of a goof, my reimagined vows made a huge impact on my wife. We are now 25 weddings into 100 weddings in 100 countries. By far the best decision I ever made.
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
I’m a cup half-full guy. I love to travel. Most of what I might call “worst” fall into minor inconveniences. Hotel room wasn’t clean enough, and my room safe was complicated to open.
While I love to travel, I’m not a good traveller when it comes to boats. I need a fist full of Dramamine on every boat ride. The three worst are in reverse order. A terrifying small boat ride through rough waters in the Mamanucas Islands in Fiji. The captain zipped through the seams of a wall of ferocious blue. I was pretty sure we were going to die.
A slightly larger boat ride through rough waters leaving the Island of Redang in Malaysia heading back to the mainland. The captain asked one of the passengers to lay on top of the bough so we wouldn’t flip over. I was pretty sure we were going to die.
Also, on a giant catamaran ride from Athens to the island of Santorini in Greece. The Aegean Sea was angry that day. Waves crashed over the top of the giant catamaran carrying 100 people. Everyone held on tight for 4 hours straight while the catamaran bounced, dived, and dipped. I was pretty sure we were going to die. The good news is that my certainty about things is often wrong.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Don’t expect other places to be just like home.
Explore by pushing your boundaries on boats, dogsleds, tuk-tuks, and even through differing religious experiences.
Before going to less travelled countries, go to your bank and bring crisp, unfolded, unstained currency with you. Many places won’t exchange beat up currency over fears of counterfeiting, although more and more places will take credit and ATM cards.