Welcome to another interview with one of the most interesting travelers in the world! Today’s interview is with Christina Román. Christina is a San Diego-based writer and photographer at Explore Now or Never, a travel blog for mid-life professionals on how to beat the crowds. When she’s not indulging her wanderlust, you can find her curled up with her two cats in her tropical garden.
What inspired your love of travel – how did you get started?
I was an exchange student—twice—in my youth. I spent a summer living with a family in Brazil at 16 and then a year on my own during at 21 during college in France. Those two experiences inspired a lifetime of wanderlust! From there, I explored the US on home exchanges when my kids were little and have recently ramped up international travel with my husband as an empty nester. You can read more about me here.
Tell us about your favorite style of traveling…luxury or budget? Packing heavy or light? On the go or laid back?
I’m neither a luxury or a budget traveler. I think of myself more as a “value” traveler…always looking for ways to get the most out of an experience. I do look for flight deals to stretch my travel dollar further. And I’ve done home exchanges. One time I took a train into London from the airport with an afternoon layover just so I could have high tea at the Kensington Palace. Things like that…
I’m always challenging myself to pack lighter (more room to bring goodies back!) I always travel with a carry-on bag, but it’s sometimes heavy! Speaking of packing, I’m on an eternal quest to pack less into my travel itineraries. I’m the worst at wanting to see everything. However, I decided when I was in Spain a few weeks ago that the most memorable moments were those when we found ourselves somewhere unexpected, rather than at an iconic monument. I want to leave more time for those spontaneous experiences to occur!
What’s your favorite travel story: the weirdest, or funniest, or most exciting, or most beautiful trip you’ve ever been on?
That’s a tough one! I’ll go with our February trip to New Zealand and French Polynesia though. It was our most adventurous trip to date. In New Zealand, we did a heli hike on Fox Glacier. The weather is super dicey at the top of the glacier with storms rolling in and out frequently. The tour company gave this whole long disclaimer before allowing us to sign up about the percentage refund we’d get if we had to come off the mountain early…90 percent if we had to come down as soon as we went up, 50 percent if we could only stay half the time, etc.
Sure enough, halfway through, they announced that everyone would need to head off the mountain due to a serious storm rolling in. There were six helicopters of six people each and ours was the very last one to arrive. As we sat there while the hail and wind started ramping up…just THREE of us left on the mountain, Steve—my husband—says to me: “What if we go SNOW blind like in Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air?!”
It was ridiculous, of course, because we were hardly going to go snow blind. We could see plenty of rock! But our guide did say that they keep tents and overnight supplies up there because a group or two have to overnight every year! I’m happy to say we made it down just fine though.
Then we flew to Tahiti in French Polynesia, where we snorkeled with sharks in Moorea! Another amazing experience and personally fulfilling as I continue to work on my shark phobia. They couldn’t have been less interested in humans.
What advice do you have specifically for female travelers?
I know lots of women—especially women mid-life—who “intend” to get out and see the world but let too many excuses stop them. Just go! If money’s an issue, learn how to travel hack! You can house sit, volunteer, rack up miles with travel credit card signing bonuses, and search out cheap flights. If you don’t have anyone to go with, join the army of women around the globe going solo! I actually think you meet more locals on your own which can make for a fantastic travel experience you’d otherwise miss.
What would you say to encourage someone who wants to travel but is afraid to because of cost, time, etc.?
What are your top 3 tips for newbie or wanna-be travelers?
- Get a travel mindset. Are you willing to cut back the things you buy to experience the world? Make it a priority! I have no idea what the last piece of clothing I bought was, but I will never forget the Fox Glacier heli hike or swimming with sharks!
- Start close to home. Practice making travel a priority close to home. You don’t have to head half a world away on your first trip to have a memorable experience. Add on a few days to a business trip or plan a long weekend not too far from home and build your travel confidence. Whatever you focus on grows stronger!
- Travel independently. If you’re really nervous, definitely check out a tour. I hear good things about Intrepid and G Adventures. But personally, I think travel is a lot more rejuvenating when you skip groups and crowds. You can check out those itineraries and plan it on your own!