Episode 60 is here!
There are so many interesting people in the world, and today’s guest is certainly one of those interesting people.
Today, I’m talking to Karen Gershowitz. She’s a recently-retired successful businesswoman, author, and mentor. Plus, while holding down a full-time job, she traveled to over 90 countries.
If you ever need an example of what is possible, Karen’s whole life is that example.
In this episode, you will get to hear about her fascinating life of travel, career, and adventure, and she will show you how you can take advantage of every opportunity to have the kinds of experiences that most will only dream of.
Let’s get into it:
[02:35] Getting into travel.
As a child in New York, Karen’s mom would take her to museums, traveling shows, and all the different ethnic restaurants.
This sparked her curiosity, and she knew she had to go out and see the places where these things originated.
For family vacations, she would take road trips through the US and Canada. Her first international travel happened when she left for Europe on her own for schooling, where she stayed for 3 years.
[04:25] Present-day Karen.
Although officially retired, Karen has just published a book, Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust.
Throughout her career, she was an internationally sought-after strategic marketing planner, so in her retirement, she volunteers as a business mentor.
[05:04] Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust.
Karen’s book is a memoir told in the form of travel stories.
Throughout her life, she has accumulated more stories than most people could imagine, and her book allows others to appreciate and experience those stories as well.
[06:21] Off the beaten path.
When visiting a new place, you want to see the touristy things – the Eiffel Tower in France, the Colosseum in Rome, the Great Wall of China, etc.
But it’s worth remembering that these places are more than their guidebook.
When Karen visits a destination, she spends a few days doing the usual touristy activities, and then she throws her guidebook away to see the destination for what it is – taking the subway and getting of at random stops to explore the streets, taking detours through random roads, and experiencing the local life away from the hype.
[08:40] Solo travel vs Group travel.
Although Karen travels solo frequently, she also enjoys traveling with a few friends.
Group travel can work, as long as you’re traveling with people who have the same traveling spirit as you – if you’re adventurous, you probably don’t want to travel with a group of people who plan every single minute of the trip.
[11:08] Talking to strangers.
It might seem like a daunting task to talk to strangers, especially in another country.
You can actually teach yourself to talk to strangers, regardless of how introverted or extroverted you are.
The secret: strangers love to talk about where they live. Just ask about their favorite places, and they’ll do all the talking.
[11:59] 90 Countries with a full-time job.
Throughout her career, Karen has visited over 90 countries, all while working a full-time job.
If you have a full-time job, or you’re going into a full-time job, Karen has some tips for you so that you can work and experience the rest of the world:
– You need to negotiate vacation time. Typically, you’ll get your 2 weeks plus sick days – but you can often negotiate on these. You want to do this after negotiating your salary so that you know they’re serious about hiring you.
– Plan your vacations around holiday weekends. If you didn’t get your extra vacation days, you can make the most of holiday weekends. They’re usually 3 days long, and if you add 4 of your allocated vacation days, you score 9 vacation days for the price of 4.
– Rollover vacation time. You can negotiate a roll-over of your unused vacation time.
– Travel on a business trip. If you’re traveling for business, plan your vacation around your business trip. Your flights should already be covered, so extending the trip by a few days shouldn’t break your bank. Those don’t usually count against your vacation days.
[17:53] Things to do on a Bleasure trip.
Going on a Bleasure trip, you want to go out and see the city in your off time. But, where do you go? Where do you start looking for activities?
Almost every major city has a hop-on hop-off tour service. Getting on one is Karen’s first step to getting to know a new city.
The easiest thing you could do is do a Google search for places in the city that host or do the things that you enjoy. Are you a foodie? Search for the best restaurants. Are you into gardens? Search for the most unique gardens. You’re guaranteed to find something that interests you. You’ll find people there that share this interest, and they can point you in the direction of more places that you’ll enjoy.
I know I’m going to taste the best burgers and fries in every city I visit from now on.
[22:48] Preparing people for your vacation.
When you’re on vacation, you don’t want to be bothered. I know I don’t want to deal with someone else’s work crisis while I’m sipping drinks at the pool.
If you’re going on vacation, make sure you tell the necessary people in advance. People forget, so make sure you give them all the information and instructions they will need to function without you, in writing.
Karen checks her email once a day, with the explicit instruction to her clients and staff that if they have a real crisis, it should be marked “urgent”. If not, it’s just another email that doesn’t require her attention while on vacation.
Karen was able to take a whole month off, leaving very clear instructions, and take a vacation to Alaska, and she returned to a job promotion because of how well she managed it.
[29:43] Karen’s Alaska trip.
For an entire month, Karen camped in Alaska during solstice – if you’re not keen on the cold, it’s best to go to Alaska during this time. A word of caution: if you struggle to sleep in the daytime, you might want to plan around that, since the solstice includes 24/7 sunlight.
Be aware of the mosquitoes. They’re known as Alaska’s state bird for a reason.
[32:10] Karen’s favorite country.
Her response is, usually, the next country she visits.
But, her true favorite is Greece.
Other favorites include Sydney, London, Paris, and many places in Asia.
[33:38] Going to less-known places.
After reading a National Geographic article about the Toraja people, Karen went to the little-known Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where the people have fascinating Death Rituals, housewarming traditions, and unique culture.
Her trip to Japan in her 20s, not knowing any Japanese, helped solidify her confidence to travel to any destination in the world. No matter where you go, you’re going to find friendly people who want to help you.
[42:17] Traveling during the pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, Karen did her trips throughout New York.
She visited all the parks she’d never been to, saw all the street art, took photographs, looked at the most interesting architecture, and wherever Google led her to find things that she had never done before.
[44:25] Visit New York City.
Most people that visit New York City tend to think that it’s unsafe. Karen reassures you that it isn’t – the media makes it seem so much worse than it actually is.
If you’re visiting New York City, visit smaller neighborhoods. Seeing the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and the Empire State Building is great, but you’re not likely to meet the nice locals – you’re going to be at those places with cranky tourists.
Karen highly suggests going on the ferry along the East River, where you will have incredible city views for just over $2.
[46:37] Where to next?
Karen’s next trip is supposed to be to Burgundy, France, but the EU’s rules seem to be changing, so it’s still uncertain.
This year was going to be the year she traveled to the South Pacific, but Covid had other plans for that trip, so she’s going to delay it.
Her bucket list of future trips is extensive, and I’m sure she’s going to get to them all the moment the pandemic ends.
[47:33] Prioritising a bucket list.
To make the most of a bucket list, and to get to all of those places in the most efficient and cost-effective way, there are a few things Karen considers when choosing her next destination.
She looks at the time of year and the destination’s weather, and the destination that has the most inexpensive airfares. Some advice: check every possible site for cheap airfares, and don’t rely on only one site.
Sometimes, she’d take the cheapest possible last-minute airfare to somewhere just for the sake of traveling somewhere, and then winging the vacation. I might do this for my 2023 bucket list.
[50:23] Karen’s advice.
“You need to lose the fear and just do it. If you try it once and have a good experience, you’re going to get hooked.”
“Pick somewhere where you know there’s going to be something that you’d love to do – it doesn’t matter what it is. Plan your trip around that. That’s the thing that’s going to make it easier for you to decide to do it.”
Karen truly has some fascinating stories. From her international vacations in over 90 countries, to driving around the streets of New York City, she has seen almost everything – doesn’t that inspire you to travel, and to go off the beaten path to experience more than you would in a guidebook?
There’s more to the world than the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and the Mona Lisa. The best burgers and fries of your life might be waiting for you at that family-run corner cafe in the middle of a small neighborhood. I know I’m not about to miss that chance.
If you want to know more about Karen Gershowitz, visit her socials below:
Get Karen’s book: Amazon, Google Books, Bookshop.org, Indiebound.
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