On the Go with Peter Greenberg
The travel journalist and UW alum shares his tricks of the trade, memorable experiences and why he always comes back to Madison
What is it about travel that appeals to you?
My mother taught me a long time ago that it’s far more important to be interested than interesting. More important to be curious. Travel provides the interest and satisfies the curiosity. It brings people together and establishes, often in the most surprising ways, common ground that builds lifelong friendships.
What do you never travel without?
Extra batteries, two flashlights, a Bucky Badger stuffed animal (I’m serious) and duct tape. It can fix just about anything on the road.
How often do you travel each year?
I travel about 420,000 miles a year. And that includes about twenty trips to Madison.
What trend in travel are you happiest to see?
The rise in volunteer tourism, the opportunity to give back in so many ways while traveling.
What’s one place you never tire of visiting?
Besides Madison? The places where I know I sleep the best: Fire Island, New York; the southwest of Ireland; Halifax and Cape Breton; and anywhere in the South Pacific. Would you be willing to share a place you’d go back to specifically for the food? Schubert’s in Mt. Horeb for a grilled-cheese sandwich and a strawberry shake (seriously). Or from a more international experience: The chocolate clams (no, they’re not chocolate, just brown) at the French restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel in Mexico City. The handmade dessert caramels at Apicious in Paris. The Parmesan oysters at Adadiana in Washington, D.C., or the tandoori salmon at Rasika in Washington, D.C. The bolly chat served at the Taj Hotel restaurant in Capetown. The amazing cheeseburger (rare, grilled onions, no bun) served at the Three Guys Coffee Shop at 96th and Madison in New York.
What do you consider the most underrated destination?
The American Midwest. Most of my friends just fly over this part of the U.S. and they’re really missing out. Changing planes in O’Hare does not qualify as having visited Chicago!
Where’s the friendliest place you’ve ever been?
This might surprise you, but anyplace that’s recently had conflict or a natural disaster. People are generally friendly everywhere, but in these locations, they are thrilled when you arrive—especially since very few people are usually coming. And I can almost guarantee that if you go to a destination after a civil disturbance or natural disaster, you will be welcomed—genuinely—beyond your wildest dreams. And you will have a real—authentic—and life-affirming experience.
Are there any destinations you haven’t visited but really want to?
I’m keen to go to the Solomon Islands. I’m eager to visit Wake Island—I’ve already been to Midway [Atoll National Wildlife Refuge] a few times and it’s amazing.
What’s the most beautiful place you’ve visited?
This is going to sound a little silly until you think about it. The most beautiful place I’ve ever visited was the place I visited with someone I love.
What place has surprised you the most?
Few places actually surprise me, because I try not to have unrealistic expectations, either positive or negative. And when it comes to travel, I can usually have a great experience just about anywhere. Because in the end, it’s not the destination, it’s the people.
What destinations are on your travel to-do list?
There are about 197 countries in the world. I’ve been to 151 of them. But I have no list to check off. I think that’s silly.
What keeps you returning to Madison?
That’s the easiest answer: I came to Madison at seventeen as a freshman at UW. I learned everything in Madison. It allowed me to pursue my passions. It continues to remind me of the importance of a real community. To me, Madison is not a place I stopped along the way, and then left. I need to keep coming back to Madison to remind me that it just might be the way.
For more on Peter Greenberg and his travels, visit petergreenberg.com.
Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine.