“I give you the information you need to travel well before you step off your front porch.” —Peter Greenberg
© SDECORET / SHUTTERSTOCK
land airplane collection that’s gone inexplicably missing, juggle dozens of phone calls from
exotic area codes (Malta, Mexico, Johannesburg), write and record more than a dozen
60-second spots for radio syndication, prep the
upcoming week’s segments for CBS News,
cobble together an itinerary with reps for
Grammy-winning pop chanteuse Alicia Keys
(who will serve as Greenberg’s personal tour
guide of the Big Apple for an upcoming TV
series he’s created) and give editorial notes on a
rough edit of a bit he recently recorded in
Tennessee with country music superstar Dolly
Parton. He’s also got to do a quick polish of this
evening’s talk. No, that’s not Peter Greenberg
hyperventilating over his schedule; it’s you.
ground war, but he bestows the spoils of such
combat—actionable, pro-consumer information—upon his vast worldwide audience. He
speaks quickly but sagely, his 6-foot-something
frame a perpetual-motion machine, attacking
each day’s inches-thick to-do list with velocity,
charisma, grace and a journeyman’s devotion
to hard work. The Connection kept pace with
Greenberg during a frenetic four-hour fraction
of his schedule, and was able to ask him a few
questions about his life and career.
Atlantic, and then we had to circle Paris for
what seemed like hours. I threw up.
CC: And that sealed the deal?
PG: [Laughs] Yep. After I threw up, that
was it. I get it. Got it. Done. Now I’m ready to
see the world!
CC: When you started out in news, you
weren’t covering travel at all.
The Costco Connection: Let’s start
with this: How have you managed to squeeze
extra hours out of every single day?
At an age when most sexagenarians are
ready for some R&R, Greenberg, a Costco
member, is teaching the world truths he has
come to hold as self-evident: that travel is not
merely for relaxation and adventure, but
almost a civic duty, an opportunity to become
a global citizen. He accomplishes this through
a series of hit TV series and specials, including
The Travel Detective, The Royal Tour, Black Box
Mystery: The Crash of the Concorde, a slate of
best-selling books (The Best Places for
Everything, Don’t Go There! and Tough Times,
Great Travels), along with full-time duties as
travel editor for CBS News and host of the
weekly, nationally syndicated Peter Greenberg
Worldwide radio program.
Peter Greenberg: I’m not sure I’ve
figured anything out; it’s about the way I’m
built or the ways I’ve trained myself, I think. I
sleep four hours a night. Period.
PG: This was 1967, and things were really
starting to boil over in the world—Vietnam,
the anti-war movement, all that. So I got to
college [University of Wisconsin] and, as a
freshman on a campus of 33,000 students in a
town I didn’t know, I basically had two choices:
join a fraternity or join the school paper.
CC: What is your job exactly?
PG: People hear “travel writer,” and a lot
of them think you’re on a pretty beach somewhere, sipping daiquiris with Robin Leach.
That is not what I do. I love pretty beaches as
much as the next guy, but that’s not what people need. It may be all people think they need,
but having done this as long as I have, I can tell
you: They need more.
Anybody can tell you that London is
lovely and that Bermuda is beautiful. What I
tell you is, while London and Bermuda are
being beautiful, the airline lost your bags and
the hotel has no record of your reservation
and the cab driver is taking you on a 40-mile
ride into town when it should have been 2
miles. So I give you the information you need
to travel well before you step off
your front porch.
The day I got to the school paper, the campus was protesting Dow Chemical for making
napalm, and 165 people at the school were
already in the hospital, every window on campus was blown out, tear gas was everywhere
and there was, basically, nobody in the paper’s
office—except this one guy, who, I think, just
really wanted to go home. So I said, “I’d like to
join the paper,” and he said, “OK. Cover this,”
and then he just disappeared. I was the only
guy left to report the story. I actually got paid
to write it. They put it on the front page. I was
hooked. Within six months, I was writing for
Newsweek. I was 19.
On those rare occasions when he is an
object at rest, he can be found in his office in
Studio City—behind a desk constructed
from a retired DC-9 jet.
CC: How did that translate into the work
you do today?
In his office, a map of the world pocked
with 151 pushpins indicating the nations,
countries and bailiwicks he’s visited fills an
entire wall. Crammed throughout the office
are the relics and keepsakes of a man who has
covered the final hours of the Vietnam conflict
from the ground; issued dispatches from
Kuwait hours before the U.S. invasion; rubbed
shoulders with Frank Sinatra, Fidel Castro and
the king of Spain; dodged automatic weapon
fire during a terrorist attack in Nairobi; and
who boasts of friends in nearly every port,
many of them kings, queens, presidents, prime
ministers, celebrities and security experts.
PG: I was always the guy with the suitcase
in the trunk of his car at Newsweek. I was
always flying to the scene of some crazy thing
CONTINUED ON PAGE 30
CC: When did travel become
so important to you?
© NINA DIE TZEL
PG: My first “real” trip was
when my parents took my sister
and me to Europe. I was 12. I’ll
never forget it. That was a big
deal. What stood out most to me
is that there was some kind of
emergency on the ground in
Paris as we were arriving. We’d
flown seven hours across the
FEBRUARY 2016 ;e Costco Connection 29
Peter Greenberg and Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, floating in the Dead Sea.
Greenberg covers travel as if it were a
1/21/16 8:26 AM