christinaBuild Abroad Chats with Cristina
Cristina is Editor of ChasingTravel.com, The Experiential Travel Blog. She was also a Top 25 Travel Blogger of 2014 by FlipKey-TripAdvisor and a Top 100 Canadian Travel Blogger in 2013 by FlightNetwork.com.

 
Q: You write a blog on travel for social good, why did you leave your job in journalism to do this?
A: I knew that journalism had to mobilize in some way and I thought it should be mobilizing for people. When I didn’t see that in mainstream media I started a blog on international journalism that focused on stories that could encourage someone to make a change or make a difference. It made me feel good and was meaningful during my travels.

Q: What do you write about now?
A: My writing is more local as opposed to what to see and do, trying to find some kind of connection in that community. I’m writing more about different issues, misconceptions about traveling to certain destinations and educating people about destinations they wouldn’t think about traveling to.

Q: What are small ways to make a big impact?
A: Stay at local accommodations – BnB, guest house (I stayed in a casa in Havana), a homestay with a family, a non-profit hostel like Hostelling International)

  • Buy and eat local – go to neighborhood markets, do your grocery shopping at family run shops. Buy from local artisans, choosing family-run restaurants instead of big commercial chains, buy wine made in the destination/locally-produced
  • Helpx and workaway are great ways to volunteer short-term in exchange for room and board

Q: You’ve been on many volunteer trips, what are the factors that make the most successful or impactful experiences?
A: I do a lot of research when I’m choosing the organizations I want to work with. I make sure they’re run sustainably and that funding is going directly to help the communities involved and will stay in that community. It’s also important that the experience aligns with your values and beliefs

Q: How do you travel local and authentic?
A: Another way you can travel local and authentic is by asking locals where they go and what they do – most often they let you in on what is not in a guidebook.

  • Have a meal with locals (I like EatWith) or take a tour with locals (WithLocals is great).
  • Learn a local custom (like a cooking class to learn the local cuisine, I once joined a community to help give alms to monks).