Christopher Mitchell: I’m Comfortable With Being Disoriented

31. 10. 2017 · 7 min read

"What I love most about travel is the fact that each and every trip is going to offer something different. It’s not just about what you see, but what you learn. I’ve always been fond of the Aldous Huxley quote that states that, to travel is to realize that everyone is wrong about other countries."

Interview with internationally published travel writer, photographer and podcaster from Canada Christopher James Mitchell by travel planner Sygic Travel.

Website / Twitter @travelingmitch / Pinterest travelingmitch travel blog

How would you describe yourself in 5 sentences?
For starters, I never lost my childhood curiousity and fascination with the world. I think I’m comfortable with being disoriented, and in some ways even chase after that feeling. I believe that life is a constant process of evolution and evolving and that you can always become an even better version of yourself. Family and friends mean the world to me, even when I’m half way across the world. I like to stay up late and get up early, and sometimes those two things are at odds with each other.

What was the moment you decided to become a traveler?
I’m not sure it was a particular moment, but I think the time I spent on my own in Ireland when I was 16 had a big impact on the way that I saw the world, or at least the way that I could relate to the world. I remember walking around and I had this feeling that I should cherish the feeling of being there because it was “once in a lifetime.” And then, I thought, “wait…why does it have to be?” In that moment, I think I understood that travel doesn’t have to be this subsidiary element of our lives that we run to when our “real life” becomes too much to bear. Travel can be life itself. I’ve been very fortunate to visit 76 countries now, but my goal is to continue to keep moving, and see as much of the world as I can.

What is your greatest personal accomplishment?
That’s a tough one. Meeting my fiancee has to be up there, in all honesty. However, if you’re looking for something tangible as it relates to travel, then I’d say my greatest personal accomplishment is receiving a Certificate of Appointment from the Korean Minister of Culture for my work on “The Korea Blog” project in 2012.

What do you love the most about traveling?
What I love most about travel is the fact that each and every trip is going to offer something different. It’s not just about what you see, but what you learn. I’ve always been fond of the Aldous Huxley quote that states that, “to travel is to realize that everyone is wrong about other countries.”

What is it you don’t like about traveling?
The time in transit can be a bit of a downer at times. I’ve taken a handful of 20+ hour bus rides in Southeast Asia that don’t necessarily bring back fond memories. I should mention that I love a good train ride though, especially as more trains continue to get wifi, and you can intermittently get some work done and gaze out the window.

What is the most common misconception about being a full time traveler?
Well, technically I have a home base in Toronto, but I am on the road a lot. Proving that point would be the fact that I’m currently in the middle of Romania on a breezy day. I think perhaps the most common misconception is the notion that you’ll get tired of experiencing new things. You can definitely burn out on the road, but if you’re doing the long-term travel thing right, then you slow things down and base yourself out of a city for extended periods, and focus more on day trips out of the city, as opposed to just continuous day trips. For example, my fiancee, Bri, and I spent give or take a month in Mijas, Spain in the summer.

What is the most challenging part of full time travel or nomadic life?
Again, technically I’ve got a homebase in Toronto, but I’ve certainly done and do the long term travel situation frequently. The most challenging part is undoubtedly being away from family and friends. I was never a person who travelled to escape a life I didn’t like in Toronto, but rather just to explore what else was out there, so it’s always been tough to be away from so many folks I have love for.

What is the best way to experience a foreign culture?
That’s going to be a really personal endeavour for each and every person, so I’d have to say that, due to its subjectivity, everyone is going to really have a different answer on this one. I suppose for me, I just want to make sure I’m seeking out authenticity. I aim to eat at places which aren’t full of tourists, and explore areas that aren’t on a lonely planet must-see list. I try to learn a bit of the language and talk to to people who live behind the tourist curtain.

What are the five things you can’t travel without?
My five things would be:

  1. An intriguing book
  2. My iPhone
  3. My Nikon DSLR
  4. A quality notebook (and pen)
  5. Sunglasses

Which destinations are at the top of your bucket list right now?
Well, I still haven’t visited large swaths of South America, so that’s got to be at the top of my bucketlist at this very moment. There really aren’t that many nations that don’t intrigue me in that region, so I’d have to stick with that for now. I’d say Brazil in particular is a place I feel like need to check off my list before too long.

What apps or websites do you use for traveling (maps, itineraries, guides, accommodation, navigation, tours...)?
For offline maps, I like CityMaps2Go because they have articles from wikipedia imbedded into their maps, which allows me to contextualize the city on the fly. I like to have Lightroom and Snapseed at the ready for my photography needs as well. And, with being a travel blogger and all that, the Facebook Page app as well as Instagram have become more of a necessity for better or for worse. I also always make sure that I’ve got podcasts downloaded for offline use, as I’m a huge podcast listener and lover.

If you had an unlimited travel budget for 24 hours, what would your itinerary look like?
I’ve got to say, I love this question. My mind is racing, but I’d probably rent an entire winery in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa, then pay for the flight of all my family and friends to come and drink and eat as much as they liked. I suppose if I’ve got an unlimited budget, I’d also pay for a slew of bands I like to come along and play tunes for us throughout the night…because, why not? This is the sort of question that I could have a different answer for every hour of the day, but I’ll stick with this for now, if only so I don’t change my mind right now!

If you should decide today, which country would pick for retirement?
Portugal. They’ve got great food and wine, the streets are always busy and lively, and they’ve got an abundance of nature and history. Not to mention, I feel like it’s the sort of place where people seem to be passionate about life, and I’d like to be around that in retirement.

What is the most overrated country or location you’ve been to?
This is a real tough one for me to answer, seeing as I’m a fairly positive person generally speaking, and I’m quick to look for a silver lining. If I have to choose, I’d say that I wasn’t in love with the Tower of Pisa. The surrounding area near Pisa, such as Lucca, is spectacular, but Pisa is a bit of a tourist trap, and the whole area feels a bit like a tourist mill.

What is the most underestimated country or location you’ve been to?
Another tough one. Well, I actually wrote an article on my blog about this very topic because it’s always intrigued me, and, in light of that, I’ll stick with my original answer and go with Tallinn, Estonia. The old town is as charming as any I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot of old towns), and they’ve got an emerging nomadic scene with the introduction of their “e-citizenship” program which is more or less the first of its kind. It’s a place with a lot to offer.

Written by SV