A job where you are paid to travel to Tahiti, Thailand and Croatia? It exists, and it’s the subject of one of Bravo’s most popular shows.
On “Below Deck” and its sister show “Below Deck: Mediterranean,” reality TV fans get an up-close look at the glamour of working on a yacht in far-flung locations, as well as its attendant messiness. The current season of “Below Deck,” which airs at 9 p.m. on Mondays, follows the Valor crew in Thailand where they have tackled local viruses, inebriated guests and the full range of tensions that build up when working with a small team in very close quarters.
“Below Deck” star and bosun Ashton Pienaar recently visited New York, and shared tips on how to travel like a professional.
One of the biggest fears travelers have is flying hours to a new location, only to be struck sick. Violent sickness strikes the “Below Deck” crew from the first episode; Pienaar says that this season, nearly the entire crew at some point suffers from stomach ailments but he’s sanguine about taking risks with unfamiliar foods in exotic locations.
“You have to watch where you eat and where you eat from, but at some point you build up immunities,” he says. “Street food in New York, for example. Someone from L.A. might not be able to handle that.”
“[In Thailand,] we ate the fresh fruits and vegetables. We were fine,” he adds. “Honestly, you never know what you’re eating. You can get food poisoning from any hotel in the world.”
“With food poisoning, you have to get the virus out of you,” he says. “Medicating with electrolytes is very important.”
Working on a yacht means that uniforms are provided, and because space is limited, the crew has to be strategic about how and what they pack for extended stays. “We don’t have big closets,” Pienaar says. “For the deck crew, it’s always a challenge to find a space for things.”
“I always pack very heavy,” he says. “I like options. I have to tone it down.” Despite working for years in travel, Pineaar doesn’t plan ahead when packing. He’ll pack the morning before a flight, and often will leave things behind. He forgets to leave space in his luggage for things he might have purchased along the way.
“The tips would be to not be like to me,” he jokes. “Don’t pack the night before. Maybe create a checklist.”
Pienaar has traveled to over 20 countries through his yachting career, including visiting the Arctic Circle and docking on the packed glacial ice. Visiting the fjords of Norway remains a highlight of his travels, as well as jaunts across Africa.
“The best experience that you can get out of a country is to really submerge yourself into a culture,” the professional world traveler says. “I like to do touristy things for maybe one or two days. Then I like to find out where the locals go, where they hang out. For me, that’s what really makes a trip.”
Pienaar is currently working on putting together itineraries in Africa and South Africa for Americans. It’s a bit of mixing work and his love of home, featuring two-week trips in his native South Africa next spring. “There’s wine lands, mountains, beaches. You can experience so much in one place,” he says.
Pienaar is not leaving the travel industry, or yachting in particular, any time soon. “Yachting will being me another opportunity,” he says. “I’m going to see where it takes me. I have a philosophy about having security in the unknown, so I’m ok with not knowing about what’s going to happen in the next few years.”
“I go with the flow and see where the opportunities come up,” he adds.