Robert Reid

of Reid on Travel

As National Geographic Travel's Offbeat Observer, Robert Reid investigates the whys and hows of how we experience the world and encourages people to follow his lead by "traveling like travel writers."

What does this mean? Reid often uses his own hobbies and interests to build trip itineraries, research articles, and provide a framework for video storytelling. He's been to Mountie boot camp, followed Billy Joel's lyrics (literally), counted Siberian mustaches, and used a Monopoly board as a map to explore Atlantic City. While Lonely Planet's U.S. Travel Editor, Reid appeared regularly on television to discuss travel trends, and now lives--with messier hair--in Portland, Oregon.

Follow Robert on Twitter @reidontravel.

Since the fateful first edition of Patricia Schultz’s “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” was published in 2003–a few years before that Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman dying-buddy film would lend the concept a buzz-worthy name–”bucket lists” have hijacked popular discourse on travel. Here’s what’s wrong with that.

Too often, we travelers let good old fashioned guilt seep into the decision-making process when we’re building our itineraries. Rather than following our inherent interests (canoes, Rococo, hockey), we let the expectations of friends and family–or what we’ve read in some magazine–serve as some proxy “travel conscience,” guiding us toward things we should or shouldn’t see.

I get that we see New Year’s as a fresh start and all that, but are those life-changing resolutions such a good idea? Many people say no, and point to the failure rate of such promises–particularly the more pie-in-the-sky ones. Fortunately for us, travel resolutions are easier to keep–if you’re realistic about them. And though they might not take care of those love handles, they’re sure to make the next year of your life on Earth a lot more enjoyable.

Travel may not take us to water that replenish our strength or smooth out our wrinkles, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a kind of “fountain of youth.” One way it works is by stretching time.

Many travelers opt for hop-on, hop-off tour buses to get a quick primer on a new place. As silly as it can look, and it does, it’s a useful way to get oriented when you’re visiting a destination for the first time. But there’s an alternative: biking.

My favorite travel film is probably “Yes Man,” a mostly forgettable 2008 film in which a troubled Jim Carrey vows to say “yes” to everything. What better travel lesson can a film possibly offer? Say “yes” as much as you can (even to two tickets to Cornhusker Central) — and go not with low expectations, but with no expectations.

I’ve been transcribing two boxes of travel journals I keep stashed under my desk. I’m far from finished, but a clear pattern has emerged. Wherever I was making my entry – geographically or mentally – one key part of the trip consistently escaped record: the return home.

No matter how many journals I fill, photos I take, tweets I send, I find that oftentimes I “document” the wrong things.

“Everyone on this train has borderline Asperger’s,” a self-described “double dork” announces somewhere in America. It’s a joke. Except no one disagrees. The speaker is Travis Korte, a data scientist/policy analyst who resembles Christian Bale with gentler features. He’s talking about his fellow passengers — a group of 24 creative, enviably sharp, and decidedly quirky youngsters — and their rail journey across the U.S. with the Millennial Trains Project.

You don’t really know a train until you’ve slept on one. And I don’t mean a half-hour doze between Philly and Baltimore but the real deal: a bunk in a berth, a sliding door with a latch lock, and those WWII-style knobs to turn off your reading light. And when you’ve really settled into a…

The Beatles sang better, the Stones played better, and the Who had more flash, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Kinks. Though they had to sit out most of the “British Invasion” due to an American ban, being tethered to London helped them become the most English of the bunch. So the last time I went back to London, I decided to let the Kinks’ lore and lyrics lead the way.

After poring through hundreds of candidates in the U.S., here are 11 iconic venues where it’s more about the experience of being there, than who happens to be on stage.

Trailing David Bowie

If a life can be art, why can’t travel? As we brace for what comes next 40 years after Bowie famously retired his Ziggy Stardust persona on July 3, 1973, there’s no better way to uncover the man who sang about space, fame, and modern love than following in his footsteps.

Woody Allen’s New York

I used to sort of hate New York. I rooted against the Yankees and saw the “big city” as a scary place of noise, fast-talk, and blood-filled drama. Then I watched “Annie Hall.” And “Manhattan.” And “The Purple Rose of Cairo.”

Everyone’s talking about “traveling like a local” these days. Travelers, bloggers, tour operators, souvenir clerks, industry types in pleated slacks – they all seem to say it’s the best way to get to know a place. Go local or go home, right?

Well, not me.