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: Leyla Giray Alyanak
Occupation: UN aid worker by day, travel blogger and writer by night
Hometown: Born in Paris, raised in Madrid and Montreal
Residence: Near the French-Swiss border
Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest: @womenontheroad
Google+: /100696864938522925803 (go Google, nice and simple!)
Short Bio: Leyla Giray Alyanak is a former foreign correspondent with a passion for travel and improving people’s lives in developing countries. At 43 she made a major decision to reinvent herself and travel the world solo for six months. She was gone three years, and found time to get lost in a Mozambican minefield, paddle her way out of a flood in the Philippines, and get stampeded by an elephant cow in Nigeria. Leyla now works for an international development agency in Geneva. Her book, Women on the Road, shows women over 40 how to plan and take the trip of their dreams.
How often do you fly: not enough.
How many countries have you been to: 77 (82 if you count airport stops).
Favorite American city: I only know three… so I’ll vote for NYC.
Favorite international city: Madrid. Bangkok. Istanbul.
Least favorite country: I don’t really have one. I’ve had bad and good experiences everywhere.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Old Havana. The churches of Lalibela. Borobudur. The old towns of Spain. Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest. Voskopoje Churches of Albania – oops, not a World Heritage Site but should be.
Favorite airline: Singapore. Qatar. Turkish. The list of my least favourites is a lot longer.
Favorite aircraft type: I’m officially in love with the A380. Chinese and Russian aircraft are not high on my list. Especially old Antonovs that smoke up inside.
Aisle or window: Aisle. I’m a getter-upper.
Favorite airport lounge: Whichever one lets me in.
Favorite international airport: Changi. Isn’t it yours?
Favorite hotel: Georges V in Paris. It has the world’s most comfortable beds.
Favorite island: The Bazarutos, in Mozambique.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Georges Blanc, just down the road from me, in Vonnas.
Favorite hole in the wall: Any night market in Bangkok.
Favorite fruit: Mango. (Sticky rice isn’t a fruit, right?). Salak (aka snake fruit, found in Malaysia and Indonesia). And big fat ripe cherries.
Favorite food: Desperately seeking the perfect Pad Thai. I have yet to find a food group I intensely dislike (other than in answer to the question below). I love fresh seafood, irresistible sauces, perfectly grilled meats, meringue-based desserts, hot and spicy dishes (Indian, Mexican, Thai, Szechuan)… and I’ll stop now because I’m about to start munching my keyboard.
Least favorite food: Durian. It smells like a bowel movement and tastes like it smells. And I’m still repulsed by the bug/slug family. Oh, and rhubarb.
Drink of choice (In the air and on the ground): San Pellegrino Bitter.
Favorite travel movie(s): Caravans. Lost in Translation. The Motorcycle Diaries. Lagaan. Tsotsi. Amelie. Anything by Pedro Almodovar.
Favorite travel book(s): The early Paul Theroux. Anything by Tim Cahill. Graham Greene. This list could get dangerously long.
Right now I am reading: Guernica. A History of Ireland. The Lost City of Z. The Table Comes First. What’s a Dog For. How to Focus and Organize Your Time.
Five things you bring on a plane: I bring a book and a neck pillow. In-flight is the only time I get to see movies and nothing can tear me away. The book is for when in-flight entertainment fails. (Yes, British Airways, I’m looking at you!)
What do you always seem to forget: Pretty much anything not attached to me with a double-hitch.
What do you like least about travel? Airports. And vaccinations.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport duty free store? A modest little Rolex or two. Only kidding. I’m more of a Swatch girl.
Favorite travel app(s): Yahoo Weather
Most embarrassing travel moment: Making it through the departure immigration check with an expired passport. Not making it past the arrival.
Worst travel moment: Getting shot at in Beirut during the war. Almost drowning in Zanzibar (I forgot I couldn’t really swim) is a close second.
What’s your dream destination: Anyplace with high biodiversity, glorious sunsets, and an enlightened government.
Favorite travel charity: Sun Bear Conservation Center
Best travel tip: Ride the public bus when you get into town. Go everywhere. You’ll get a great sense of the city and a chance to observe its inhabitants.