How to Travel the World: Ever daydreamed about escaping to an exotic locale while stuck on your daily commute? That deep temptation to take one quick exit to the airport, and towards a new adventure? Travel blogger Macaulay Thompson has made this her reality. A Florida-based business professional by day, the Jamaican native has traveled to over 30 countries, chronicling her experiences on her popular website, MyTravelStamps.com. There, she gives the inside scoop on iconic destinations, from the Great Wall of China to Machu Picchu, and shares advice on how everyone (even you) can budget and plan your own journeys. We sat down with the blogger to chat about the best way to travel, her most memorable trips, and the valuable lessons learned along the way.
Favorite way to travel? That’s easy. It’s definitely by air. I tend to shy away from long road trips. I’m not a fan of cruises, and I only take trains occasionally.
What are your travel essentials? A jacket or wrap to keep me warm inside airports (and on tour buses and planes), a camera to capture vacation magic as it happens, a hat, and WiFi.
How many countries have you visited so far? Not counting Jamaica, I’ve been to 33 countries to date. Some of the more recent places have been Peru, Greece, Colombia, and Mexico.
Which country is next on your list and why? Honestly, I never ever just have one country on my to-do list. There are usually at least 3 or 5 on my wish list each year, and where I end up going depends on the best deal that’s available or which place is most convenient timewise.
What’s your favorite destination so far? Destinations stand out for different reasons in my mind, so I have many favorites. However, if I had to choose just one right now, I’d say Italy because their whole “la dolce vita” approach to life is very appealing. It’s that simple and laid-back lifestyle that celebrates the power of hospitality, romance and family. What makes it even more alluring is the fact that all that pleasure and indulgence is often served up over hearty, unrushed meals that feed your stomach, while the ensuing conversations and observations feed your mind.
What’s your favorite travel memory so far? Please, please, please don’t ask me to pick between sailing down the Nile River on a felucca in Egypt, going on safari in South Africa, climbing The Great Wall of China, or my impromptu lime with a bunch of friendly grandpas in a town square in Cartagena.
Most memorable meal so far? Seafood paella (with white sangria) in Madrid. One word: D I V I N E.
What has been your most memorable travel snafu? And how did you avoid it later? Not double-checking a country’s most up-to-date entry requirements. Last year, I showed up at the airport to check in for a flight to Canada not realizing that their travel policies had changed since I’d visited the year before. Much to my shock and dismay, the agent advised me that I needed an electronic travel authority (eTA) with my green card to board. Luckily, I had arrived early, so I was able to apply for one online and receive it within 30 minutes or so, but it took a few tries and phone calls as the computer kept freezing. Talk about feeling stressed! Now I check, double-check, and then triple-check before I book anything.
What’s it like traveling as a Jamaican? How are you received? In terms of my encounters and experiences, it’s been nothing short of amazing. I always get so much love when I tell people I am Jamaican! I really didn’t realize the impact our culture has had on the world stage until I saw for myself how foreigners connected with it.
On the logistics side of things, though, I wouldn’t be fully transparent if I didn’t admit that traveling with a Jamaican passport can occasionally be a little frustrating. In some instances, the visa application process for some countries was extremely onerous and/or pricey, and in the past, our relatively limited visa-free access status has impacted my ability to plan multi-country trips or take off spontaneously.
How do you manage to fit so much travel in a busy schedule? Most of my travel has been spread out over many years, but the key is prioritizing it, and utilizing all the free time you can. It also helps to save consistently for your trips.
What advice would you give those wanting to travel (but are short on time and money)? I’d encourage those persons to let go of their perceived barriers or excuses and just do it. If a destination is carefully selected, a four-day weekend trip won’t break the bank and it doesn’t take too much of a time commitment. Take it from me, you can see and do A LOT within that short timeframe. Also, there is a misconception that if you’re not going to “exotic locations,” you are not really traveling. That is SO not true. Any trip outside of your home community is an opportunity to learn and see new things, so I’d encourage them to start there, noting that domestic and regional travel are often more attainable due to lower costs and no visa requirements.
Read more of Thompson’s epic adventures around the world on her Instagram and at her travel blog, MyTravelStamps.com. And check out her exclusive Island Origins guide to traveling in Nevis.