Matt Gross is a world-renowned cheap traveler and expert in the art of getting lost in foreign countries. Indeed, as the former Frugal Traveler for The New York Times travel section he taught travelers how to live richly while traveling frugally, and now in his Getting Lost column, Matt introduces readers to the idea that one can be Zen and lost at the same time. Wherever he gets lost, Matt always finds his way back to New York, where he lives with his family. I was able to have lunch with him in DUMBO and he agreed to a quick interview on some benches directly under the Manhattan Bridge. Traffic hummed above us as I tried to extract as many interesting, yet random factoids as possible about Matt’s travels.
I was shocked to find out that in all his globetrotting through Europe, Asia and the United States, the worst parasites he encountered were not botflies or tapeworms but chiggers in Georgia—the state, not the country. Nor has he ever been smacked or spit on by anyone he’s encountered—though he has been roughed up by motorbikes. I also learned about the best place to have a layover, use the bathroom, and see the sunset, as well as tips on meeting or alienating people.
Robin Kilmer: What are the best places to meet people?
Matt Gross: Bars. Anywhere is good, but you have to overcome a natural reluctance to talk to strangers. It’s best to travel with someone of the opposite sex that you’re not involved with, because you both seem harmless—even if you’re serial killers.
RK: What are the worst things you can do when trying to meet people?
MG: Be shy. Leer. You shouldn’t ogle too much or drool…
RK: What is your favorite airport?
MG: The Teipei airport. There’s good coffee there, good WIFI, and the duty free store has a good whiskey selection. And there’s a kid’s play area that usually happens to be by my gate.
RK: Which country has the best bathrooms?
MG: Japan. It has toilets as sophisticated as your average Macbook and a dedicated bathing culture.
RK: Where is the best place to watch the sun set?
MG: Hawaii’s not bad. Just as the sun finally sinks it sets off a green light. I remember sitting on the Big Island with my wife drinking Green Flash IPA while waiting for the green flash.
RK: Which country has the best toast?
MG: Georgia, the country not the state. There are a lot of toasts and sayings that are very oratorical, and they drink their wine from a cow’s horn. There is a saying in Georgia: You never toast your friends with beer, only your enemies. You toast to your friends with wine.
RK: Which city has the best subways?
New York. The parade of humanity on the New York City subway