Going Places

Matthew Brumley is the founder of Earthbound Expeditions, which organizes group travel to destinations around the world for various clients, including KPLU. "Going Places" is our new weekly travel segment exploring all aspects of getting from Point A to Point B.

Don Wilson / Port of Seattle

If you’ve flown recently, you’ve also experienced airport security. And you’ve maybe also had to wait as travelers with a certain clearance are let through security ahead of you. It’s part of a program called TSA PreCheck, where travelers can pay $85 and undergo some advance screening once, allowing them to breeze through much shorter security lines without removing shoes and belts.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Changes in federal law could soon mean a standard Washington state driver's license is not good enough to get you through airport security.

The Real ID Act toughens the requirements for driver's licenses to be recognized by the federal government. In short, only IDs you've obtained after proving legal residency or citizenship (U.S. or otherwise) will count. Washington state has no such requirement to obtain a standard driver's license.

Matthias Schrader / AP

Correction: In the audio version of this piece, Matthew Brumley says refugees are not heading to the Netherlands or Denmark. Both countries have taken refugees in this most recent crisis, though fewer have gone to Netherlands than other European countries, and Denmark has taken a hard stance against granting asylum to many.

Walk Through Famous Paintings On Your Way To Normandy

Oct 29, 2015
Shogunangel / Flickr

Most Americans have heard the word “Normandy” in the context of World War II, as well they should have. The D-Day invasion centered there in 1944 was a watershed moment in the conflict, and involved enormous sacrifice from allied troops.

But while World War II history is an important reason to see northern France, it’s not the only reason, says KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley.

Begin in Paris

Heading north out of the French capital, stop in Giverny, home of Claude Monet.

Moyan Brenn / Flickr

When the Iron Curtain fell in Eastern Europe, the region underwent massive change. You can see examples of that in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley made his first trip there in 1986.

“All the buildings were gray. You could walk across Charles Bridge and be alone. It was very Kafkaesque,” he said. “The mood was dark and mysterious and intriguing and romantic.”

Today, Prague is a major commercial hub.

Xianyi Shen / Flickr

Hainan Province, an island in the South China Sea, is one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s also where former KPLU Production Assistant Shunying Wang grew up.

“I like to call it Asian Hawaii,” Wang said.

The main city – Haikou – is crowded and busy, but escape into the countryside and you’ll find resorts, peace and relaxation.

Michael Tieso / Flickr

The San Juan Islands call themselves an “Inspiration for the Senses.” Vancouver, British Columbia is “Spectacular by Nature.” And Boise settles for a one-word description: “Active.”

Whatever the slogan, tourism marketers work hard to attract your attention, and your money. Here are some of the best and worst travel slogans from around the world, according to KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley:

Norm Lanier / Flickr

Maybe you have been on a vacation where, when it is time to come home, you think, “What if I just stayed?”

For thousands of retirees every year, that is a reality. They leave the United States and become permanent residents abroad, often in some place warm and sunny.

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says that has risks and rewards.

In Case You Want To Visit The Pope

Sep 24, 2015
Vincente Villamón / Flickr

Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States includes stops in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. He is the leader of the Catholic Church, but he is also a head of state. Vatican City is the center of Roman Catholicism and an independent nation – the world’s smallest, in fact.

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley has made numerous trips to the Vatican. He has seen Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict. Brumley says there has been renewed interest in visiting Vatican City since Francis became pope in 2013.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Modern travel comes with a lot of options. From western Washington, you can travel by plane, car, ship or train. You can also travel cinematically.

KPLU’s Ed Ronco and travel expert Matthew Brumley picked some of their favorite travel movies – either films about a journey, or those that transport you effectively to a different place.

Matthew’s Picks

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Courtesy Beth Whitman


In the middle of a 7,000-mile motorcycle trip from Seattle to Panama, Beth Whitman found herself stuck along the Guatemalan border. 

Other people flowed freely in both directions across the line between the two countries. But not Whitman. For some reason, the guards were not letting her into Guatemala.

And she was by herself.

"I sat for an hour, angry that they weren't letting me through with just a signature," she said. 

Christina Opalka

Group tours and all-inclusive resorts make getting away easy. But sometimes you want to plan your own trip and escape the usual tourist destinations. 

That's what Christina Opalka does. She and her family have had some spectacular trips. And she says if you're willing to research enough online, and "be a little bit fearless," you can, too. 

Pasayten Wilderness, Washington

Todd Petit / Flickr

Many of the communities affected by this year's wildfires in central and eastern Washington have economies that rely heavily on tourism.

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says once the wildfire danger has passed, people should consider taking time to visit central and eastern Washington, to inject money back into the economy.

Some places have been evacuated and suffered damage from the wildfires. But others are just in a region people have chosen to avoid, to steer clear of wildfire danger this summer.

Here are some good places to look:

Ed Ronco / KPLU

There are three kinds of flight experiences: The ones you forget, the ones you’ll never forget, and the ones you want to forget. We’re focusing on those last two in this week’s “Going Places.” Travel expert Matthew Brumley tells stories about experiences he’s had, including:

'You Never Know Who You'll Need' When Traveling

Aug 13, 2015
Ed Ronco / KPLU

Our friend Ale Infantes, who lives and works as a tour guide in Havana, told us a story recently about a visit he made to Washington, D.C.

He was trying to take the city’s Metro system, and was told he should catch the blue train.

“I never pictured a completely blue train,” he said. “But I was expecting more than a sign saying just ‘Blue Line,’ which I never saw.”

Infantes watched for a while as gray trains passed by.

AP Images

Sometimes the world can feel so trivial. Literally. We'll return to destinations and travel trips in short order. But this week, the "Going Places" crew offers some travel trivia. Take the quiz below and see if you get your passport stamped -- or seized.

Andrew Harnik / AP/pool

The more than 50-year freeze in relations between the U.S. and Cuba is finally thawing. Earlier this month, both countries opened embassies in each others’ capitals. 

Earlier this year, three groups of KPLU travelers visited Cuba, including KPLU’s Ed Ronco and travel expert Matthew Brumley. Their tour guides on those trips were Frank Alpizar and Alejandro Infantes, who happen to be in Seattle this week on vacation.

How To Pack Lightly And Still Have What You Need

Jul 23, 2015
Justin Steyer / KPLU

As a tour organizer, Matthew Brumley routinely arrives at a destination a day or so before his clients, and then meets them at the airport. Recently, he was in Johannesburg to greet an arriving flight.

“I was sitting there with South Africans, and we could pick out every single American,” Brumley said. “They were coming off the plane with every single gadget and they were overdressed to the point where you would think they were going on a survival mission.”

You don’t need to pack everything. In fact, you can probably get away with packing much less than you think.

David McSpadden / Flickr

This week on Going Places, we're talking about staying places.

Specifically, what if you went overseas and instead of staying for a vacation -- a week or two -- you stayed for a year? Or six months? 

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says if you have the time, there’s a lot of value in living and working in a foreign country.

“If you’re young, universities love seeing this on your resume,” he said. “If you’re older and you’re a retiree, it’s a way of getting away from the golf course and the evening cocktail hour, and doing something really interesting with your life.”

Kvitlauk / Flickr

India has given birth to some of the world’s great artistic traditions. So says Amit Sankhala, a travel designer who lives in Delhi. As he shows his country to visitors, one of his favorite things to do is connect the dots between Indian traditions and western forms of art.

Forts And Castles

Throughout the country are forts and palaces, many dating back thousands of years.

“It’s something you would imagine would be in Morocco, or staying in castles in France or Italy,” Sankhala said. “Over time, they have become these amazing places to stay.”

Todd Petit / Flickr

You’re looking to get away for a weekend, but the Fourth of July (or maybe the summer in general) kind of crept up on you. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says have no fear: There are still plenty of options.

First, this late in the game you'll need to be flexible. But there are some tricks you can use:

Steve Bennett / Flickr

Even before the 2010 earthquake that devastated its capital, Haiti was the scene of political unrest. There were government upheavals in 1991 and 2004. Americans are used to seeing those images on TV newscasts, and in newspapers.

But the country also has seen growth in tourism, says Wilbert Denis. He grew up in Haiti, and has watched as visitors arrived on the island.

Sights To See

Beaches are probably Haiti's biggest draw. Denis says Labadee is his favorite. "It's so vibrant," he said. Also check out St. Marc.

Plenty To Do In London, No Matter Your Age

Jun 18, 2015
Gary Bembridge / Flickr

The Going Places mailbag – OK, fine, it’s an e-mail inbox – brought us a nice note this week, from a listener with a pressing travel question.

Abe in Redmond writes: “I am taking my 11 and 13-year-old boys to London in August.... I am curious about the less-obvious places you like to visit in the city.”

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley took his then-13-year-old son to London last summer, and he offered some advice:

Do It On Foot

Bologna A Window Into Italy's Food, Political Divide

Jun 11, 2015
Lorenzoclick / Flickr

Bologna is in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. It’s famed for its food (Bolognese sauce anyone?) and is often considered one of Italy’s culinary centers.

“And yet there are hardly any tourists here,” says KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley. “You walk through Florence and it’s elbow to elbow. Same with Rome and Venice. But you come here and you get a little slice of real Italian life.”

It’s also a good jumping off point for short trips to other famous Italian locales.

Three Things You Might Not Know About Tour Guides

Jun 4, 2015
Earthbound Expeditions

If you’ve ever traveled abroad – especially with a group – you’ve probably met up with a local tour guide at your destination. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley has been leading tours around the world for nearly 30 years. He says local guides are key experts that bring a lot of knowledge to a trip. But there are other layers of guiding that happen behind the scenes. Here are three things you might not know:

Mark Reed

It does seem like a lot of effort simply to find a good camping spot. 

KPLU’s Ashley Gross takes flight in a home-built airplane and hears from a Seattle family that would rather be on an air-bound adventure than be too comfortable at home.  Read and listen to the story on Quirksee.org

Don Wilson / Port of Seattle

Travel over long distances can wear you out. As anyone who’s flown a great distance can tell you, the sudden change in time zones can wreak havoc on your body. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley has been almost every continent on the planet, and has a lot of experience fighting off jet lag. Here's his advice:

Before The Trip

Exercise more. If you’re already pretty active, keep it up. If you’re kind of sedentary, maybe take a few more walks. You don’t need to get “in shape” before a flight, of course, but it helps to be more alert.

Ed Ronco / KPLU

Travel brochures and websites can often paint a picture of an “authentic” experience in a foreign country. But KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says so often, what people consider an “authentic” is far from real.

Cultures are changing, especially in Europe. Travel advertisements often show you a romanticized version of what you’ll actually experience.

“They’re selling you the cliché of a country – the little boy walking down the street with a French baguette, and the two people playing bocce ball in Italy,” Brumley said. “It’s getting harder to find that.”

James Melzer / Flickr

Summertime means the height of tourist season for many destinations in the northern hemisphere. That can mean big crowds at museums and other popular sites.

But KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says there are ways to avoid the crowds.

Off-Season Travel

The dead of winter is a great time to see Europe, but anytime between October through March should work, Brumley said. The weather isn’t as nice, of course, but if you’re planning mostly indoor activities, what’s the difference?

Heribert Pohl / Flickr

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Leipzig, Germany, was in economic ruin.

“They had an unemployment rate here in the mid-1990s of over 25 percent,” he said. “Now they’re under 5 percent.”

And it's gaining a reputation as "The New Berlin." Porsche, BMW and DHL all have major operations there now. And this city of more than 500,000 people is becoming a new center for art, music, and tourism.

Johannes Gaebler is a tour guide in Germany. He’s originally from Berlin, and was first in Leipzig in the early 1990s, not long after Germany was reunified.