Smart travel advice: “Don’t lose sight of the big picture”

I’ve been following Gary Arndt’s odyssey since 2007, when he started traveling more or less non-stop. “I’ve been to over 140 countries and territories around the world and all 7 continents,” he says. “I also have made a point of visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites whenever I can.” To date, he’s visited and photographed 262 World Heritage sites around the globe for his site, Arndt was also named the 2014 Travel Photographer of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers.

What makes him the world’s smartest traveler? The fact that he doesn’t think he’s one of the world’s smartest travelers, and which, I confess, made me want to feature him all the more in this series. Why? Because if he’s not one of the world’s smartest travelers, then I don’t know who is. “My biggest travel tip is to ignore most travel tips,” he says. “We too often get caught in the minutiae of travel and ignore the bigger picture. Throw stuff in a bag and go. You’ll figure it out.” He makes a good point. Travelers tend to obsess about packing perfectly or getting the best exchange rate or the lowest fare. “I’ve landed in dozens of countries without a hotel reservation or a penny of local currency and managed to get by,” says Arndt. “We live in an amazing world and travel is our chance to see and experience it. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.”

The World’s Smartest Traveler is a weekly series about the visionaries who inspire us to travel smarter. Its curator, Christopher Elliott, is the author of the upcoming book, How to Be The World’s Smartest Traveler (National Geographic Books). Want to nominate someone for this feature? Send Chris a note.

The 6 most influential Twitter users in travel

Who are the most influential Twitter users in the travel business?

That’s an easy question to ask, but a hard one to answer.

I get around on Twitter — I’ve been active on the site since the beginning — so I thought I’d query my friends using a tool called Tweepular that helps you identify your most popular followers.

Before you say anything, I know: This is hardly scientific. And just because someone has a lot of followers doesn’t necessarily make them influential. But it’ll have to do. Besides, with another revolution imminent in Iran, and with everyone blaming it on Twitter, what better time ask a question like this?

Here we go:

1. JetBlue Airways (685,244)
2. Southwest Airlines (80,697)
3. Gary Arndt (72,778 )
4. Kathika Travel Blog (51,114)
5. islandprincess2 (38,405)
6. BrilliantTrips Blog (23,487)

Why not list the top 10? Actually, Tweepular pulled up the top 100, but only six were pure-play travel accounts. My top three, for example, were Britney Spears, Barack Obama and Whole Foods Market, in that order. There’s a joke in there, somewhere.