When he was student-athlete at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., Eric Guilmette majored in math and economics, with a minor in finance and computer science. “I was all set to go work on Wall Street,” recalled Guilmette, who played hockey in college for two years, studied abroad in Australia, and graduated summa cum laude in 2016. “But it didn’t feel right.” Instead, after graduation, the now 29-year-old Hopkinton native traveled the world and pursued his passion for fitness training and body building. He moved to California in 2019 and on his second day there, was approached by a photographer who asked him if he wanted to do a test photo shoot. It was during that shoot that Guilmette said he “found that I really loved being in front of the camera.” After doing some commercial modeling, he was referred to another photographer who focused solely on book cover shoots — specifically romance novels. With that, Guilmette found his niche and, to date, has graced the cover of 133 romance novels, including those written by best-selling authors Lauren Blakely, J.T. Geissinger, and Lexi C. Foss. “People read romance novels to escape from reality, and I love that they use me, my face on a cover to do that,” Guilmette said. “And I love that an author entrusts me enough to have me represent their work.” He has also added actor to his resume, with roles in TV and in film, including the 2022 movie “Jurassic Dominion.” He is also one of the leads in the soon-to be-released Lifetime network film “Cheer, Drama and Murder.” We caught up with the poet and travel junkie — who has been to 31 countries and calls Long Beach, Calif., home — to talk about all things travel.
If you could travel anywhere right now, and money was no object, where would you go?
At this exact moment, I’d go back to Queenstown, New Zealand. I was there around this time of year in 2018 and it was by far one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. I remember the days being extremely long — in a good way — with the sun rising around 6 a.m. and not setting until nearly 10 p.m. The landscape is breathtaking, the adventure opportunities are endless . . . this place is really special. I only spent four days there, but I feel like I could’ve explored New Zealand for weeks and still been hesitant to leave.
Where was the first place you traveled to after COVID restrictions were lifted? As soon as the COVID restrictions were removed, I did some domestic traveling with my girlfriend at the time by road tripping to Florida, through Atlanta, into the Blue Ridge Mountains, down through Charleston, Savannah, and New Smyrna, and then finishing the loop back in Delray Beach. Not too long after, we jet-set internationally to another one of the most beautiful places in the world: the Galapagos Islands. It was a very memorable trip. We started in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and road tripped up to Cuenca to explore their national parks, dive into the culture, and visit some caves and mud-spas. Then we took a hopper flight over to the Galapagos, where we had the pleasure of being guests at the Royal Palms Galapagos resort on the island of Santa Cruz. One thing I vividly remember is the animals on the islands being so friendly. The sea lions, tortoises, and lizards would just come up to you with no fear. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one I highly recommend going to sooner rather than later for a traveler who loves nature.
Do you prefer booking trips through a travel agent or on your own? I am my own travel agent. One of my favorite things to do is curating trips, finding hidden gems, going to places a little off the beaten path, and of course getting a good deal on it all. I went to a travel agent once in my life, and while it was helpful to have someone sort out a path for me, I like doing my own homework on all of the places to go and ways to get there.
Thoughts on an ‘unplugged’ vacation? Yes, do it. Don’t get me wrong, sharing your journey with the rest of the world via social media is half the fun of traveling these days. But also, I do think watching a sunset through the lens of your phone camera is a less memorable experience than when you are unplugged and enjoying everything in real time. Simply by viewing the sun dipping into the horizon with your own two eyes and the person you’re with is always enough. Finding that balance also took me a while. I think the traveler I am today has come a long way from the traveler I was in my first few countries. I am extremely proud of being able to unplug when I need to and setting boundaries for myself along my various journeys.
Do you use all of your vacation time or leave some on the table? Technically, as a self-employed model and actor, I don’t “get” vacation. I will admit, I work way too hard, and don’t give myself as much time off as I should, but I also have a great amount of “play time” in my day-to-day work that it makes me feel at peace with the balance I have. Every week is a new balancing act, but setting time aside to go live life and travel is extremely important, and undervalued a lot of the time.
What has been your worst vacation experience? I remember when I was globetrotting, I had a bit of a panic attack because I was traveling with very little money, and my debit card got emptied by a hacker in Indonesia. The person I was traveling with at the time also got hacked. Needless to say, having little-to-no funds readily available at the time, in a Third World country, isn’t necessarily an easy thing to deal with, but you learn just how resourceful and resilient you are when you’re put in such an uncomfortable situation where you’re forced to grow.
Do you vacation to relax, to learn, or for the adventure of it all? The adventure. I can relax by going to the beach down the street from my house in California. I want to see and experience as much of the world as I possibly can, so when I am traveling, I am there to adventure and have a great story to tell after.
What book do you plan on bringing with you to read on your next vacation? My last few trips, I have brought a couple of poetry books with me: “LVOE,” by Atticus, “All The Love You Carry,” by Charis Ed, and “Nocturnal” by Wilder Poetry. I find poetry feels a little more meaningful when you are in a blissful headspace, like the overall ethos that you naturally take on when traveling.
If you could travel with one famous person/celebrity, who would it be? Matthew McConaughey. I’ve read his book “Greenlights” twice, and I love his carefree, go-with-the-flow approach to his travels. I feel like he is someone who would level-up my travel game and teach me a thing or two.
What is the best gift to give a traveler? Flight points. Just kidding … kind of. I am a backpack traveler, so I travel light. With that in mind, I don’t like a physical gift necessarily because I don’t have a lot of room for it. So having an experience set up for you by someone else, or a flight path covered, or a hotel gifting … those things mean a lot and make a trip feel even less stressful and valuable.
What is your go-to snack for a flight or a road trip? On a plane, I eat everything the flight attendant will bring me. I remember I was on Thai Airways once flying through different spots in Southeast Asia, and they served us two meals on one of the flights. I was wearing a tank top because it was the middle of July. The flight attendant noticed I worked out — I was bodybuilding at the time — and assumed I ate a lot, too. Her visual cues paid off for me and she brought me an extra meal at the end of each meal they served. By the time I landed after a six-hour flight. I had eaten four delicious Thai meals. I took note, and began asking other flight attendants on other airlines if they had extra meals. The secret’s out: They do — and they will bring them to you if you’re nice to them.
What is the coolest souvenir you’ve picked up on a vacation? Tattoos. My lion and elephant tattoos on my arm are my favorites. I got those in Australia and Barcelona to remember those moments, feelings, and experiences. A cherry on top: a tattoo doesn’t take up extra space in your luggage.
What is your favorite app/website for travel? Booking.com. I have been a top-tier member there since 2017, and it makes finding amazing hotels very easy — and very affordable. I’ve also stayed in some unreal high-end places when booking last minute there because of open occupancy and a quick deal popping up.
What has travel taught you? Everything. Confidence is a major one. knowing I will be OK no matter where I am. I learned to navigate my way, self-belief, to budget, the value of experiences, and knowing I don’t need much to be happy. Happiness is better shared, but also traveling alone is very fun. I’ve learned that material things aren’t that important and sometimes it’s good to go left when everyone else goes right. It’s OK to wander or walk into a bar alone. Pictures are important, but everything doesn’t need to be captured. Cherish time with your loved ones. Wine tastes better with someone you love in a bathtub in a foreign country. Be brave, don’t get caught, be kind to people, fall in love with the journey — not the destination, take risks, dance naked, swim naked, kiss a lot, love a lot, and find your bliss.
What is your best travel tip? Just go. You’ll never look back and wish you didn’t travel the world.
Juliet Pennington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.