Contiki loves travel, and we love people who travel, so we’re excited to ask the Adventure Girl® herself, Stefanie Michaels, a few questions for the Contiki audience.
Here, she talks about how she became a world traveler, what destinations tug at her heartstrings, and her top tips and tricks for all of you looking to satisfy your wanderlust and get on the move!
Tell us about the moment you decided to make your life all about “adventure” and how you became the “Adventure Girl®”
My parents always told my adventure story like this. When I was a toddler, I would bounced on my crib mattress and flip over and out onto the floor. They would find me on top of tables, on top of counters, and one fine day I had shimmied over a tall picket fence in our backyard and landed into the neighbor’s yard to play with their dog. I was always on the go looking for adventure.
They also told me that they knew I would have some career associated with travel, since I loved it from the start, with my first airplane ride at 3 months old. All the other kids were crying and throwing tantrums, and I was just cooing and smiling until we landed. I loved those friendly skies and everything about flying even then.
Describe the first trip you ever took solo (the trip you took by yourself as a young woman, sans parents. i.e. flew on the airplane alone, traveled alone)
WOW! You’re really making me think! This is a tough question for me, because travel for me has always meant some sort of business. So, if I’ve traveled alone to a locale, I’m usually meeting up with a contact or a group of journalists on the other side. But, what I do like to do- is at a location, I like to step away from people and go off on my own. I don’t do this recklessly, because my personal safety comes first. I notify as many people I am traveling with what my plans are and inquire if it’s safe first.
I like to “get lost” and pretend I’m living there, and try and meld into the experience the best I can with locals. It’s really liberating to experience a culture first hand solo.
Do you have any favorite travel destinations? Where would you return to and what made those destinations so memorable?
Paris, I dream of living there one day. I’m there quite often, it feels like a second home in a way. Iceland was a complete surprise to me. I really loved it and the uniqueness of the spirit of the country. Africa, it’s the soul of the Earth in so many ways. I love animals, so watching them on Safari is magical. The people are beautiful, kind and culturally there is just so much to learn there. As I’m leaving the continent each time, I promise I’ll be back soon. And luckily, being a journalist- I have gotten there at least once a year.
What are 5 destinations that you recommend 18-35 year old Contiki travelers must have on their wish list and why?
Africa, to me, is number one. There is just so much to see and experience. There are parts of it that are changing, so I’d say get there sooner than later. I was in Rwanda this past March, and just back from Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe in July. Any of those places are just magical.
Iceland, the land of fire and ice, literally. Crazy beautiful and interesting cultural experiences. Did you know that most Icelanders believe in troll and hidden people that live magically in rocks? Super fascinating to hear their stories.
Thailand is stunning. I traveled from the north, Chiang Mai- where I ventured at 5:00 am up a mountain to feed the monks who beg for their breakfast, then was blessed by a monk and watched the sun rise at the temple of What Pho. A must do. Then headed to Bangkok- a crazy cool vibrant city. Great shopping, food and the Golden Buddha is a must see. Then into the south to Phuket, where you can tour the small islands off the coast. Monkey island was my favorite to visit.
Argentina is another place I could continue to get back to over and over again. The people are beautiful, the food is amazing, and it’s really affordable for budget sensitive travelers.
Anything in Europe. From London, to Paris – amazing cities to check out, to the Alps for skiing, and the canals of Venice, there is absolutely something for everyone to enjoy in Europe.
What are some of your top tips for women travelers who are looking to travel alone, whether as part of an escorted tour like Contiki or on a solo backpacking adventure?
Stay connected. With technology today, it’s easier than ever to let someone know where you are at all times.
Dress down. Don’t wear flashy jewelry (I never wear any when I travel), and try and stay away from clothes that draw attention to you- bright colors, large logos, short shorts.
Mind the customs. Take a look at a county’s customs and follow the rules.
Before you leave your hotel – make sure at least someone at the front desk knows where you are planning to go that day.
Inquire with women who work at the hotel, which places are ok to visit and places to stay clear of.
Xerox all pertinent information, your passport, drivers license and leave with a close friend or family members at home. Make an extra set of copies and put in your suitcase in case you lose your passport while traveling.
Register where you are planning to travel to with your local government’s website.
What are some of your favorite travel rituals? (i.e. must eat a particular restaurant after every trip, have to unpack and do laundry the minute you get home, etc.)
On the plane – I always take an aisle seat for easy access in and out of it. I change into comfy clothes if it’s more than a four hour flight.
When I get home, I never unpack, since usually I have a turn-around before I’m back out again. If I totally unpack, I’ll forget to repack certain things. I have two carry-ons that I rotate in and out of- so things that come out of one suitcase, get washed, and then either left behind and or repacked in the other.
I have 7 animals- four dogs and three cats- so when I get home. They get all my attention first and we do something called “snuggle time”, where we all crawl into bed and snuggle and I tell them how much I have missed them.
What exotic/interesting/fun locations are your adventures taking you to next?
San Francisco next week to be on a technology show – I LOVE that city. Costa Rica sooner than later, a 12 U.S. location promotional tour spread out through Spring of 2012, Vietnam and Europe somewhere in between it all, and then an undisclosed location for Xmas and New Years!
Do you have any “lessons learned” from your travels abroad to share for the 18-35 year old travelers?
Just the basic common sense stuff, be careful who you trust. Not every stranger you meet is a great person, even if they seem to be, always use caution and trust your gut instinct.
Certain places lend to a great party scene – that doesn’t mean it’s smart to get too crazy – after all, you’re in a foreign land and drinking to obliteration can lend to losing cell phones, credit cards and worse yet, your passport.
Make sure you take out extra insurance. I use Medjet – a company that will pick you up in a jet and take you to the closest and best hospital they can get you to. It’s about $250.00 per person per year, but if you’re stuck somewhere remote without proper medical- it’s a safety measure you can’t afford not to get.
Live each trip like it’s your last adventure. You’ve scraped to save for this trip of a lifetime. So, lap up every minute of it.
Stefanie Michaels- Adventure Girl® has carved a unique niche in the world of travel and entertainment. She is the founder of AdventureGirl.com, a lifestyle site that has been utilized by millions looking for tips tapping into the chicest and unique destinations around the globe, health and fitness, tech tips and more. Michaels’ own life adventures span from ZERO Gravity (with astronaut Buzz Aldrin), an airplane ride that lets passengers experience zero gravity, swimming with sharks in the waters of Oceana, glacier climbing in Iceland to “spa-ing it” in Rangiroa. What a life!
Michaels sits as a top Twitter personality with more than 1.4 Million followers (@adventuregirl).
Vanity Fair Magazine dubbed Stefanie America’s Tweetheart in a recent feature, and her TIME Magazine feature on “Adventure Girl”-Love Me, Love My Brand, as well as celebrity appearances on Rachael Ray, Al Roker’s Show, and regular appearances on Access Hollywood Live.