CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg shares his best travel tips and how to discover secret spots. Peter also shares his favorite travel stories as a CBS journalist. Known in the travel industry as “The Travel Detective,” he is America’s most recognized, honored, and respected front-line travel news journalist. Don’t miss this second installation of The Destination Everywhere Podcast’s visit with Peter to discover more special and unique things for you to do wherever you go.
Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing meeting venues to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.amiwebstaging.wpengine.com.–
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Travel Tips with Peter Greenberg
Destination Everywhere, Hidden Gems. Isolated islands, intriguing histories and rich culture can be discovered outside the resorts and tourist attractions but you need to know where to look and how to traverse there safely. We’re interviewing Emmy Award winning journalist, Peter Greenberg. This CBS travel editor has dug up some of the best kept secrets in the Caribbean, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Western Europe and more. He’s ready to share those with us. Peter will also share his best travel advise and personal stories. Travel is about adventure and exploration and you sure to find that spirit ignited into this episode with award winning Travel Journalist, Peter Greenberg.
We’re here for our second installation of our conversation with Travel Journalist, Peter Greenberg with his Hidden Gems. He won an Emmy. He has traveled all over the world. He’s done both investigative reporting as well as travel experiences around the world and multiple shows. He is going to give us the best of the best of what he has.
Let’s jump right into part two of our discussion with Peter Greenberg.
[bctt tweet=”You get so spoiled that you’re never happy anywhere else than you are in Thailand.” username=””]
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What’s the story that you’re most proud of as an investigative journalist?
I don’t know how much time we have, because I don’t have one. It’s ranging from an investigative piece that I did on the death of Freddie Prinze. For those people who remember the star of Chico and the Man who died in the late ‘70s to investigating airline crashes, on the worst aviation disaster in American history, American Flight 191 on May 25th, 1979 in Chicago. I was a correspondent. I did my fair share. I did all the Patty Hearst covers and almost all the Watergate covers and let’s not forget OJ. There are all sorts of stuff there that ranges from political to crime to crazy stuff.
What have you uncovered about the travel industry that might help our guests maneuver the system a little easier? What should they be aware of that might be getting swept under the rugs when they start to travel?
Whenever I go anywhere, you name the destination, the Dominican Republic or Denver, what’s the first place I stop at? The very first place I stop is where I know I’m going to get all the information I need about that destination from credible sources. The first place I go to is the fire department and I’ll tell you why. They’ve been in everybody’s house, in everybody’s hotel and in everybody’s restaurant. They’ve been everywhere. They know where to go. They know where not to go. They also know where to eat. Those are the men and women who are your most credible sources and nobody figured that out yet. I figured it out because I’m also a fireman here in New York. I’ve done it since I’m eighteen and I’m on duty 3 days a week, 7 months a year but if you’re looking for great and nonpartisan sources of information, stop at the firehouse. It’s unbelievable.
How many times have you gotten the hand saying, “No, you can’t come in here and do this?” You get more honey, what’s the saying?
Here’s the thing, you never ask permission, you beg forgiveness. That’s number one. Number two and this is my all-time big mantra, “You never take a no from somebody who’s not empowered to give you a yes in the first place.” That applies to getting a telephone installed or getting the cable guy in or it applies to a border guard in Tibet. There’s always a way to do it. The way to do it, which I wish more people would do although they’re usually too afraid to do it is the big C word. You need to have a conversation. Too many people go, “Can I go there?” The answer is no. First, you have to establish common ground, find out what they had for breakfast. What’s interesting to them? Learn from them and then all of a sudden they’ll go, “You want to come in?” “Yeah, can I?” You’re in.
[bctt tweet=”You never ask permission; you beg forgiveness.” username=””]
Speaking of the conversation, I will tell you a story about how things work. I did a movie many years ago based on a story I did for Newsweek called Red Flag about an Air Force war game that’s realistic that people were getting killed. They’re still doing the games now at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. That was a two-hour movie we did for CBS. When that movie aired, I got a call from the US Navy saying, “We’d love to do a movie with you. What do you want to do?” I said, “I want to do X.” They laughed at me and they said, “It’s never been allowed. It’s never going to be happening. You can’t do it.” I said, “If I could do it, who would be the person to give me permission?” They said, “CINCPAC, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific in Pearl.” I said, “Can you get me an appointment to go see the admiral?” They go, “Why? Are you going to fly all the way to Hawaii so he can say no?” I said, “Yeah.”
They gave me a ten-minute appointment at 9:00 in the morning on a Monday. I flew up on a Saturday. I walked in to see him. He could care less about me. I was told to have a meeting. He didn’t want to be there. It was an office the size of Grand Central Station. Everybody was in their dress whites. They didn’t want me to be there. It was like a courtesy call. I give him a commemorative coin and get him out. This is the difference. You seek out common ground and I knew that I had maybe fifteen seconds to figure out what the common ground was.
I got lucky because behind his desk was a photograph of a boat and it turned out I knew the boat well. I said to him, “Is that a Bertram 31?” He said, “Damn straight.” I said, “That’s the best boat they ever built.” He said, “You’re not kidding?” I said, “Let me guess. When you make a hard right turn, the engine cavitates and the water pump overflows, doesn’t it?” He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “Here’s how you fix it. You’re going to do a bypass on the impeller.” We start talking like that and ten minutes later, the officer is going to say, “Admiral, your time is up.” He looked at me and said, “Do you have lunch plans?” I said, “I’m all yours.” He said, “Meet me at the officers club.”
When that lunch was over, all hell broke loose in Pearl Harbor. All hell broke loose in the Pentagon because I was given the first top security clearance to go on a class of admission on an attack nuclear sub. When the Pentagon found out about it, they made the admiral go with me. It turned out to be fabulous because what was I doing at the time in addition to being a journalist? I was the head of television at Paramount. Now, go do your homework and find out what came after that.
The Hunt for Red October, I’m guessing.
You got it. I allowed it to be made because they felt comfortable because they’d worked with me. I had nothing to do with the movie, except all the stuff you saw in that movie happened to us on that mission other than Sean Connery defecting.
Do you get a tip from somebody or is there already a story and you’re going deeper into it? How does it evolve?
[bctt tweet=”The one country that has it all is Chile.” username=””]
It starts with relationships. I like to think of myself as a walking Rolodex. I can make the calls that will be taken usually not because of my sparkling personality, but because of the chair in which I sit. People don’t get this. It’s like me walking into the admiral’s office asking if I could go on the sub. That’s not how it gets done. You spend a lot of time not asking for it. The analogy would be, how do you get an upgrade on a plane? You get to the airport, you see all these people standing around the counter like the scene from Midnight Express. They’re walking in circles and they’ve all asked the same question, “Can I have an upgrade?” The answer is, “No, get out of here.”
That’s not how I do it. What I do in normal times either in LAX or JFK, I will go out to the airport on a day I have no plans to go anywhere, zero. I will pick a terminal and I’ll walk the counters at a time they’re not busy like 11:00 in the morning and I get to know everybody. I talk to them about things that are interesting to them, things they could learn from. I establish common ground so that when something goes on, they call me. It’s not me showing up like I parachuted in and they don’t know me from a hologram. They do know me. That means every day, I wake up with a call list of 120 people and of those people, I can promise you, 90 of them I have no agenda.
I’m calling to say hi and check-in. I’m not asking for anything nor would I. At the end of the day, do you know what happens to those people when they’re doing their own psychological post-mortem of how their day was? They liked me better because I was the only person not asking for anything at all. People forget it. You’ve got to plant the seeds. You’ve got to establish relationships. You’ve got to nurture them. You’ve got to establish trust and out of that trust then they’ll feel comfortable if not telling you the whole story, at least pointing you in the right direction.
Do you get jaded by travel? You’ve done it so much or do you still get surprised and amazed when you get off that airplane?
I get surprised every time. The word surprise has extra meaning because if you think about all of your travel experiences, nothing ever goes according to plan. The plan is the worst thing you could ever do. It’s the worst four-letter word other than other things. I remember I was on a flight going from New York to LA. It’s a 1:00 flight on Delta. I was sitting up in first class and I see all these maintenance guys come on the plane. I go, “What’s going on?” They said, “The front lavatory is overflowing. It’s not a good sign.” It was a 757. Speaking of duct tape, these guys go up and start duct-taping the floor around the toilet and duct-taping this. They said, “We’re all fixed.”
I happen to know that the plumbing on 757 is in line, which means that the front one is going to go, the back one is going to go. Sure enough, we pushed back from the gate. We get about 80 feet back. Someone else wanted our gate and they all start overflowing. At this point, they flew us to a marsh field somewhere in Queens and we’re not going anywhere. I know this plane is done for the day and suddenly they’re going to send out buses. I know the guys at the counter, so I called them. I said, “Let me tell you where I am.” He said, “Your flight said it’s departed.” I said, “I’m looking at weeds here in Queens. Can you get me on another flight?” They said, “We got one at 2:30 but you’ve got to get over to gate 59. We have a ticket for you.” I said, “Okay.”
All these guys with yellow vests were on the plane. I see one guy with an orange vest and they put up some portable stairs for the maintenance guys. I go outside of that, wave down. He came up and I said, “Can I ask you a question? They got me on another flight. They’re holding it for me at gate 59. Can you get me over there?” He was the guy who ran the ramp at Kennedy named Rocky. He said, “Hop in my truck.” I hop in his truck. He introduces himself. We’re driving 3 miles to get over to this gate. I’m on the cell phone letting them know I’m on the way. We have a great conversation because this guy has got the most interesting job at Kennedy.
[bctt tweet=”Gorilla tape fixes everything. You always got to have one in your bag. ” username=””]
He runs the ramp, he sees everything. I said, “Rocky, your first name sounds like a bar fight written all over it.” He said, “Tell me about it.” We start talking and I get to the gate. I give him my card. I said, “Thank you. You saved me.” They had my ticket there. This time, it was not a first-class ticket. It was coach. This was the only seat they had. No problem. I got to get on the plane. Before I get on the plane, Rocky said, “Did you have any bags on the flight?” I said, “I had two,” because it was a Sunday. Normally, I FedEx my bags but on Sunday, you can’t. He said, “You have two bags on the plane?” I said, “Yes.” Now I go back to my seat, $35,000 on the last seat in coach with a window. I’m sitting there and now it’s time for the 2:30 flight to push back. We pushed back from the gate. We get about 80 feet from the gate and we stop again. All of a sudden, there’s tapping on my window from the outside. I look and it’s Rocky and a cherry picker going, “I got the bags.” We’re lifelong friends now. We’re Facebook buddies. We WhatsApp-ing. By the way, he’s one of my best sources because he knows. He sees everything.
If you could travel with someone infamous or famous, dead or alive, who would it be?
It would have to be Leonardo da Vinci, only because people don’t realize who this guy was. I have a rule when I go to museums. If I’m in a city, I’ll go to only one museum because I want to spend the proper amount of time. I’m not going to hit the ground running and your eyes were over. I went to a museum in Montreal many years ago and they had done the most remarkable thing. They got Da Vinci’s notebooks and all his sketches and designs. They built what he drew. We discovered, “This guy invented the helicopter.” He just didn’t paint the Mona Lisa, “Give me a break.”
We’d like to close out episode by thanking Peter for his time. As busy as he is, we did feel privileged that he spent some time with us. If you’d like to learn more about or follow Peter, you can go to his website, www.PeterGreenberg.com. You can listen to his show, Eye on Travel. You can catch him on PBS and CBS. You can follow him on Instagram, @PeterGreenberg. Thank you, Peter. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on our show on your preferred podcast app by going to www.Destination-Everywhere.com. Let us know what travel advice you’d like to hear next time on the show. Safe travels.
- Eye on Travel
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