Today’s interviewee guest caught my attention because she travels without a plan – i.e. by the seat of your pants. That’s just not my style, and I know there are other over-planners out there. Don’t get me wrong – I leave plenty of room for serendipity – but Kate’s relaxed and breezy approach to travel is very refreshing.
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Kate Westrich, a music junkie, animal lover and an urban farmer. I work as an online community and social media manager for a local not-for-profit.
You’ve based in Cincinnati, Ohio. What would you tell visitors to the city to go and do?
Though not a huge sports fan myself, Cincinnati is home to the country’s first baseball team so I think any visitor to Cincinnati should check out a game. A stopping point that I don’t think nearly enough people know about is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The museum has exhibits teaching people about the underground railroad and also about slavery that occurs still today.
Cincinnati is also home to some good eats. We’re known for chili (Skyline) and ice cream (Graeters), both of which are good but just chains to locals. Downtown there is a little diner called Tuckers that serves great lunch food to patrons that include business people, locals and priests from the nearby church.
Andy: Confession – I’ve had Skyline chili. It’s different, for sure, but really tasty.
You tend to travel “by the seat of your pants” – e.g., without a plan. How do you do that? What would you say to those readers who are the opposite – e.g. control freaks, overplanners?
I travel completely by the seat of my pants! About a year and a half ago I went to Vietnam and Cambodia with my husband. We had visas to get into the countries and a hotel to stay in our first night in Vietnam but that was all we knew. We carried our Lonely Planet with us at all times and made our way through the countries just fine. My rule is that as long as you go to a country with some street smarts and know how to say the following phrases in the mother tongue, you’ll be okay:
- Do you speak English?
- Yes and no
- Check please
As for over planners and control freaks, my first thought is that I could not travel with one. I think that by over-planning you run the great risk of missing out on true culture. One of my pet peeves is when you see someone on a trip and ask them what they have seen and they start ticking places off like an auctioneer. That’s not what international travel should be about! When I go, I try to savor the place. I would rather go to one country and spend a week in one place really getting to know the people, the customs and the culture.
Every trip that I have planned has been based on a split second decisions: Does this sound like a place a lot of people go to? If no, I’m in. I try to go to places before they become overrun with tourism and to stay long enough to really get to know the spirit of the place. I wanted to go to somewhere in South America and didn’t know anyone who had been to Ecuador. Guess where I ended up going?
Have you ever had a bad travel experience due to not planning ahead?
When I was in Vietnam with my husband we both had a massage that was more of a “massage” and we had to flee. A little forethought might have been wise.
When we were in Costa Rica recently, one of our hostels was so disgusting we “slept” with the lights on. We could see through every seam in the wall and ceiling and were scared of what critters were coming and going. Ooops! But afterwards it was a great story.
What’s been your most inspirational travel experience?
I’ve been in a concentration camp in Germany and thought it would be the worst place I would ever set foot in. And then I went to Cambodia and saw the mass burial sites from the genocide that occurred in the 1970s. We took a tour of the killing fields and saw human bones working their way up through the dirt along the path. (The country is so wet it is difficult to permanently bury the bones.) That tour will stay with me forever because it showed how history can repeat itself without people intervention.
Anything fun or interesting coming up on your bucket list?
My husband and I take turns selecting vacation places — it’s the only way to keep things fair. My turn is next and I am so torn between somewhere Eastern Europe and Africa. I tend to be drawn to warm places so right now it looks like I will be looking at maps of Africa.
Thanks Kate – I think taking turns is fair. Might I suggest Livingston Falls for your Africa trip? Or anywhere Eastern Europe – you can’t go wrong. What awesome stories you have and I admire your ability to fly, drive, see and explore by the seat of your pants! Travel more.