Rudy Maxa is leaving for an overseas trip tomorrow, and he’s not packed. But he’s not sweating it. Ten days overseas is carry-on status, he maintains.
He grew up an Army brat under the “stern eye of a colonel father,” who oversaw efficient packing and dinner-plate clearing as matters of course. Those things have in turn made Maxa a master traveler with broad taste.
Lest this writer think he’s oversimplifying, he adds, “I usually bring a stack of washcloths. And, grant you, a nice bar of soap; even the soap in nice hotels is minuscule these days.”
He’s been avoiding giving tours for years, despite an affinity for helping people create the perfect trip. In a past life, he was an investigative reporter at the Washington Post, writing “oh shit” stories (the ones that make readers exclaim when they open the paper) under legendary editor Ben Bradlee. But he doesn’t see this new incarnation as so different from his past. “I get the same pleasure introducing someone to a travel moment as I did as an investigative reporter,” he says. “Surprise and delight.”
The upcoming Artful Living Readers’ Journey to France is no ordinary European affair: “You don’t need to ask permission to do something different than planned, we’re not counting heads, no one is carrying around a flag to follow. We want you to have an interesting, immersive experience without having to worry about finding a hotel that’s not sold out that night. It’s a non-tour tour.”
And the trip is loaded with extras like high-speed train travel and luggage butler service so travelers can focus on exploring Bordeaux and Burgundy then dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant before tucking into a five-star hotel.
Maxa himself really never needs to see the Eiffel Tower again. But he loves watching someone else see the Eiffel Tower for the first time at night. And these iconic sights hit differently when you see them in person, on the ground.
“I never went to the Grand Canyon, because I flew over it all the time and would look down and think, Yeah, that’s really big,” he explains. “But one time I was driving and was early for an appointment, so I went to the Grand Canyon. And that knocked me out compared to looking down from a plane. Travel does that — it takes you out of your world. It puts things in perspective.”
He adds, “I often say that having a cranky neighbor is like a stone in your shoe. And then you land in Thailand, and the air is different, the food is different, the customs are different and the language is different. It’s a big, wide, wonderful world, and the stone in your shoe evaporates. Travel allows you to see a larger world and makes you more empathetic. You understand where you fit in in the cosmos.”