Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Stacey Wittig
Occupation: Travel journalist and social influencer
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Residence: Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
College: University of Minnesota—Duluth
College major: Philosophy and Political Science
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YouTube: Stacey Wittig
Short bio: Adventurous me left Minnesota with the Midwestern work ethic, a rock-solid university education and a curiosity of spiritual things. In pursuit of mountain living, I followed my dream of backpacking and skiing in the high country. At the same time that I was slaloming downhill, I was climbing up Corporate America’s ladder of success with equal enthusiasm. But after reaching the top rungs, I found that the fulfillment that I had hoped for was just not there. It was ten years ago when I leveraged my quest for adventure (I’d raced Hobie Cat sailboats and small foreign sports cars in addition to my alpine exploits) with my love of travel to launch a new career as travel journalist.
Today I can’t stop exploring the world (I blame it on my father’s Viking blood) and write about my adventures—many as a solo traveler. Life isn’t always rosy; I lost my firecracker reasoning skill to head injury in a horrific rollover accident that should have taken my life. Brain injury hasn’t stopped me from traveling, although sometimes it makes for amusing travel antidotes. The blessings that I took out of that crushed vehicle were, and continue to be:
- the joy of living in the moment,
- gratitude, and
- the heart-filled appreciation for the love of those who share my path.
There’s nothing like a near-death experience to make you want to start living. Since I find joy in—and have written books about—spiritual travel and pilgrimage, I’ve earned the title “spiritual adventurer.” My books are available on Amazon here. Let’s go explore the world together—you never know who you are going to find along the way…that person might be yourself.
How often do you fly? 1-2 times per month.
How many countries have you been to? 35
How many continents have you been to? 5—I’m waiting to be invited to Australia and Antarctica.
Earliest travel memory: My head is in my dad’s lap as he drives our 1952 Ford Coupe through the night on one of our annual family vacations. My feet barely reach my mom’s pregnant tummy in that big boat of a car.
Favorite American city: Flagstaff, Arizona, which is an awesome place to come to after my travels.
Favorite international city: Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Least favorite country: Don’t think I have one. I always like to find the positive of a place.
I have no desire to go to: Yemen, can’t find a positive.
Friendliest people in the world: Geez, I think it is a toss-up between Thailand and Mexico.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Peru.
Favorite World Heritage Site: Chartres Cathedral, France.
Favorite airline: Emirates.
Favorite aircraft type: Airbus A380.
Aisle or window: Window.
Favorite airport lounge: Korean Air Lounge (KAL Lounge) at LAX saved by butt when I had to fly from a motorcycle camping trip in the Arizona desert to Asia—without a chance of a shower. When I got to KAL, I found a fab VIP shower to wash off the sand before I got on the next (15-hour) flight.
Favorite U.S. airport: Minneapolis, Minnesota (MSP).
Favorite international airport: Madrid, Spain (MAD).
Favorite hotel: The Athenee Hotel, Bangkok.
Favorite cruise line: Celebrity Cruises.
Favorite travel credit card: American Airlines AAdvantage® credit card.
Favorite island: Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Favorite beach: Huntington Beach, California.
Favorite National Park: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Any restaurant in Provence, France.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Dirty Sally’s Grill and Bar, Victor, Colorado.
Favorite airport restaurant: Matt’s Big Breakfast, Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX).
Favorite bar: Café Casino, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Favorite fruit: Plum.
Favorite food: Northern New Mexican cuisine.
Least favorite food: Chicken feet, I thought that they would be good, so I ordered them in China. It’s the texture…augh!
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Favorite travel movie(s): Princess Bride, Wizard of Oz, The Way.
Favorite travel show(s): Jeffrey Lehmann’s Weekend Explorer, Rudy Maxa’s World, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Favorite travel book(s): “The Sun Also Rises,” Ernest Hemingway; “A Tramp Abroad,” Mark Twain; and a shameless plug for my own book, “Spiritual and Walking Guide: Leon to Santiago,” Stacey Wittig.
Right now I am reading: “Tune Up Your French,” Natalie Schorr.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Camino de Santiago Forum, American Pilgrims on Camino Facebook page, Travel + Leisure magazine.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Google Flights, Momondo, TripAdvisor.
5 things you bring on a plane: I like to travel light with everything packed into my carry-on. I bring to my seat: my Patagonia down sweater that I can stuff in the small of my back for lumbar support or lay over my lap if I’m chilled; a travel journal for writing thoughts; my smartphone to take photos out the window; a travel magazine and Emergen-C, the fizzy vitamin supplement.
What do you always seem to forget? Nothing in particular—I use a checklist.
What do you like least about travel? Saying goodbye—at both ends of the journey.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? L’Occitane en Provence body lotions.
Favorite travel app(s): Google Translate, Booking.com.
Most embarrassing travel moment: I was in a van full of fellow travel writers whom I’d just met. We were all chatting and getting to know each other during the somewhat long drive from the Bangkok airport to our hotel. Nearing the hotel, I realized that I’d left my credit card in the ATM at the airport. It was such a faux pas among seasoned travelers that I didn’t tell a soul. I had the front desk person call my credit card company for me, and I reported it missing.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: Acadia National Park in Maine, USA. I’ve been to almost every state in the union, but not Maine. In the hitch-hiking days of the 70s, I was at Dartmouth College with my thumb in the air waiting for a ride to Maine. After several hours, my college girlfriend and I crossed the road and started hitching the other way. We got a ride almost immediately…away from Maine. So close but so far away.
Worst travel moment: You don’t want to know…it involves a rage-addicted, abusive boyfriend, a sketchy Mexican rental Jeep, and getting stuck in deep sand on an isolated beach near the border of Mexico and Belize. Yep, it was worse than the time I was almost stoned by an angry mob in Tanzania.
What’s your dream destination? The next one!
Favorite travel charity: Compassion International and World Vision.
Best travel tip: “Watch your step!” In the past thirty years since the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), we Americans have gotten so accustomed to smooth sidewalks, accessible doorways and yellow-friction-paint or orange-cone warnings, that when we leave the country, little trip-and-fall hazards like uneven steps or slippery marble walkways catch us unaware. I’ve come upon gaps in foreign sidewalks three- to four-feet deep without safety tape or some kind of warning. We love the ADA compliance of our country, but we can’t expect the same US standards when we travel abroad. I’ve seen many fall-related incidents overseas that end US travelers’ journeys right then and there. It’s all about traveling with simplicity and intentionality: “Watch your step.”
Awesome Stacey! Loved reading your answers!