Morning Forum of Los Altos: Travel writer encourages adventure, offers tips

Kathryn Tomaino/
Special to the Town Crier Rudy Maza addresses the Morning Forum of Los Altos Jan. 16.

Travel writer Rudy Maxa regaled the Morning Forum of Los Altos audience with a whirlwind tour of travel stories and advice in his Jan. 16 presentation “The Transformational Power of Travel.”

Maxa began his travel adventures as an army brat. His father’s military career meant Rudy lived “everywhere and nowhere,” he said. That experience made him multilingual, a fluent German speaker, and bitten with the travel bug. He launched his career as a reporter and had the opportunity to start a modest program on public radio’s new Marketplace series. From a brief occasional piece, his repertoire grew and soon became a regular feature known as “The Savvy Traveler.” Currently, his programs “SmartTravels” and “Rudy Maxa’s World” are broadcast on numerous PBS stations.

Maxa spoke passionately about the joy and importance of travel. He believes that Americans lag behind much of the world in travel experiences. Instead of the commonly more generous worldview of the benefits of travel, Americans devote very little time to it, he said, noting that U.S. vacation time is often a week or less per year.

According to Maxa, people should cultivate the belief that expanded experiences enrich their lives and make them more satisfying.

















“Every man who possibly can should force himself to take a holiday of a full month in a year, whether he feels like taking it or not,” he said.

For those who demur, Maxa added, “one of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”

Maxa offered an overview of some travel history, beginning with the 19th-century concept of the world tour as an essential education for those who could afford it. He also cited Thomas Cook’s founding of his travel agency in 1841 and the early establishment of European spas like Baden-Baden as milestones.

In more recent times, the first American motel, The Milestone Inn, was established in San Luis Obispo in 1925, the first trans- atlantic jet service was started by BOAC from London to South Africa in 1952 and Arthur Frommer published “Europe on $5 a Day” in 1957.

Travel tips

Maxa gave a list of tips, including advice on booking trips, maximizing enjoyment and avoiding potential travel hassles. Some of the highlights:

• If your luggage is lost, odds are slim for a total loss, but keep all receipts and a list of what is packed to make claims easier.

• Airlines have no legal responsibility to get you to your destination, even if you have a ticket.

• Travel writers rarely reveal that they are paid to visit destinations and write about them.

• If you miss boarding your ship, responsibility for catching up is entirely on the passenger.

• Airline award tickets often allow additional legs, which can be very low-cost or free.

• Purchasers of nonrefundable tickets have 24 hours to obtain a refund.

• If your trip fare includes a medical evacuation if necessary, it could be very sketchy – merely a taxi to the nearest hospital is not unusual. It is important to understand what is included when you buy your ticket.

Maxa concluded his presentation by encouraging audience members to stop thinking about travel and take the positive step of setting a date and actually buying a ticket, whether it’s for a trip around the world or an exploration of an interesting site in a nearby city.


The Morning Forum of Los Altos is a members-only lecture series that meets at Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave. New members are invited to join. For membership details and more information, visit

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