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(Courtesy Peter Guttman/Fodor's Travel Publications)

Passion for travel keeps him going

Web posted on: Wednesday, January 04, 1999 2:56:05 PM EST

(CNN) -- For award-winning author and photographer Peter Guttman, the world is filled with wonderful destinations for romantic travelers. This man makes his living embarking on "journeys-of-a-lifetime," and in "Fodor's Worlds to Imagine: Dream Journeys for Romantic Travelers '99" he uses his perceptive eye to share the hidden and quirky charms of the unbeaten path. Glamour magazine called an earlier work, titled "Nights to Imagine", "the most inspiring book of the decade."

Guttman's passion for combining travel, romance and life is infectious. His enthusiasm and experience -- he has visited more than 160 countries in every region of the world -- inspire even the most jaded traveler.

Guttman recently gift-wrapped all seven continents into a splendid, one-of-a-kind Fodor's guidebook, and joined CNN Interactive for an Author Chat to answer questions about the book. Here's a transcript of that chat.
Romantically linked:
It's a shockwave game.
One sweet quiz:
What do you know about the holiday?
*4.0 or newer browsers
Cooking with Cupid
Couch potatoes in love
Check your scent sense:
smell this quiz
more, more, amour!




Question: If you were to leave tomorrow for one of your book's destinations, where would you go for an extended visit, for non-commercial purposes?

Peter Guttman: It would probably surprise some readers to know that I never travel solely for commercial reasons. The financial rewards I might sometimes receive for my travels are merely the gravy beyond my true purpose -- which is to experience life as fully as possible. Most of the destinations sampled in my three books are travels done for the exhilaration of experience.

Question: What books do you publish?

Peter Guttman: I've developed what is now a trilogy of books. I've published one book a year for the past three years. The first, "Nights to Imagine: Magical Places to Stay in America" Glamour magazine dubbed "most inspiring book of the decade." The second book is "Adventures to Imagine." The third book is "Worlds to Imagine: Dream Journeys for Romantic Travelers".

Question: Are more and more people going to "adventure" destinations?

Peter Guttman: That seems to be the prevailing trend over the last five years. As people start looking beyond the more traditional means of the past decades, they look for more meaningful experiences, and try to make sure their souls don't grow gray before their hair does.

Question: I will read your books, but pick a spot. Where is it that won't leave you alone? What memory haunts you the most? People, smells, foods, sounds?

Peter Guttman: Each book I could pick samples from. In the adventures book, tornado chasing was the most adrenaline rushing experience of my life. In "Nights to Imagine," the most unique lodging was where I turned 40 years old, which was at Jule's Undersea Lodge, where you have to scuba dive to reach your bedroom. One of the most fun times was aboard Lake Powell houseboats with friends for a true Huckleberry Finn fantasy, cruising through ancient towers of sandstone. In "Worlds to Imagine," ice-breaking through the North Pole and gorilla tracking through the forest of Uganda were particularly good experiences.

Question: Do you write true experience?

Peter Guttman: If I understand your question correctly, I have test-driven all of these experiences on a first-hand basis. And my photographer who accompanies me can prove it.

Question: Are there limits you have passed physically but not emotionally where you wish you had done it some years earlier?

Peter Guttman: Very fortunately, I haven't discovered those limits yet. But canyoneering through slot canyons in waist-deep water and navigating patches of quicksand with 80 pounds of gear on my back on my 43rd birthday still had me wondering how many years I had left where I would be capable of accomplishing that. By the way -- the quicksand trip was 50 miles!

Question: Any practical guide on how to go about booking a flight to "track some gorillas" and things like that?

Peter Guttman: The special thing I believe about these books is that in addition to the prose and imagery, the rear sections include all the practical information that one would need to put a trip like this together in the next seven weeks.

Question: Where can I find your books? Recommendations?

Peter Guttman: Amazon.com They are ranked first, third, 31st in travel pictorial category. Also, they are at most Barnes and Nobles. Feel free to raise a fuss at any store which doesn't stock these books!

Question: Speaking of Amazon, that's my dream adventure. Have you traveled there?

Peter Guttman: I've traveled along the upper Amazon, near Iquitos, Peru, where a number of eco-lodges are located. But I would op for other rain forest adventures other than the Amazon (such as Surinam, or Borneo).

Question: Where do you encounter ideas for travel? You must be well networked, but the effort to plan a trip is time-consuming, as you describe. Do you have help in this regard?


"In general, the places I don't enjoy are suburbs, shopping malls, and interstate highways at rush hour. Otherwise, travel is an endless high for me."
-- Peter Guttman


Peter Guttman: I've been developing an extensive file system for the past two decades. And I am a sponge of information, a incurable brochure collector, and a bookstore junkie. I also keep my ears wide open.

Question: Any recommended destinations for someone who's new to adventure travel?

Peter Guttman: What are your interests?

Question: I'm an avid nature photographer (There isn't too much nature where I live, unfortunately).

Peter Guttman: Where do you live?

Question: Chicago, at the moment.

Peter Guttman: OK. Based on your locale, and interest in wildlife, I recommend a trip up to Manitoba. Contact Tundra Buggy Tours for a close up encounter with polar bears and overnights on the Arctic tundra (safe, yet thrilling).

Question: Where is the most fascinating place you have ever visited?

Peter Guttman: Most ethnographically fascinating: New Guinea. Most geographically fascinating: Antarctic Peninsula. Most zoologically fascinating: Galapagos Islands.

Question: Isn't it a little dangerous to travel for Americans currently?

Peter Guttman: I don't think any of these destinations are particularly dangerous right now ...

Question: Is there any place you have not yet visited but want to?

Peter Guttman: I've been in every region of the planet, with the exception of the Arabian Peninsula. I hope to explore Yemen sometime in '99.

Question: I thought the State Department was cautioning Americans from traveling outside of the U.S.

Peter Guttman: Americans in general are overly cautious about travel abroad. More than that, State Department warnings can be inappropriately placed and overly alarming. Obviously, I wouldn't spend the next six weeks in Baghdad.

Question: Is their any place where you have encountered animosity?

Peter Guttman: As a travel photographer who also specializes in portrait photography, Rastafarians are the least open to being photographed. In general, the world's people are sweet and kind, and most often devoid of the suspicions we encounter here in our own country.

Question: I went to Thailand in July; I wasn't really too impressed with my trip there. The people stared at me constantly, and the prices for the Thai people were always cheaper than for the tourist.

Peter Guttman: Very generally speaking now, the best way to avoid that is think as a traveler rather than a tourist. I've been to Thailand several times, most recently this last March. It's helpful to interpret people's stares not as intimidation, but as wonder and curiosity.

Question: Where are you off to next?

Peter Guttman: I'll be doing dog sledding in Minnesota in January as part of a TV pilot being taped for a series based on my first book.

Question: How many countries have you visited?

Peter Guttman: Over 160. I use up frequent flyer miles with new tickets as soon as I make them.

Question: Peter, what's your favorite place to visit in the U.S., say for the photographer?

Peter Guttman: Hmm. I'm particularly partial to the slot canyons of Southern Utah, as well as the hill towns of northern Vermont.

Question: I think I drove through those canyons once.

Peter Guttman: I doubt you drove -- the widest access is via footpath.

Question: Yea, I figured you don't really see the best of it from the road.

Peter Guttman: Slot canyons are narrow crevices in the earth's surface with glowing canyons of stone on either side.

Question: Which is the last country you returned from?

Peter Guttman: In the last month, I've been in India, Nepal and the Loire Valley of France.

Question: What about Yellowstone Park?

Peter Guttman: For nature photography, winter there is a pretty wonderful time for shooting wildlife.

Question: Do you speak foreign languages or do you manage with just English?

Peter Guttman: I know how to ask permission to take a photograph in 20 languages. I rely on local guides to get me through exotic situations.

Question: Do you have a book of your portrait photographs?

Peter Guttman: A number of my portraits appear in "Worlds to Imagine," and there are some in the Kodak Guide to shooting great travel pictures.

Question: Is there any place which you did not enjoy?

Peter Guttman: In general, the places I don't enjoy are suburbs, shopping malls, and interstate highways at rush hour. Otherwise, travel is an endless high for me.

Peter Guttman: Anyone with a fabulous travel secret of their own to share?

Question: I have so many favorite travel places I don't think I could name one. However, I recently returned from a trek through Morocco and it was wonderful.

Peter Guttman: Was it the Atlas Mountains?

Question: Yes.

Peter Guttman: Some fabulous desert oases there for sure.

Question: Yes, I love the desert and I visited the cities, Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca and more...

Peter Guttman: I incorporated Fez and Marrakech in "Worlds to Imagine." Certainly an Arabian nights fantasy ...

Peter Guttman: Thanks so much for your interest! See you out there on the road! The books are really meant to inspire transforming dreams into reality. I hope they do that for all of you.

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