Tours4fun works with numerous travel experts and local tour operators, and over the years we’ve found no one more informative and invaluable than Phil Sylvester, the Chief Content and Communications at World Nomads. We recently got the chance to grill him about his travel experiences and best tips and tricks for planning a trip (plus, he’s just so darn funny).
1. What made you interested in working in the travel industry?
Phil: The offer came out of the blue really. I’d worked for many years in daily news and current affairs journalism, producing news bulletins and radio shows. I’d always written my own pieces about my travels, but I didn’t like much Travel Writing I saw. I’m still wary of a lot of it – all those writers on “famil’” freebies have to be careful not to bite the hand that feeds them. I was also aware that mainstream media and broadcast media was starting to wane, I could see all the action was moving to digital media and online.
Then along came World Nomads with the offer to write travel safety content for them. It was still proper journalism, I was not beholden to anyone, it was in the digital space with an innovative company. So much of what World Nomads stands for felt ‘right’ with me and my idea of travel. So I jumped ship.
2. You’ve traveled extensively and have knowledge of multiple countries around the world, but what is one place you haven’t got to visit that you’ve always wanted to?
Phil: I finally crossed Peru and Machu Picchu off the list last year – a big ambition. I’m heading to Belgrade in Serbia later this year, which is another big tick. When I was doing most of my travel the Balkans was on fire! There was a war! I’m looking forward to seeing the city now. I still haven’t done Japan – shame on me.
3. With all the violence and turmoil in the world, what do you say to someone who’s weary of travel? Is it worth it to invest in a major trip?
Phil: “Weary of travel”! I don’t even know what to say to them. How can you be weary of travel? Yes get yourself a plane ticket to anywhere, have a cup of concrete and harden up.
4. From your time as a journalist and working in travel, you’ve obviously seen that there’s a lot resources for travelers. How can travelers sort through what’s objective and trustworthy from what’s hyperbole and unreliable?
Phil: I think all resources are subjective, they have to be, someone on a particular day wrote those words. It was totally about their experience. If you expect exactly the same thing you’re going to be disappointed. Every day is unique to each person. Take your travel tips like you read the news – consult more than one source, understand their preconceptions and stand point, then adjust them for your own view of the world.
5. You’ve shared a lot of travel advice in other interviews. We’re curious what’s the most unconventional advice you’ve given that tends to work?
Phil: Got maggots in your leg? Strap a piece of steak to your leg. (The maggots will prefer the tender meat and crawl out of your leg. Take some antibiotics though!)
6. What is your advice for seniors looking to travel who may be worried about medical emergencies?
Phil: World Nomads has an international network of people on hand 24/7 to help you with your crisis. We have medical staff and logistics experts who have the resources to help you at their fingertips. It probably hasn’t happened to you before but we deal with it everyday. We know what to do.
7. Any tips for someone looking to barter with cab drivers, at local markets, etc.?
Phil: You’re going to get “ripped off” for the first day or two. Call it an unofficial tourist tax. It’s usually only a few bucks. Never barter on the first day, wait a couple of days, talk to other travelers and ask them what they paid. You’ll get a better understanding of the going price and be confident in your bartering.
8: What’s a “hidden gem” or underrated place in Sydney, or Australia in general, that’s worth visiting?
Phil: I’m not telling! Not really hidden, but here in Sydney the locals are so used to them we forget to tell visitors about them – I’m talking about our ocean baths and swimming pools. Lots of Sydney beaches have a swimming pool carved out of the bedrock beside the beach, often filled and flushed by the tide. Lots use them early in the morning for exercise, and on a hot day the kids use them for fun. If the water’s rough you’ll get big waves crashing into the pools. Spectacular.
9: Can you share a memorable story from one of your adventures around the world?
Phil: So many! The sparkling warm water of Marina Piccolo on Capri last summer. The time we were charged by an elephant while on foot in Kruger park. The exquisite flavour of a Bordeaux wine in a French restaurant. But perhaps my favourite was sharing an overnight train carriage through Spain with a transvestite flamenco dancer and her boyfriend guitarist. Some army recruits thought it’d be fun to tease the dancer, and it looked like it might get nasty. He (she) sang, danced, shared wine with them till they all fell asleep exhausted. The couple smiled knowing they’d turned a bad situation into a memorable night.
10: Alright, you’ve probably heard this cliche before, but you’re stuck on a deserted island…what three things do you bring?
Phil: An airplane a pilot and some fuel. No seriously…. I’m a pretty resourceful guy, so a big sharp knife or machete, an old-fashioned flint fire lighter, and my family – actually that sounds like a great idea for our next holiday!
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Make sure to grab the best Travel Insurance with them when planning your next big trip.
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