Elaine of Trip Well Gal has been jumping into travel and living in the most unexpected places for decades -- from suburban Southern California to a cold-water cabin in SE Alaska. While others were planning retirement, she took every chance to explore, taste, meet, and share her discoveries. Ever curious about life and the world, Elaine founded Trip Well Gal nearly ten years ago as a commuting yoga teacher and used her public radio experience to produce the Indie-Excellence Award Winning audiobook, Drivetime Yoga and then Flytime Yoga.
As a freelancer, she focuses on finding the stories underneath issues and those who can tell them best. She’s written for Hidden Compass, Edible San Diego, San Diego Home and Garden, Luxury Living International Magazine, Trivago, Roam Right, Hipmunk and other online outlets. Enamored with the storytelling possibilities of video, she’s an obsessive photographer and filmmaker for her YouTube channel with over 50k views. The blog has evolved to focus on helping Boomers get out into the world and do it well with consciousness and care for the planet and our neighbors.
Elaine provides great insight on travel in her answers to our questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Elaine: Since the 1970's when I was convinced to take a six month sabbatical from my dream job to backpack the world and returned to get a raise! I knew then that independent freedom didn't have to conscript your life.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Elaine: I'm a travel chameleon. Solo, tour, family, road trip, budget, luxury, adventure -- each kind of travel has its time and purpose.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Elaine: I joined fellow travel writers to cover a private tour company in Ecuador. We spent two days exploring Quito before flying to the Galapagos for a five day small ship cruise. It was incredible but what made it doubly so was that on returning to land, my travel buddy/boyfriend met me in Puerto Ayora and we island hopped, scuba diving and hiking independently. I adore getting close to wildlife on land and in the sea as well as the variety in that ten-day trip.
TA: What's one place you've always wanted to visit?
Elaine: The Alhambra Palace in Portugal and then Morocco.
TA: What's one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Elaine: My herbs. From Melatonin to Wellness Formula. I know what helps me stay healthy on the road and hate taking time or the expense in looking for substitutes while away.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Elaine: Be flexible and open.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
Elaine: Rudderless Travel with Christopher Rudder, Breathedreamgo with Mariellen Ward, Coleman Concierge with Jenn and Ed Coleman. I'm proudly a founding member of the San Diego Travel Massive, love traveling and eating with the IFWTWA group, and attend the Underwater Photo San Diego club gatherings.
TA: What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Elaine: Mexico from the Baja Peninsula to the southern border, East coast to West.
TA: What are the top 3 websites you use for research/inspiration when planning a trip?
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Elaine: Sit on the aisle so you can get up easily enough and don't sit too close to the bathroom! Then get up and move often (do some Flytime Yoga!)
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you've ever been given?
Elaine: I hate jet lag! But have conquered it since finding the book 'The Cure for Jet Lag' by Charles F. Ehret and Lynne Waller Scanlon. I follow the system completely and it's become second nature once I know how many time zones I'll leap and which direction I'm going. It was created by the Argonne National Library during the Reagan years.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Elaine: Seeing as much as possible. I've had to learn this lesson after exhausting myself and not connecting with a place. Life isn't a bucket list to check off!
TA: What's a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Elaine: Keep your wallet secured. I was traveling with my parents in Paris when my father was basically mugged and robbed in the Metro. His wallet showed up months later but the experience soured the trip, ruined our last days and he never flew out of the country again. I've learned to follow basic safety with inner zipped pockets on my cross-body bag and to not be a beacon of paranoia.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Elaine: I adore Mexico and most people underrate the diversity and sophistication of the cuisine. There are exquisitely complex Mayan spice mixes and cooking techniques that come from the jungle of Quintana Roo for example. The Valle de Guadalupe, not far from my home, has incredible wines and food innovation drawing from Spanish, Chinese, and Italian traditions! Look for Machaca -- the roasted, shredded pork or beef in Baja and enjoy it with a delicious Tempranillo wine.
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Elaine: Tavenui, Fiji. It was the first trip I took with my boyfriend nearly ten years ago and while the beaches were beautiful, the people and scuba diving were spectacular. I'll never forget the night we spent looking up into the stars and discovering a new set of constellations together.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you've ever visited?
Elaine: Rovinj, Croatia. The ancient city sits on a point overlooking the sea. We spent days walking the fortress and eating at wonderful cafes. It was a complete surprise and extraordinarily beautiful. Stay out of the main hub to stretch your budget and avoid the peak travel months. There's a high speed boat to Venice that I wish I'd known about before buying a seat on a flight to Rome!
TA: What's one way people can get the most out of their cruise experience?
Elaine: I only have experience with smaller boats. Finding where everyone congregates for sunset has led to some of the most wonderful conversations and cocktails!
TA: Have you ever met someone while traveling who changed your life? Who were they?
Elaine: Yuri, the Slovakian genealogist who we traveled with for several days. He was an interpreter and helped us find relatives we didn't know were alive.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Elaine: I love exploring urban landscapes, so big cities are where you'll find me on my own. New York of course, then Paris, Quebec, Chicago, San Francisco, even Los Angeles. Give me a way to get around and I'm happy as can be.
TA: What's something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Elaine: Dressing or undressing to be seen instead of to see. I traveled with a family in Japan for example, and they had little care for blending in, or respect for local customs like taking off their shoes in shrines, etc. Another time was in Sri Lanka where beautiful young European women swam and lounged around public beaches topless. I'm not a prude just saw the attention they got, which was not all welcomed and how it made the local women uncomfortable. If it were a private beach or Europe, no problem.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Elaine: Mexico City. There are hundreds of incredible museums, wonderful architecture, history, and the food is amazing. The street food is delicious if you know where to go and there's a level of sophistication at the other end of the spectrum that puts many American cities to shame. We're missing out!