WTJ: Why do you love travel?
I know people who love to travel because they are adrenaline junkies — they need constant thrill to stay stimulated. I’m not like that, but I know that I need to push myself outside of my comfort zone in order to grow. Driving solo in Namibia, bungee jumping in New Zealand, trekking in Nepal and going off-the-beaten-path in India were all experiences where I learned as much about myself as I did about the country’s people and culture. Exploring is great for international relations, but it has also strengthened my relationship with myself.
WTJ: What got you started in this industry? Describe your journey.
Though I have traveled all my life, I had no idea that working in the travel industry — and getting to explore the world — could be a job. Unfortunately, the industry’s many opportunities are not taught in schools. I found my way to the travel industry through my love of journalism — after many years of writing about music and tutoring English composition, I found an internship and later a job at TravelAge West, the No. 1 magazine for travel agents in the West. Fortunately, my job responsibilities have steadily evolved to maintain my interest. But editing and writing for our magazine is still a thrill. Since we cover what’s new at classic destinations and profile under-the-radar travel products and destinations, I am always learning about something new.
WTJ: What gives you a sense of purpose?
Many things! I’m passionate about promoting other millennials who are working in this industry, especially savvy young travel agents who are redefining the mainstream concept of a travel agent. Travel agents are poorly understood by mainstream consumers, which is a shame because people would be taking better vacations if they had a good travel agent. Plus, there are so many millennials who would be much happier to have a job that allowed for travel — and I’m not talking about depressing two-day domestic trips composed entirely of meetings either. Also, forgive me for sounding righteous or preachy but travel may be the best (and undoubtedly the most fun) way to become more empathetic. I am driven to share my experiences and to communicate that, no matter where we live or what we look like, we are all humans. We are not as different as we think. I recently got to write about my first-hand experiences in Nepal. (You can read Mindy's article here ) as well as interview folks who know what’s going on in Nepal — I hope it helps the country in some way, whether that be directly through travel or something as small as getting someone to think differently. Plus, traveling makes people happy. Leaving your comfort zone and routine, learning new skills, meeting new people and stimulating your mind are essential aspects of maintaining wellness. Inspiring others to travel is exciting.
WTJ: What travel rituals do you have?
Before and after most trips, I am hyper-aware of everything going into my body. Strengthening my immune system is key: I chug green juice, take cayenne-ginger-oregano oil-lemon shots, exercise and hibernate. Adrenaline keeps me going during trips, when I don’t get to sleep and eat the way I normally do at home, so it’s important that I refresh my fatigued body and focus my time at home for health and wellness.
WTJ: What do you never leave home without?
My cell phone plays many roles. It’s a recording device during interviews; I use the notepad feature to take notes; I listen to music to calm me in bustling environments or when I want to sleep; and I take countless videos and photos for my Instagram accounts (@mindypoder and @travelagewest). But in terms of maintaining wellness, I bring probiotics, omega-3s, my own superfood trail mix, antibacterial aromatherapy sprays, peppermint essential oil, my travel yoga mat and running shoes.
WTJ: What's your most effective strategy for stress management?
In life and in travel, nothing gets me back to a centered state like yoga does. I have a thin purple yoga mat that folds neatly into my luggage that I never travel without.
WTJ: What advice can you give to other people who love to travel?
Think about what skill you’re good at — it can probably be applied to some sort of position in the greater travel industry. Lots of jobs in this industry have travel perks, especially PR and sales positions for tour operators, destination marketing companies, cruise lines and hotel brands.
Of course, traveling the world is an essential component to being a good travel agent — plus there’s a need for young people to join that industry. Entrepreneurial folks who love to explore the world and work with people should consider a career as a travel agent.
WTJ: What about to aspiring travel writers and bloggers?
Travel and write regularly, brand yourself, network at events, attend press trips, be a pleasure to work with (!), write and photograph excellently, understand the audience you’re writing for and keep at it.
WTJ: What are you travel plans for this year?
So far I’ve tackled some bucket list items: Mexico City art and food, Nepal trekking and culture and a family vacation exploring our roots in Russia and Poland.
Next week, I’m heading to Western Australia to take selfies with quokkas in Rottnest Island and to swim the whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef. I’m very interested in maintaining wellness through travel, so I love to include active experiences in nature whenever possible. I’m excited to take my love of wellness to the next level with a stay at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa which offers hiking, 100+ exercise classes and more than 20 different mind-body-spirit classes. I’ll even get to enjoy the great outdoors at the Family Travel Association Summit in Montana, where I’ll be representing our family travel magazine, Family Getaways. I’m also saving a spot on my calendar for South America though nothing has been confirmed. At the end of the day, the No. 1 medicine is laughing and bonding with loved ones, so I’ll be squeezing in some vacations. The ones on the books are to Maui and Marfa, Texas and New Orleans for a best friend’s wedding and bachelorette.
WTJ: Where would you love to go that you haven't been?/Why
Bali appeals to me because it has a strong tradition of yoga and a reputation for wellness travel.
WTJ: What destination are you yearning to return to and why?
I hope to return to Nepal to trek Everest Base Camp for the personal challenge, the therapeutic nature immersion and because one of the best ways we can help that country recover is by visiting it.
You can find Mindy and her travel insights below.
Twitter: @travelagewest | @mindypoder