Peter Shankman: Always Connected, Always Moving
Peter Shankman lives on the cutting edge of the new media landscape. He’s the founder of HARO (Help a Reporter Out) a site that connects journalists under deadline with credible sources around the globe virtually in a matter of minutes. He also runs a public relations firm called The Geek Factory who built a name for themselves by pairing social networking and Peter’s own bold, publicity-grabbing techniques . As if those endeavors don’t keep him busy enough, he is often called on to speak as a guru of mass communication in the internet age. He’s also got a new book launching this fall called Customer Service: New Rules for a Social-Enabled World.
Peter Shankman makes his living being on the go, but this week, just before heading out to compete in a half-Iron Man in Texas, he carved out some time to talk with us about his travel tastes and what keeps him inspired.
I’ve always been excited by travel.
I’ve always been excited to keep moving. I hate to quote the movie Up in the Air, but it is a spectacular line: “The Slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living.” I saw that movie six times.
There are two different types of tourist: there’s the active tourist and the passive tourist.
The passive tourist allows everyone to create his schedule for him and he hangs out with other tourists and does what people tell him—and that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s perfectly fine if that’s what you want to do. The active tourist actively seeks out new things to do, new places to go and new adventures to have. I try, with every business trip that I have, to throw some active tourism in there, whatever that may be from sampling a local restaurant, to going to a museum to finding a place in the middle of a city I’ve never been in to go skydiving. Something that captures a little bit more of that place than just going airport-hotel-meeting-airport. I think living life is about being an active tourist.
I’m definitely not a hostel-guy.
I do like the luxury but it’s not a requirement. I’m the guy who leaves the Four Seasons Hotel but to get to the airport takes the local light-rail. I certainly don’t need limo drivers, I love public transit—I prefer using it in every city that I visit. That being said I love a good lounge, I’ll never turn down a good lounge with a good selection of alcohol.
I think we have to realize that we are a society that tends to expect everybody to be exactly like us.
That’s really an uninteresting way to live. One of the things I love the most about international travel is trying to blend in with the culture as much as possible. Even if there’s only time to learn how to say “hello” something as simple as that gets you accepted on a whole new level.
When I’m abroad it’s usually for work so I definitely have to keep things on a tight timeline…
but I do throw in a couple of free hours wherever I can.
I stay healthy on the road by drinking as much water as possible.
I also try to limit my alcohol intake, which doesn’t always work as planned, but I do try it. My other trick is that for every one thing I eat that’s processed I try to eat something that’s not processed. So if I have some cheese, I follow it with an apple. I think balance is the key to life.
I love all kinds of food.
If it swims and it’s weird, the chances are I’ve eaten it. I’m also a pizza junkie so I like sampling pizza anywhere. But mainly I just try to stay away from the chains. When given a choice, I always try something new.
The best restaurants to me are the ones that are mobbed by locals.
My other trick is to tip the porter at the hotel twenty bucks and ask him where he goes to eat when he’s off work—because then he’ll give me the place where he actually eats, rather than the place that the 4-star hotel tells him to recommend.
I don’t have to do much research or carry a guidebook.
I have 70,000 people who follow me on Twitter, so I’ll jump on and say “Hey, I’m landing HERE! What should I do?” You get the greatest responses that way, it’s amazing and it’s worked all over the world.
I’m currently trying to see if I can’t get down to South Africa to watch the United States in the World Cup.
I could tie it in to a business trip to London and I have the miles so “why not?” I’ll be there for 36 hours but it’s still worth it.
I don’t travel with people if they have to check luggage.
That’s cost me a relationship or two.
They’re bringing back CLEAR, which is something I’m very excited about.
It’s a card that allows you to get through airport security faster if you submit to a background check. I also have a Goes Pass. I submitted to a background check by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. Once I passed that I was given an ID Card so now when I get to immigration I go to a computer, give a thumb-print, answer five questions and I’m out. I went from the plane to the curb at LAX in one minute and 58 seconds and that’s coming from Sydney.
I have a blackberry that works worldwide—it’s the greatest thing in the world.
And I won’t leave home without it.
I like to get in line behind the asshole.
I like to get in line behind the guy yelling at the gate agent or the hotel check in person because I show up and I am the nicest person in the world. I have that knowing smile of “yeah, the last guy was a jerk.” The amount of upgrades that’s gotten me is just incredible. Everything is about being nice.
My most humbling moment came when I was supposed to speak at my first conference in Singapore.
It was the first international trip that I was getting reimbursed for. So I booked the flight, went to the airport early—went to check in. Gave them my ticket and she said: “this is a ticket for Shanghai. You bought a ticket for Shanghai, not Singapore.” I was so shocked by my own stupidity that I actually asked the woman “Well…are they close? Can I rent a car?” That was a four thousand dollar mistake. Now I have an assistant—she’s great and doesn’t do things like that.
When you pack, roll everything—don’t fold, ROLL! You can double your baggage space.
Every hotel has a shower, the shower generates steam and the steam presses my clothing. When I get in the shower I hang my clothes from the vent in the ceiling. By the time I get out of the shower all my clothes are pressed.
I try to run whenever I travel.
There’s no noble reason for it, I run because I like to eat and fit people tend to get more dates. I run because I like to have a life when I’m not running.
Thailand is the first place I’d go back to.
Specifically, Phuket, Thailand, room 201 in the Sheraton Grande Resort. It was a beautiful hotel, corner room and I walked outside and got French kissed by an elephant. It was a fifteen second kiss and I have to tell you: it’s been a year and a half and she’s never called.
Someone once asked me “Why do you like hotels so much?” and the answer is because everyone’s from somewhere else.
There are some great stories in hotel lobbies.
I try really hard to not get uptight or upset.
I’ve got to breathe. But when I’m sitting in my seat and the guy behind me gets up and uses my seat to pull himself up—let’s just say I’ve gotten really good at hitting my recline button at that exact moment. It usually sends him falling back into his seat. If that’s what sends me to hell…then so be it.
I think you can find happiness anywhere you go.
You’ve just got to look for it.
Limousines are pretentious and I’m not wild about motorcycles but give me anything else.
Planes, trains, buses and automobiles are no problem at all.
I will always meet new people wherever I go.
I have so many people that I’m connected with through the online world that I can usually send out a Tweet or a Facebook post and start meeting people right away.
I have no problem with someone working 9 to 5 if it works for them.
That’s awesome. But it doesn’t work for me. My commute is in a plane.
Life is too short to stay in one place.
Everything I’ve learned, my excitement for other cultures and other people has always come when I’m on the road. Keep in mind, I was born and raised in New York City and it takes a lot to get me excited. Travel does that.
Peter founded the site HARO (Help a Reporter Out), runs a public relations firm called The Geek Factory and has new book launching this fall called Customer Service: New Rules for a Social-Enabled World. Peter Shankman can be found on his Facebook page and his ever fascinating Twitter feed.
“How I Travel” is a BootsnAll series publishing every Tuesday in an effort to look at the unique and diverse travel habits of some of the world’s most well known and proficient road warriors. Got ideas for who we should talk to? Drop us a note.
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all photographs provided by Peter Shankman and may not be used without permission