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.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

National Parks date back to 1872, so it might seem a little unusual that they’re celebrating their centennial this year. It’s because the agency that manages them – the U.S. National Park Service – wasn’t created until 1916. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says the more than 400 national parks are great places to spend a vacation, offering nature, and a lot more.

Presidents And Rails

So who gets credit for creating the national parks?

Ed Ronco / KPLU

The World Happiness Report ranks Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Norway as the happiest nations. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says his experience has been different. 

“I went to school in Denmark,” he said. “I would not peg any of these countries as what I think of as the happiest places on earth.”

David Schenfeld / Flickr

In the world of global tourism there are the old standbys – global capitals that have been captivating visitors for decades. But KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says there are some emerging destinations that could see more travelers in the new year.

Myanmar

Andrew W. Sieber / Flickr

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley tends toward independent travel in his own life – the kind where you can break with your itinerary for an afternoon, or decide spontaneously to spend an extra day in a city you like.

But this week, he’s talking about cruise travel – which often comes with a very specific itinerary.

“It’s a great way to travel if you have multiple generations with you,” he said. “It’s a turnkey solution to a big family trip. And often times it’s super cheap.”

Repositioning Cruises

Earthbound Expeditions

In Prague, it’s the main square. In Paris, it’s the region around the Louvre. In New York, it’s Times Square. And here in Seattle, it’s the Space Needle or Pike Place Market.

Every city has its tourist hot-spots. And while you wouldn’t want to go to Rome and skip the Colosseum, KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley urges people to look deeper.

Rebecca Boyd / Flickr

We heard a while back from Jessica, a listener who tweeted the following message: “I like #GoingPlaces that involve more than standing/looking at things. But not an adrenaline junky. Interesting trip ideas?”

Good news, Jessica: KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says you don’t have to go far. But you can if you want to. More on that later.

Wintertime Fun

Brumley’s family has been trying cross-country skiing. It’s relatively easy, but still gives you a workout, and it costs way less than its downhill counterpart.

Deanna Keahey / Flickr

Winter in the Northwest is famously gray and drizzly. And that causes many of us to look for a temporary reprieve. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says how far you travel to find it depends entirely on what you’re looking for.

Cold Sunshine

Sometimes, all we need is a little sunshine. If that’s the case, you’re in luck, Brumley says. Here are some nearby recommendations.

Ed Ronco / KPLU

Social media, easy-to-carry camera phones, and other technological advances make it easier than ever to stay in touch with friends and family. It’s also easy to stay in touch with work. And that can be a problem when you’re on vacation, says KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley.

"I see it wherever I go," Brumley said. "People on beaches in Hawaii or Mexico ... texting or working, and paying more attention to their gadgets and phones than they are to their surroundings and the people sitting with them at that very moment."

Thanks To Those Who Help Us Get Where We're Going

Nov 26, 2015
KPLU

On this Thanksgiving, we pause for a moment to say thanks. As millions of people hurry from place to place across the country this weekend, thousands are helping them get there. Pilots, flight attendants, TSA officers, baggage handlers, front desk clerks, hotel maids, rental car agents, cooks, servers and more.

We'll be back next week with more travel topics (namely, how people get lost in their personal technology while on vacation). But for now, just thanks, to all of the folks who help us travel, and to you, for joining us each week on Going Places.

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

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:

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