Mary Jo Manzanares, aka MJ, is a traveler, travel writer, podcaster, and publisher. Her sites cover food/restaurants, trips and travel tips at The Yums, The Travelers Way and Traveling with MJ, and a whopping 168,000+ views on Pinterest, where people from all over the world are taking advantage of her travel knowledge. When she’s not on a trip, she’s planning or researching the next one and has a bag always packed, ready for the next great adventure
1.)Where was the first place that you traveled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or …..)
My first trip by air was at age 12 to Fairbanks, Alaska, to visit my cousins. It was during the summer and my first experience with the Midnight Sun. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was a precursor for a life of travel to follow: I went to work for the airlines that we flew on; I’ve made numerous trip to Alaska; and the phenomenon of the Midnight Sun still intrigues me (we just returned from a Viking Ocean Cruise with an Into the Midnight Sun itinerary). Who knew that would all come out of my first flight?
2.)If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?
We try to budget carefully so we can do all the travel that we want, but let’s face it, budget is always a consideration. Top things on my if money were no object bucket list are a safari in Africa, a week relaxing in the Maldives, and an around the world cruise.
3.)What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?
I don’t have a lot of fears, but those that I do are powerful. I’m afraid of snakes. I have a fear of edges when combined with steep roads, pathways, or other elevations. The closest I’ve come to overcoming those fears was doing a portion of a zipline course. I’m just going to let it go at that.
4.)What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?
My go-to travel apps include various airline and hotel apps, Seat Guru, Kayak, Priceline, Flight Tracker, and TripIt. And, of course, I use Instagram, Facebook, and Lightroom apps regularly as well.
5.)What place do you wish more people have seen?
Their own home town and surrounding geographic area. Sometimes we spend some much traveling the world that we forget to discover what’s close to home.
6.)Best advice you have been given and by whom?
Don’t pack your common sense when you pack your luggage. Not sure who first said this, but it was a flight attendant, and is a good reminder to keep aware and engaged when we travel.
7.)When were you surprised by the kindness of strangers on a trip?
We were traveling in Sicily and trying to find a way to get down to a small town on the water to find a restaurant for dinner. We’d been driving around for hours and were still striking out. Finally, we stopped in a small town to try to ask for directions. I saw a gentleman showing some customers out of his business, and I approached him to ask if he spoke English (it is not as widely spoken on Sicily as it is on the mainland). He said yes – turns out he had gotten his MBA for Wharton and spoke perfect English. I explained our dilemma and he said to give him a couple minutes. He went to change clothes (he was playing in a soccer league that evening) and said to follow him. We followed his car through a tangled warren of roads, finally arriving at the waterside town we were looking for. He motioned to where we should park and then accompanied us, introducing us to all the store and restaurant owners, asking them to take good care of his friends from the United States. He went out us his way (he was late to his game) to make sure we had a good experience on his town. I’ve never forgotten it, and keep it in mind when someone asks me for help.
8.)What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
I have a home base and while I may travel for a few weeks at a time, I’m always happy to return home.
9.)I travel because… it’s who I am.
10.) My favorite travel or business book is…
For travel guides, I like the DK Top 10 series for an overview and Rick Steves guidebooks for more in-depth information. I always have a handful of books queued up on my Kindle, so it’s hard to choose a favorite.
11.) How about hotels? What’s your favorite or one you’d recommend?
A few favorites include the Four Seasons Seattle; Aquavista in Rose, Spain; Germantown Inn in Nashville, Tennessee; and Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C.
Mary Jo Manzanares’ travel ethos is Value Luxury – that sweet spot where experience and price intersect to create WOW. She shares that mantra via her podcasts and travel writing.