Filmmaker and New York Times bestselling author Ransom Riggs is best known for his "Miss Peregrine" books ("Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and "Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Children"). An avid traveler, Riggs, 35, says his ideal vacation is to "somewhere I've never been before, and preferably, someplace I can't pronounce. Madagascar has been on my list for a long, long time. While I can pronounce the name of the country, just give its capital city, Antananarivo, a try." Riggs resides in Santa Monica, Calif. Fans may follow Riggs on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ransomriggs.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Iceland in the summer.
Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. Rent a car and drive. It's like driving on the moon. Specifically, drive to a national park in the north of Iceland called Jokulsargljufur, which was formed after a subterranean volcano exploded beneath a glacier and caused massive, sudden flooding, carving out a beautiful, river-crossed canyon where, today, one of Iceland's rarest resources grows: trees. You won't find many of them anywhere else in the country. The Vikings cut them down for firewood, but there's a whole forest of ash and birch trees here, and they're startlingly beautiful.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. Vanuatu is one of my favorite countries in the world. It's a south pacific archipelago and its many islands are blessed with beautiful reefs, friendly people and fascinating culture. For instance, the people of Pentecost Island invented bungee jumping long ago, by building giant land towers, tying stretchy vines around the ankles of young initiates and shoving them off. I can't wait to go back and discover more.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. The first one I remember was a visit to Baltimore, where we stopped off to see Edgar Allan Poe's grave. My mom told me all about how every year on Poe's birthday a mysterious stranger leaves a bottle of liquor by the stone. I was four.
Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. That it's more about the journey than the destination. But a really great destination doesn't hurt, either.
Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?
A. Not in a literal sense, but the island I feature in "Miss Peregrine" is a composite of many places I've visited. I spent my junior year of college in Ireland. While there, I fell in love with its western islands. There's a lot of The Arans in my fictional Cairnholm Island.
Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. I don't think where you are matters nearly as much as who you're with. Many of the most romantic evenings of my life have been spent in my own house with my wife and a take-out pizza. That said, you could do a lot worse than the resort islands of Palawan in the southwestern Philippines. That place is beautiful.
Q. If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. I hate the cold, but I love New York City at Christmas. Nowhere does the holidays better than Manhattan. I spent New Year's Eve there once, in a suite overlooking Central Park. They set off fireworks at midnight. Magic.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. My own, Los Angeles, has to top the list. There's much to dislike about my city, but its pleasures and charms are many, though occasionally subtle. Wellington, New Zealand, is a beautiful, bite-sized city with great culture, great coffee and it's right on the edge of a world of adventure -- the magnificent South Island of New Zealand, quite possibly one of my favorite places on earth. Dublin is the first non-American city I ever lived in, and it'll always have a special place in my heart. Also, my ancestors were Irish so I'm obligated to list it. Amsterdam is a marvelous place, especially in the summer, and Portland, Oregon.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. Manila seems so much like Los Angeles in so many little ways -- the crowds, the glittering shopping districts, its young people and their bursting love of American pop culture. But then you peek around a corner and suddenly realize you're on the other side of the world.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. Madagascar, Borneo, Vietnam, Easter Island, Saint Petersburg ... the list goes on!
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. Nothing out of the ordinary. I think most people who answer this question talk about their iPad and while I bring mine I also always bring at least one physical novel to read, because I love falling asleep with a book in my hand. A book made of paper.
Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?
A. One in which I could forget about all my deadlines and everything I should be doing.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?
A. Fast food. The crappier the better. Like a big fried fish sandwich dripping in mystery sauce and a large order of fries and a Coke and a milkshake. So delicious and so, so gross.
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I used to do lots. Lonely Planet, Bradt Guides, language guides, study the country on Google Earth. The more I travel and the busier I get, though, the less preparation I do. I can wing it practically anywhere now, though I do feel guilty about not even attempting to speak French in France anymore.
Q. What is your best vacation memory?
A. The Philippines last year near the resort island of Miniloc. My now-wife and I had just spent the day snorkeling and scuba diving, and then we were whisked away on a boat to a floating platform offshore where we had an amazing dinner on the water. Just six months later, though, Typhoon Haiyan blew through the area, causing great devastation. The resort islands were mainly spared, but mainland Palawan was hit hard. Since then my wife and I have been great champions of a charity called ShelterBox, which after a major disaster provides all the basics from food and cooking supplies to shelter -- and they did amazing work after Haiyan.
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at http://www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)
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