This week’s NileGuide 5 interview features Julie Schwietert Collazo, managing editor of the Matador Network, an online travel magazine and community. Though she currently calls New York City home, she has lived in Puerto Rico and Mexico City and is most at home in the latter. In addition to her work on the Matador Network, you can also find her writing on several personal websites, including Collazo Projects, a travel blog she authors with her husband, Cuaderno Inedito, a blog on writing, and her most recent 9mos. Follow her on Twitter at @collazoprojects.
1. What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
The most underrated destination is Mexico City, without a doubt. The media’s general fear mongering about Mexico keeps people from visiting, as does glossy travel mags’ focus on Cancun and Los Cabos. There’s the whole fascinating interior of the country waiting to be explored, and Mexico City is its pulsing, dynamic epicenter, a city that’s thoroughly modern and in touch with its history, all at the same time.
2. How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
I’m rarely on buses, but am frequently on planes, where I sleep, read, clean out my carry on, and make lists. This is probably all about to change, though, as I have a six week old baby my husband and I will be flying with in a few weeks! When I am on buses, I never sleep- I always want to watch what’s passing by.
3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?
At the risk of reaffirming a dangerous stereotype about a country I love, my strangest travel experience involved fleeing from a Colombian drug runner who wanted my husband to traffic cocaine for him. Having politely declined the man’s rather insistent offer, he was quite angry. When we learned that he carried a gun–and confirmed this visually–and that he’d been accused of murdering someone in the next town, we arranged to be picked up in the middle of the night and crossed the Magdalena River on a ferry in the dark to get back to Cartagena. The episode also involves body guards, Johnny Walker, and bulls, but I’ll leave it there for now!
4. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
The first thing I do when I arrive somewhere is buy the local newspaper and find out what’s important to people where I am. We think our world is so globalized and shrinking, but read a local paper–there are dozens of success stories and sob stories you’ve never heard about at home.
5. If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
If you’re truly passionate about travel, figure out a way to make it a lifestyle. Choose a place that’s always fascinated you. Go live there a while and experience the ambiguity of identity that’s part of being an expat.