A note from Greg Goodman: Recently, I met a rather remarkable person who epitomizes what travel is all about and I wanted to take a moment to share her story with you.


Judy Bloomberg has been an intrepid traveler for over 50 years.

As she explains: “I have always had a passion for adventure. Not the kind where you climb Mount Everest to prove to yourself and the world that you have amazing endurance and ability to withstand cold, but the “Around the World in 80 Days” kind of adventure, the kind where you set off for countries whose names you can’t even pronounce, to explore other cultures and other peoples, to learn how we are different and (perhaps even more importantly), how we are the same”.

Beginning in 1970, with a 10 week “no set itinerary” honeymoon based loosely on recommendations found in the famous budget guidebook of that era, “Europe on $5 a Day”, and continuing over the years through such experiences as international homestays, home exchanges, and volunteer activities in some of the world’s poorest countries, Bloomberg continually searched for ways to veer off the beaten path.

In the late 1970’s, after reading a newspaper article about Servas, an organization whose members throughout the world host each other with the goal of increasing international cultural understanding, she joined Servas as both a host and a traveler. 

Over 40 years later, she still sometimes travels with Servas and has been a guest of members all over the world, in countries as far-flung as France, Australia, Japan, and Indonesia.  She also does one-on-one home exchanges in places like Singapore, Australia, Italy, Ireland, and France.  Without a doubt, the most jaw-dropping exchange of the lot was her first, in France, when she and her husband, Mark, had the opportunity to trade homes with a family who lived in an honest-to-goodness chateau!

In 2002, a random comment to her husband while dining in the French restaurant at Epcot led to the two of them leaving their jobs and moving to a small village in France for a year.

“We intentionally chose not to live in Paris”, says Bloomberg.  “In Paris, we would have lived like tourists for an entire year”.  Instead, they settled in a small village of 3,000 in northern Burgundy, where she managed to become an integral part of the community, even going so far as to volunteer weekly at the local maternelle, or nursery school, helping to teach English to the young students there. Contrary to the myth that the French can be unwelcoming to Americans, she never experienced anything but kindness. 

Her recipe for fitting in, she says, is this: “I never said “Why don’t you …” or “You should …”.  Instead I always asked “What do you guys like to do? Can I do it with you?” Accommodating yourself to the people of the country you are visiting, and not expecting them to accommodate themselves to you makes all the difference.”

Although she loves France as a place to come back to again and again, Bloomberg also has a long-standing love of traditional cultures that has led her to explore tribal communities all over the world. In fact, she sometimes calls herself a “closet anthropologist” At last count, she had visited about 115 countries, on all seven continents.

Among her most memorable destinations are Papua New Guinea, Bhutan, Mongolia, Ethiopia, and Antarctica.

In Papua New Guinea she was fortunate to witness a gathering of perhaps 200 different tribes, singing and dancing in a giant competition. Among the best known tribes are the Huli, whose male members grow their hair for 36 months and make them into ceremonial wigs, and the Asaro mud men, a tribe whose members cover themselves from head to toe in white clay, giving them a ghostlike appearance, to scare away their enemies. 

Bhutan, which was off-limits to foreigners until about 45 years ago, has colorful religious festivals which are a photographer’s dream, but is also a place where “Gross National Happiness” is more important than financial success and the king is truly a man of the people.

Bloomberg reports entering a random temple there and finding herself face-to-face with the queen mother, who speaks perfect English. The two women spent a delightful ten minutes or so talking about Massachusetts, USA, where Bloomberg lives and where the current king went to school.

Although Mongolia is quite a large country geographically, its population is only about 3 million, and about half of that number live in UlaanBaatar, the capital. Being an adventurer at heart, Bloomberg stayed in the capital just long enough to experience Naadam, Mongolia’s biggest festival, but then headed to the western part of the country, where the people are mostly nomadic and live in yurt-like structures called gers.

It is here that one finds the eagle hunters made famous by the popular 2016 movie “The Eagle Huntress”.  She and her husband were invited to stay as overnight guests in the yurts of two famous eagle hunters, sharing the one room structure with nine other people!

During the day, they were able to ride horses into the mountains to experience hunting with the eagles, and one night they even found themselves as guests of honor at a Kazakh wedding where the guest list included about 300 Kazaks and two Americans!

Ethiopia is a giant mélange of cultures …

Ancient Coptic Christians in the north, 12th century Moslem cities in the east, and perhaps 15-20 different animist tribes in the Omo region in the south, living much as they did thousands of years ago. 

Bloomberg and her husband we were fortunate to be able to see all parts of the country, but as a “closet anthropologist” she found herself especially attracted to the tribal areas, visiting colorful markets, “coming of age” ceremonies, and local villages, including those of the Mursi (whose women are known for inserting large clay disks into their upper lips) and the Hamar (known for coloring their hair and skin with red ochre clay powder).

Staying overnight as a guest in a Hamar village, she sat around the campfire in the evening, teaching the young boys songs in English, like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, to their great delight.

Antarctica has now become so popular that it is almost considered a mainstream destination but Bloomberg, as a truly intrepid traveler, experienced it in a way that few tourists do.  Most American travelers depart for Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina and return to Ushuaia, never even venturing below the Antarctic Circle. 

Similarly, most Australians and New Zealanders depart from New Zealand and return to New Zealand. She and her husband, however, with the help of the Ortelius, an expedition ship that carries two helicopters for expanded access to the continent, semi-circumnavigated Antarctica, embarking in Argentina and debarking in New Zealand. In this way, they were able to experience parts of the continent that are visited mainly by scientific researchers, as well as the abandoned huts of the some of the continent’s most famous explorers, like Shackleton and Scott, left exactly as they were in 1909 (for Shackleton … 1913 for Scott), including the explorers’ toothbrushes, dirty socks, and tins of food!

So what is an intrepid traveler to do when sidelined by COVID? 

Bloomberg returned from her last trip, to Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, and Qatar at the beginning of March, 2020, less than a week before the U.S. completely shut down. Stuck at home she turned, like many of us, to the internet as a form of entertainment.  After a while, a “Travel Challenge” went viral on Facebook. The task was to post one travel photo per day for ten days, and then nominate someone else to do the same.

She posted the ten photos, but then thought of the thousands more she had taken over the years and kept going … for a total of 108 days!  Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Russia, Australia, Mongolia, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Namibia, Senegal, Peru … The list went on and on. People started searching for her photos on a daily basis and begging for more. Finally, a few people made a startling suggestion.  These photos should become a book! It took a bit of prodding, but Bloomberg finally warmed to the idea, and the resulting book, titled “Always a Traveler, Never a Tourist: In Search of People and Places on the Road Less Traveled”, can be found on Amazon in both paper and e-book editions.

It is a collection of almost 300 of the best (mostly full-page) photos from those trips, focusing on the most exotic destinations on all seven continents (and the people who inhabit them), along with insights and anecdotes about traveling off the beaten path. From colorful festivals like the Goroka Show in Papua New Guinea and Carnival in Rio to daily life in places like Lake Titicaca and rural Ethiopia, these photographs beautifully capture the amazing diversity of peoples who inhabit our world.