Ed Ewing is editor of Cross Country magazine and assistant editor of Paramotor Magazine. He’s been a journalist since 2000 and has worked for the Guardian and written for the Financial Times and the Sunday Telegraph, as well other consumer magazines. An award-winning travel writer, Ed is also a member of the National Union of Journalists and the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild. Follow his adventures and clippings on his blog.
Cheapflights: What’s your routine when you fly?
Ed Ewing: I have gotten very lazy about traveling. I always think, “We can find a place to stay when we get there,” or “I’ll buy it there,” so I’m quite often quite disorganized. I used to be the opposite – packing two belts and that sort of thing. My routine involves printing off all the pieces of paper and keeping them together with my passport, arranging insurance at the last minute, packing the least I can get away with, and getting a guidebook at the airport. It doesn’t always work out; I’d suggest being more organized.
CF: What is your travel pet peeve?
EW: Airports. From the lines at security to the constant harassment you get on some budget airlines to buy, buy, buy – cigarettes, perfume, lottery tickets, whatever. Geneva airport has the whole thing sussed – why can’t they all be like that? If possible, I get the train now in Europe. Although it’s usually more expensive, it’s a million times nicer as a travel experience, you can take loads of luggage, it’s relaxing, and it’s more eco-friendly.
CF: What is your favorite kind of trip?
EW: I like all of it. I love going away for a long time, especially escaping winter, and just making a journey. Two years ago we traveled the length of the Brazil coastline – that was brilliant, but it’s a long, long way, especially on buses. I also like flying trips, where we go paragliding to a specific location for a week or two. That always takes you to really interesting places, usually in the mountains or in the desert flatlands – places most people don’t have a reason to go to. You get off the beaten track that way. Weekend breaks can be brilliant too, but you have to have everything sorted before you go. I once went on a four-day press trip to Venezuela from London – Thursday to Sunday night. That was amazing because we saw so much in such a short space of time and had brilliant guides. In general I suppose I like active trips – getting outdoors and doing something.
CF: Best destination you have ever been to?
EW: Very tricky question. Can I have more than one? India is always eye-opening and exhilarating. Cuba a couple of years ago was truly refreshing. In a world of Twitter and online-all-the-time it was so nice to just get rid of that for two months. Not so fun for people who live there, of course. South America is huge – it took us six months to travel south from Rio de Janeiro to Tierra del Fuego and back up to Colombia in the north. We finished by taking a boat down the Amazon to get back to Rio. In fact, one trip? That four-day trip down the Amazon, on a boat that looked like a Mississippi paddle steamer – swinging, sleeping and eating in a hammock on a deck packed full of people – that’s got to be up there, the Amazon.
CF: Where in the world offers the best value for money?
EW: Value for money is a tricky concept. It’s easy to fall into the traveler’s trap of chasing cheapness. That can lead to all sorts of quandaries: is the cheapest safari the greenest? Almost certainly not. Is the cheapest tour the most inspiring? Ditto. Is the cheapest beach hut accommodation only cheap because it depends on child labor to run it? In lots of places, yes. Value can be found everywhere. I think London is an incredibly good value place to eat – thousands of restaurants all vying for your business keeps prices down. But you have to know where to go. If you want your pound to go a long way though, in my experience India takes some beating.
CF: Where would you pay to stay?
EW: I always pay to stay places. I’ve taken a few travel-writer freebies in the past, but in the main they are for a specific event or press launch. If I’m traveling and then write about it, I’ve paid to stay there. It’s not a good way to make money. Loads of places offer good value, depending on your currency. Brazil offers good value: paradise beaches and exciting cities. Since the pound lost 30 percent though, everywhere is more expensive for anyone with sterling.
CF: What is the best airport you’ve flown to or from?
EW: Geneva. The Swiss just know how to do things like that properly. Top tip? Give yourself time, just take hand luggage with you, and remember that when the guy says ‘No liquids,’ he means no liquids. Arriving at the X-Ray machine and pulling out a shampoo bottle with a question mark is just dumb!
CF: Any tips for making flying a great experience?
EW: Not really. Flying as an experience doesn’t really rate anymore. A stressed Chicago air hostess once looked me up and down as I pitched for a seat – any seat – out of the city after missing a midnight connection and said, “There’s no glamor in flying anymore, honey,” and she was so right. Pick your airline I suppose is the best one I can think of – avoid the real budget ones and look for good deals on the ones with good reputations. I flew TAP to the Azores over the summer and it was amazing, like stepping back in time.
CF: You live in London – home to Cheapflights! Can you share a favorite London adventure?
EW: Greenwich. Get the DLR there from town, marvel at Canary Wharf and the skyscrapers, get off in Georgian Greenwich at the Cutty Sark and see all the sights. Visit the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College. Jonny Depp was there last month filming for his latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It’s a brilliant place. For a night out, lose yourself in Soho. Start after work in a bar somewhere and go with the flow. You never know where you might end up.
CF: If you had to sit in the middle seat on a plane, who would you most and least like your seatmates to be?
EW: Two very small Oompa-Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the most, and the World’s Biggest Twin Brothers for the least. It’s all about space.
CF: Describe your worst travel nightmare.
EW: I did it last month. We went to northern Spain for a late-season week to catch some sun. We rented a car and thought we’d skip along the coast and find a little place to stay. Instead, San Sebastian and Bilbao were both packed: a football-match-of-the-year, an International Film Festival, an athletics meet and U2 playing ‘concert of the year’ meant we spent the whole week shuttling from place to place searching for somewhere to stay – in the rain. It rained all week. Eventually, on our last night, we drove past accident after accident on the motorway in a huge storm for four hours until we got to the Holiday Inn Express at Bilbao airport at midnight. It was brilliant: dinner came out of a vending machine and we managed to find a bottle of wine, but it was the best value place we’d stayed all week. So, travel nightmares would involve cars, rain, motorways, midnight and nowhere to stay. And expense – our trip cost a fortune for a ‘budget’ week. We spent at least €1,000 on a bad time.
CF: What do you like most about travel writing?
EW: Two things. Sometimes you get to do things, or are inspired to do things, that you wouldn’t usually do, because it will make a good article. It forces you to go the extra mile, so it’s a good excuse to travel. And the actual writing – I genuinely enjoy writing and thinking about how to describe a place or person accurately without cliché, it can be quite tricky. I’m lucky because any travel writing I do beyond my day job as a magazine editor is almost always because I have been somewhere great, so it’s always for fun and never forced.
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