Christensen is the creator of Amateur Traveler, a popular online travel website that focuses primarily on travel destinations. Amateur Traveler includes a blog as well as audio podcasts, which amassed around 4 million downloads in 2018. Amateur Traveler is used to teach English at Oxford University and to test English proficiency for employment with the Thai Foreign Ministry. Chris has won a Lowell Thomas Award, 4 NATJA awards, and a SMITTY Award from Travel + Leisure as the “best independent travel journalist”.
Christensen was kind enough to answer a few of our questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Chris: I traveled with my parents as a kid. Those trips were often long road trips to National Parks in the western United States. It developed in me a love of travel.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Chris: No, but I am best known for my podcast which looks at a different destination every week.
TA: What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Chris: They are all great but the trip that I did to India last year with listeners of the show does stand out because places like Varanasi are so different from San Jose.
TA: What’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit?
Chris: I still have yet to get to southern Africa, although I have a trip planned to South Africa and Botswana later this year.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Chris: Concentrate not just on seeing things but trying to understand different cultures. That’s where the treasures lie.
TA: What’s one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Chris: I would have a hard time traveling without my iPhone: translator, navigator, travel assistant, entertainment device. I have the T-mobile plan so I can connect in more than 100 countries.
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?
Chris: Europe is great, but everyone should get to Africa or Asia sometime. Why not in 2019?
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?
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve ever been given?
Chris: No one ever comes home from a trip saying they wish they had packed more. Save your back and luggage fees, learn to pack in a carry-on.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Chris: Safety. Not that travelers should be unsafe, but our view of how safe the rest of the world is is skewed by the media that only reports the bad things that happen.
TA: What’s a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Chris: There are different ones in different parts of the world. The person who tries to “help you” clean something sticky off your backpack in Peru while his friend is picking your pockets. The “art students” in China who are selling you their “original art” that is just prints. The lady anywhere who is hitting you up to leave this bar and go to a better one.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Chris: Italy, France, India, and China all have great food but people know that, so I would go with someplace in the middle east like Israel or Jordan. Get the humus in Israel, not at all like we have in the U.S. Not cold for one thing.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you’ve ever visited?
Chris: Sarajevo was a surprise to us. A day’s drive from Dubrovnik but much less expensive. More people should go there.
TA: What’s one way people can get the most out of their cruise experience?
Chris: Look at what shore trips the cruise line offers but also check out tours through sites like ShoreTrips, Viator, and Get Your Guide for alternatives. We did a great snorkeling trip to a sunken tug boat in Curaçao that way.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Chris: It depends a bit if you are a man or a woman. Some countries in the developing world that would be comfortable for a man might be less comfortable for a solo woman traveler. Other than that, any place is a great place for solo travelers.
TA: What’s something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Chris: One thing? I have heard people complain that it rains the day they visit the rainforest. You think? I have heard people on a big bus tour complain about the crowds everywhere. You think? Mostly you need to remember that you travel to different places because they are different. So…don’t complain that it is not like home.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Chris: So so many. Luxembourg is another destination that people overlook. I think Luxembourg City may be the most beautiful capital in Europe.