Travel Interview #1: Patty Hutton

My first travel interview is with one of my best friends, Patty Hutton. Patty and I have been friends for over 15 years, and I’m excited to share a glimpse into her travel adventures with you! Patty grew up in Oklahoma and graduated from Evangel University in Missouri with a Bachelor’s degree in Government. She then went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Policy at Pepperdine University. After graduating with her master’s, Patty became an aid worker and has had the amazing opportunity to travel for both work and pleasure. I hope Patty’s travels inspire you to get out and adventure well.

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Q. Where are some places you’ve traveled?

A. Western Europe, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Liberia, Morocco, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Croatia, Bosnia, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Greece, Costa Rica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico

Q. How do you prepare for a trip?

A. I  think after you travel a lot, you don’t really prepare. I always say to check for your passport, wallet, phone, and charger. Those are actually the only things you truly need to get around. Everything else is really a bonus!

Q. What is your favorite place you’ve visited, and why?

A. It’s hard to say. Each place is special for different reasons. I rarely like to visit places multiple times. I’d rather go to new places, but the places I would go back to without hesitation are Cambodia, Jordan, Ireland, Bosnia, Morocco, and Iraq.

Q. How do you learn about the people and culture of the place you’re visiting?

A. This is definitely my favorite part of traveling. I go to local restaurants, and where possible, I take local transportation (which typically includes a bus that will break down at some point!). Going to touristy sites is interesting, but I try to go a couple blocks away where you see the authentic, non-touristy part of town. I also ask people I come across what the best thing to do, eat, or see is according to them. Most people are excited to tell you their opinion.

Q. What travel advice do you like to give?

A. I believe that most people overthink travel…whether it’s the idea that it takes a lot of money to travel, fear of flying, or a fear of being robbed. First, I would say don’t overthink it. You just might be surprised by the kindness of people in the world. Second, use WhichAirline, Kayak, or Sky Scanner to find cheaper flights. Lastly, always sign up for frequent flier miles. Most airlines are connected to partner airlines so you can always get miles, and they usually never expire.

Q. What’s your most memorable travel experience?

A. It was probably the trip I took to Indonesia, Cambodia, and Japan after working in the Philippines. Cambodia was unexpectedly beautiful and full of really good memories. In Japan we often found ourselves running after buses and after running to catch the last train to Tokyo, there were so many people who the conductor had to push us in with a stick. I also love hot springs, so we made our way up to Nagano to do all of the free onsens (hot springs). There was one local lady there who had studied in the States and spoke English. She asked me, “How did you get here?” That was the best feeling…knowing that I had found a place that pretty much only locals go.

Q. If you ever travel with children, what are some tips you follow to make it more enjoyable and smoother for you and your kids?

A. Although I don’t have kids, I have traveled with friends who have kids. Don’t underestimate how much the flight attendants can help…providing a bassinet, coloring books, and more.

Q. What are three things you love about traveling?

A. Getting to know new cultures and traditions; seeing new things; and meeting new people.

Q. What are some items you always take with you when you travel?

A. passport, wallet, phone (advice time: Buy a SIM card in each place you travel. It’s usually only about $2.00, and then you don’t have to pay to crazy fees associated with your U.S. phone.), wet wipes, face wipes, granola bars, sweater, water bottle, a document holder for my tickets, aspirin for flying, NyQuil (sometimes it’s hard to find strong enough cold medicine) and Cipro

Q. What’s your best advice for solo travel?

A. Check out the advice other solo travelers have left on Trip Advisor or other sites. I definitely trust guest houses more, especially as a single woman. Families tend to look out for you more. Also, be on alert. I pay a bit extra to take a taxi or tuk tuk instead of public transport. If you do take a taxi, make sure they have a working meter! I also don’t tend to go out at night walking by myself. Getting up earlier is better, plus you have less tourists to compete with!

Q. What’s the best way to pass the time on a long flight?

A. Podcasts! I love learning, and one podcast is usually about an hour. So I go through about three podcasts, watch a movie, listen to another three podcasts, and I’m there!

Q. When you fly, do you prefer an aisle or window seat?

A. Aisle. I am at a point where I need to get up more often, so I like to not have to ask people to move so I can get up and walk around.

Q. What are the best airport (or general travel) hacks?

A. If you don’t have admiral club access (which I don’t either), almost all airports have a place within the airport with really comfortable chairs. I love finding this spot in the airport, grabbing a coffee or tea, and stretching out my legs. You don’t have to stay where your plane is. Although I myself don’t like looking at the airport directory because I pridefully like to look like I know where I’m going, if I don’t know the airport, I take time to look and see. Usually, there are good places to eat and a Skytrain or bus to transport you. If there’s special food you like in another terminal, go if you have enough time! Most airports have free wi-fi. Check before you log on to see how long you get free wi-fi. Some airports have an hour of free wi-fi, so I typically wait until about two hours before my flight if I’m overseas and don’t have access to data on my phone. If you have a really long layover, check to see if the airport has a train or metro system from the airport and go explore! I like to schedule myself to get back within about 2.5 hours to get through security.

Q. What’s your favorite travel memento?

A. My passport. I love looking at my old passport and seeing all of the stamps and visas. I also like collecting jewelry or clothes that I can wear when I come back.

Q. What’s your least favorite part of traveling?

A. Actually, being in an airplane for a long time. Also, sometimes as a foreigner, you can get heckled to buy something and that can get frustrating.

Q. What tips do you have for budgeting for travel?

A. First, start with checking on sites that have cheaper tickets: Which Airlines, Kayak, and Sky Scanner.  Then, instead of hotels, look at guest houses and bed & breakfasts.  Many of these places are not only way cheaper than hotels, but you get the experience of interacting with the host family.  They also give great advice based on what you want to do or see. Although you can find “American food” anywhere, try the local food.  It makes for a better experience, it’s cheaper, and you just may find something you never tried before that you really enjoy!

Q. How can people best immerse themselves in local culture?

A. Don’t be afraid to talk to locals and ask them what they like to do and see. Quite a few people speak English, and if they don’t, I’ve had many a conversation on Google Translate that has been amazing and memorable. Eat the local food, go to a local ceremony, and if you hear a parade, don’t be afraid to go see what it’s about!

Happy travels!