Women's Transportation Seminar
WW: After reading your book, my first thought was, "Wow this sounds like a great way to travel the world and get paid to do it!" Was it ever that easy?
Hoffman: [Laughs] That is the nature of my job—to travel and get paid for it. And I like my job a lot. Work and life are inseparable, and hopefully you do a job you really love. On the other hand, it's very different from vacation. I am on alert and asking questions 24/7.
WW: You talk about how one of your favorite books, Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, inspired a lifelong sense of wanderlust in you. Would you recommend your method of voyage to other travel-hungry people?
Hoffman: You mean traveling in shitty buses? Absolutely. Getting off the beaten track is a cliché, but it's true. With traveling, when you take certain risks, the payoffs can be much higher. People said I was crazy for doing Lunatic, when the reality is I didn't leap off any cliffs or jump off airplanes. All I did was buy tickets. And thousands of other people are taking these risks all the time.
WW: You describe a feeling of "otherness" on your Greyhound homecoming from L.A. to D.C., where your fellow travelers "felt like dead ends." Now that you've been back in the States for a while, do you still see American hospitality this way?
Hoffman: Americans are very fond of talking about what a special place America is. But I think that we've lost a lot of things in our affluence. We have space and quiet and cleanliness, but at a loss of family and interaction. America is sort of a place without a soul. I was trying to think, "What is this place all about?" when we were driving through from L.A. to D.C. On buses around the world, you can't go 20 miles without someone coming on board and offering you warm, home-cooked food. In America, I went over 2,000 miles and the only food was steakhouses and vending machines.
WW: Any upcoming travels planned?
Hoffman: I just got back from Abu Dhabi on an assignment for National Geographic. I'm not sure where I'm going next, but I'm working on a book proposal that would take me to the Indonesian half of New Guinea.