By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
February 14, 2012
A senior Washington correspondent for the Fox Business Network, Peter Barnes spends a good chunk of the year flying around the world. He’s also a children’s book author and publisher. Barnes, 53, and his wife, Cheryl, are the founders of VSP Books. Their next literary collaboration, “Liberty Lee’s Tail of Independence” — a tale about the Declaration of Independence as told from a mouse’s point of view — will be in stores this May.
Q. How much time do you need to adapt to foreign surroundings?
A. Actually, I adapt very easily because we moved around a lot when I was growing up. My dad was in the newspaper business and then got into higher education. I probably moved eight times by the time I was in high school. I grew used to it.
Q. Where did you grow up?
A. A lot of places. But at one point I think we lived in Kevin Bacon’s house. My dad is from Philly and we moved into a house in suburban Wallingford that he bought from the Bacon family. It had a stained-glass window with a pig in it. I always wanted to ask (Kevin) if that was the same Bacon family as his.
Q. For a relaxing vacation, where do you go?
A. Jackson Hole, Wy. We’re going out for about 10 days this year and I’m going to fly-fish! My wife doesn’t fish, but she loves to eat fish, so it works out. Nantucket’s kind of a second home. My wife and I got married there. About nine years ago we bought a little fisherman’s cottage there that was built in 1796. My family’s been going to Nantucket for a long time—since before it was cool to vacation there.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. Nantucket, New York City, Paris, Petra and New Delhi.
Q. Have you brushed elbows with any celebrities on vacation?
A. (Laughs.) I’m not that good at spotting celebrities. I really like Lake Como in Italy. When they take you to the hotel, they take you on a water ferry and the driver pointed out George Clooney’s villa. Everyone else knew, but I had no idea he lived there.
Q. What’s it like traveling with President Obama? Do you get to sit anywhere near him?
A. Air Force One has a very small section for the press. There’s a second chartered plane for us and it’s really crazy and you’re working your butt off. I’ve been to Asia twice with the president when he visited India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea for all these summits. We did a refueling stop in the Azores (Portugal) where we got out of the plane on the airstrip and went into the small terminal there and shopped a bit, hung out. It was terribly boring and the only thing on the island is the airstrip. But it’s all part of the job.
Q. Do you feel shortchanged if you don’t get to sightsee a bit when you’re on a work-related trip?
A. Shortchanged, no? I’m there to do my job. But it’s always a bonus when you get to see the city you’re in. Most of the trips are very busy with work and that’s that. Sometimes you get lucky though. I had a little down time of about four hours once in Beijing. I got out and did the fastest self-tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and was back at the hotel by the time the news cycle started up. One of my colleagues from Fox and I had a similar amount of time in India and hired a car and driver to take us to Mumbai and New Delhi. We got to see Mahatma Gandhi’s house, which is a museum. It was hectic and pretty amazing at the same time.
Q. How has your career changed the way you view traveling?
A. There used to be a lot of places that I thought I would never be able to get to. But my work takes me to so many interesting places. I’ve been to China twice now. I haven’t been able to tour around like I wanted to, so I want to go back one day on my own time. I never thought I could get to India and I went. The number one thing I wanted to do there was to see the temples. I don’t know as much about India as I do about China. A lot of what I knew was what I had read in books or seen in movies and I really wanted to see some of those things for myself.
Q. What was the most overrated place you’ve visited?
A. Singapore. No offense to Singaporeans, because they are lovely people. But to me it felt like the only thing to do there was to shop.
© 2012 JAE-HA KIM
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