John Roberts is the man behind InTheLoopTravel.com, a travel website with a focus on cruising. John has been on more than 80 cruises and to more than 50 countries.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
I fell in love with the warm and welcoming nature of the people from the moment I set foot in Siem Reap. Our visit kept on providing delightful experiences as we followed the Mekong River all the way to Phnom Penh. I knew I would be fascinated by the temples and history, but I grew to really enjoy the food, climate and smiling residents of the villages and towns that we visited. I can’t wait to go back again and again.
I love the outdoors, and I found the stunning beauty of the fjords and countryside to be mesmerizing as I visited in wintertime. I was fortunate to see a couple of magical displays of the Northern Lights, as well as seeing plenty of wildlife and connecting with some native Sami people who helped me learn about their way of life and preserving their traditions while welcoming me to interact with their reindeer and hosting me for a wonderful meal.
It’s really hard to describe the raw beauty of New Zealand. This is a place ripe for adventure, whether hiking or biking the miles of trails and coastline or kayaking in fjords. I really enjoyed exploring both the North Island, the South Island and smaller volcanic islands, to see the birdlife, meet the people and challenge myself. It’s a breath of fresh air and a rejuvenating experience.
Are there any countries you don’t like visiting?
I’ve never been to a country that I didn’t enjoy. I think there are wonderful aspects to learn from a country and its people every time.
What are three of your favourite cities, and why?
I am partial to Rome for its food and the way that the ancient world and attractions like the coliseum melds with the modern features of the city to create a unique vibrancy. The food is incredible, of course, as well.
I also quite enjoy Athens for many of the same reasons. Plus, the food there is even better.
London is the absolute best city to wander around. I have walked miles and miles through the city to find myself marvelling at the architecture, statuary, bridges, greenspaces and graveyards.
Do you have any favourite hotels or restaurants?
The Intercontinental Saigon
The Intercontinental Saigon is an incredibly luxurious hotel right in the heart of the city, with amazingly friendly staff, a glorious pool area and all the other amenities you could want. We had a fairly rugged trip through Cambodia and Vietnam along the Mekong, so it was a real treat to get to spend a couple of nights in this hotel to refresh before the flight back home.
Aria Hotel Budapest
Aria Hotel Budapest was a fantastic find. This small boutique hotel offers a great location in Budapest (another of my favourite cities, by the way) close to the Danube river and dozens of restaurants and clubs. I recapped all this music-themed charmer has to offer in a detailed post about Aria Hotel Budapest on my site. I don’t often do hotel reviews, but this one was extra memorable.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
International travel stole my heart the day I visited Brussels and toured the Grand Place. We sat down for a beer or two and some tapas, only to be engaged by a pair of London lawyers who had skipped work for the day and hopped a train to Belgium. Our group of four and these two fellows ended up having a great time drinking for a few hours before heading off to dinner at an Indian restaurant.
The night continued after that for my travel companions and me, as we stopped off at an Irish pub for a couple more and noticed a game of cricket on the big screen. Everyone was really into it, and we made friends with a group of fantastic fanatics from Pakistan, who energetically explained this confusing sport to us while we all cheered the walloping that their team was giving the British side. One of the best nights of our lives. We ventured on to Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice and Florence over the course of the following weeks from there.
I also have had incredibly immersive and intimate travel experiences getting to visit people in their homes and one-room schools in communities along the rivers in Myanmar and Cambodia. It’s all been wonderful.
What were your worst travel moments, and why?
My worst travel moment was at the Rome airport. I had exited a van upon arrival, went through the security line, bag check and stopped in the restroom before heading to my gate.
All seemed well until I checked over my items and realized I somehow did not have my wallet anymore. It turns out it had fallen out of my backpack and into the van. I was on a flight to Santorini with no money or credit cards. Just my clothes, cameras and passport.
Fortunately, I had been in the van with a few friends who were on their way to a separate gate for a flight back to the U.S., and they had noticed my wallet on the floor of the van. We were able to coordinate with a very nice staffer from Alitalia to bring my wallet to me from the one gated area to my area after her lunch break. It all worked out fine, but I was in quite a panic as to what we could do for a while.
Also, while I thoroughly enjoyed travelling in Egypt, I found it exceedingly frustrating to have to constantly fend off hawkers who were insisting on “helping” me in some way or another, all in a bid to extract money from me. I can understand the need to hustle to a certain extent, but this can really put a damper on your experience, as it is quite exhausting to be ceaselessly engaging with people while you just want to enjoy a blissful moment or two soaking in the historical sights.
What are three of your best travel tips?
As a traveller who also creates fitness content, I am a big fan of walking, running or biking in a new destination. In my experience, this is the best way to see a city and get a real feel for the place. It allows you to get in a good amount of exercise while intimately familiarizing yourself with the destination and get off the beaten path at your own pace. This typically can’t be done as well when you take public transportation or drive around a city or town.
Engage with the people who live and work where you are visiting. Grab a beer or cocktail at a charming pub and start asking the bartender questions about what they like to do, what they enjoy about their city. I’ve received some of the best tips about great restaurants, underrated places to see, museums, music venues, and so on.