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: Joseph Rosendo
Occupation: Director/Host/Writer of Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope
Hometown: Topanga, California
Residence: Topanga, CA
College: Florida State University, UCLA
College majors: Speech, English, Education, Theater
YouTube: Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope
Short bio: Four-time Emmy-award winning PBS director and host Joseph Rosendo has been a travel journalist and broadcaster for 37 years. He has been published in countless publications worldwide, was the Consulting Editor for DK Eyewitness Travel Guides and has produced countless features for numerous electronic media outlets including Discovery, ABC News and the Associated Press. Since 2007, he has hosted, directed and written Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope, the award-winning travel television series. With six National Emmys, 18 Emmy nominations, 42 Telly Awards and 123 episodes airing on PBS, Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope persists to persevere in creating one of the most entertaining, informative and thoughtful programs on television. “Travel is more than a vocation to me,” says Joseph. “It’s a love and a passion that I’ve been indulging in all of my life and am privileged to share with my readers, listeners and viewers.”
How often do you fly? It averages out to be every month or so. About 12 to 15 times a year—but, it could easily be more, depending on the year.
How many countries have you been to? I just looked at my app “Been.” It says I’ve been to 95 countries, but that’s only 38% of the world, so I have a long way to go. Too many countries, not enough time.
How many continents have you been to? All of them, except Antarctica. I got close when we sailed with Cruceros Australis around Cape Horn, but no cigar.
Earliest travel memory: That’s easy. Every summer my family would travel Miami, where we lived and I was born, to Key West, Florida, where my father was born. It was only a day trip at the beginning and later, a one-night trip, but it was an adventure to my brother and me. I think the anticipation of the trip was more exciting than the trip itself, although that was good fun too. My story about that will be included in my upcoming book: “MUSINGS — The Short Happy Pursuit of Pleasure and Other Journeys” (see “Story #1: “Adventure Can’t Wait”” below).
Favorite American city: Well, I live in Topanga, California so it’s my favorite all-around place to be. But, no matter what you read in The New York Times, I love L.A. There’s a story on the topic in my upcoming book as well (see “Story #2: L.A.” below).
Favorite international city: Paris, France—probably, because it is the gateway to the rest of France. I love France so, guess I would say every city in France—Lyon, Bordeaux, Beaune, Aix en Provence, etc. Actually, I love the villages of France more than the cities, but that’s not the question, is it?
Least favorite country: I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might prejudice my viewers against a country. There is no country I dislike going to…some are challenging, but even that is exciting. Some countries are easier to travel in than others, but is that a good thing? I don’t know. In short, to paraphrase Will Rogers, “I never met a country I didn’t like.”
I have no desire to go to: North Korea—but, then again, I’m sure it would be interesting and provocative and disturbing and enlightening…so, maybe I do have a desire to go there. I have a desire to go everywhere. I’m not real fond of sitting on the beach doing nothing, but I can get into it, if my wife and producer, Julie, insists.
Friendliest people in the world: Actually, I think that every country is friendly. Nevertheless, during Season 10 of Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope we went to Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar/Burma and were treated especially wonderful by the Bamar-On-The-Street. That’s considering the fact that Vietnam is a Communist country and suffered 2,000,000 dead and horrible destruction of land and property during the war with the United States. Truthfully, friendly is the last thing they should be. Yet, they are generous and welcoming beyond imagination. Cambodia is still recovering from the Khmer Rouge homicide of its people and yet, they are still cheery, positive and forward-looking. Myanmar is still struggling after decades of isolation and a brutal military dictatorship is still in power, but we received a warm-hearted welcome. One thing that stands out is the perseverance and resilience of these people. They never give up! We also did our 10th episode featuring Taiwan. Obviously, the Taiwanese are friendly—they’ve asked us back ten times and given us their Tourism Award four times. The Taiwanese are wonderful, welcoming people.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: This is a hard one, I don’t remember having any problems with immigration officers. But, I guess I could say Israel, because they are trained to be cautious and suspicious and that can be perceived as mean. And sometimes they are not happy.
Favorite World Heritage Site: There are so many, but I would have to say that Angkor Wat, which we covered in Season 10 of Travelscope, is hard to be beat. It just has so many things going for it. Beauty, history, sunsets, sunrises, spirituality, art, crowds, and on and on.
Favorite airline: Well, it depends. My favorite American airline is Delta. My least favorite is United. I know you didn’t ask, but I don’t mind telling you. My favorite Asian Airlines is EVA Air. It’s truly one of the best in service—and they’re one of the sponsors of Season 10 of Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope. We wouldn’t have them as sponsors if we didn’t like them ourselves. I do like the business class lounge onboard Emirates. You can even get a mojito there and share a couple of hours of friendly cultural chitchat with your fellow passengers.
Favorite aircraft type: The Boeing: 787 Dreamliner.
Aisle or window: Aisle. I like to walk around during the flight and I don’t like crawling over people. “What I really like are the individual business class pods on airlines like EVA Air,” he shamelessly says, promoting his underwriter.
Favorite airport lounge: The Emirates business class lounge in Dubai is pretty sweet. And the British Airways business class lounge in London is also first class. Of course, any lounge is better than hanging out at the gate. I once got a United Airlines credit card just to get the two free passes to their lounge.
Favorite U.S. airport: LAX in Los Angeles is very spiffy. There are a number of good food choices in the world terminal. Try James Beach!
Favorite international airport: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei is loaded with things to see, do, drink, buy, and eat.
Favorite hotel: These days we are using Airbnbs a lot because we’re looking to join into the life of the place as much as possible as quickly as possible. Yet for an amazing luxurious experience I’d recommend glamping at the Sausage Tree Safari Camp on the Lower Zambezi River in Zambia within easy view of crocs, hippos, birds, tiger fish, etc. It’s is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Favorite cruise line: From my past experiences, I’m a fan of Emerald and Scenic River Cruises. They understand the traveler’s desire for authentic experiences and they offer them on all their cruises. During Season 10 we traveled on Scenic on the Mekong through Cambodia and Vietnam and the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar/Burma. It’s a luxurious way to travel to exciting destinations and learn about them.
Favorite travel credit card: My trusty Capital One Business Platinum Visa card. No international service charge and good fraud protection. Easy-peasy if you loose it abroad as well—the card can be cancelled online. Ask Julie, that just happened in Vietnam and it truly was painless to cancel the card.
Favorite island: Cuba—the greatest people in the world (yes, I’m biased), great rum, lovely cigars, fantastic music, amazing scenery, crazy dancing—I love it! Sorry, most of you had to miss it, America—get your congressmen and president to do something to remove the travel restrictions. They are so old news. We can travel to China—the true evil empire—but you can’t travel freely to Cuba. It’s a very strange policy.
Favorite beach: The beaches of the Costa Alegre in Mexico.
Favorite National Park: Ah, Yosemite National Park, even with all the tourists.
Favorite fancy restaurant: James Beach in Venice, California, for my regular fancy restaurant. Yes, that’s also the one at LAX world terminal. Internationally, I’ve had the opportunity to dine at some of the best and fanciest restaurants in the world and the best ones all seem to be in France. The list is too long to put here. Meet me at the New York Times Travel Show sometime and we’ll talk.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Gilbert’s Los Indios Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica, California. Café Carolina in Reseda, California! My Favorites are places I can go to regularly.
Favorite airport restaurant: Versailles at Miami Airport. It’s just a stand really, but I can pick up a Cuban sandwich to bring home (or most likely eat on the flight) and a café con leche quickly and it’s pretty authentic.
Favorite bar: Elephant Bar at Raffles/Le Royal Hotel in Phnom Penh.
Favorite fruit: Rambutan, that lychee-like fruit native to the Malaysia and Indonesia. Believe it or not, I also like durian in Thailand, as well as Buddha’s head in Taiwan. Delicious! The fruit of Asia is to die for!
Favorite food: Oysters from Brittany or the Arcachon Bay near Bordeaux in a outdoor market, almost anywhere in France—hopefully at the Marche des Capucins in Bordeaux. Opened fresh and slurped down right at the stand at 10am in the morning!
Least favorite food: Chinese hot pot. This probably dates back to my press first trip to mainland China in 1990 when things were very rough, hygiene-wise, in restaurants and I never knew exactly what was going into that bubbling hot pot on that dirty table cloth in the filthy restaurant. I lost 15 pounds on the 18-day trip. When they served hot pot, which they seemed to do at least once a day, I just ate the soup and vegetables.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): A glass of French burgundy or any other excellent pinot noir. I drink no wine before its time.
Favorite travel movie(s): Lost in America with Albert Brooks.
Favorite travel show(s): Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope, of course! Especially our Season 10 collection of shows which will start airing soon and includes Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and two adventures to Taiwan.
Favorite travel podcast(s): Oh, well, looks like it might be Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope again.
Favorite travel book(s): If you’re asking about travel guides I have three favorites: Rough Guides, Lovely Planet and, not only because they were Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope’s underwriter for five years, D.K. Eyewitness Travel Guides—amazing images. If you are asking about books about travel, there are many. Two that stand out right now are: “Innocents Aboard” by Mark Twain and “Holy Cow:vAn Indian Adventure.” To really enjoy the India book you need to have experienced India—which I highly recommend to everyone!
Right now I am reading: “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. But, I just finished “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Sempe, which I really enjoyed.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Travelscope, JohnnyJet, Westways.
Favorite travel website(s) — besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Travelscope.net, of course!
5 things you bring on a plane: Ear plugs, headset, inflatable lumbar support, slip-ons for over my socks, and eye mask for sleeping and shutting out my neighbor’s light.
What do you always seem to forget? I have a four-page travel checklist that I run through before every trip, so I don’t forget much. But if I’m going to forget something it will be the charger for my electric razor. It’s even been on my list and I’ve forgotten it. Not to mention having forgotten it in hotel rooms, as well. Yeah, it’s a problem, but thankfully I can always buy a safety razor.
What do you like least about travel? Although it’s gotten a lot better with Global Entry and TSA Pre—they have taken a lot of the pain out of it—waiting to leave the country and enter the country.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Cuban cigars—if I haven’t been to Cuba lately—I went four times in last year. I’m still angry about the ridiculous 60-year U.S. boycott of Cuba. Things were getting better or at least promising for a while and then Donald Trump decided to placate his Cuban supporters in Miami and get tough with Cuba. It only hurt the American traveler and the Cuban people—the government is doing just fine. By the way, my heritage is Cuban, in case you didn’t know by now.
Favorite travel app(s): Uber, Cuba Travel Junky, Google Translate, Google Maps, Waze. I was surprised they had Waze in France. Unfortunately, I didn’t use it all the time—I used the navigation device in the rental car. If I had used Waze I would have saved getting three speeding tickets. Waze will tell you when the speed limit has sneakily changed without your knowledge. The French obsession with traffic cameras, which flash and take your picture if you’re five kilometers over the speed limit, is irritating. The speed zones change very rapidly and sometimes it’s hard to catch the change, which means your support for the French government has just gone up automatically.
Most embarrassing travel moment: It’s a little embarrassing, but what the heck, I’ll tell it anyway. Obviously I’ve got nothing to hide and this story illustrates that. I was aboard a Regent Cruise Line ship shooting a show on Alaska’s Inside Passage. It’s a great trip and we managed to make a great Season 2 show out of the experience covering everything from stopping in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Skagway, as well as sailing into ice-covered Tracy Arm. On our last night onboard I was running around in my cabin getting everything packed up to leave the ship the next morning. I was organizing things in my room into piles: equipment, clean and dirty clothes, press material, as well as laying out my clothes for the next morning. In order to make a fresh start so to speak, I had taken everything off, put it the appropriate pile and was preparing for bed when I realized that I needed to put my bags in the hallway for the morning pickup. So, there I was stark naked, but I thought well, I’ll just sneak out and drop off the bag before anyone comes down my hallway. Sure enough, no one was in the hallway, so I slipped out quickly pulling an equipment bag behind me. As soon as I stepped out of the room with the bag – the door shut. So, there I was in the hall without clothes, all of them being inside my room in my other bags along with my room key. Yikes! Fortunately there was a phone near the elevator outside my room and darting around and hiding in corners I was able to get to the phone and call for a bellman to come help me. You can imagine his reaction when he saw me cowering in a corner completely naked. He burst out in laughter and instead of just walking away and leaving me there actually opened my door. I am forever indebted to Regency Cruise Line for saying me from public humiliation.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: New Zealand. Just haven’t gone, don’t really know why, circumstances, timing, I guess. One of our underwriters NO JETLAG is actually based in New Zealand. The owner promises to buy us dinner, if we ever show up. On its own, that’s almost enough motivation to go.
Worst travel moment: I have rarely put myself in a situation where I have felt that I was in danger. It hasn’t been because I haven’t tried, I’ve just been blessed that way. The scariest journey I took was a short one across lake Atitlan in Guatemala. My wife Julie and the entire crew and I were in a small wooden boat speeding across the lake when a storm blew in. It rained, it poured, it practically hailed, the waves on the lake were enormous, yet our pilot kept plowing that rickety wooden boat through the waves. We were slapping those waves so hard I was sure that the boat was going to come apart at the seams. We were spending so much energy protecting the equipment from the rain that I think that took my mind off the danger and yet, I knew that if it cracked open in the middle of the lake there was no saving us—there was not one life preserver. Of course, all’s well that end’s well, and we made it across soaked to the skin, but at least we lived to tell the tale.
What’s your dream destination? Antarctica, or maybe Iceland. Mostly, because I haven’t been there and I like penguins and hot springs.
Favorite travel charity: Whatever schools we are visiting in a country. I’ve visited them in Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia, along the Amazon in Peru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Mozambique—the experience is always special and they always need help.
Best travel tip: Go with the flow! Don’t let the travel glitches get you down. Celebrate the people and their culture. Jump in, heart first! It has been said, “A good vacation is taken among people whose concept of time is different than yours.”
Story #1: “Adventure Can’t Wait”
I have trouble getting to the airport early. The rule of thumb is to arrive two hours before an international flight and one hour before domestic flights, but lately getting to the airport has been a travel adventure itself.
I’d like to blame the fates. My taxi was late picking me up, my alarm didn’t go off, my travel agent messed up my flight times, but as Jimmy Buffet says, “Hell, it could be my fault.” It’s just hard for me to get up early these days.
Whatever the reason, I’m tired of sprinting to the gate, coat flying, heart thumping and forehead sweating. Arriving in a state of anxiety makes a real impression on airport security — I’m the perfect profile of a Crazed Terrorist.
I didn’t always have this problem. When I was growing up in Miami we always left early on trips.
I say trips, but I mean trip. Each summer we spent two days in Key West. My father was born there, and we made the pilgrimage once a year.
We’d start out very early in the morning. The goal was to leave while the stars were still out. “I want to beat the heat,” my father would say. As for my mother, she was obsessed with arriving and leaving early. We’d go to a family picnic and wait three hours for the rest of the family to arrive on time. By the time they got there, my mother was ready to leave.
But whatever my parents reasons, leaving early it was OK with me. A trip offered escape and adventure, and I yearned for both.
I never slept the night before our trip. It was like Christmas for me. But instead of waiting to hear Santa’s reindeer, I was waiting for my parent’s clock to ring.
One year the anticipation drove me to desperation. After a night of tossing and turning, I finally gave up. I lay there wide-awake wondering, “Is it time, yet?” Slowly, I got out of my bed and crawled into my parents’ room to check the clock.
There it was — on my father’s dresser next to the glow-in-the-dark plastic statue of the Virgin Mary. It was an old clock. The glass face was broken. It had to be wound with a pair of pliers. It stopped often, but my father refused to chuck it.
“It works as good as a new,” he’d say. Well, he was almost right. The alarm did work and it kept reasonably good time, but it only ran when lying on its face.
That particular morning, I crawled alongside my parents’ bed to the clock. With a deft twist of my wrist, I turned the clock over. Just as I thought. The clock was set for five, but it was only four now. Another hour to wait.
“Wait a minute,” I thought, “I could reset the alarm.” No easy task — one false move and the clock could stop, and only my father knew the secret incantations that could get it started again.
But I had to try. By the light of the Virgin Mary, I carefully turned the alarm back to 4:15. And then just as the ticking began to slow, I quickly set it back on its face.
Back in my bed, I immediately regretted it. What if it doesn’t work? If the clock stops, I could lay here for hours. What if it works? Would they guess I set it back? I could always blame my little brother. No, that wouldn’t work, he’s too young to tell time.
Uncertain of my future, I counted seconds instead of sheep. “One thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three” — at about 900 thousands later the alarm went off, startling me so badly, I almost yelled out.
“Has it always been that loud?” I wondered.
Somewhere through din, I heard my parents.
“Josie, get up!” said my mother.
“It’s too early,” said my father.
“The alarm has gone off.”
I could hear my father stomping out of bed.
“What the. . . It’s only quarter past four,” he said.
“You must have set the alarm wrong,” she accused.
“I didn’t set the alarm wrong!” His voice rose. Huddled in the sheets I held my breath and waited for the explosion.
“I just want to make sure we beat the heat,” he said proudly, and I heard drawers opening and closing as he began to dress.
And so, I survived (although, there was a hint of suspicion!).
We packed the old Ford station wagon with luggage, and my brother grabbed our stuffed animals. Mine was named Lucky. I had won him in a PTA raffle, and he went on every vacation until he lost his eyes and his stuffing began to leak out.
As we prepared to leave, the neighborhood was quiet. Although the sky was brightening, the stars were still out. The palm trees rustled in the gentle breeze. The air felt fresh and cool. Thanks to me, we had beaten the heat.
I still love traveling. But, I’ve never hungered for the escape and the promise of travel — real or imagined — more than during those journeys of my childhood. It was a snap getting up then.
Story #2: L.A.
I love Big Cities. I know they have problems like crime, pollution, traffic — people. But then that’s why I love them — because the majority of the people in the world live in them.
And although people are not always lovable, they are hardly ever boring.
They’re the best attraction going. They’re better than the Eiffel Tower or the Tower of London or the Watts Towers — which are just decorations really, glass baubles on a Christmas tree; the people are the tree, the branches, the trunk and the sap that runs through the city and makes it alive.
You can’t tell a city’s story without its cast of characters. Without its characters, a city is like an empty movie set. Take Los Angeles. It takes a writer the likes of Raymond Chandler to bring it to life.
Ah, to write like Raymond Chandler. To make the words sing, to make them spell out the feelings that lie on the surface and the ones that are just out of reach.
To paint a picture as hard-bitten and cool and clear as a slab of ice on a hot day. To make that ice melt gently and sweetly, slowly revealing the speck of truth that makes up its center. Like Chandler did.
I wish I could capture the moment in a handful of short, bright words. Words that are unexpected, words that bite back. Words that make it good and clean and fun to be alive even in a town as mealy-mouthed and hard-nosed (Yes, I know they’re opposites) as Los Angeles.
Los Angeles. Who could tell it better than Chandler. Take one down and out, slightly rumpled private detective with a name like Marlowe and set his slightly boozed over eyes firmly staring at the smoggy Los Angeles skyline. Cool and detached, yet sentimental and sweet, a tough guy with a soft belly and a softer heart. A guy with a wish or two of his own. Add a generous dash of dreams and heartaches — unknown, hidden, unadmitted — and you have the perfect voice for L.A.
L.A., not Los Angeles. Los Angeles is too poetic, too Spanish, too pure and hopeful. L.A. says it all. That there’s no time to say it all, so just shorten it, get it down to its essentials — if you can.
Maybe that’s the challenge, to tackle the space: take the freeways, take the cars, take the people and squeeze them all down into two easy-to-write, easy-to-say letters.
Condense it, don’t spend time on it; it means nothing more than it says — The Angels.
It’s been done before. The Spanish called it Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles and the Gringos shortened it to Los Angeles. Probably because it made it more like themselves — something somebody’s always trying to do.
So we have L.A., the city everyone loves to hate. The city that seems as simple and empty as two little letters with a couple of periods.
But that’s not the way it is. It just seems that way. There’s more to the city than how you spell it or what lies under the Hollywood sign. It’s everybody’s idea of the American Dream stuck between the mountains and the sea. It’s every possible variation on the theme that you can have what you want as long as you earn it, no matter how you earn it.
Whether it’s by strutting in front of a camera or by putting in forty long boring ones, there’s no glory in the work; the work’s only a means to an end, and that end is the dream or the end of the dream.
There’s not much of the pure sweet cleansing wash of the effort. Too often the effort is wasted, and you just end up looking at the ocean for consolation. It’s the one relief from the face of repetition or failure.
The ocean reaches up onto the beach and pulls the refuse of the land into its belly. Eventually it may throw it all back up again, but it comes back changed. A little bit cleaner and softer, with the edges worn smooth.
That’s what the ocean does to L.A. It softens the blows, eases the pain, modifies the harsh reality of the day-to-day and makes it possible to set one foot in front of another for another day.
Anyway, that’s the way Marlowe might have seen it and that’s the way he might have told it. L.A. — an unimpressed, yet not necessarily uncaring city. A place for sinning and winning and losing — and a place for dreaming. A place where dreams do not always come true, but where you can always pretend they will.
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