Who Said Nothing in Life Comes for Free?

I get to see a lot of the world. New ZealandSpainIreland… Turkey… Germany… Thailand. I love being on the road. But what makes these adventures extra special is this… I don’t have to pay a penny for any of them.

I love dressing up. I love oysters. And I especially love the flamboyant world of opera. And even though it was practically last minute, I’d no problems getting tickets to see a Polish opera, Strazny Dwor (The Haunted Manor). Nor die Königin von Saba, a sultry German opera centered on the Queen of Sheba’s love-life. Tickets were free—for both me and a companion.

When you have my job, this kind of red carpet treatment isn’t unusual. There are too many destinations to list, but I’ve also been hosted in top-class hotels from Greece to Istanbul to India. And when you get hosted, you stay for free.

On a visit to the scenically stunning Greek island of Crete, it wasn’t only the private hotel bungalow overlooking Homer’s “wine-dark sea” that was gratis. The manager presented me with two bottles of wine and stocked the fridge with champagne.

Regarding India, I’m probably using the word “hotel” in a rather cavalier fashion. One hosted stay was in a former Maharajah’s hunting lodge. Now it’s a base for upmarket wildlife photography safaris.

I also spent two days in a luxury houseboat along the Kerala backwaters. It’s wonderful when you have such a pleasure all to yourself, and don’t have to share with any hoi-polloi. Lying on cushions under a shady canopy on deck, I felt like a Memsahib from the days of the Raj. I was happy to let the captain navigate, but the cabin boy and personal chef were at my command.

But they’re the kind of rewards you can expect when you’re a travel writer like me.

You get spa treatments—if you’ve never laid face-down over a bowl of lotus petals while getting massaged on the exotic Thai island of Koh Samui, you don’t know what extreme pleasure is.

You get behind-the-scenes-glimpses into museums, stately homes and other places that ordinary travelers never see. A private tour around Berlin’s famous Hansa music studios where giants such as David Bowie and U2 recorded? Yes, I’ve done that.

A 10-day trip to the exotic island of Borneo will cost most travelers way over $3,500. I paid absolutely nothing. Everything was covered—airfare, meals, hotel stays (and I mean luxury hotels).

Learning how orphaned orangutans are rehabilitated back into the wild…getting to snorkel among rainbow-colored fish in the South China Sea…even meeting some former headhunters… can you think of a better way to make a living?

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