Second Edition for 2020 now available!
This is my first travel book. The second is nearly finished and others are in the pipeline. I look at every country on earth, and rate 140 of them by ten key criteria important to the traveller. You can read all about it at the www.whygowhere.com website
Where on Earth will you go next?
GP the Travel Writer
For more than 30 years I wrote mainly about technology. I enjoyed it immensely. But 30 years is a long time.
My work took me all around the world, including so many trips in the USA that I lost count at about 60 or 70. I always combined my work with pleasure, and took in as many of the sights as I could between my conferences and corporate visits.
There were some great trips. One of them was legendary. In the early 90s IBM took 14 Australian IT journalists around the world for two weeks. Tokyo, London, New York. All business class, and the best hotels. It was like an all expenses paid holiday with your mates.
And I remember a great trip to Rome ten years later for a Sun Microsystems conference. The PR lady at Sun Australia, the delightful Lorraine Golden (‘LG—Life is Good’), was just as interested in seeing the sights of Rome as we were. We spent five days there, and the conference went for only two. She spent all her time shopping, while I and the other journos wandered the streets and got a feel for the Eternal City.
Twice in my career German software company SAP took me to the south of France. One time we drove from there to Heidelberg, driving through Provence and skirting the Alps over a wonderful weekend.
I even got to South America this way, with IBM again. They took me there for a series of speaking engagements. Hewlett-Packard took me all around Asia one time, and my first visit to Japan in the 80s was with Fujitsu. There were lots of visits to New Zealand and Singapore, which are relatively close to Australia. It was all lots of fun.
Decision to become a travel writer
Then later, in my 40s and 50s, I started to pay my own way and travel for pleasure. I did a lot of it. But I never wrote about travel. My first wife Rose said I should have been a travel writer. She thought my writing style and my fascination with detail would suit me to the task.
It wasn’t until my 60s, when I tired a little of the technology industry, that I started to write about travel seriously. I should have done it much earlier. I initially considered writing travel articles, but trying to make a living as a freelancer in an area where you don’t have a name and which is very over serviced is difficult. So I thought I would start at the top and write a book.
The result was The Top 100 Countries—And Why You Should Visit Them, which I published in November 2018, with a second edition in August 2019. I taught myself website design and how to self publish. I used my market research skills to develop a ten point rating system for every country, which made the book unique. It has been moderately successful. The website I built is www.whygowhere.com. I was very pleased to get that domain name - I brainstormed with myself hours to find a snappy short .com URL, and it just popped out at me. No one had claimed it so I did.
So have a look at www.whygowhere.com. All the stuff about my travel books is there, with quite a few travel blogs.
I never bothered counting at the number of countries I had visited until quite recently. I have reached 48, counting the UK as four and including dependencies like Macau and French Polynesia. I did go to the German Democratic Republic before communism fell, which I am very pleased about.
I have only visited South Africa on the dark continent, and the big three ABC (Argentina, Brazil and Chile) in Latin America. The biggest gap in my travels is the eastern Mediterranean. I have never been to Greece or Turkey or Egypt, and Russia is a major omission. Still, there is time.
Some countries I have visited many times. I keep going back to them because I like them. The USA is a special case, but I have also been ten or more times to the UK, France and Germany in Europe; and as often to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, China and Japan in Asia. Japan is my favourite country to visit—I’ve been there over a dozen times in the last 35 years. England would have to be next on my list. I’ve probably been there 20 times - I was there a lot in the 1990s.
I have kept a record since my first visit in 1980 of the number of US states I have visited. It’s been stuck on 43 for years. With that many it’s easier to mention the ones I haven’t been to. They are Montana and the two Dakotas, West Virginia, Vermont, Michigan and Louisiana. The last two are the biggest gaps. I just never made it to New Orleans. I have yet to meet an American who has been to more states than I have.
I don’t go to the USA much anymore. It’s really not much fun. It’s not just Trump. He’s a symptom, not a cause. When I spent the best part of the year there in 1980 the lack of social cohesion was astonishing to me as a young Australian. It’s got much worse since.
My philosophy of travel
I love travel. What I love about it is meeting local people, eating local food, and doing local things. That’s why I never take package tours or cruises. They are travel with all the fun bits cut out. Cruises aren’t even travel. Floating hotels where you are locked up with other people like yourself.
I love the planning process. I love researching exotic places and finding neat places to stay. I love working out train timetables. Do your planning right and it’s like an extra holiday before you’ve even gone on the actual trip.
When I travel I like to eat and drink. Bars and restaurants are where you meet people. I love to wander the streets of foreign cities taking it all in, walking into obscure shops and just hanging around. I’m much more of a city person than a country person, but I love driving across Europe or taking in the countryside on a long train trip in Asia. And you gotta drive when you’re in America.
I like to stop in small towns and get off the beaten track. I visit the odd church or museum, but is mainly just getting to feel the ambiance of a place. I might tick off the odd site, but the real attraction is just being there. It’s a real plus when you become friendly enough with a local to do what they do or even go into their home. Revisiting old friends in foreign countries that I’ve met on my travels is one of the great pleasures in life.
That’s really the best thing about travel—the people you meet. Locals or other travelers. It’s great when you make real friends with them and they stay that way, and some of the best times are when you have wonderful conversations with people you chance upon, they are your best friends for an hour, and then you never see them again. All the benefits of friendship with none of the downside. I love that.
I like to visit obscure places that have fascinated me when I read about them or heard about them. As an inveterate history buff I like to see where things actually happened. And I like seeing how people live.
Travel is so wonderful because it encapsulates so much of what I love about life. New experiences, interesting places, wonderful people, fabulous food and drink, and the sheer exuberance of being somewhere else. Those poor turkeys on cruise ships or tucked away in resorts really don’t know what they’re missing. You wonder why they bother.
Anyway, to read a bit about my travels go to my blog at https://whygowhere.com/blog/ It is centered around countries because it is intended to support my Top 100 Countries book. But it enables me to write about pretty well anywhere.