I‘m not sure if inspirer is a word, but damn it this is my magazine so I’ll use it if I want. And it’s exactly the world I would use to describe this week’s interviewee guest extraordinaire. A true travel professional, she’s won awards (but was too shy not to mention them in her replies) and even better, she’s even nicer in person and a go-to gal for travel tips and ideas. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…Chris Gray Faust.
Can you introduce yourself?
Yo! That’s Philly for hello, although I’m also fluent in y’all, hiya, cheers and the no-you-go-first car wave. I’ve lived all over the United States, thanks to 20 years as a writer and editor in the newspaper business, so hometown is a relative concept.
I set up my travel blog, Chris Around The World: A Travel Journalist’s Tips from the Road, in August 2009 while I was still travel editor at USA TODAY. The blog started as a “sandbox” where I could experiment with SEO, social media and blogging best practices. Since then, I’ve turned the blog into a more complete site aimed at “value luxury” travelers looking for unique and boutique vacation experiences. I also provide reviews, tips and tell readers how professional travel editors plan their own trips and handle problems on the road.
You have a very very heavy background in the journalism and publishing world. With all of your experiences, where do you get your inspiration and tips for your next trip (besides here at Sharing Travel Experiences, naturally)?
When I was a kid, I used to gather up all my parents’ old National Geographic magazines and hole up in my room to read them and dream of faraway places. Travel porn, I guess!
I still read glossy travel magazines, of course, but I’m a big fan of word-of-mouth information from trustworthy friends and sources. I lurk on travel forums quite a bit (fodors.com is a favorite) as well as read blogs such as yours. I’m probably one of the few people on Facebook who actually wants to hear all the gory details of my friends’ trips!
I’m also a pop culture nut and read quite a bit, so I’m always creating theme trips for myself. A few months ago, I noticed a movie about Mt. Saint Helens was playing at a local IMAX. And I’d never visited the volcano, just a few hours away from my new home in Seattle. So voila! A “volcano weekend” was born.
Andy: Nobody judges around these parts, so if you want travel porn, you got travel porn.
Your husband is an amateur photographer, and looking at your website it is obvious some of his talents have worn off. Any places you remember being particularly photogenic?
Aw, you’re sweet. Photography is definitely a secondary skill to me, and I’m constantly trying to improve.
We were just in Berlin and found ourselves spending hours taking pictures at the East Side Gallery, where remaining portions of the Berlin Wall have been covered with murals. In that case, it proved extremely hard to edit them down for a blog post.
I’m a big fan of the Caribbean and am always trying to figure out the best ways of capturing that gorgeous turquoise water. My favorite place to try? Tobago Cay in the Grenadines. All of the Grenadines, which includes exclusive Mustique and quirky Bequia, are fab. But Tobago Cay is a protected marine park where you can swim with giant turtles. It’s a true desert island paradise.
Andy: I’d have to agree on the Berlin photogenic thing. I was there when it was a massive construction site, and despite that, the city had such a edge it would cut your lens. Now as for these Caribbean gems…. delicious.
I know you’re joining me here in Seattle soon, but you have been living in Philadelphia. Any tips for newbies to the City of Brotherly Love?
Philly is the red-headed stepchild of the U.S. East Coast. Although the city has changed a lot in the last two decades, it still has a reputation for heavy cheesesteaks and rough sports fans who throw snowballs at Santa Claus!
That stuff is true, of course. But many people forget that Philadelphia is where the United States began as a fledgling independent country. You’ve got Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, as well as the nation’s first hospital, first library, first zoo, etc. And the food scene is now top notch (two of the Food Network’s Iron Chefs, Masaharu Morimoto and Jose Garces, are based in Philly).
As you walk around Philly, you can’t help noticing the colorful murals painted on the side of rowhouses and other buildings. It’s part of the city’s Mural Arts Program, one of the largest public arts projects in the country. You can take various walking, biking and trolley tours of the different murals – check out muralarts.org for details.
(For other Philly tips, you can buy sure to buy my downloadable Philly Essential Guide on iTunes!)
Andy: I have had a Philly Cheesesteak in Philly. In fact, I had both of the ‘famous’ ones. They were both GOOD.
You are a member of the Mardi Gras organisation Krewe of Muses, which promotes New Orleans culture. Want to tell us more about the New Orleans scene and why it fascinates you so much?
I spent seven years as a reporter in New Orleans, and I left part of my heart there when I left. The mixture of cultures down in the Delta is extraordinary and there’s nothing else like it anywhere else in the U.S. If you have a soul, the city gets under your skin.
I lived in New Orleans pre-Katrina, but I’ve been back frequently since the hurricane. I’m amazed at the city’s indomitable spirit and its recovery from a disaster that stemmed not from nature, but from government ineptitude. New Orleanians value their traditions – the food, the music, the architecture, the ethnic customs – and love celebrating good times with friends and families. If you haven’t been, you have to go.
Andy – Haven’t been. I’m thinking next year. Road trip, anybody?
What are some awesome places on your travel to do list?
There are so many places that I want to go! I think my bucket list is too big for one person.
Top on my list is the Alaska Marine Highway. You either rent a cabin or bring your tent on the ferries that travel between Bellingham, Wash., and Alaska ports such as Juneau and Sitka. It seems like a fun way to see the Inside Passage without going on a big cruise ship.
While I’m no stranger to solo travel, I love sharing travel experiences with my friends and family. I’m hoping to take my Dad to the Indy Racing Experience next year. He’s a big Indy race car fan and took me to the Indianapolis 500 several times when I was a kid. It’s the type of thing that I want to do sooner rather than later, before he gets too old to travel.
Too old to travel? Never! Ok, well maybe a little bit
I’m so glad you could visit with us – you’ve really hit your stride and I’m so glad to say that we all knew you when… Folks, to connect with Chris, friend her up on Twitter or visit her website, Chris Around the World.