From Mobile, to Kimodo, to Manitoba, Chris Christensen has covered it all. Well, not personally, perhaps, but his combo blog/vlog/podcast, Amateur Traveler, has taken on travel to just about everywhere. Seriously.
What started more than eight years ago as passion has since grown to reach an international audience with more than a million downloads in 2013. The gist: Christensen interviews travel experts from around the world about their journeys… and ends up with incredible stories. We spoke with Chris about his blog, his best guests, and what’s next on his list of places to go.
The Trip Tribe: What’s the most outrageous travel story you’ve heard?
Chris Christensen: Wow, that’s hard. I have been interviewing people about travel on Amateur Traveler since 2005 and have heard some amazing stories.
One of my favorite outrageously good stories comes from Friedel and Andrew Grant from travellingtwo.com. They cycled most of the way around the world and were sharing their experiences in Iran. Now I don’t know what you think when you hear Iran but their stories challenged any preconceived notions I may have had. One time they stopped to use a pay phone to call about a visa for one of the next countries they were going to. Pay phones are notoriously unreliable in Iran so a stranger stopped to ask if they wanted to use his cell phone instead… and then another stranger stopped… and then another. They sent me a photo of five different Iranians on five different cell phones calling five different embassies. Another time someone followed them slowly in his car as they cycled up a large hill… for an hour. As soon as he saw that they got safely to the top he waved, passed and went on his way.
TTT: You say you’re a podcast junkie… what is your favorite podcast, travel or otherwise (outside of your own)?
TTT: How do you measure the success of a vacation?
CC: The quality of the stories and the pictures. Of course even the “worst” vacation might turn into the best stories.
TTT: Best guest you’ve ever had. Go.
CC: Gary Arndt of Everthing-Everywhere.com or Robert Reid of ReidOnTravel.com are perennial favorites but I have a soft spot in my heart for Chris Willis. Chris is an attorney from Atlanta who has been on the show a number of times. His hobby is wildlife photography and his introduction to Amateur Traveler was an email that said “I went to Tonga and swam with whales. I took underwater pictures and also recorded whale song with a portable hydrophone. Would that be of any interest to you?”
TTT: You say that your goal is to motivate people to travel. What do you think is the most prominent thing that holds people back from traveling?
CC: Fear. Fear and Money. Fear and surprise… and ruthless efficiency. No, seriously, I am surprised by the number of people who let a fear of long plane rides keep them from traveling overseas. They don’t make you row. Even on the longest flight you just sit, watch some movies, eat a few times, take a nap and you are there. Sounds like a relaxing day to me. People are afraid that it won’t be safe, that they won’t understand the language and that they will get lost. Most places are safer than we think and getting lost or screwing up someone else’s language is not a permanent thing.
TTT: Where are you going next?
CC: Not counting a business trip to Boston (I contract part time for my former employer TripAdvisor), I will be a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board in May. Jordan was way way high up on my list of places I wanted to see, so I am ecstatic.
TTT: Describe yourself in six words.
CC: That’s twice as many as I give people to describe destinations. 🙂
I would love for the answer to be “Smart, Funny, with Rugged Good Looks”, but the honest answer is probably more like “Nerd, Self-Amused, Family Man, Traveler, Storyteller.”
Chris is the host of the Amateur Traveler, a popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog… and they use Amateur Traveler to teach English at Oxford University.
Together with Jen Leo and Gary Arndt he also produces the award-winning This Week in Travel podcast.
By day Chris has worked for years in technology startups in Silicon Valley. He was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor‘s New Initiatives group, the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld where his team built and ran online communities and events for companies include eBay, HBO, TV Guide, Expedia, Marriott, A&E, History Channel, the NBA, NBC, ABC, Disney, Microsoft, WebTV and American Express. Chris now owns and runs BloggerBridge.com which is a new startup connecting bloggers and industry contacts.
This interview originally was originally published March 2014.