Cindy Baker from Ottawa, Canada is on a "get-happy" search for blissful travel experiences. After dealing with a series of family tragedies and a highly demanding job, she decided to change her life. Now, she pursues her passion for travel and, along the way, she hopes to inspire readers to find their happy place as well. You can follow her adventures at her blog Travel Bliss Now.
She was kind enough to answer some of our travel questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Cindy: It's true to say that I've been traveling all of my life, but I really got hooked once I decided to live a happier life.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Cindy: I focus on the local travel experiences that bring me joy. It might be in nature, dynamic cities, but always in a pastry shop. My travel style is upscale most of the time, but not always. If I need to sleep in a van to catch a blissful morning sunrise, I will do it.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Cindy: It's really hard to choose one, but I would have to put my trip to South Africa and Namibia at the top of the list. I love animals, and there is nothing like seeing them in the wild. I think it is the place where I have been most in awe of the world and it stays in your heart.
TA: What's one place you've always wanted to visit?
Cindy: Patagonia, another place where I would be awed by nature.
TA: What's one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Cindy: Aside from the obvious (passport etc), I always take some tea because it is not always available and I am not a coffee drinker.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Cindy: Relax and try to get a sense of the place. I am guilty of trying to pack too much in and have to remind myself to soak in the local atmosphere.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
TA: What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Cindy: South Africa. Don't wait to take the trip of a lifetime. South Africa will steal a place in your heart forever. I had my best travel day there ever when I visited a cheetah conservation centre, galloped on a horse through the vineyards, and tasted wines at an estate. But the experience of seeing nature in Africa, and some animals that may not be here forever, will change you.
TA: What's one way people can get the most out of their cruise experience?
Cindy: Take a cruise on a smaller or mid-sized ship (300 people or less). With the smaller ships, there is a big focus on individual service and the destinations. It is an entirely different experience from the mega-ships and even people who don't think cruising is for them will be sold on it.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Cindy: I think most travelers worry too much about checking off the "10 things you need to see in...". I am guilty of it too. However, I find the things I remember most about travel are the experiences where I feel I get a glimpse of local life, or a chance to talk with the people who live there.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Cindy: Portugal. You don't hear a lot about the food in Portugal, but after doing food tours in both Lisbon and Porto, I can highly recommend it. The one thing you must have is a pastel de nata, a custard tart that was invented in a monastery (of course, you can't eat just one...). In Lisbon, most tourists line up at Belem, but my favourite is Manteigaria. It's where the locals go. The fish is very fresh in all of the restaurants and you should also try the octopus. The food and wine are excellent and surprisingly affordable.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you've ever visited?
Cindy: Lisbon's magical mix of grandeur and urban decay is captivating. So are the sunsets from the various miradouros (viewpoints) overlooking the city. When you combine that with friendly people, great food, and affordability, it's a fantastic combination. Hotel prices are starting to creep up because Lisbon is becoming more popular, but you can still snag some good deals in the shoulder seasons.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Cindy: I may be biased because Canada is my home country, but I think it is underrated as a tourist destination. Given its spectacular nature, Canada is truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Not only that, but it is very safe, provides good value against most currencies, and the people are very friendly. I highly recommend visits to Alberta and Newfoundland, and you'll see exactly what I mean.