Chris Christensen is the host of the Amateur Traveler, an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast and a twice monthly video podcast. Hitting the digital airwaves in 2005, The Amateur Traveler has since then has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, and the Chicago Sun Times, among others. Named one of the 10 Best Podcasts on the Internet by Best Life Magazine, Chris’s podcasts are about “about travel and travel stories. It is intended for people who love to travel or at least dream about travel.” In January 2010 he left his day job as the Executive Vice President of Engineering and Operations for a company in Silicon Valley (LiveWorld) that runs online communities for companies like Marriott, American Express, eBay, HBO, the NBA, Kraft, Campbells, Kimberly Clark, A&E, and QVC. Chris can also be found co-hosting This Week in Travel and tweeting at @chris2x.
What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to?
The first place that came to mind was Liverpool in the UK. It is known better as a center of industry or shipbuilding than tourism. Take the Magical Mystery Beatles tour even if you are not a huge Beatles fan. The tour has great background about John’s skiffle band or that the first song the Beatles recorded and sold was “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean”.
How do you kill time when you’re stuck on a bus or plane?
I am not just a podcaster but I am a podcast addict so I usually have hours of podcast content on my iPhone from the 60 podcasts that I subscribe to as well as TV shows that I copied from my Tivo. I also carry an extra iPhone battery charger. I also carry a Kindle. It is only that part of the flight when I can’t have my electronics on that I sometimes get the jitters. I sometimes bring magazines from the one foot deep stack I keep by my bed for that time. I travel with a laptop so you will see me foraging in airports for power and wi-fi. I can work as effectively in an airport as in my office as long as I find those two necessities.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen or experienced traveling?
I have eaten bugs (crickets) in Oaxaca, Mexico which are a traditional Zapotec dish. They were crunchy and very spicy and served on a bed of guacamole.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at a new destination?
If jet lag is involved I probably grab a quick nap. Otherwise I check out a map. I have a good sense of direction but first have to orient myself so that I know which way North is. My next question is probably “what is there to eat”.
If you could give one tip or piece of advice to travelers, what would it be?
We travel to experience other cultures but it is hard sometimes to leave behind what is familiar and the idea of “the way things are done”. Figure out what your personal comfort zone is and then make a promise to yourself to go a little outside of that zone. Strike up a conversation with a local. Try eating bugs (ever had to floss out antennae?). Stay in a hostel if you have always stayed in hotels. Ask locals for ideas of what to see. Learn about the local politics.
Photos courtesy of Chris Christensen