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Well-traveled on a tight budget

Sarah Vabulas | Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Do you consider yourself well-traveled? Do you simply like to travel no matter where you are headed? Or are you going abroad next semester? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then Doug Lansky is someone you must meet.

Following his graduation from Colorado College, Lansky decided to embark on a journey traveling the world before entering the work force. Against his mom’s best wishes, Lansky first started in New York, where, before he left, he received a job offer from The New Yorker magazine. He asked if he could travel for six months or so before he began the position, they agreed and Lansky left the United States.

He hitchhiked his way to South America on yachts, almost. “My plan was completely ludicrous,” Lansky said. “It was the wrong season. It was the hurricane season so all the yachts were going the other direction.”

He got as far as the Virgin Islands simply because he flew there. After realizing his plan to hitchhike on yachts was a failure, Lansky found other modes of travel. He spent two and a half years working his way around the world by picking bananas in Israel, snowmobile guiding in the Alps and selling carpets in Morocco until a car accident in Thailand, which required him to undergo surgery on his leg, brought Lansky home.

While at home, he became the youngest national columnist in the country, writing about his travels for over 10 million readers in 40 major newspapers, including The Denver Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, The Arizona Republic, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Raleigh News & Observer, The Seattle Times and many more.

With his syndicated column, the Chicago Tribune handed Lansky a press pass and told him to continue his travels across the world, writing about it along the way.

But what exactly did Lansky want to do on an unlimited budget and endless opportunities? Well, he did not really know, so he sat down with his friends to compile a list of over 300 places to go or things to do. His list included such things as sumo wrestling, yodeling and traveling on camels.

He ended up on an army base in Texas where he drove a tank. “I asked if I could drive a tank for the day. So they gave me the tank,” Lansky said. “It’s amazing the things you can do with a press pass.”

He traveled the world, doing things most people dream of doing. He went to Jack-a-Roo school in Australia, which taught him how to be a cowboy.

“It was like ‘City Slickers’ in Australia,” he said.

He also test drove Ferraris, which got up to speeds of 200 mph. He would accelerate up to the maximum speed and slam on the brake. It would knock his head around, making the experience painful and violent but worth it. “I thought I was going to die the whole time,” he said.

While in Africa, he spent some time with the headhunters. “It feels good that you survived it. It is so satisfying,” Lansky said. “The more life-threatening things are, the more satisfying it is.”

When arriving back in the States, Doug taught journalism at Colorado College, published several books and hosted an hour-long travel documentary for the Discovery Channel. He is continuing to serve as the regular world-travel expert on Public Radio’s flagship travel program, Savvy Traveler, during the recent release of his Rough Guides book First Time: Around The World, a comprehensive (yet delightfully readable) guide to the ultimate journey. To date, he has been on the road for roughly 10 years in over 100 countries. He now tours the country talking to college students about the best way to travel.

Lansky learned, from all of his travels, that getting to know the people of a country is the best way to travel. This is one of the things he emphasizes in his talks around the country.

“If anyone went traveling for 10 years, they’d figure it all out, too,” Lansky said about his vast knowledge of the best way to travel. “I have so many great tips to give people when traveling. People make a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes.”

Lansky presents his talk with over 700 images and pictures, much like MTV does with TV shows.

“I have an entertaining way to teach people to travel. I share about how to save money, travel safer, hitchhike on yachts the right way and how to pack,” Lansky said. “I share the things people don’t tell you. I don’t want people to waste time going after the wrong stuff.”

He learned a significant amount while on his travels. “I want people to have maximum time on the road and get beneath the skin of the culture – to do something meaningful,” Lansky said.

He will be giving away a Eurorail pass worth about $900 when he speaks tonight to one of the audience members. “It is worth more than a plane ticket,” Lansky said. “I wish I had one of those.”

He will be around following his talk to answer any questions people may have about traveling and journalism.

Doug Lansky will be speaking at Washington Hall at 7 p.m. tonight. The event is a SUB-sponsored event and admission is free.