#FBF: Followback Friday is our new interview series where we get real with some of our favorite travel influencers. We want to learn what makes them tick, their best tips and tricks, and share stories of (mis)adventures from the road.
Podcaster Chris Christensen says he’s from a family of storytellers; it just comes naturally to him, and it shows. He channels his love of storytelling and for traveling in his weekly podcast, Amateur Traveler. Each week Chris interviews a different travel influencer and highlights a new destination. Those stories don’t just inspire his listeners; they help to inspire his own travel adventures, keeping his thirst for adventure alive and well day in and out. We caught up with Chris to learn about his love of languages, how he juggles his podcast and blog with his day jobs, and why he’s open to eating some crickets every now and again.
Judging from your blog and podcast, you’re far from an Amateur Traveler. Why did you choose that name?
Ah, but what does "amateur" mean. I remember when all the best athletes in the world, the Olympic athletes, were required to be "amateurs". The word comes from the same Latin root as amore. It means to do something for love. Remember the Titanic was built by professionals and the ark by an amateur.
Of course the other theory is that if I had looked harder for a website name in 2005 I would not have spent as much time since explaining my choice.
You have a 9-5 job and keep up with your blog and podcast. You’re a busy guy! What made you decide to share your stories with the world? How do you juggle your daily job and weekly interviews with your travels?
I used to have a normal day job. I quit the regular job three years ago after balancing the two for eight years. Now I balance three part-time jobs, including Amateur Traveler. I also have my own startup BloggerBridge.com and then do consulting programming work parttime to pay the bills. My current mix is a bit unorthodox but gives me the freedom I want to say "yes" when someone invites me overseas unexpectedly.
How do you seek out the best local spots while you’re abroad even if you don’t speak the same language?
When I was not as busy doing a travel blog and podcast I used to spend more time learning languages, but the reality is that I am pretty fortunate that my first language is English, the new Lingua Lranca of tourism. It is not that hard to find someone who speaks the language in most destinations. I also love the extra knowledge of an area that a local guide can provide.
Do you have a travel philosophy you stick to when you’re on the road?
I do, in fact I have written it down in The Amateur Traveler Manifesto. The short version is don’t complain and don’t lose your sense of wonder. (Editor’s note: His manifesto is something we can all get behind. Check it out.)
Where is the first place you’ve ever visited abroad to give you the travel itch? Have you revisited it since?The first place I traveled outside the USA was Canada. I watched the men land on the moon from a trailer park in Victoria, British Columbia while on a trip with my parents. We did a lot of traveling around the western USA as well but could not afford an overseas trip. My first trip outside of North America was one of those "If this is Tuesday this must be Belgium" trips to Europe in 1987. The occasion was a former college roommate who was working on his post-doc in Paris
What advice would you give a traveler who’s traveling abroad for the first time?
Well, obviously to listen to the Amateur Traveler. But besides that, just realize that you are very fortunate. If you have the money, time and health to travel you should consider yourself blessed. Remember that part of the joy of travel is that they do things differently in different places so: eat the crickets, take the local bus, talk to strangers. Most days and in most places the world is far kinder place than you would think from watching the nightly news.
What are your top three travel experiences to date?
I took a group to Egypt just before the Arab Spring which was not only some great timing but also an amazing experience. As a lover of history I am awed by the age of the Egyptian civilization. We also took a group of Amateur Traveler listeners to Morocco last year and my wife says it was her favorite trip, even though she got sick halfway through. I also had an amazing trip to Jordan for 10 days. There is so much more to see there than Petra… although you have to see that.
Do you have any bucket list adventures you haven’t crossed off your list yet?
Oh my yes, many of the episodes we do of Amateur Traveler are to destinations I have not yet seen. I have only been to 56 countries so far (slightly more countries than I have years of age). I keep a partial bucket list on my site, here.
What are some upcoming trips you’re super excited about?
I have a trip planned to the Philippines this October that should be great. I am planning on cruising with Uncruise to see whales in Baja in February, finally getting to Israel in March, and taking an Amateur Traveler group to Japan next April.