Everything I ever needed to know about travel I learned from James Bond – The Boston Globe

From the very start, James Bond was more than a secret agent, he was also a travel agent. Women desired him, men wanted to be him, and frequent flyers coveted the points from his American Express Centurion Card.
Upon the release of “Dr. No” 60 years ago this month, Bond invented bleisure travel (that’s the irritating portmanteau for business and leisure travel). Every Bond movie finds our hero not only working hard to save the world but also savoring it and selling it. Beaches! Historic European cities! Ski resorts! It’s all there on the big screen, looking much more enticing than any travel pamphlet or website. He even made kitschy 1971 Las Vegas appear chic in “Diamonds Are Forever.” Bravo, Mr. Bond.
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How many couples honeymooned at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach after seeing the stunning hotel in the first few minutes of “Goldfinger”? Or how many travelers added Lake Como in Italy to their must-see lists after “Casino Royale”?
“There’s no doubt that film enthusiasts have been inspired to travel to Bond locations,” said Anders Frejdh, a Bond expert and founder of the website From Sweden With Love. “I’ve visited hundreds of locations, and I know other Bond fans who have done the same. It’s difficult not to get inspired, even for casual viewers.”
In fact, I personally know of one small-town teenager who, after seeing Grace Jones parachute off the Eiffel Tower, made it his mission to get to Paris. Yes, I’m talking about me again, sorry. Although my first Bond film was the tepid “A View to a Kill,” it still hit me like a Thunderball. It started me down a path of begging my parents to let me take a class trip to Paris. I made it thanks to Roger Moore, Jones, Duran Duran, and my 11th-grade French teacher.
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According to Frejdh, the Bond films of the 1960s were particularly inspiring for moviegoers because many had yet to travel internationally. Suddenly, instead of seeing the Bahamas or Switzerland via aunt Edna’s snooze-inducing vacation slide show, they were experiencing these destinations on the big screen as a backdrop for action, adventure, and plenty of gratuitous décolletage.
There’s another reason why Bond films still inspire journeys beyond the décolletage, and that’s because the man knows how to be a traveler and not a tourist. If you have Amazon Prime, you can currently watch most Bond films for free and see the master globe-trotter at work (the streaming service also has a superb new documentary about Bond music). Here are some (indirect) travel tips gleaned from 60 years of cinematic spying upon Ian Fleming’s enigmatic, randy, and timeless character.
Check out the touristic sights, but also go off the beaten path.
In 2012′s “Skyfall,” Bond (Daniel Craig) visited the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but he also made time to see other parts of Turkey. When he found himself at death’s door, he wisely escaped to Fethiye, a town along Turkey’s southwest coast, to convalesce. This area is a little slice of heaven (naturally, Bond would wind up here), and it’s also near Kas, one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Once again, Bond knows best. Follow his lead and try to leave a little room in your itinerary to go beyond the guidebooks.
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Don’t dress like a slob for your flights — even if you can’t afford first class.
One of the biggest takeaways from any Bond travel itinerary is style. You likely won’t be wearing a Savile Row suit on your flight, and unfortunately, Pan Am is no longer around to offer some of the grooviest sofas in the sky. But just because you’re not an international spy and you’re not seated in first class doesn’t mean you should roll out of your bed and directly into your seat. We live in a miracle age where deconstructed blazers are more comfortable than sweat shirts, and very breathable and stretchy pants are better suited for travel than flannel pajama bottoms. Every story I’ve read about how to get an upgrade involves dressing somewhat respectably. It’s yet to happen to me, but I keep doing it. You can’t win if you don’t play. Heck, maybe someday a flight attendant will at least randomly offer me a martini. Speaking of style, try to leave room in your suitcase for at least one semi-dressy ensemble. It doesn’t have to be a tuxedo or a gown, but one special outfit is always a wise idea.
Don’t be afraid to chat and make friends with the locals.
Bond never hesitated to step into unfamiliar surroundings and make new friends, although many of them had names such as Pussy Galore, Plenty O’Toole, Chew Mee, Bambi, and Thumper. If they didn’t have risqué names they were probably trying to kill him. For the average Joe and Josephine, the whole killing thing usually isn’t a problem, so don’t hesitate to enter a fencing match with a stranger if offered, or talk to that attractive lady or gent sitting next to you at the roulette table. More realistically, you’ll find yourself making new friends in restaurants and bars. On a recent trip to Liverpool, a pair of locals chatted me up in a bar, and we ended up clubbing until the sun came up. Perhaps not the best example, but we all became fast friends and still regularly chat via social media.
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Solo travel can be rewarding.
Many folks think of solo travel as scary, and if you’re James Bond, it probably is. However, unless your boss is named M., solo travel is also a great way to meet new people (please see “Don’t be afraid to chat and make friends with the locals”). As someone who travels by himself about 90 percent of the time, I can tell you that friendly and interesting people will approach you far more often than they would if you were traveling with family and friends. The biggest payoff of solo travel is the feeling of confidence you gain by tackling foreign territories by yourself. Don’t think you can drive in England? Worried about language barriers? If I can do it, anyone can. If that isn’t enough to convince you, think of it this way: If you travel by yourself you can do what you want to do and never suffer through the cockamamie suggestions of others.
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Exercise is still important when you’re on vacation.
Bond does everything to excess when he travels, including physical activity. You don’t need to tear up the double black diamond slopes the way Bond (George Lazenby) does in the criminally under-appreciated “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” but just because you’re away from your Peloton doesn’t mean you should enter full sloth mode while on the road. Vacation is a time to enjoy good food and perhaps a tipple or two, which is all the more reason to stretch your legs and walk instead of taking an Uber. Rent or use a bike share program, maybe try a hike or two, or make that romantic stroll down the beach just a little longer. You know Bond would never say no to an extended romantic moonlight walk through the sand.
Keep your wits about you and maintain a sense of humor.
Travel can be stressful, and often that stress bubbles over into the way we behave or treat others while on the road, particularly during air travel. Do you think Bond ever yelled at a ticket agent while checking into a flight or threw his water bottle at a fellow passenger? That’s a firm no. Bond was dropping bon mots while fighting for his life, not sweating the small stuff. I suggest you do the same. Take a deep breath if you’re feeling impatient waiting at the car rental counter. Don’t cut off other passengers when deplaning or be rude to servers if they’re overwhelmed and taking too long to bring your dinner. You’re on vacation (unless you’re bleisure-ing), keep calm. Remember, you only live twice, make the most of every moment.
Christopher Muther can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.
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