The staff at Viator are passionate travelers. When we’re not busy talking about our last trip, we’re busy planning our next adventure.
In that spirit we’ve created the Viator Travel Blog. It’s a place where we can discuss travel, discuss what’s new on Viator.com, answer your questions, and generally post and discuss news, features, wishlists and more about the world we live in. At Viator we believe that travel has the power to make the world a better place. This is our place on the web to share our passion and inspire all of us to make that next trip.
The ‘Viator Travel Team’ Regulars
Scott McNeely is Viator’s VP Product and oversees our online and mobile efforts. Over the years Scott has traveled by camel, rickshaw, elephant, ox cart, yak, and 4th-class train in 45+ countries; appeared on Syrian television meeting President Bashar Al-Assad (don’t ask – it’s a long story); was kidnapped from a train in Morocco and forced to buy over-priced rugs as a ransom (you can read about that story here); and has written more than a dozen travel guidebooks, including a doozy of a guide to post-revolution Romania (1991 was not a great year for Romanian tourism). Scott’s favorite city? Istanbul. Scott’s favorite thing to do on viator.com? Skydiving tied with shark diving.
Kelly Gillease is our VP of Marketing at Viator. Always up for a new experience, Kelly learned in the past year that World Cup fans are really loud, Iceland has nice food, surfing is fun and there are better places to sleep on your honeymoon than the Buenos Aires airport. Kelly’s favorite city? San Francisco, of course. Favorite things to do? Glacier hiking and surfing. Check out her marketing musings on her blog,inhousesem.com.
Jeff Lewis is Viator’s VP of Engineering, where he has the pleasure of managing the creation and operations of all Viator’s fantastic technology. Jeff came to Sydney for 4 months from chilly Canada in 1995, and hasn’t managed to leave (for good reason). Having gotten married and witnessed the production of 2 kiddies since arrival, his travelling is more about family than adventure, though he has managed to travel around most of Asia on business trips over the years and more recently to Malaysia and Hawaii with the family. Favourite destinations and activities include beaches (digging holes), wildlife (the boys like to catch everything, lizards especially) and good food. Dream destination is Italy for lazy exploration of small town culture, punctuated by unique fresh dining experiences (and maybe some iguanas).
Rod Cuthbert is Viator’s founder and chairman. Rod has traveled extensively throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Western Europe and North America. Rod believes strongly in the importance of working with the very best suppliers in each of our markets, and has personally “road-tested” many of the tours, activities, shows & attractions offered by Viator. He is a lousy golfer and a below-average surfer who has enjoyed those pastimes in every destination he finds with a golf course or a beach (with waves.) When not traveling, Rod shares his time between San Francisco, USA and Sydney, Australia.
Jenny Crossling is a native of Sydney, Australia, but is currently living in the bright-light city of Las Vegas. She has traveled throughout most of the USA and a few of the Caribbean Islands, some of Asia and a tiny little bit of Europe. After a 4-year stint as an apprentice chef (long hours and way too much stress), she has traded that for a life at Viator (with long hours and way too much stress), but as a perk, gets to live in her favorite city (Venice is a close second, but hey – you have that in Vegas too, right?). With a penchant for Jaegerbombs and deep-fried mac & cheese balls – Jenny has found her new home in America!
Featured Travel Writers
Philippa Burne caught the travel bug late in life. Too afraid of flying to board a plane for over 10 years, she was trapped in Australia. She finally succumbed to hypnotism when offered the job of a lifetime in London, travelling by ship sadly being no longer an option. Since that fateful day, she has lived and worked in Croatia, Poland, Holland, London, Slovakia and the USA. Currently she is travelling, working on a book and travelling. She is also travelling a lot.
William Travis is a passionate urban and beach traveler who lives and breathes travel and music. Thus his favorite places always emanate a strong music vibe. During his extensive travels in the Caribbean, he’s heard steel drums, reggae, and marching bands. While visiting cities throughout the U.S., Europe, and U.K., he’s dug the sounds of jazz, blues, and rock and roll, in between a frothy pint of bitter or a delicious pinot noir. A longtime editor at both Fodor’s and Frommer’s, he writes about everything from culture, restaurants, and hotels to beaches, wine, nightlife, and music for such fantastic venues as Viator.com, Frommers.com, Zagat’s, The Affluent Page magazine, British Airways, and Jetsetter. When he’s not working, you can find him spinning vinyl and CDs both at home and at his regular DJ set in Brooklyn.
David Whitley is a shameless country-ticker, irrepressible novelty seeker and full-time freelance travel journalist. He writes for newspapers, magazines and websites across the world, and vents his spleen at grumpytraveller.com. He is almost magnetically attracted to bizarre museums, quirky hotels and odd tours. Last year he managed to go to a Beatles theme hotel, the Eurovision Song Contest Final and Chernobyl in the same month. He also thinks he’s the only person to have ever gone to San Marino and St Kitts on consecutive days.
Tim Leffel is the author of several travel books including The World’s Cheapest Destinations, now in its third edition. He has written for a wide variety of publications over nearly two decades, is editor of the award-winning webzine Perceptive Travel, and is editor of the Practical Travel Gear blog. See more at TimLeffel.com.
Anne Davis was born and raised in San Diego, California. She now lives in Washington, D.C., by way of Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has also lived in Peru and Argentina, and has spent significant time in southern France. In the fall, she will be moving to Quito, Ecuador, as a Fulbright grantee. Anne’s hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu twice. Next on the agenda, summiting Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. Check out her Viator Profile to learn more.
Louise Heal grew up in Luxembourg, a country so small that you need a passport to go shopping. As a London University student, she begged her bank manager for a loan to travel to Africa. One overland trip later and she was hooked. In between bouts of software development, she has travelled to India, Sri Lanka, Borneo, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. She is researching a travel book about India, and hopes to go to Namibia soon. She will also go to South America as soon as Asia stops getting in the way. Her blog-in-progress is as louiseheal.blogspot.com.
Jodi Rose has travelled the world since 2002, creating Singing Bridges, a conceptual sound work using the cables of bridges as musical instruments on a global scale. Recording the vibrations in the cables with contact microphones, editing and composing the sounds to create experimental music, performances, and installations has taken Jodi to festivals and events across Europe and Australia. She has dangled from the top of a crane in Bangkok to listen to the cables being ‘tuned,’ sampled cocktails in the bar of the UFO Bridge in Bratislava, been guardian of a bridge over the Danube, and traversed the globe from Helsinki to the Mekong Delta in her endless quest for bridge music. Jodi is working with engineers, architects, software developers and musicians to link the sounds of bridges around the world in the ultimate live networked ‘Global Bridge Symphony’, and writing her memoir of this quixotic philosophical journey.
Diana Edelman is a former career-breaker. In 2010, she traded her comfortable job in PR for a backpack, heading solo to Europe and Africa. Recently, she traveled to Thailand and spent a week as a volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park, bonding with elephants. Her popular blog, d travels ’round, shares entertaining stories from her travels, along with providing advice and featuring photographs from all over the world. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook for travel stories, news and more.
Kyle Ellison is a freelance travel blogger whose wanderings and adventures are cataloged on his blog kylethevagabond.com. He is consistently drawn back to Southeast Asia by the diving, the weather, and the heaping plates of pad thai. He may or may not be writing from beneath a coconut palm on Rabbit Island.
Other Notable Contributors
Gareth Leonard is a marketing professional with an addiction to adventure. His appetite for exploration has taken him skydiving outside the Big Apple, motorcycling on the Greek Islands and skiing on the glaciers of Switzerland and British Colombia. In 2009, he stepped away from a company he helped turn from a dorm room idea into a multi-million dollar operation to move to Buenos Aires, Argentina on a whim. His current mission is to see what it takes to go from Tourist to Townie in a foreign country without knowing anyone or anything before hand. Check out all of his uncensored adventures and discoveries at http://www.tourist2townie.com/
Hudson Hornick, an American expatriate and avid world-traveler, has decided to settle down in London to pursue his MFA in Creative Writing. Being confined to one locale, he channels his energy to his pen and pad, as well as various extra-curricular activities. He currently sits on the committee for the Society of Young Publishers, is involved with the nonprofit Little Episodes, and has a ‘Literature is Long’ book proposal under consideration. He takes a ravenous approach to travel, and if pressed to define this appetite in literary terms, would liken it to a mix between Geoff Dyer and Hemingway, only healthier, less fatalistic.
John Ryan is a native of Melbourne, Australia. John knows a thing or two about good bars, good music and good food in Melbourne and across Australia. John is also the author of the travel book Micronations.
Ken Frohling manages Viator’s partner programs in the Americas and tries to keep abreast with the ever changing online travel industry. Typical of Viator, Ken is another travel nut and loves to explore whenever he gets the chance. He got his first bite of the travel bug when he woke up one day in the early 90′s and realized his “dream job” in pharmaceutical sales was no dream. He quit the next day and spent six months in Europe to find himself. He never did, but kept trying to repeat the effort spending 9 months backpacking in Africa from Morocco to Cape Town, plus a three-month stint in France. He HAS since found himself and now lives in Charm City – Baltimore, MD. His favorite getaways are Bangkok (for the food), Amsterdam (for the nightlife) and Melbourne (for the tennis).
Suzann M hails from a town of 400 residents on the US-Mexico border, she’s a small-town expert who is known for getting to know a new destination inside and out with lightening speed. Suzann has sought out hidden desert petroglyphs, laid eyes upon Blackbeard’s “dead man’s chest” and climbed two ancient temples with the same staircase. Favorite holiday? New Year’s Eve and Talk Like a Pirate Day. Favorite tours? Dearly Departed and the New York City Rock & Roll Tour.
Kerrie O’Mahony always has an eagle eye out for the next hot thing to do. When not traveling through Europe she is dreaming of her ultimate holiday experience which is trekking the mountains of Uganda for a rare meeting with the endangered Mountain Gorillas. Having survived London’s Heathrow airport at the start of a gulf war, a near death experience at the hands of a local Roman driver and too many big nights out in Spain, Kerrie proudly considers herself a tourist and not a traveler. Despite her passion for European travel her heart is, and always will be, in Australia with her favorite place on earth being Port Douglas.
Tim Lewis is a great believer in packing as much into holidays as possible – just ask his exhausted friends! His favourite destinations include Egypt and Turkey. Tim also has a taste for extreme sports, having survived a bungy jump and skydive in Australia and snowmobiling on an Icelandic glacier. His top travel tip for great experiences on holiday: book them before you go!
Christine Cramer caught the travel bug (watch out, it’s contagious) after years of studying evolutionary psychology, she has decided to focus on the psychology of travel addicts. Having covered a lot of ground in Europe and the USA, next on the list for Christine is South America for some travel research of her own.
Bruce Melendy is a writer, musician and IT analyst. He’s traveled through over a dozen countries; food and architecture generally shape his journeys. He’s survived tornadoes in Louisiana , snowstorms in New Zealand, and alcohol poisoning in Georgia (as in the former Soviet republic). A longtime San Francisco resident, Bruce now lives in Melbourne with his wife and stepson.
Liz Pagano, having worked in the travel industry for many years, has a passion for exploring the unknown and her own backyard. There are so many wonderful places in this world… some trips are chosen to visit friends & family, some because she is intrigued by the culture and others the more scientific method of eenie-meenie-miney-mo. Having experienced elephant trekking in Thailand, spelunking in Belize, abseiling in South Africa, and wine tasting in Australia she is always on the look-out for the next adventure. In 2007 she plans to journey to distant places in eastern Europe like Estonia, Russia, and Turkey and places closer to home like Washington D.C., Phoenix, and Los Angeles.
Cheryn Flanagan is a writer, photographer, and designer. Having spent a year on the road in Asia, she’s also been called a professional nomad (this, her favorite occupation). Cheryn travels to understand the world and the people within it… and as a side effect, she gains a greater understanding of herself, which usually results in a comical essay on the travails of foreign adventure.
Shelley Ruelle is the writer behind At Home in Rome, the blog with a behind-the-scenes look at the Eternal City, her home since December 2001. She meets world travelers at Really Rome, two vacation apartments she manages in the heart of old Rome, Trastevere. She and her Roman husband Alessandro are frequent travelers in search of great food, wine, and culture in the bel paese.
Rowan McKinnon is a freelance travel writer and musician. He’s traveled widely but specialises in the island states of the South Pacific. He has contributed to many Lonely Planet travel guides, and newspapers and magazines including National Geographic Traveler. Rowan’s earliest experiences of international travel were as the bass player for touring arty-rock band Not Drowning Waving in the ’80s and ’90s. The band still reforms occasionally to play gigs and festivals. Rowan has four kids and a mortgage on a weatherboard house in the Melbourne suburbs. He was once arrested in Papua New Guinea on suspicion of being a mercenary.
Kim Cofino is an American international school teacher addicted to the expat life. She and her husband, Alex, moved overseas in August 2000 and haven’t looked back since. After five years in Munich, Germany, they decided to follow the sun to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they have spent the last two years happily enjoying life without socks. Kim enjoys traveling above all else, which, thankfully, the school calendar accommodates quite nicely. She recently fulfilled her self-imposed challenge of traveling to 30 countries before she turns 30 (officially, she’s reached 35, but who counts Vatican City and Liechtenstein?). She chronicles her expat adventures on her blog, Follow That Elephant!
Christoph Courth is a half German, half English graduate of anthropology who has lived, travelled or worked in over 50 countries, covering six of the seven continents (one day he will don a woolly hat and venture to the last, Antarctica). He has worked in the Dominican Republic for the UK registered charity COPA, in Saudi Arabia as research journalist, in Tanzania as a teacher, in Germany as a builder and is now back in London working for The Prince’s Trust. A passionate photographer and writer he has made a documentary on Shamanism in the UK and one on the sugar-cane cutters of the Dominican Republic. His dream is to become a carpenter, have a donkey and grow his own vegetables.
Anthony Lye is currently training as a lawyer in the UK, but would happily swap to be a full-time traveller any day. Having been fixated on the Hispanic world since teaching English in a Costa Rican village in 2002, he also worked as a volunteer journalist in Bolivia during 2005. Aside from working on his tan on foreign beaches, he enjoys song-writing, playing the piano and creative writing, and looks forward to the time when his no-doubt monumental debut solo album finally sees the light of day.
Vicki Potts reminisces fondly of her younger carefree days backpacking around the world. Originally hailing from New Zealand, Vicki has also lived in the UK for ten years, and has resided in Sydney Australia for the last seven. Her habit in the UK of taking 6 months off work every year to go traveling gave her a fantastic opportunity to explore 60+ countries around the world, and asking her to name her favorites inevitably leads to at least a seven-hour soliloquy and an invitation to view her photos. Vicki has experienced some of the most exotic locales around the world in fascinating ways – white water rafting down the Sun Kosi in Nepal; trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; traveling through Iran to Kathmandu on an overland truck; kayaking through the islands of Fiji; and swimming with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef in Australia; and her to-do list currently includes Laos and Antarctica. Her only regret is that she didn’t start working for Viator sooner.
Ian Frentz is Viator’s quality assurance (QA) manager, which means he gets to break the Viator websites before they’re released to the public. Originally hailing from New Zealand, he left the farm at the tender age of 17 for his first overseas jaunt, to Tahiti. After 20 years in the travel industry, he’s notched up around 40 countries in his travels around the globe, some of his favorite destinations being Vietnam, Belize (where he eloped to tie the knot under a palm tree), Scotland and Sri Lanka. These days, he lives in Sydney, where he indulges in his passions for good food, fine wine and that greatest sport of all – rugby (where he gets to roll in the mud for six months of the year).
Jordan Digby works on Viator’s technology, building the programs that Ian breaks! In previous lives (i.e., before Viator) Jordan has lived in Melbourne, Chicago and London, but now splits his time between Sydney and his small farm in eastern Thailand. Getting away from the ordinary is his travel mission, to which end he’s managed to go polar bear spotting in Canada, camped out in Botswana’s Okavango Delta with the hippos and hyenas, and get himself well and truly lost in Laos, ending up on the Ho Chi Minh trail by accident (but that’s a a story for a later blog…).
Jack Brown has been rustling cattle, chasing trains, flogging loose change and mustering trouble since he ran from the east coast of Australia back at the end of the last century, citing musical differences due to the impending O-limp-ick Games. He’s wandered round a fair bit of the country and crossed the Territory more times than he can remember – he’s seen it all, and, of course, wiser men have said less in adventures that run the gamut of dubious and doubtful all at the same time. He’s younger than you think and currently itinerant, which he reckons means “looks good in a travel diary.”
Paige R Penland is a SoCal-based freelance writer equally in love with travel and custom cars. She’s covered her own country from Alaska to Florida, and recently returned to the USA after three years in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. Life is good.
Anto Howard is a travel writer and playwright who returned to live in his hometown, Dublin, a few years ago after a long stint in the rotten apple that is New York. He has written for Fodor’s, The AAA travel guides, National Geographic Traveller, Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine, and numerous other publications about Central American, the U.S.A., Canada, Europe, and, of course, Ireland.
Benjamin Cunningham is a former newspaper journalist and current freelance writer. As American as apple pie, he has lived in Amsterdam for the past year. After a brief stop in Paris, he’s recently moved to Serbia (at least temporarily). Someday he would like to become an expert on international beach resorts, but that day does not appear to be coming anytime soon.
Jane Rawson launched her traveling career at age one, when she moved to Delhi, and her writing career at age five, when her poem “My pussy cat” was published on the fridge. Since then, her fiction has been published by Cardigan Press and her travel writing by Lonely Planet, while various employers have paid her to churn out copy on topics as gripping as management training, Eastern European hotel bedspreads and superannuation legislation. After stints in Phnom Penh, Prague, San Francisco and Canberra, she has settled down in Melbourne with a truck driver and a small cat (but not the cat in the eponymous poem) where she worries about the future and enjoys microbrewed beer, vegetable gardens and arguing online with people she has never met. You can find her online (occasionally) at travelskerricks.blogspot.com.
David Stanley is the author of Moon Fiji and Moon Tahiti, published by Avalon Travel Publishing of Berkeley, California. He also wrote the first two editions of Lonely Planet Cuba and the first three editions of Eastern Europe on a Shoestring. David is a collector of countries, having visited 195 of the world’s 245 countries and territories. His South Pacific travels began in 1978 when he researched the original South Pacific Handbook. Paradise isles like Bora Bora, Moorea, Mana, and the Yasawas draw him back again and again, but he also enjoys exciting cities like Papeete, Nadi, and Suva.
Robert Curgenven is an Australian musician on tour in Europe for the foreseeable future. He has worked in the arts, health and radio as graphic designer, editor, sumo wrestler, community cultural development advocate, roadie, festival director, conference convenor, gallery coordinator and on the occasional odd job. Preferring to travel overland than by air, Robert has a degree in philosophy and is fascinated by culture, language and the strange things that make places what they are. He has lived throughout Australia, runs his own small record label, Recorded Fields, and is in Europe for his third and most extended stay (till he cracks the Big Time).
Tom Downs is the author of Lonely Planet’s New Orleans city guide. His most recent edition was awarded the Lowell Thomas Gold Medal for best guidebook of 2007.
Terry Carter has photographed and, with his wife and writing partner, Lara Dunston, written or contributed to half a dozen travel guides to Dubai and the UAE. The UAE has been the couple’s base since 1998. Terry and Lara write frequently on Dubai for magazines, newspapers and websites around the world, from National Geographic Traveler to The Independent.
Laurence Belgrave is currently in Rome working on ways to survive in the ancient city. His adventures have included writing for the Turkish Daily News in Istanbul, skippering a 35ft sailing boat across the greater part of the Mediterranean, skippering a small speedboat to various wild islands in the Phillippines and trying to drive around Ireland in a week whilst helping out with Fodor’s for Ireland. His favourite countries to travel so far are Syria, Turkey and India.
Maggie Rays developed her wanderlust as a wide-eyed, gap-toothed eleven year old and has been deserting the sunny climes of Melbourne, Australia for far-flung destinations ever since. She has visited places as remote as Vis, as teeming as Tokyo, and as eccentric as Nairn, variously as a backpacker, a couch-surfer, and in five-star excess. Journalistic study took her to Toronto, a career as a television script writer drew her towards London, and love has recently brought her to Reykjavik. Currently she divides her time between writing, illustrating, baking, and ogling Mount Esja.
Sara Wood is a San Francisco-based writer who earns her keep in the advertising world by day and stokes the creative fires by night, working on a eclectic mix of writing projects including Bay Area art and culture blog Culturcosm. Whether discovering new adventures in her home city, traveling domestically, or trekking to far off lands, Sara finds that writing about her travels enriches her experience of them. She hopes to provide the same benefit to readers by sharing her insights of the places she’s been.