In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we chatted with Dave Levart, the veteran traveler and blogger behind Dave’s Travel Corner. We spoke with him about his twenty years of promoting experiential travel, his favorite things to do in Los Angeles and Napa Valley, his mountain-climbing expedition in Peru, and much more. Find out where his top travel destinations are and learn where he’s headed next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
I took a trip to Thailand and Nepal while in college. Both countries are so different then what I had experienced growing up on the west coast of the USA; I never really traveled internationally in my youth and that particular trip was eye opening. I saw burning bodies along the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, tried foods I had never been exposed to before, experienced religious ceremonies and was surrounded by unfamiliar surroundings. Upon returning from this trip – I wanted more of these experiences, in a big way. That was the beginning.
How many days/weeks are you traveling in any given year? What are the types of places you like to visit?
Several years ago, I was abroad 5-6 months of each year. Now its scaled back considerably – usually 3 months out of the year, including about 6 weeks in Thailand every year. I like to visit places for unique experiences and activities – and countries that are off the radar of most travelers. I also like to visit countries I have not yet visited.
You’ve been promoting experiential travel through Dave’s Travel Corner for over 20 years now. What do you attribute your longevity to?
My persistence and desire to continue to create content – of which my primary outlet is Dave’s Travel Corner – which is directly related to my continued passion for travel.
Your travels have taken you to a remarkable number of countries and territories around the world. Can you please share a travel experience, outside of your life-changing visit to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, that is particularly special to you?
Invariably the answer to this question involves mountains. A trip to Peru involved climbing Tocllaraju – a 6,000 meter peak. Close friends joined me on the climb – while none of us ultimately made it to the top – several of us reached the upper slopes – in the end it was a trip that because of the hardship we experienced – forged bonds and deepened life-long friendships.
You currently spend lots of time in both Los Angeles and Napa Valley. What makes them great destinations for travelers? What do you recommend travelers do in both locations when they visit?
Los Angeles to me is the following: its can do attitude, the inspiring creativity of passionate artists and the cutting edge work of brilliant scientists and engineers, a unique cultural diversity where you often have the largest populations living outside of their home countries, it is classy, it has character, the weather is generally mild year round with a wonderful diversity of micro-climates, it is hanging out with creative people and tapping into their networks, it is the exploration of the intriguing recent history of how “this” all came to be and it is my own family roots – starting with my great great grandfather who is buried at Forest Lawn, my grandfather who was raised here and my father who was born in Glendale.
There is so much more: Los Angeles is an endless lineup of cultural activities and events every day of the week anytime of the year, late night forays to comedy clubs on Sunset, a drive along Mulholland overlooking “everything”, a walk down the “hollywood” part of Hollywood Blvd, drives up to the Angeles National forest, a drive into the Hollywood Hills, exploring “ethnic” communities, concerts in outdoor venues on warm evenings, world class museums, gardens overflowing with sub tropical diversity, overworked actors struggling to get by, friends who get up at 3am to avoid traffic and drive to work and then drive back at 3pm, friends who work insane hours and then blow off steam by racing motorcycles on the freeways or in the hills extremely late at night, the mundane suburbia and sprawl of the “valley”.
It is extreme wealth, it is extreme poverty, it is homelessness, it is amazing restaurants, it is hole in the wall restaurants, celebrity signed photos hanging on the walls at places as ordinary as your neighborhood car-wash, it is fashion, it is casual, it is the outdoors – from surf and sand to mountains and snow, it is the LA River, it is theme parks, it is studios, it is hiking in Griffith Park, it is roof top hangouts where there is nothing better to do than throw back a stiff drink on warm evenings with friends, it is wide boulevards, it is easily crossing major streets on foot in downtown at times with surprisingly few cars considering this is the nation’s second largest city, outdoor shopping centers, the automobile, SigAlert, the metro, LAPD, the “power” of the freeways that are uniquely LA, the wonderful feeling of being in a 24/7 carpool lane passing hundreds of nearly parked cars in the other lanes, the happy feeling of driving the “right way” on a freeway when the other side is stacked up, it is the personal satisfaction of knowing how to get around town, it is invitations to private parties where the apparent goal is to feel exclusive and observe others wanting to feel the same way, it is touring friends from out of town and being a part of changing their perceptions of Los Angeles.
And, however, it is a city contrary to what you hear – where you can truly feel a part of a community – and something greater than yourself if you put the effort in and want something badly enough. The diversity of what there is to see and experience here and the desire to explore – creates an adrenaline inducing buzz every time I am in town.
Visitors wanting to explore more of the city can do so on my extensive guide here:
Napa Valley is home to over 1,100 unique wine producers, including physical and virtual wineries. 95% of the valley by numbers are small boutique wineries producing under several thousand cases of wine per year. There is an amazing diversity in such a small geographical region ranging from owners, to vineyards to soils and micro-climates.
The wine is known world wide. We don’t make much of it but what we make is buoyed by the commitment to quality that vintners here have across the board. We are known for our wine – yet we are a major culinary hub in California. It is very unusual for a rural location to have the culinary standards of excellence that we have here. It is absolutely a beautiful part of the world to visit and even more so to live.
For some it is a lot of hard work, for many it is their passion and primary business, for others it is a hobby and for some, it is somewhere in between. For all, it is a lifestyle. The valley is small – you get to know your neighbors. This is a business where you help out others and the wine-making and vineyard management side of the operations is not necessarily cutthroat like in other businesses.
Come anytime of the year – spring and harvest are my favorite times – there is a renewal of energy on the hillsides and with the vines. Harvest is a bustle of activity and the excitement that comes from seeing the prior 12 months come to fruition. We welcome you here and you will be richer for the experience if you pick up just a sliver of the passion we have for what we do.
For a list of the 1,000+ Napa Valley based wineries, producers and tasting rooms that Dave has visited and reviewed, see: www.napawineproject.com/reviews/
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
To be inspired to go out and travel and that the world is generally not a dangerous place.
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, best place to have lunch, best sightseeing, etc.
Ice Climbing – you know your not climbing a ‘normal’ mountain when while roped up you glance over to your side and see penguins sliding down snow covered slopes!
Vernadsky Research Base Bar– one of the world’s southernmost bars, this base is owned by Ukraine
Kayaking – what a thrill to be moving among ice bergs and seals
Photography – Antarctica truly delivers a remarkable diversity of visual eye candy. The play of color and light is incredibly diverse and changes dramatically at times.
Wildlife Viewing – imagine standing among a Penguin colony, or among hundreds of fur seals, or watching massive humpback whales swim next a tiny Zodiac.
How many countries have you visited so far?
171 countries + territories of which 149 are countries (Mongolia later this summer to be my 150th)
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
Thai | Korean | Greek
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
I don’t have a specific favorite restaurant – but if I did, I know it has to include the following:
– Extremely fresh ingredients
– Rare ingredients a bonus
– Old and rare alcoholic beverages
– Location – someplace that is memorable for whatever reason, being surrounded by inspirational and memorable scenery
– Exceptional service
– 10 of my closest friends would all be there
– The meal would last at least 5 hours and we would be served at least 9 courses
What is your favorite travel movie?
Last Stop for Paul
What is your favorite international airport?
Which city had the friendliest people?
Who is your favorite travel companion?
Anyone who loves adventure and is willing to explore outside of their normal comfort zone. Someone who is flexible while on the road. And someone who is a quiet sleeper because we will be sharing a room to save money.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
Writing about travel! And processing photographs and videos.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
Varanasi, India. Funerals by the Ganges River (burning bodies), spreading ashes into the water – people swimming nearby and drinking the water. Exotic music all night. Spotted some naked people meditating in the streets during my visit. Monkey came into my room at one point, cows wandering the streets. Kids collecting wet cow dung to dry and then sell for fuel – their tiny bodies covered in shit. People urinating or defecating on sides of the streets. A Bollywood movie being filmed next to my guesthouse. Whoa. An assault on the senses.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Be open to new experiences and the fact that things will go wrong when you are on the road – learn how to roll with the punches so to speak. Continue to crave exploration.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
Access to Money
What is your ultimate dream destination?
Mars. But if on planet earth, then it would be: Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo to see the Gorillas in the wild. Or Afghanistan.
What is your favorite travel quote?
My own: Ownership of most things is overrated. Ownership of worldly experiences is not.
Where are you headed next?
Domestically – the state of Washington on a wine focused trip – and then later in the summer, Mongolia.
Dave is an international travel writer and founder of Dave’s Travel Corner, a premier travel resource since 1996. He is well traveled (170+ countries & territories); while on the road he enjoys the outdoors, backpacking, mountain climbing, meeting people, and experiencing other cultures.
Combining these interests with his expertise in technology, photography and writing, he shares his adventures on Dave’s Travel Corner and in select media outlets. Dave is most at home in Bangkok, Los Angeles, the Napa Valley or California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.
In 2006, he conceived the Napa Wine Project., a challenging endeavor to visit, taste with and write about every winery in Napa Valley, California. He has now completed 1000+ visits and extensive written reviews of Napa Valley based wineries, producers or tasting rooms.
His first book titled ‘The Freeways of Los Angeles’ was published in 2010.
He is a big proponent of experiential travel, valuing experiences far above “things”.