Best of Travel: Journalist, Director, and Host Joseph Rosendo
Award-winning travel journalist and Emmy Award-winning director and travel host Joseph Rosendo is set to share his stories at the Travel and Adventure Show in Los Angeles this weekend, February 21-22. Joseph will celebrate the world’s diversity and showcase his mind-expanding cultural adventures, supplemented by clips from his PBS series “Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope.” The two-day show will also feature several other industry-leading speakers, as well as cooking demonstrations, destination booths, activities, and contests.
We asked Joseph a few questions about his adventures around the world, and he shared advice and anecdotes from more than 40-year of travel experience:
Q: Are you a last-minute traveler or do you spend time planning the perfect trip?
A: First of all, I assume you are speaking about traveling for pleasure rather than traveling to shoot a “Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope” episode. Planning for a shoot has completely different parameters than planning a vacation; both are fun, but in different ways. My feeling is there is no perfect trip and you certainly don’t want to spin your wheels and take all the joy out of a vacation by stressing out over creating a perfect one. I think that puts too much pressure on you and your companion(s)—and travel is one of those experiences that seems to waylay our best laid plans. John Steinbeck said, “We don’t take a trip, a trip takes us.”
However, I do spend time planning a vacation. Besides the nuts and bolts of it (which my wife, Julie, actually plans better than me) I spend time getting acquainted with the culture and discovering the kinds of hidden, people-oriented experiences I love. I want to make the most of my experience without spending all of my time running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to see and do everything. For example, one of the most enjoyable parts of seeing and doing for me is sitting in a café or restaurant watching the people go by and observing them and how they live their lives. I want to leave enough time in my itinerary to feel I live in a destination and I am part of the culture. By the way, I use the Internet (especially tourism board sites), guidebooks, and my friends, family, and associates as sources of information.
Q: When you research a destination, what do you look for? What activities/attractions tend to catch your eye?
A: I look for activities and attractions that offer the opportunity to experience the culture as well as have genuine experiences with the people—one place where my personal travels and “Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope” coincide. It is these authentic, spontaneous, and touching human interactions I have on the show that resonate most with our viewers because realistic experiences with people are what they are seeking when they travel. And, of course, it’s part of the series because it’s what I’ve always loved most about traveling. I love to go to public markets since it’s where you’ll find the people. I love sitting in cafés and people watching. I love to watch people interact with each other, and if there’s not a language barrier—or even if there is—I try to join in myself. I’ve had some of my most memorable experiences interacting with people with which I don’t share a common language.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love visiting the wonders of the world as well; they are tourist attractions for good reason. The Eiffel Tower, the pyramids, the Great Wall of China—who is going to miss seeing those sights? No one, including me. But as Shakespeare said, “How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in it!”
Q: Is there something you use to help keep track of your travel plans (a notebook, travel app, etc.)?
A: Julie just yelled out, “Your producer wife!” Well, that’s true, she does a lot of our record keeping on trips, but I have my own cache squirreled away as back up. Simply, I create a folder on my laptop for the destination and as I gather information I want to print out and carry with me on the trip, I drop it in the file folder. I like seeing things in print. I like the hard copy. I guess that’s why I still take a guidebook or two with me on our trips.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is new to international travel?
A: Expect the unexpected. Be flexible. Stay cool. Immerse yourself in the culture—dance, eat, drink, sing, speak. And to that end, I would say learn some basic travel terms and use them. Always know how to say “hello,” “thank you,” “please,” and “two glasses of good, cheap red wine, please.” Finally, I would say, “Travel is an invitation to life; rsvp and celebrate.”
A side note: If you were looking for an answer like “how to get a cheap room or airfare,” “how to protect yourself from danger,” or “tips on exchanging money,” I can give you some advice, but I am not a very good guidebook. I’m more experiential focused, so that’s the kind of advice I serve. Your guidebook will give you the bread and potatoes; I’m interested in dessert.
Q: What is your favorite island to visit and why?
A: I love the ionic Greek Islands, and the Yasawa Island Group in Fiji is beautiful. I’ve been on some secluded, romantic isles, and the diving in Palau is extraordinary. But I have to pick Sicily because everything I like the most is there, all in one place. It’s packed with archeological attractions; amazingly warm, beautiful, and life-loving people; fantastic food; terrific and unusual wines; stunning waters; magnificent mountains and beaches; small, cozy, atmospheric villages; popular, chic tourist towns; great music … what’s not to love?
Q: Where is the most unusual place you’ve stayed when traveling?
A: On a shoot in South Africa we stayed at Lion Sands on the border of Kruger National Park in the Sabi-Sands Game Reserve. It’s a luxury glamping experience, and along with the over-the-top lodges the reserve offered Julie and I one night in the Tinyeleti Treehouse accommodation, which aptly translates to “many stars.” Yep, you sleep out under the stars in the middle of the game reserve in a comfortable canopied bed. They leave you a split of champagne for an evening “sundowner” glass, and later the guide arrives with a sumptuous dinner with wine.
As the sun sets, the gazelle, zebra, and other animals arrive at the river’s edge for a nightcap. When you are ready for bed you pull up the stairs so a few of the many night prowlers don’t crawl into bed with you. In fact, when our guide left us at the treehouse for the night he said, “Since you were looking for leopards, we thought we’d leave some bait out here”—meaning us. I believe he was kidding, but you never know. We didn’t see any leopards, but we did hear some strange bumps in the night.
Q: What is the strangest cuisine you’ve eaten, in the US or abroad? Did you enjoy it?
A: On Orchid Island in Taiwan I ate flying fish sperm and tried to eat a fisheye. To the Tao aboriginal people of Taiwan the flying fish is a fish and food of spiritual importance. Everything around the fish is done on a schedule very precisely and ritualistically. There is a timetable for when certain villages on the island may fish for this cultural icon, how the fish is prepared, who may be present when it is prepared and do the preparing, who eats certain parts of the fish, and more. It was an honor for me to be offered the opportunity to try these two cultural delicacies, and I took it. Although the fish sperm was not as terrible as I thought it would be (as you can imagine, it was a bit fishy) and I was able to sample it, I could not down the fish eyes. In fact, my gagging on the eyeball is in the show as our “punch out”—a “behind the scenes” segment.
Q: Is there a destination you didn’t think you would enjoy visiting, but you returned home with a changed mind?
A: Well, that hasn’t happened much because I can always find something I like about a place and I travel believing I will. Yet I wasn’t sure I would enjoy Colombia as much as I did. The country has gone through so much, I wasn’t sure it was ready for visitors. Not only is it ready for visitors, it is ready to celebrate. I had a wonderful time, and our stay in Cartagena only whetted our travel appetite and made me want to see more of the country. Armenia was also a surprise. We shot the pilot there for a new archaeology-based series and it was truly a wonderful experience. No matter where I travel, I am always surprised by something. Fortunately, most often I come away having learned something new and exciting about a place and its people that I could not have imagined sitting at home. In my opinion, if experience is the best teacher, then travel is definitely the best experience.
Q: What is one destination you keep returning to again and again?
A: Ah, vive la France! I’ve loved France since my first visit to Paris in 1969. And although I love to visit Paris for a day, the real heart and soul of the country is in the countryside. I particularly love the Dordogne/Perigord region. It is a stunning area with wonderful food (foie gras specialists) and stupendous scenery. It’s the home of Cro-Magnon Man and has some of the oldest cave paintings in the world.
Q: If you could make one decision for the world about traveling, what would it be?
A: I love my quotes, so I’ll use the Mark Twain quote I close every “Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope” with: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” That would be my one decision/hope for the world, for everyone to have the opportunity to travel and meet the wonderful people and amazing cultures that are out there. Nothing is better than people. I know there seems to be a lot of hate, fear, and tragedy, but as Paul Simon said, “I don’t believe what I read in the papers; they’re just out to capture my dime.” The world is indeed a wondrous place, and if everyone could travel and experience other people and understand their lives, it would make each of us better people and we would make the world a better place. I really believe that. So, my one decision would be: travel! Wherever and whenever you can and with an open-mind and an open-heart. Then the world will really be your oyster.
See Joseph and the other headlining speakers this weekend at the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show—get tickets for just $9 with the promo code “JETSET”!