Business Traveler Interview: Spud Hilton
This is part of a new series here at WhyGo Business Travel featuring brief interviews with people who travel for work, asking them about what they do and some of their favorite travel tips. This way, if you’re looking for a career that will require travel, you’ll get to read about people doing some of the jobs you might consider – and you’ll also learn a few great travel tips from the travel pros!
This week, we’re talking with Spud Hilton, who works for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate.com. He is, not surprisingly, based in San Francisco. He has his own travel blog on SFGate.com called Bad Latitude, and regularly posts on Twitter and Facebook as well as on his Bad Latitute TV channel on YouTube.
What do you do?
I’m the Travel Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, so I oversee the writing, editing and production of the weekly Sunday Travel section, including writing or buying the original stories. I also write the Bad Latitude travel blog at SFGate.com and maintain the social media presence for the department, the blog and myself.
What kind of travel do you get to do for work? Do you get to choose where you go?
Oddly, my work travel tries to simulate vacation travel, both in the planning and execution, because I’m trying to travel the way readers do, although I tend to seek out places you’re not as likely to have heard of. I pick my own destinations, based mostly on which areas have been overlooked, on what we’ve done in the past and on where there are great stories.
Do you add any extra “fun” days on to work trips? Why or why not?
I always try to factor in a little down time, although it’s difficult to switch off the instinct to observe, gather information and write, so I rarely relax. The job itself, however, is what most folks would consider “fun,” so I can’t complain.
What are your favorite and least favorite airports in which to spend extended periods (long layovers, flight delays, etc.)?
My favorite is Dallas-Fort Worth, because I’m always passing through and there’s an excellent tequila and tacos bar with which I’m intimately familiar. My least favorite is Hell-AX (LAX), where the trials of the outrageously idiotic design are compounded by a lack of miracle technology that hasn’t made it to L.A. yet — A TRAM SYSTEM. Also, it would take years of brain-washing to get most of the current workers to even pretend they give a crap.
How often do you get to travel for work?
About 12-13 weeks a year, depending on my budget and the need for stories from specific regions.
Did you choose your job at least in part because you love to travel? Would you make the same job choice again, knowing what you know now?
Frankly, I didn’t know anything about travel until I got into the Travel Section as a copy editor and page designer. It seemed like a good gig, although I had lobbied to get into the section after reading a few articles that had the power to inform, entertain and transport me, and thought “That’s the kind of writing I want to do.” It was the right choice; I’d do it again.
What are some of your favorite travel tips that you’ve picked up?
Take a picture of your passport and keep it on your smart phone; you can use one 5V charger to power almost any USB 2 gadget; and don’t forget that you have camping knife in the secret pocket of your travel pants while going through airport security in Berlin.
What one travel tip would you, as a business traveler, pass along to someone who doesn’t travel as often?
Air turbulence often feels the same as being in a beat-up school bus on a really bad road. Every time the plane lurches, picture the wheels hitting another pothole. (I don’t have a fear of flying, but I seem to sit next to plenty of people who do.)
What advice do you have for someone who’s interested in doing what you do?
Marry someone rich. Seriously. Travel writing almost never pays enough to live on, and newspaper travel editors are on the endangered species list (down to just 13 full-timers in the U.S.). So get a sugar mama or sugar daddy.
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