FTCO Travel Podcast

Episode 53: The Friends talk with “Amateur Traveler” podcaster Chris Christensen

September 17, 2020 Friends That Carry On Season 1 Episode 53
FTCO Travel Podcast
Episode 53: The Friends talk with “Amateur Traveler” podcaster Chris Christensen
Chapters
FTCO Travel Podcast
Episode 53: The Friends talk with “Amateur Traveler” podcaster Chris Christensen
Sep 17, 2020 Season 1 Episode 53
Friends That Carry On
Transcript
Brian Roman :

Welcome everyone to the Friends That Carry On Podcast where we dive deeper into our trips, unpack tips, and everything in between. Now sit back, relax, and get ready to go on a trip with your favorite group of friends.

Jim Scott :

Hello and welcome to Friends That Carry On Podcast. We are a group of friends who like to travel the world and share our adventures and hopefully inspire others to travel as well. It started out with a group going around, and we try to create FOMO within our friends to get them to come on the trip, and it's grown from there. Hopefully, we can inspire, give travel tips, and do interviews with other world travelers to share their experiences as well. Today, we are very excited to have a world traveler on a top-notch class. We've got the amateur traveler, Chris Christensen, who is an award-winning travel blogger with multiple podcasts. At least by my rankings, whenever I search Google, he always comes up as one of the top two or three, sometimes first in most cases. From what I understand, he is in the top 5% of all podcasts regardless of genre, so not just travel podcast. Welcome, Chris. We are really happy to have you on today.

Chris Christensen :

Well, thanks. We have to put that in perspective when we talked about being the top 5% of podcasts. Remember, the average number of downloads per an episode for podcast is less than 200. There's a lot of podcasts that don't get a lot of listens, and I've been there.

Jim Scott :

Well, either way, there's a ton of choices out there as we know as podcasters. Finding a voice and being heard is a good thing, and obviously, you've done that. Congratulations on that. Since you're an award-winning blogger and podcast, what ...

Chris Christensen :

Technically, I'm an award-inning podcaster. Remember, whether I want any words for the blog or not.

Jim Scott :

Gotcha. So, how does a podcaster win an award and who's giving them?

Chris Christensen :

There's a variety of things. There are podcast awards that happen annually. There is no longer a travel category in the podcast awards because Lou Mongello from WDW Radio won every year, beating me every year. Finally, they retired Lou and I thought, "Great, I have a chance." Then they got rid of travel category. So, I haven't won those, but I've been nominated 10, 12 times or something like that, as long as they had them. I've won a couple of NATJA awards, North American Travel Journalists Association. Also, a little Thomas award from the Society of American Travel Writers, and then in the SMITTY awards, which is an award done by travel leisure magazine. Way back in 2014, they named me the best independent travel journalist for the podcast that was across genres in travel.

Jim Scott :

Nice. Congratulations on those. It's certainly well earned. With the Amateur Traveler, you've got over 716 episodes. That's a lot of content there.

Chris Christensen :

Just a bit.

Tony Price :

Yeah. So, wouldn't that make you professional now, not an amateur?

Chris Christensen :

Well, let's talk about our definitions. What does amateur mean from the Latin? Amat, amare, amateur, all the same root words, to do something for the love of it. People say, "Are you still an amateur?" Well, if I don't love it, I wouldn't do it. In terms of the other thing we think of, making a living out of it, I don't make a living out of it. In both definitions, I'm still an amateur. Remember that the Titanic was built by professional and the ark by an amateur.

Jim Scott :

That's a very good point.

Tony Price :

That is very good point. So, you're just an experienced amateur?

Chris Christensen :

I'm an experienced amateur.

Tony Price :

There we go.

Jim Scott :

That's awesome. You got another, I might have the number wrong, 263 episodes with This Week in Travel. You're talking travel quite a bit.

Chris Christensen :

Yeah. I actually had a third travel podcast which is on hiatus which was the Passport Travel Marketing & PR Podcast, and then also have infrequent video show, plus another non-travel podcast. So, I've done about 1,700 episodes over 15 years. Amateur travelers turned 15 the beginning of last month.

Jim Scott :

Wow. Happy birthday or happy anniversary. Not sure which one.

Chris Christensen :

Thank you.

Jim Scott :

With that being said, how did all this start? How did the Amateur Traveler start putting the word out on your ventures?

Chris Christensen :

Podcasting itself started just a little short of 16 years ago. It started actually in September of 2004 if I've got the date right. The very first thing that went out and was called a podcast was an audio show that was tied to an RSS feed. I started listening not that long after that because I was listening to the tech podcasts or tech TV. It got canceled, and some of the hosts like Leo Laporte kept doing what they call the podcast. I didn't know what it was. So, I started listening to podcasts within the first year of podcasting, and I loved the genre. I loved the idea of having these very niche shows about things you'd never find on TV. A TV channel I just failed but I liked with that content, that was more like I was looking for. I was binging podcast way back in the spring of 2005 and thought, "I've got to do my own show," thought about doing religious show, and thought about doing a tech show. We had some friends over for Memorial Day picnic in 2005, and all the best stories that people were telling were travel stories. I went, "That's it. I'm going to do a show about my travels," which is what an amateur traveler was going to be and was for the first 10 episodes or something like that, which was a bad idea. I was traveling four weeks a year and podcasting 48 weeks a year. If you do that math, you don't end up with 15 years of episodes. Pretty soon, I started inviting friends on who had gone to someplace interesting. I found that I really enjoyed hearing about their travels. That was a great way for me to travel vicariously through them, because I definitely wasn't traveling as much in those days as I have since. It's predominantly turned into an interview show. We will talk about my travels when I get out of the house, but not so much this year. Well, what a great way to think about and plan your next trip, interviewing people that have been places you haven't. Oh, yeah. Well, people listen to the show and do that. They'll take things and put aside a show for their bucket list or for their travels. I've done the same. I have done some shows. In fact, next weekend, I'm heading up to Lassen National Park, which we've done a show on, and I just relistened to that show to try and figure out what we should do up there. I've been there once when I was five. We're traveling in California these days because we don't really want to get on a plane. Basically, my list of places that I want to go has only increased by doing the show. There's a few that I listen to and go, "Yeah? But no, I'm not going."

Tony Price :

Right. That's what we noticed, too. Your eyes get open to so many places that you never, in a million years, would have considered. Having heard of, and tell these amazing stories and we're like, "All right, I got to go there."

Chris Christensen :

My favorite emails I get are the people who say, "We'd never even heard of Namibia until we listened to your show, and we've just honeymoon there." That's the thing. That one I haven't been to, so that one's on my list.

Brian Roman :

That's putting a lot of trust in you, Chris. The pressure, "We're going to honeymoon where you suggested to go."

Chris Christensen :

Possibly way too much. I love the lady who said, "I didn't know where to go in Europe. So, we downloaded 50 episodes of your show, and we listened to them." If you look at word counts in Amateur Traveler episodes, it's 7,000 to 10,000 words. So, 50 episodes is about four and a half Harry Potter books.

Jim Scott :

Crazy. Did she let you know what she ended up deciding?

Chris Christensen :

She did not. She did not write back and say, "We ended up in X," or whatever.

Tony Price :

That's like having too many choices again. I listen to 50 different episodes but like, "I still don't know where I want to go. I want to go to all of them."

Chris Christensen :

Early on in a show, two years in or something like that, I interviewed Zora O'Neill and we talked about the Yucatan. I'd never been there. I don't even know if I've been to Mexico, outside I've volunteer trips to Tijuana at the time. She painted the picture of the [inaudible 09:58] which is not [inaudible 10:00] that everybody's heard of, but it's these lesser known Mayan ruins in the Yucatan on this little tiny road including this cave with 10,000-year-old cave art. As soon as I heard that episode, it was on my list. I had to get there and it took how many years until we got there. We drove the [inaudible 10:24]. We went in the cave with 10,000-year-old cave art. You see these handprints on the walls that were done by people 10,000 years ago. We climb the pyramid at some of the Mayan ruins there. It was fascinating. We went on Merida, Sunday as Azure recommended, went dancing in the plaza and ate $1 street tacos. It was fabulous. That was a great trip.

Tony Price :

That's really cool. I got to do some snorkeling in some of the [inaudible 11:00] down there after Yucatan. There was one of the little places that you had to go under. Some people were a little nervous to do that because you had to swim for about 20 feet in the cave to come up into a room. They had some old art from back in the day because, apparently, that wasn't underwater back then. It was wild. That was one of those unique things that you just never imagined you're going to do. Next thing you know, you're swimming in caves from a civilization from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. So, it's wild.

Chris Christensen :

Exactly.

Jim Scott :

Now, I see you also play on trips with people or take small group trips. How did that come about?

Chris Christensen :

I do, once a year, a trip with listeners of the Amateur Traveler. Well, I started it in 2010. I did the first trip to Egypt. We say "plan trips," I think that's probably a little generous because we've used predefined trips. That first trip, we were part of a larger trip, which I don't think I'd probably do again. It was a bus tour to the major Egyptian ruins. Great trip, but I wouldn't do it with that many people again. Since then, we've done small group trips. We've actually worked with Intrepid and done a number of their pre-programmed trips for most of the trips we've done. For there, we've done Cambodia, Morocco, Southern Africa, India, and then we were going to go to Turkey this year. We've done another trip that was Central Europe. That one was much more custom. That was Prague, Krakow, and Budapest with a group of listeners. I enjoy hanging out with those people listening to the show.

Tony Price :

How many people do you usually have on those trips?

Chris Christensen :

The largest was 14, and the smallest was six. That's counting me.

Brian Roman :

How's the decision made for which of your listeners go with you on the trip?

Chris Christensen :

The decision of who goes is who signs up first. In terms of where to go, well, the smartest thing that I've been doing recently is we've been voting on where to go. This year, we voted to go to eastern Turkey. That trip has been postponed to next year. And then for next year, we had voted to go to Central Asia. That trip will happen in 2022. I found that when you ask people where they want to go and you take the top thing, more people sign up.

Jim Scott :

Now, the voting, was that after people signed up or your general listener population voted, and then you set up the trip and had people sign up?

Chris Christensen :

There's a group of listeners of the podcast who have joined a private Facebook group at amateurtraveler.com/trips. You have to be in the private Facebook group. Anybody who says they're interested, I let in. I don't know if there's been any exceptions to that so far, but if you've heard of it, you're probably in the community. So, within that group, we'll do a couple different rounds. The first round is anybody can name anything and I pick out a bunch of different trips that sound interesting to me or that we've talked about, and then we take that group, vote on for a few weeks, and then narrow it down to a smaller list of maybe five trips or something like that. We basically say, "Okay, I'm looking at these. Here's a rough idea of what we would do. Here's a trip. We might do this particular trip. Well, this trip is offered from Intrepid, but it's a trip for youth only. So, I'm going to change that a little. I'm going to upgrade it to one more level of comfort, not luxury, but not sleeping in hostels. It's a couple of more hundred dollars than this, but we'd go to these places." And then, vote.

Tony Price :

Do you find yourself leaning towards trips to locations where you have been to provide a little bit of extra knowledge or go with something new to explore?

Chris Christensen :

No. Most of the places we have gone have been new for me. I've definitely been leaning toward places I haven't been. Turkey is really the first exception for that. I really wanted to get my wife back to Turkey because she didn't come with me when I went. Southern Africa was similar that way. I had been to Botswana on a safari in 2018. I really wanted to get her back to what turned out to be a very different experience, road trip across southern Africa from Johannesburg up to Victoria Falls. I hadn't been to Victoria Falls, but I had been on safari a couple times in Southern Africa and Eastern Africa. This was very different thing than what I had done, but it was so great fun. The reason why we did six is, usually, I'm doing it where anybody can book a group trip, and if you bring enough people along, you'll get a discount. You can even get a group of your friends and you go for free because you brought seven friends and things like that. In six friends, totally you don't get that. Six of you, you're like, "Okay, this is going to cost a little more than I thought." But I really wanted to get my wife there and she was willing to go. She's willing to go camping. That happens very, very rarely. This is the first camping trip I've got her on since our son was a baby, and he is over 30.

Jim Scott :

I assume this isn't glamping. It's a regular camping.

Chris Christensen :

It was not glamping. This was pitching your own tent, somebody else was doing the cooking, you're traveling in a van with five other people across Africa, three countries, but it was great fun. Wonderful group, small group of listeners but just great people. We had a terrific time.

Tony Price :

That sounds interesting.

Chris Christensen :

Saw not just animals in safari, but also saw villages and talk to people. It was good fun. It was a really good trip.

Jim Scott :

It sounds like it. Sounds great. Now with Intrepid, do you contact them and say, "Hey. I want to do Southern Africa," and then name the towns or countries you want to go to, and then they set it up, or do they already have a pre-done package?

Chris Christensen :

We could potentially do that, but no. We've been using something that they have already put together. They've already done all the trip research. They priced it. Again, with that one, like one of the other ones, I've chosen a trip that I couldn't do normally because they offer it only for young groups, but if you're doing something independently with them, there's a few more options. I probably could customize some of those, but sometimes they've got something that's really ideal for what I'm looking for. For instance, a trip we're going to do in Turkey next year is their standard trip. The only difference is that I'm really telling people, "Come in a day early or two days early, and I'll be your tour guide in Istanbul because I've been there and love the city, one of my favorite cities in the world. Maybe we'll do some day tours. They have a branch that does day tours as well. Maybe we'll arrange something. I've talked to them about, "Hey, we'll talk about you on the show if you'll do a day tour for my listeners as they come in." I'd love to see that, and that's not really covered that much on the standard tour they have, but you can't go to Turkey and not spend some time in Istanbul. I'm a history buff, so talk about a city with rich history. You can still walk the walls that the Romans built.

Tony Price :

That's crazy. I love locations like that.

Jim Scott :

I was watching, this is way off the topic, some Netflix show the other night. I don't really know what the reason was but they brought up Istanbul. The lady who was eating, they were at like a Turkish restaurant here in the US, and the lady called it Constantinople. I think this lady was some supernatural, superhero type film. She had lived then, so that's why she was calling it Constantinople. The waiter, he instantly said, "No. Don't say that anymore." It was just interesting. Now, you mentioned the Stans trip. That one piqued my interest. We had the GlobalGaz Rick Garza on a few months ago and he brought up going through Central Asia like that. It's not that I didn't know they were there, but hearing some of the great places to go really piqued my interest. You bringing that up did the same thing. I might have checked into that but it's not a full trip.

Tony Price :

Have you guys decided where you're going yet in the Stan?

Chris Christensen :

Yeah. It's predominantly Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, I want to say. I picked the trip but I was just trying to remember. First, we just did an episode on Turkmenistan, and I know we're not going to Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan gets 7,000 visitors a year. So, we just did a fascinating episode on that, and especially as a history buff, going back to the Parthian versions, that culture in the region, going to huge flaming tar lakes and things like that, that you can find only there and in Azerbaijan across the Caspian Sea from there. It would be fascinating, but I know we're not covering that on this.

Tony Price :

It's definitely an area that I had never ever considered, honestly. I don't know why. It's just one of those things that feels like it was in the middle of nowhere.

Chris Christensen :

We did an episode, gosh, 10-12 years ago, quite a long time ago with a couple that biked across the state. Well, we did two episodes. First, we did an episode where they biked across Iran, which is something that I would not be able to do as an American, because I would have to be in a group trip to travel to Iran, but they were Canadian. I wanted to go to Iran since then, not just the history and the culture, going to cities that were built by the ancient Babylonians and things like that, but also because of the stories that they told of the kindness of the people. One of my favorite stories ever for an Amateur Traveler, they're biking through, they stop at a payphone, and the payphones are notoriously unreliable. They're trying to call ahead to the Stans to get their visas for that and somebody stops in a car and says, "The phones don't work that well. Do you want to use my cell phone?" Then somebody else stops and then somebody else stops, then somebody else stops. They showed me a picture of five people on five different cellphones calling five different embassies for them to help them out their visas just because they're strangers and it was something you do. They were biking up a hill one day out in the country and somebody followed them slowly for an hour, just to make sure that they got over the hill safely. As soon as they crested the hill, he beeped, waved, and went on his way. He wanted to make sure they're okay.

Tony Price :

Wow.

Jim Scott :

That's nice.

Chris Christensen :

Here, if somebody follows you for an hour, you'll be all nervous.

Tony Price :

Yeah, you better run.

Brian Roman :

Use your cellphone to call the police.

Tony Price :

They're blowing the horns to get the hell out of the way.

Chris Christensen :

So, they came back on the show and talked about biking through the Stans and I've been wanting to go since then.

Jim Scott :

One of the things that stood out and you mentioned it just now when we interviewed Rick, he compared it to Cambodia maybe 8-10 years ago where they weren't getting that many tourists. A lot of things were still very much in their natural state. It hadn't become commercialized. We just went to Cambodia back in January.

Chris Christensen :

I heard you talked about that on a recent show.

Tony Price :

Yeah. We're still happy we got that trip before all this craziness hit.

Chris Christensen :

Oh, yeah.

Brian Roman :

We think they started it in the US.

Tony Price :

Jim's patience is zero.

Jim Scott :

We won't talk about that in any detail, but that possibility exists. Anyhow, Rick was saying that the Stans is ... I'm going to butcher the name, Kazakhstan, a couple of years ago, when they switched presidents, they were anti tours and just didn't bring him in, but the new guy really is bringing it in. They're open to it. They've made it easier to get visas, to get in there, and do everything. But everything is not commercialized yet just because it's new to them. It just seems like a fresh look at a lot of great history.

Chris Christensen :

We were talking on the show that we did recently on Turkmenistan, for instance, that in the time of the Mongol Hordes, going back to the 1300s, the third or fourth largest city or one of the largest cities in the world was in Turkmenistan because that's the Silk Road, that's the trading route that connected east to west. Until that time, it was completely destroyed at that point. It's one of the places that you can visit. One of the trips that still is on my list to do is the Silk Road end to end. That's a two-month trip or something like that. That would be something I would really enjoy doing as a history buff in the steps of Marco Polo.

Tony Price :

A Marco Polo trip.

Jim Scott :

Yeah. That would be epic.

Tony Price :

We talked about your bucket list trips that you had on there, one of the things we obviously just did an episode a few weeks ago, bucket list. What was interesting is how it's changed once you start to travel. Before I ever traveled, just the thought of even going to Paris seemed crazy to me. And then now, the things that get on that list are really wild. So, for you, how do you feel...

Chris Christensen :

That's not a bad idea, though, your first trip, London and Paris, some of my first trips out of the country are pretty good starting place.

Tony Price :

They are great.

Chris Christensen :

I do know people who their first trip was Zimbabwe or their first trip was India and I think, "Wow. You really jumped into the deep end." For most of us, London. "Hey, they speak my language. They drive on this side of road. So, I won't drive." That's really my first trip, but it's a great place to start.

Tony Price :

Yeah. So, for you, though, how did you start your original traveling and when did it really start to exceed what you expected as far as the volume and places you were going?

Chris Christensen :

When I graduated college, I had been to the US and Canada, to Eastern Canada, Alberta, and British Columbia. That's really the only places I had been outside the US. By the time my son was born 30 years ago, I had been to six European countries on one whirlwind trip. Before his sister was born, we went to London, and then we really didn't travel a lot internationally until our kids were about 10ish, about nine or 10. So, really, a lot of my travel has been in the last 20 years. We started doing one international trip in the summer, so this trip would be picked up. I had a roommate from college, Francis, who had moved to Paris for a post doc. So, our trip to Europe just before my son was born turned out to be a year before he was born, but we didn't know that at the time, was because I knew somebody in Paris. He said, "Come visit me in Paris." We said, "Okay. While we're there, let's go see some other things." So, another friend from college and the two of us, my wife and I actually met in college also, met him in Paris, travelled around, and did six countries in a week or two weeks maybe it was. One of our next trips to Europe was he said, "I'm celebrating my 40th birthday. I want to do it at a villa in Tuscany. Would you join me?" That was another trip. We went on a trip with some friends who worked for an airline. We like to travel with them to London and Paris. I started by adding one more country, then it was Spain, and then it was 9/11. So, we didn't travel to Europe for a little while. For a couple of years, we traveled up to Canada and Australia to see an uncle who I had at [inaudible 29:00]. I started adding one country a year for a while. When I start hitting Amateur Traveler, I think I had been to 10 countries. I've been to 60, I've been to more countries than I have years of age. I had not done that until a few years ago, maybe two years ago. I've been to a lot of the US. I'd probably been to 35 states when we started that because I've done a lot of travel as a kid, but domestically. A lot of the things that I have done, many of them have been trips that have been afforded to me because of Amateur Traveler. I had sponsored trips that have come about through that. But we still are buying our own travel for a lot of trips or buying the plane ticket to Africa and somebody offers me a safari, something like that, "Okay. That's a good deal." I have not been to Antarctica, but I've been into the other continents, but a lot of those trips have been afforded to me because of the Tourism Board for Jordan calling up and saying, "Would you like to come to Jordan for 10 days? We'll provide the airplane ticket, the guide, and the driver." Those are wonderful opportunities when you get them. Just keep adding on to that because the more places you go, the more places you know about, the more places you want to go. You're talking about going to Paris, love it. Haven't even been to all the places in France I want to go. One of the places I've been wanting to go for how many years, Carcassonne, down in southern France, which is an old, well-preserved, walled city that was destroyed in an internal crusade, the Abyssinian Crusade, way back in the Middle Ages because there was a heresy that was coming out of that particular region. We had a chance to see it just last year, got to Normandy for the first time last year. Getting new countries partially is filling in the map because you find out that, "Oh, there's that place over there that I've never been to." Lots of places I haven't been to in the countries I've been to. So, there's a lot of places I would like to get to still.

Jim Scott :

That's one of the things when we go on our trips, we try to pack in a lot of stuff, like we were in Paris, a day trip to Normandy, and that type of stuff. We realized we're worn out because we're going 90 miles an hour to get in as much as possible. Everyone's like, "Well, can we just go someplace and not do anything?"

Chris Christensen :

One of the things to enjoy your trip, sometimes you have to assume you're going to be able to get back. It may or may not be true.

Tony Price :

The new rule, just assume you're coming back.

Chris Christensen :

I mentioned we were doing one new country a year. One of them was Spain, and we still talk about that because Spain is the country that after we went there, we came up with a two-night minimum rule because we went to Spain for 10 days and we did Madrid, Tolado, Seville, Los Pueblos Blancos, Granada, Cordoba, Barcelona, Segovia, and Avila in 10 days.

Tony Price :

Wow.

Brian Roman :

That's a lot.

Tony Price :

Too much.

Chris Christensen :

Honestly, for me, it wasn't too much but for my travel companions, who were my family and friend who we've traveled with for six continents, all the same number of continents I've been to, I've been to with her, they were just worn out. We went in summer, down and under the sea it's 104° or 42° depending on your system, but it's hot. I can do that speed and enjoy it. But usually now, when I'm traveling with my family or traveling with my wife, I go to about 50% of my speed. We're going to enjoy a few more meals. We're going to see less but enjoy it more.

Tony Price :

Question for you. Travel. When I first started, it was one of those things. I had been to Europe just like you said. All of a sudden, it was my 40th birthday and I was like, "You know what? I'm making it happen this year. This is happening." So, that was that first big trip. When I'm on the way over ther I was saying, "One of two things is going to happen. I'm either really going to fall in love with doing this and it's going to be an addiction, or I'm probably going to get, eh, it's okay. I don't need to go back again." We came back in, "All right, we're going to try and make a major trip every other year." Well, that turned into about three per year. There's a lot of reasons why I travel. But for you, what's one of the biggest things that drives your desire to travel and explore the world?

Chris Christensen :

I'm a nerd. Let's just put this on the table here. By avocation, I'm a tech guy, but also just a nerd about a lot of things. I mentioned history for instance and I also love to take photographs. So, it tends to be the photography, not that I'm the world class photographers, because I know how those guys now. Their photos are better. I just love learning stuff. There's nothing that forces you in many ways to learn things than travel does. I remember vividly standing in Prague at the machine to get a ticket from the subway and it was all in Czech. Man, I don't speak.. Oh, I speak A word of Czech. That's about it. I can say thank you, you know that I'm out. When you solve that puzzle and you get your subway ticket, there's this sense of accomplishment. There's this sense of 'I can do this' sort of thing that nothing does that quite like travel, I think. Well, for my wife, home repairs, fixing appliances, and things like that does that for her. That for me is just frustrating. But travel is one of the ways that I just love doing that. I love being immersed in other cultures, coming back, knowing more about it than I did when I went. The food can be a big part of that as well. We did a family trip to Japan. We went to a neighborhood gyoza restaurant where you could get cheap, good food. It was too big to fit at the table. There were too many of us. They couldn't fit four of us at this little tiny table. I'm over here at the counter, so that the rest of my family can sit together as a group. I'm ordering from a menu that is entirely in Japanese, which I speak none, I figured out from pictures, charades, and trying to have a conversation with somebody who doesn't speak Japanese. I'm just MIL. I've just got this stupid grin on my face. It was our first night in the country, and it's just, for me, so fun.

Tony Price :

That's awesome. One of the things that we've always talked about too is meeting people in a world that is completely different than yours, having food, and truly experiencing the culture. To me, it makes you realize how small the world is and how you're so alike to other people with what you want to do with your life and what's important to you, and you're just separated by distance. It's really inspiring to see and meet people. We still have friends that we communicate now from all over the world that we've met over the last 10 years. It's pretty amazing.

Jim Scott :

Plus it opens your eyes. It breaks down some, for lack of a better word, prejudices and different things. Just good to see people acting in different manners, and that it's fine, they do great, and they thrive in those situations. It just makes you more well-rounded for a cliché. I didn't want to be cliché.

Chris Christensen :

I've had times I've been ripped off traveling, but I've also had those kindness of strangers moments. I just told about one recently, we did a show on Oaxaca, Mexico. Actually, we haven't released that show yet. That's one that's coming out soon. That was one of those places that we talked about on the show and I thought, "I've got to get there." So, I did. I went down to Oaxaca. My first real trip to Mexico after been to Mexico 15 times in Tijuana, I went to Mexico City and Oaxaca diving into cultures, you're meeting people that their ancestors have been in Oaxaca for 2500 years or so. They still speak Zapotec at home instead of Spanish. I was in the Zocalo. It's in the main plaza, somebody sat down next to me and struck up a conversation in a combination of English and Spanish, mostly English. He was a local weaver. He was carrying on this Zapotec traditions for weaving and invited me to come out to his studio and see his weaving because he wants to sell his carpets, but he also offered to be a tour guide for the day. So, he took me out of town, took me to one of the Zapotec ruins there, to the market, went to the big tree, you'll know if you've been there what I'm talking about. Then we went to his studio, and he showed me things like how to make the natural dye. They make the red dye by crushing the coccinea, which is a bug you find on cactus. He's like a fifth-generation weaver. There's a couple videos up on my site of this interaction with him teaching me how these things work. It was just great. He basically gave me his day. Obviously, he was hoping to sell some rugs or to get some word out about his business. Those are things that are the same everywhere. People want to feed their kids and make their kids' lives better than theirs. Those are universal things, but it's just a fascinating day.

Tony Price :

That sounds awesome.

Jim Scott :

We've been talking about bucket list trips, and from your site, you've done a lot of them. Which ones stand out? You've been to the pyramids, the Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, and all these fantastic places. Does any of those stand out? All of them would be great ...

Chris Christensen :

All of those.

Jim Scott :

I can imagine.

Chris Christensen :

Well, you named two of my favorite trips ever. Now, I feel like I'm in a slight China by saying this because that was also a great trip, but you mentioned Jordan, and Petra is amazing. If you've watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third movie, you've seen Petra. The city that they go into that's carved in the stone, of course, once they go inside, that's all fake. That has nothing to do with Petra. In fact, there is no inside for that. Don't think they go inside the treasury. For a lot of people, that's the only picture they've ever seen of Petra. It's a huge complex. It's stunning history, but the rest of Jordan is what I didn't expect. The rest of Jordan where you're standing in Crusader castles from both sides of the Crusades. Swimming in the Red Sea, although ... Here's a tip for you. We did canyoneering on the Wadi Mujib, I'm doing this for memories. So, right near the Dead Sea, where you're working your way up a river, you're hiking through the river, like doing the virgin narrows in Zion National Park in the US, you're pulling yourself up on rope sometimes up through the current, and things like that. Just great fun, good adventure travel thing. So, we did that and then we went and swam in the Dead Sea. Well, the one thing you don't do when you're swimming in the Dead Sea is you don't shave your legs if you're a woman, or if you're a guy, because you don't want a lot of little small cuts. Canyoneering is a great way to get a lot of little small cuts. You don't do that going over. That experience of going there, went to the baptism side of Jesus, actually went there with the Pope, which is a whole another story because the Tourism Board asked me if I would be a photojournalist for a day, covering the Pope's visit to Jordan. Most people don't get to do that.

Tony Price :

You truly are the only one that I know.

Chris Christensen :

These Roman ruins up in Jerash, which are these substantial huge Roman ruins, we were there a little later in the tourism season. There were five or six of us in the whole place. If we'd been there in the middle of the tourism season, it would have been packed. It was just a fascinating trip. Good food, good people, wonderful experience. Egypt stands out just because, as a history buff, when you're standing at the Great Pyramid and your guide who's an Egyptologist, he's talking about, "Well, these were built back in the Old Kingdom versus the New Kingdom, which was like a whole long time ago." New Kingdom is like 2500 years ago, the Old Kingdom, that's the old one. They were built so long ago that the Old Kingdom fell because the sea people came in. We don't know who they were. We've lost to history who this people is that came in and took over Egypt for a while. But we do know that they had an unfair advantage because they had the wheel. All this was built before the wheel. We didn't have carts with wheels. We didn't have chariots. It's what the sea people, we think they have it. It's like, "Are you kidding me?"

Jim Scott :

On top of the pyramids being an incredible build for their time, they didn't have a wheel when they were building these?

Chris Christensen :

That's what they told me.

Brian Roman :

Wow.

Chris Christensen :

Thy may have logs or things they could put things on. They didn't have carts with wheels is what the current thinking was. All of these things, they tell you this as if it is fact. It's what we think. It's the interpretation based on what was left. But they do have a lot of written records in this case and they have cracked those written records. If you spend a couple weeks in Egypt, you actually learn to recognize, "Hey, that is the name of Ramses. There's his cartouche on this wall." There are 16 Ramses, so you're going to see that one again and again. "Rah, that's the sun. Okay, that's the one that starts with the sun at the top." They do understand those at this point, so we do know a lot about that civilization for something that happened a long, long time ago.

Jim Scott :

When you think about it today, technological advances are happening every day being in the tech industry, especially ones that come out that really advance us, or we think it really advances us. Can you imagine the wheel come along? What that was? No wonder that the sea people were able to take over the old Egyptians. It's just amazing.

Chris Christensen :

Whether it was the wheel or chariots, per se, as a weapon of war, either way. You got to give credit to the ancient Egyptians because they invented beer. I know you guys are a fan of that.

Jim Scott :

Absolutely. Well, those are certainly some great trips, and both of those are on my bucket list. I haven't been to Egypt yet to see the pyramids, and Petra is definitely one that just looks amazing.

Chris Christensen :

If you do go, I would encourage the normal trip, the regular trip. You also get down to, this is going to sound odd, down to Upper Egypt, because Upper Egypt is up the Nile river, which is south. So, you're going down the map to Upper Egypt. That is worthwhile getting to Luxor, worthwhile getting to Oslo. Some of the ruins that are around there like Abu Simbel and places down there are amazing. Then you also see some of the Nubian culture. We went to a Nubian village there, and that of course is the darker, the black Egyptians, beautiful people. Doing that whole typical trip, there's a reason why that became the typical trip. Egypt is more than just Cairo. Cairo is amazing, chaotic, intimidating, and all of those sorts of things as well.

Tony Price :

Yeah. Did you venture south of the Nile?

Chris Christensen :

So, we went south as far as the dam. That's a day flight down and then we took a boat back up to Luxor. So, not all the way back up but 3-day cruise, seeing things along the way.

Tony Price :

Nice.

Jim Scott :

Nice. Yeah, that's great.

Chris Christensen :

Very typical itinerary that you can see in Egypt versus the one I tried to talk my wife into, which is, "Hey, Joan. Look, here's this one that's really cheap where you get to sleep on the deck of a fulica." these sailing boats on the Nile. Not so much risky.

Jim Scott :

Need Moses to part the sea.

Chris Christensen :

I don't know why. Some of us are selling great adventure.

Brian Roman :

I did notice too on your bucket list there we can help with. We're about 10 minutes from the Antietam battlefield, 10-minute drive where we are.

Chris Christensen :

Oh, wow. Right by my daughter, so I have no excuse for not getting to some of those. She's over there in Vienna.

Brian Roman :

There you go. I was just going to mention Camden Yards as well.

Jim Scott :

We're in the Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which is right on the banks of the Potomac. Like Brian said, 5-10 minute ride to Sharpsburg and the Antietam. A lot history here, too. The big battlefield's just across the way.

Tony Price :

Our town is the oldest town in West Virginia, and it was really a hospital during the war.

Brian Roman :

Hospital town.

Chris Christensen :

I did just get to Harpers Ferry.

Jim Scott :

We're 10 minutes from there. Neat.

Chris Christensen :

I've been in the area. I went to one of the brew pubs there on the bluffs overlooking Harpers Ferry.

Tony Price :

Harpers Ferry brewing. There you go.

Chris Christensen :

I'm not a beer drinker but I was with a bunch of beer drinkers.

Tony Price :

Did you get to hike up onto the Maryland Heights?

Chris Christensen :

We did not. We didn't do a lot when we were there. We did some other hiking when we were down in the Shenandoah.

Tony Price :

Okay. Well, whenever you get back to Harpers Ferry, as a photographer and somebody who loves views, you're going to love that view. It's one of the best. That really is one of the best.

Chris Christensen :

That's the thing. We talked about travel. I think a lot of Americans have missed how many great spots there in the US. To say that I had only been to two countries doesn't mean I was not well-traveled or that I hadn't been to some world class sites. Honestly, when I was in Iceland, you go to Geysir, after which all other geysers get their name, and if you've been to Yellowstone, you go to Geysir, you go "[inaudible 49:23]" because 60% of the world's geysers are in Yellowstone National Park. Geysir is cool if you've never seen a geyser. It's nice, it's great, but it doesn't compare to Yellowstone. I've been to the 'Grand Canyon of' in a couple different places, but it's like, "Yeah, no. I just hear what you're saying."

Brian Roman :

That's not grand.

Chris Christensen :

It's a lovely little canyon. I remember being down in the blue Mountains in Australia, and you go down to see the three sisters, this formation here of three pillars of rock. It's lovely, but if you've been to Bryce Canyon, I'm sorry, it's not the same. If you've had a chance to hike down into the hoodoss in Bryce, one of my favorite hikes in the US is the Navajo trail and Bryce Canyon, which my wife didn't appreciate as much. She said the views were just as good from the top, I'll give her that, but it's an experience. You get to hike down into the hoodoos or hike up to the virgin narrows in Zion National Park. There are some amazing travel opportunities you can have, even a year like this where they won't let you leave the country or come into other countries. This country has some pretty amazing travel opportunities as well. You don't have to necessarily even go international to get some great traveling.

Jim Scott :

I agree. We take our own country for granted sometimes. You're right, there's just a ton of stuff here. It just seems more exciting to be going somewhere out of the country, but there's beauty or historical sites or whatever, a lot of things to do.

Chris Christensen :

Absolutely.

Jim Scott :

On your to-do bucket list, I know we hit a couple here with Antietam and that type of stuff, but what is the top one that you want to get to or that would be the next, or you just can't wait to do?

Chris Christensen :

Well, the only trip that isn't currently canceled that I was going to do this year, which included the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Turkey, Italy, and some other trips that I can't think of, my trip to Galapagos in December is still scheduled. We'll see whether they cancel it, whether we cancel it, but we have been invited to go down to the Galapagos to go on a cruise out into the Galapagos Islands. That is not just at the top of my list, chronologically, but that has been a place that we've been trying to get to for a while or hoping to get to for a while, but there's so many places.

Jim Scott :

That sounds incredible. You'd have to go to Ecuador first and then catch the crew from there, correct?

Chris Christensen :

You have to go to Quito first and cruise out from there.

Jim Scott :

Are they currently open to Americans coming there now?

Chris Christensen :

I haven't even checked yet because it doesn't really matter what things are like. It's a December trip. Around the 4th of July, we're thinking how great things seemed like they were getting out here in California. We were thinking, "Oh, things seem to be good." We will maybe get down to double digit or single digit numbers a couple times than we did in terms of new cases of coronavirus, then we went up to 300 a day in just my county. So, December is a long way for me.

Jim Scott :

That's true. What's your itinerary there? I'm interested in trying to get a trip like that.

Chris Christensen :

Lie down, get on the boat, do what they tell me to do. That's somewhat true, when you do these small boat adventure cruises, you don't know the fixed itinerary of what islands you will go to. Even if they told you at the beginning of the trip, it changes because of weather and wind. My on-cruise friends, they say they change for weather, women, wildlife. When you're cruising along and were planning on going over this way, "Oh, now we're cruising next to blue whales." You do that for half an hour until they go away because that is the experience that you're down there for. Galapagos is a similar experience where we think we're going to get to these islands, but something could come up.

Jim Scott :

Gotcha. Was it like a four or five-hour cruise from mainland Ecuador out to the Galapagos?

Chris Christensen :

I don't remember. I knew that at one time, but I don't remember the answer to that question. Might even be overnight but it's not that far out as I recall. You're not burning a whole day to get out there as I recall.

Jim Scott :

I was just reading here only a few weeks ago ...

Chris Christensen :

In fact, you might fly out and start from there. I don't even remember the itinerary for this one.

Jim Scott :

I knew there's option to fly but most of them is by cruise out there. I was reading a few weeks ago where the Ecuador government was in a big dispute with China over Chinese fishermen flooding the area right outside there. I don't know if they've gotten that worked out. I haven't seen anything since then, but I know it's big to do there. Apparently, they do it on daily basis.

Chris Christensen :

I don't think that's something you work out in a day. (laughter)

Jim Scott :

No, not at all but just interesting. Caught my eye just because it was a Galapagos. .

Tony Price :

Chris, do you have anything significantly planned so far for next year in hopes that all this craziness goes away and we're free to travel?

Chris Christensen :

Well, I know that I will immediately pitch the adventure Canada if they open up the Canadian Arctic and that Greenland trip. I've tried to get on that. They invited me on that trip last year and I had just started a new job. I had spent six years prior to that working part-time and that gave me an opportunity for doing a lot more travel than I have here over the last year and a half. But of course, this hasn't been a bad year to have a full-time job, because we weren't going to be traveling anyway. They had to turn down a trip to Greenland and the Arctic, so I will pitch them again next year if that opens up again. It was closed down. One of the first things that happened is Canadian government said, "We're not going to let any boats at all go this year to the Canadian Arctic because we want to protect the indigenous people." They just don't have the medical facilities and they're isolated. As long as they're isolated, let's see if we can keep them healthy and isolated.

Jim Scott :

That make sense, absolutely.

Chris Christensen :

Talk about your social distancing.

Tony Price :

That truly is the definition, right?

Chris Christensen :

That's definitely one of the ones I will pitch again and hopefully we'll get that trip in. Two of us met at the TBEX conference in Montana because I do the speed networking for that. Rick flies me to wherever the conference is, I've missed only one conference and they're planning on doing three or four next year. That could impact my travel schedule. So, I was planning on being in Sicily when Italy closed down. It was only a week before they canceled the conference that was going to be in Catania, Sicily. Sicily has definitely been on my list. Ever since we did an episode on Sicily, I wanted to get there. I'd love to get that trip in as well.

Jim Scott :

They set the dates for that one. Is that in March again?

Chris Christensen :

No, I think they're still playing things by ear a bit. I haven't seen dates for the European one yet.

Jim Scott :

Gotcha.

Tony Price :

We might've checked that out because we're exploring that whole purchase $1 home somewhere in that general area. We might do the whole TBEX Sicily trip and then spend a couple extra days.

Chris Christensen :

Go down to the coolier or something like that.

Tony Price :

Yeah. We go to explore around. We haven't been there either, so I'm not sure if it's a place that I'd want to have a little house or not, but why not explore?

Brian Roman :

Yeah. Do the tour check.

Chris Christensen :

Yeah. I haven't been to the southern half of Italy. I've been to Rome and North. What they say with Italy is if you go to Rome and you find it too chaotic, head north. If you love the love of life, the zest, the chaos, and things like that, then you head south.

Jim Scott :

It's a good rule of thumb.

Tony Price :

Maybe I'll go south first and then go north. I'll need a rest after I've loved the chaos.

Chris Christensen :

Get to Milan. They're practically German. The trains run on time. In the northern part of Italy, there are lombads settled, the Vikings. It is different. The people look different, things run differently, it's more prosperous. The southern part of Italy has always been more poor, more agricultural, and more of the people who we know who are Italian descent came from the south because they didn't have quite the opportunities down there. A lot of the food that we know, this is what Italian looks like that's more southern Italy up to Rome.

Tony Price :

Interesting. I didn't know that actually.

Jim Scott :

I didn't either. It's funny how history plays a role in all that. You accept things just because that's what you'd see every day.

Tony Price :

On a completely different note, that's the same thing I found with Mexico. As a born and grown up in the '80s in the United States, when I thought Mexican food, "Huh, okay." That's not Mexican food. That's the American version of Mexican food.

Chris Christensen :

Most Mexican food we know is Tex-Mex or American Mexican. It depends on where you go and what region.

Tony Price :

Yeah. Mid Atlantic people, we don't know what Mexican foods are.

Chris Christensen :

I grew up in California. I grew up in a city that was 50% Hispanic. Talking about your cultural bubble, I didn't have real Mexican food. I had the tacos in the school lunch, but I didn't have real Mexican food until I was out of high school. A friend, whose last name is Ortiz, who was Mexican, we did the Matlachines, the Mexican dance, and things like that. His uncle owned a Mexican restaurant in Carmel Valley, we went there and he was like, "Oh my gosh. Why have you been hiding this from me?" but my parents did know Mexican food, they grew up in the Midwest. I fell in love with it and then moved to upstate New York who had nothing at the time. But there's a lot more now in the US. You're starting to be able to find it in Europe. We saw the same restaurant in Bergen, Norway that has sign up front that said, "So authentic that Donald Trump would build a wall around it."

Jim Scott :

That's funny. That is funny. Yeah. We noticed that two years ago. We've been to Spain several times, and two years ago when we were in Madrid, there was a Mexican restaurant with the frozen margarita machines and everything. I was like, "Where are we?"

Chris Christensen :

It's starting to get out there. I've been a travel blogger/podcaster for 15 years and have numerous friends who are nomads, and you talk to somebody who's been on the road for 5-10 years, it's like, "What do you miss about the US?" I will lay you odds that Mexican food comes up in the conversation, but that's starting to change.

Tony Price :

Because that's one of the foods that you don't see worldwide yet.

Chris Christensen :

It's one of the foods that deserves to be an international cuisine that has taken longer to take off than Italian or Chinese foods..

Tony Price :

That's definitely interesting, though.

Chris Christensen :

The thing that we don't understand sometimes as Americans, I remember being in Toledo, Spain. Here's a restaurant, and the specialty in Tolado, Spain is roast suckling pig. So, you go to this restaurant, "What's the menu?" Roast suckling pig. You go to the restaurant next to it, "What's the menu?" Roast suckling pig. You go to the restaurant next, "What's the menu?" Rose suckling pig. You could clean up with a Chinese restaurant.

Jim Scott :

That's for sure.

Chris Christensen :

California doesn't even have majority ethnicity these days. So, I can go to an African restaurant. I can go up to little cobble. We have one of the largest African communities. I can go down to Southern San Jose, the city that I'm in. It's the second largest group of Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam. We're at a what percent Hispanic in the state but a large percent, so I've got good Mexican food, good Salvadorian food, not just Mexican food. I can easily get good pho here. I can easily get decent barbecue. I'm not used to you have the same meal every day, but a lot of regions in the world. That's the way things work. "What do you have today?" "Well, we have it today what we had yesterday."

Brian Roman :

Why would you change? It was good yesterday. It'll be good tomorrow, too.

Chris Christensen :

People diminish the value of the good food scene in the US. A lot of different places have a really good food scene that is competitive with foods scene anywhere I've seen in the world predominantly because of the variety. If you talk to somebody from France, they will poopoo American food absolutely. They think it's all chain restaurants and things like that. You know what? It is. But there's also food scenes here in terms of variety that rivals which you can find. You can find better pizza in the US than you can in Italy, in my opinion, depending on your definition of what better is. There's definitely good food, though.

Tony Price :

Thank God.

Chris Christensen :

There's a reason why we're all overweight.

Tony Price :

Well, I guess we're getting close to the end of our hour. We got to wrap up. So, Chris, thank you. That was so awesome. It's good catching up again.

Jim Scott :

Lots of great information.

Chris Christensen :

Lovely chatting with you.

Tony Price :

Yeah. So, on parting words, what do you think? Your first trip, if you had to pick right now, where would you go?

Chris Christensen :

Oh, well, apparently Lassen National Park. Trips this year, I'm doing more driving. We went down to Monterey and Carmel, which is a world class destination and also just an hour and a half from us. We'll get up to the wine country in California, again, another world class destination sometime this year, I suspect. We're going up to one of the national parks. We've got 12 national parks, 10 national parks, I can't quite remember the number in California. I got now a California blog as well and I'm focusing on that this year. A lot of people are doing that. They're focusing on the things within driving range. As soon as I get on a plane, there's so many places, depends on who offers me what. It's the unrealistic part of my life right now. Places that I want to get to, love Europe, a huge fan of Europe all over. I haven't seen as much Eastern Europe as I would like. There's still parts of central Europe and the Balkans that I don't know. So, I want to get back there. On the other hand, I want to get on a barge cruise in Burgundy. I haven't been to Burgundy. I love Africa, Southern Africa especially. But Eastern Africa, there is something about the place that gets in your blood. I always say you go for the animals, you come back from the people. It's just a phenomenal place. Botswana, just would love to get my wife back there on a safari and the Okavango Delta, just amazing place. There are places in China like those amazing mountains you see out of Avatar, down the regions Guanxi that I would love to get to. So many places.

Tony Price :

Hopefully, we'll be able to get there soon. So, Chris, what's your website and how can they reach you?

Chris Christensen :

amateurtraveler.com

Tony Price :

Awesome. Jim, you want to wrap things up for us?

Jim Scott :

Sure. Once again, thanks Chris and the Amateur Traveler, really appreciate it. Lots of great insights. For our listeners, obviously, you know where to find us, at friendsthatcarryon.com, then the social medias @friendsthatcarryon. Thanks again, and until next time.

Brian Roman :

Thanks, Chris.

Jim Scott :

Thanks, Chris.

Chris Christensen :

You're welcome. Thanks.

Brian Roman :

Be sure to join the friends next week for another great discussion. Don't forget to subscribe if you haven't already. You can also find the friends and other content at www.friendsthatcarryon.com or check us out on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook by searching Friends That Carry On. Thanks again for joining us. Don't forget to carry on, friends.