Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Allan Karl
Occupation: Keynote speaker, author, photographer, and television show host
Hometown: Darien, Connecticut
Residence: Leucadia, California
College: Syracuse University, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication
College major: Communications, Television, Radio & Film
Short bio: Allan Karl is a world traveler, adventurer, photographer, author, entrepreneur, and inspirational keynote speaker. With an insatiable passion for travel, culture, people, and food, he has explored more than 60 countries, photographing, writing and blogging about them along the way. His book “FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection” chronicles his epic three-year solo adventure around the world on a motorcycle through photographs, stories of people and their culture and the places they’re from and food—recipes from each of the 35 countries Allan explored on this journey.
Allan’s quest for adventure—and culture, cuisine and connection—has led him to the most remote places on the planet. He sailed the Flores Sea in search of the prehistoric Komodo Dragon, climbed the most active volcano in Indonesia, swam in the Arctic Ocean, trekked the jungles of Central America searching for the elusive quetzal, and competed as a team member in the world’s toughest motorsport race in the world, The Dakar.
Allan inspires people to step out of their comfort zone and pursue dreams, overcome obstacles, face their fears and embrace change, and smile—especially in the face of adversity. And he knows how. During Allan’s three years adventure around the world alone on a motorcycle he was marched into the Colombian jungle at gunpoint, crushed his leg in the middle of nowhere in Bolivia, and had to beg the governments of Syria and Sudan to let him across their borders. (Eventually they gave in.)
Allan is principal of WorldRider Productions, where he focuses on speaking, publishing, coaching, and creating content that brings to life his stories and experiences around the world—demonstrating again and again how the discoveries he has made and the lessons learned can help all of us lead more rewarding lives.
Allan grew up in Connecticut but now lives 3,000 miles away, in Leucadia, California.
How often do you fly? This is a great question. As a global motorcycle explorer, I prefer to travel overland—and on my motorcycle—it’s truly the only way to immerse oneself into a place and culture and to see the places in-between. Tourists typically fly because they are in a hurry and living with time constraints, both of which can be a hindrance to travel and discovery. That said, I still need to fly: to speaking engagements, to places that I need to ship my motorcycle (like China in 2015, Iceland in 2016, etc.). Last year I flew commercial airlines some 15 times.
How many countries have you been to? 64 countries and counting.
How many continents have you been to? 5 continents and also counting!
Earliest travel memory: My earliest travel memory was a roadtrip (read: overland) to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts with my three brothers, mom and dad. I’ll never forget how large the ferry boat looked and the amazing Wood’s Hole marine biology center and the huge coast guard ships. I was barely 10-years-old.
Favorite American city: San Francisco. For food, culture, neighborhoods, parks, music, and more. Though New York and Washington, DC, are close seconds!
Favorite international city: Oh this isn’t fair! It’s a toss up. I could easily move and live in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and yet I love Barcelona, Spain. Catalunya is an incredible subculture and unique experience in Spain.
Least favorite country: None yet. I never focus on negatives. I tend to focus on seeing what’s right, or beautiful in our world, especially the country I’m currently exploring. Where might I not wish to return? Monaco.
I have no desire to go to: I have this aversion to what I call “checklist tourism.” Or as some like to say, this or that is on my “bucket list.” It’s not about racking up notches on your travel belt. For me it’s about experiencing different countries, cultures and cuisines. Accordingly, I don’t have a burning desire to go to the highest touristed destination in the world. More and more people ask me if I’ve been to Dubai. No, haven’t been there. Not sure I really want to go. I will go, but I don’t have this high on my travel list.
Friendliest people in the world: As I think and try to run through my mind all the places I’ve been, I keep coming back to Latin America. Perhaps more importantly, I find myself thinking of a place to close to me: Mexico. I’ve been through more than 20 of the 34 united states of Mexico and everywhere I traveled, the people were so friendly. Sub-Saharan Africa comes a close second, however.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: As an overland traveler, I deal with immigration and customs officials and land borders. These borders rarely see international travelers on motorcycles. Often, they’re confused as to how to handle the situation. In Tanzania, they wouldn’t take Malawian currency for the visa. They wouldn’t even take Tanzanian currency. They demanded US dollars or Euros. The dollars I had were older, they wouldn’t accept them. So while they weren’t mean, they were just overly bureaucratic. Don’t even get me talking about Egypt.
Favorite World Heritage Site: I fear it’s gone now: The Souk in Aleppo, Syria.
Favorite airline: It changes. Now, it’s Virgin.
Favorite aircraft type: Airbus 330.
Aisle or window: Window. I need the all for leaning and sleeping.
Favorite airport lounge: American Express Centurion Lounges, they’re growing, fairly new, but I like them.
Favorite U.S. airport: My home airport and now newly renovate terminal at Lindbergh Field, San Diego. It either means I’m going somewhere, or I’m coming home. Both great things.
Favorite international airport: Shanghai.
Favorite hotel: I like to stay with local people in their homes. But in the US when I travel to speak, I do like the Plimpton Properties. A bit boutique, a bit corporate, service always nice and overall good value.
Favorite cruise line: Never cruise.
Favorite travel credit card: American Express.
Favorite island: Siladen, Indonesia near Manado.
Favorite beach: I live in Southern California, the best beaches in the world (okay, I’m biased) but I’m not a beach person, I’m an adventurer, so if I go to a beach, I walk less than a mile to Beacon’s, Ponto or Swami’s here in Leucadia, all great beaches.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Terra, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: The Matador, Costa Mesa, California.
Favorite bar: Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar, West Village, NYC.
Favorite fruit: Açai—when I get it fresh in Brazil, otherwise, blueberries & strawberries.
Favorite food: Tri-tip steak grilled on natural wood BBQ with Santa Maria seasonings—served with a central coast GSM style red wine!
Least favorite food: Any fast food.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Arnold Palmer (non-alcoholic) grenache from Priorat (alcholic).
Favorite travel movie(s): The Grand Budapest Hotel‚ loved this Wes Anderson classic.
Favorite travel show(s): Parts Unknown and Human Planet.
Favorite travel book(s): I loved “Happy Isles of Oceania” by Paul Theroux and most anything by Pico Iyer.
Right now I am reading: “Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country” by Albert Podell.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! There aren’t any others!
5 things you bring on a plane: Curiosity, Kindle, MacBook Pro, Twizzlers & Snyder’s pretzels (it’s my only time I dip into junk food), and a newspaper (analog).
What do you always seem to forget? What day of the week it is.
What do you like least about travel? Airports.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Something that smells good: wine, whiskey, fragrance, chocolate—the sense of smell.
Favorite travel app(s): Google Translate.
Most embarrassing travel moment: In a remote part of Java, Indonesia, I was nearly out of fuel (benzine) for my motorcycle and worried I’d run out. I asked many locals and finally one young man guided me to follow him. He walked into a small local home that had no front door, and many people sitting on the floor, I followed him, and as I did, he kept looking at me and waving his hands to keep coming, I followed him into the living room of his home and all at once all sitting on the floor got up and held their hands up ushering me to move the motorcycle out of the house. I felt so stupid!
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Venice.
Worst travel moment: The horrible potholed roads leading to Nairobi and getting lost in the maze of Nairobi traffic.
What’s your dream destination? Iran.
Favorite travel charity: World Computer Exchange.
Best travel tip: Pack your patience and smile always…
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.