The Intrepid Traveler
Samantha Brown knows she has the best job in the world. As a veteran Travel Channel host, this globe-trotting junky elicits her natural charm and wit as she takes envious viewers on a tour of the world, exploring exotic cultures, cuisine and natural wonders. We quiz Samantha about holiday travel tips, her favorite food destinations and New York’s top five must-have experiences.
AndrewZimmern.com: What sparked the wanderlust in you?
Samantha Brown: It was really while shooting Passport to Latin America. I had just finished two years of being in Europe and since Latin America doesn’t have all the museums and monuments and castles that Europe has, I felt a tremendous freedom to just be in the moment, explore and spend time with people in their everyday, wonderful lives.
AZ.com: What has been your most challenging travel experience? The most rewarding?
SB: I think my most challenging was shooting in Vietnam. Only because of an intense travel schedule which can make the job very tough physically. In 10 days we traveled to four different areas, changing hotels four times, with one overnight train and a restless night on a mattress of hay. Jet lag doesn’t help the situation either. On the other hand Vietnam was an incredibly rewarding experience. We could have made the schedule easier but then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to stay with an indigenous family in Sapa or visit a floating village in Halong Bay.
AZ.com: You recently announced that you’re pregnant (with twins!). What are some family destinations you are looking forward to visiting with your kids?
SB: High-end resorts that will take care of my kids while I receive at least 5 renewing spa treatments. I’m kidding. I can’t wait to take them to Maine to the beach. I grew up on the N.E. coast and I love seeing fat babies wearing bonnets with diapers sticking out of their bathing suits playing in the sand. You want to eat’em up! I also want to get them hooked on ice cream from the beginning.
AZ.com: What was your most memorable trip as a kid?
SB: I absolutely loved our yearly trip to Pennsylvania to see all my aunts, uncles and cousins. We’d load up the Pontiac station wagon, pack the cooler and drive 8 hours. Once there, it was a week of just playing, eating Philly cheesesteaks and getting money everyday for candy and popsicles.
AZ.com: What are your favorite food destinations?
SB: Mexico for its authentic, earthy and fresh cuisine that’s not Tex Mex and Penang in Malaysia for its amazing hawker stalls where the people make you a 5-star worthy meal that’s been in their family for 6 generations and sell it to you for 3 bucks.
AZ.com: Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Three tips for holiday travel survival?
SB: I’ll stick with the airport.
- DO NOT CHECK A BAG! It’s such a short turn around, you can do it! No one cares that you’ve worn the same jeans twice.
- Print your boarding pass the night before, this not only allows you to skip a very long check in line but also tells the airline that “I’m Coming!” so if anything delays you, they won’t give away your seat.
- Pack a lunch. The food courts and restaurants will be packed, bring your own sandwich, fruit slices and nutmix. As well as an empty water bottle and then just fill it up once past security.
- Use social media as a personal travel assistant. Follow your airline on Twitter (and your hotel and car rental if this applies). Companies are pulling their customer service personnel and putting them on Facebook and Twitter to field any inquiries or complaints. You’ll get an answer from Twitter faster than a phone call or a long wait in a line.
AZ.com: You live in NYC, what are five quintessential New York experiences a first-timer must have?
- Times Square: Stand right at 43rd street where 7th avenue and Broadway intersect. With all the neon signs above, taxis and people swirling past – it’s an energy you feel could power the entire earth. Now leave because everything in Times Square you can find in your local mall but cheaper.
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and have some of the best pizza at Grimaldi’s, which is right under the bridge. Walk back over and you won’t gain any weight.
- Grand Central Terminal: A Beaux-Art masterpiece where time has been both preserved and yet waits for no one. The holidays are the best time to visit with a light show across its famed celestial ceiling and must-do gift fair with artisans selling one-of-a-kind gifts. I’ve lived in NYC for more than 20 years and I still feel like an awe struck 8-year-old seeing the city for the first time.
- Circle Line: In the warmer months take the 3-hour cruise around the entire island of Manhattan. You cover a lot of ground, history and anecdotes, all while in the comfort of a seat (drinking wine in a plastic cup) being entertained by a hilarious tour guide. Most tours head south around the island, so make sure you’re on the left or port side of the boat for the best views of Manhattan.
- Great Neighborhood: NoLita. North of Little Italy, especially Elizabeth, Mulberry and Mott Streets. This is a wonderful shopping area of local artists and designers creating everything from clothing to glass to handcrafted perfumes. The food is good too. I highly recommend Rice to Riches, with over 20 flavors it’s the only place in the world dedicated to rice pudding.
AZ.com: What’s in your fridge?
SB: A block of Parmesan Reggiano, hummus, milk, eggs and broccoli rabe.
Samantha Brown is used to being told she has the best job in the world (even from under bathroom stalls). For 14 years she’s traveled the globe experiencing it’s fascinating people and cultures to it’s man-made and natural wonders. As a host on the Travel Channel (she’s the female) Samantha has created over 160 hours of television with shows that include Great Hotels, Passport to Europe, Great Weekends and her eponymous Asia series. Samantha never travels without an emergency jar of peanut butter for hunger or earplugs for loud airports she also likes to advise people the most important survival phrase to know in any language is not Help! or Police! But May I have a cup of coffee PLEASE! It’s Samantha’s humor and down to earth approachable style that has given her a loyal audience. For more information, check out Samantha’s website or follow her on Twitter @SamanthaBrown & Facebook.