After a 30-year career in publishing, Kris Henning and Tom Bartel shed their last publication and their house –- along with most of their possessions. In 2010, they set out to see the world, combining their love of culture with their enthusiasm for the outdoors. Their award-winning travel blog, Travel Past 50, reflects Kris and Tom’s appreciation of international cultures and active travel exploring a range of destinations including historic sites, arts and cultural centers, and natural parks with wildlife. The blog is for those who want to learn, for those who want to participate, and for those who enjoy a good meal and friendly conversation at the end of the day. Travel Past 50 is a valuable travel resource “for those who’ve been around.”
TA: How many years have you been traveling? What got you hooked?
Kris and Tom: We sold our house in 2010 and started out spending a year in South America, renting apartments in Quito and Santiago. But we got hooked back in the late ’70s when we quit our jobs, traveled via London, and ended up living in Madrid for more than a year. We still return to Spain regularly.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Kris and Tom: Well, we travel for ourselves and people like us (over a certain age!) who aren’t easily described. Our interests cover history and culture, nature, food and wine, and increasingly active/adventure travel. We love hiking and biking and photography.
TA: What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Kris and Tom: Walking the Camino de Santiago was momentous. It was a great experience, we were proud of the physical accomplishment, the scenery was wonderful, and we made lifelong friends. Including three rest days, that was a 40-day hike. But maybe we should ask how you define vacation. One trip runs into another, and best seems to be wherever we are at the moment.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you’ve ever visited?
Kris and Tom: Budapest. Visit Parliament, the Ludwig Museum, the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, various food markets, and many great neighborhoods, including Buda, the Palace District, Hero’s Square, and any of the parks or baths.
TA: What is one place you’ve always wanted to visit?
Kris and Tom: Alaska is on our list right now. So is Iran.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Kris and Tom: We think Spain’s food is generally under-appreciated. It’s fresh and full of the Mediterranean influences and products that keep us healthy. Plus, the wine is great and affordable.
TA: Where was the most unusual place you’ve ever stayed?
Kris and Tom: A tent in the Himalayas, a Bedouin camp in Jordan, or a parador hotel in Granada, Spain.
TA: What is one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Kris and Tom: Spare socks. Cameras, a Kindle, and a notebook with pen. Plus a phone (Google Maps!) and chargers.
TA: What is one travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Kris and Tom: Other than avoiding pickpockets working in pairs (beware of posters shoved under your nose), we recommend using official transportation upon arrival in a new country. This is easy to research, and there’s a helpful app for this, too, called Rome2Rio.
TA: What is one way people can get the most out of their cruise experience?
Kris and Tom: As independent travelers, we favor river cruises and stay away from large ships. Our best advice is to earmark time on your own, both during the cruise’s shore excursions and especially before/after the sailing dates. River cruises may offer a great introduction to a place you might not otherwise check out on your own.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
Kris and Tom: We learn so much from our fellow travel bloggers! We like to stay in touch with Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere, David and Lina Stock of Divergent Travelers, Susan Portnoy of The Insatiable Traveler, Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbeil of The Planet D, Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel, Mike and Anne Howard of HoneyTrek, and Sherry Ott of Ottsworld. We especially like the media and destination folks we’ve met through the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Kris and Tom: Travelers worry too much about political situations and the supposed impact on public safety. We are people traveling and interacting with other people. That’s all.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Kris and Tom: Be patient and listen; stay in the present place and time. (Why waste a good opportunity to observe and listen to others by insisting on telling everyone how you live back home?) When you pay attention, opportunities present themselves and — poof! — you are off on a new adventure.
TA: What is one piece of advice you’d give to travelers your age?
Kris and Tom: Give it a try, whatever it is.