Robin Esrock is a South African travel writer, bestselling author and international television personality. He is based in Vancouver and is known for the 40-part TV series Word Travels, filmed in 36 countries. Esrock has travelled to over 100 countries and all 7 continents.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
It really depends on what you’re into. My top 3 for landscapes? For culture? For food? That being said, the three countries I’ve most enjoyed exploring have been Canada, South Africa, and probably Iceland. Very close behind would be Turkey, Bolivia, Sri Lanka and Brazil.
Are there any countries you don’t like visiting?
I’m not a fan of visiting countries that promote a repressive or corrupt regime, especially if I’m invited as a guest to promote it. This really only happened once in Cuba. The people are wonderful, the music, and the culture is fantastic. But things really need to change politically. I haven’t been to North Korea, and have little desire to go under its current political regime.
What are three of your favourite cities, and why?
It’s just a great walking city with beautiful people, great food, and a definite energy about it.
I’d lump Vancouver, Sydney and Cape Town together as the three most beautiful cities, and should add Rio in there as well. I really liked the Baltic capitals, Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius. They have everything one looks for in a European urban experience, minus the crazy crowds and prices.
What are three of the worst places you’ve stayed?
A very gross hostel in Recife, Brazil, with its filthy rooms and hungry bed bugs.
A very gross hotel in Delhi, which had unidentifiable stains everywhere, no windows, and very dodgy piping.
A hostel in Prague, where I slept with my shoes on and my backpack inside my bed and was the only person who wasn’t robbed in the middle of the night.
Do you have any favourite hotels or restaurants?
Hotel Aquapura in Portugal’s Douro Valley left a memorable impression and an unforgettable fragrance.
Hotel Alto Atacama in Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama is pure desert bliss.
Canada’s Great Railway hotels – mostly Fairmont Hotels but not all – recall a grander era of old-world discovery.
Have to also give a shout out to Gili Lankanfishi in the Maldives, Battle Harbour in Atlantic Canada, Dilmah’s Tea Trails in Sri Lanka, the Aria Amazon, and &Beyond’s Bateleur Camp in the Masai Mara.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Just three? There’s been so many I could write a book (actually, I did, it’s called The Great Global Bucket List).
Getting lost by myself in the Valley of the Moon National Park in the Atacama Desert. It left me with several epiphanies that continue to serve me well.
New Year’s Eve at the House of Wonders in Zanzibar. We hopped over the fence and followed our noses towards a night of exotic adventure.
Swimming in the cold waters in the Antarctic Peninsula, because it’s just something I never thought I’d ever do.
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
Lusaka really comes to mind: there was the world’s worst toilet at the bus station (and I mean worst), and also arriving in the city by train late at night and having to punch away hands trying to steal the backpacks right off our backs.
Waiting for three days in Labrador’s Happy Valley-Goose Bay only to have a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Torngat Mountains cancelled because of bad weather. Having a dysfunctional tribal encounter with the Karen people in northern Thailand, and the Mursi in Southern Ethiopia. It was supposed to be a meaningful cultural interaction, but it was obviously an exploitative human zoo.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Don’t panic. Panic leads to bad decision-making, and bad decision-making leads to bigger problems.
Smile whenever and however you can (even when things are going badly).
Trust your instinct, even if it makes you look eccentric or causes an inconvenience. It seldom steers you wrong.