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Keith Bellows’s World Worsts

keithName Keith Bellows
Who?
Legendary Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler Magazine (the magazine has won 50 Lowell Thomas awards for excellence in travel journalism and twice been nominated for a National Magazine Award during Keith’s tenure). He has also contributed to such publications as Sports Illustrated and Reader’s Digest and penned The Canuck Book (yes, he’s Canadian, though born in the Questionably Democratic Republic of Congo). He teaches travel writing and photography workshops around the country (like this one in SF at the end of May).  More at Nat Geo Traveler Magazine online.
Age 57
Countries visited 98

Titanic Nominations
1. Worst Travel Advice  “Make sure you plan everything.” That’s baloney.  Surprise is part of travel.  I often book the first and last night and then figure things out in-between.  It’s valuable to go to a local tourist office — you just get better information on the ground than you can before you leave. Even with something like booking a safari, you’ll usually end up getting a better deal.
2. Worst Flight
Toss up.  It might be the Air Rangoon flight from Kuala Lumpur on a 1952 DC-something with chickens, goats and a pilot who was probably used to driving a school bus. The plane was making spastic jerks all over the sky then finished off with a near-death landing.  Or maybe it was a private-jet flight that got caught in a thunderstorm. We were hit by lightning a few times, then the lights went out and the plane dropped a few thousand feet.  My fingerprints are still in the arm rest.
3. Worst Tour Group I don’t take many tours, but when I do, there’s always one jerk. I was on a tour in Mongolia and there was a guy who made everyone’s life miserable. He had a complaint for everything. The guide was about a phone call away from having him ejected.
4. Worst Overrun Attraction Ankor Wat. You arrive at this majestic, primeval place, but you don’t get the sense of it because of all the visitors.  We’ve got pictures on a busy afternoon where this whole edifice is covered in scrambling tourists.
5. Worst Words for a Travel Story Beautiful, surprising, idyllic, gorgeous, pretty… I call them non-words. Travel writing is about granular detail.
6. Worst Meal When I was in Jordan I was squatting beside Bedouins and eating  rice with lamb chunks off this large communal plate. As the pile of food diminished, we realized we were eating right out of the head of a lamb.  And then came the soup — a lamb’s eye floating in broth. It turned in my mouth like a soft marble.  Other bad meals were somewhat expected. I mean, if you order a hamburger in Dublin, you’re asking for it.

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  1. July 7th, 2009 at 16:43 | #1

    I appreciate your comment about Angkor Wat. I fight my own dissapointment every time I visit a place with some significant history and culture, to find the experience altered by the guys in burmuda shorts and sneakers pushing past me as I am trying to catch a view without a crowd of tourists in it. Although is is cool to have “been there, done that,” the less known temples and sites can give a better sense of the history and place. Or at least, a better opportunity to absorb it.

  2. November 19th, 2009 at 05:58 | #2

    Mongolia is not a country for control freaks or people who have rigid expectations. I’ve been there four times (so far), and if my guides and drivers have been any indication, the Mongols have got to be some of the most patient people in the world. If your tour guide was on the verge of calling in, then in a lot of countries the idiot would have been expelled twenty complaints earlier.

  3. April 10th, 2013 at 02:28 | #3

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    I {{leave|drop|{write|create}} a {comment|leave a
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    time|when|whenever} I {appreciate|like|especially enjoy} a {post|article} on a {site|{blog|website}|site|website}
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  3. June 24th, 2014 at 12:23 | #3
  4. June 24th, 2014 at 14:07 | #4