Abby Tegnelia was a bona fide workaholic until losing her job in October 2008. A life-long traveler, she soon went whale-watching in Mexico, spent a month in Borneo and traveled for a few weeks in Europe before taking the plunge and moving to Costa Rica. As unexpected as her original pink slip, an email asking her to move back to Las Vegas turned her life upside down once again. Now the editor-in-chief of Vegas magazine, Abby fits in travel whenever she can, having visited Napa, Manchester, New York, Miami, Buenos Aires, Uruguay and more in the year since she’s been back. Follow her adventures on the road and in exciting Vegas on The Jungle Princess and Twitter.
Cheapflights: How did you get into travel writing and journalism?
Abby Tegnelia: I declared my love of journalism in kindergarten and became addicted to traveling in junior high, when I talked my parents into letting me join a senior trip to London and Paris. But even though I’ve made my living as a journalist for more than 10 years and traveled my entire life, I’ve never really done “travel journalism.” The way I see it, I make a living writing and reporting, a lifestyle that lets me travel and now blog about it. But actually writing about my travels is a hobby. So far, I’ve enjoyed not having the pressure of making money off of doing what I love. Maybe someday though!
CF: Do you recommend using guided tours at a new destination? Did you do these when you first got to Costa Rica?
AT: Guided tours are definitely a resource that need to be considered more. The dreaded bus tour used to make my skin crawl, but now I always do one in big cities. In one day, you can see all of the “tourist-y” sites, and then spend the rest of the time wandering, which is what I like to do. Most aren’t even too structured – if you want to stay at one place longer, catch the next bus. You don’t have to stay with your group. This spring I took a guided walking tour in Buenos Aires that was a highlight of my trip.
Day tours aside, I’ve never been one to do any kind of all-inclusive or a trip where you stay three days here and three days there. They’re a great idea for travelers who want to see a lot, or who are in that country for the first and only time. I prefer slower travel, so I feel no rush – but that’s just my personality!
No, I never did any tours in Costa Rica. I moved there because I was broke after losing my job. Touring was the last thing on my mind! Part of me wants to go back and see the more popular places that I never made it to, but I saw so much living there as a “local” that I’ve never regretted anything. Those experiences were special and can’t be repeated on a tour. Maybe someday I’ll book a Costa Rica tour and finally make it to the infamous beaches of Manuel Antonio!
CF: Do you have a routine for staying healthy when you travel?
AT: I tend to eat fewer vegetables while traveling, so I always have Spirulina or veggie capsules from Juice Plus – something to get my greens in. My toiletry bag always has fiber, to help my stomach digest all the fun new foods it’s not used to – and fish oil, because my eyes and skin always get so dry, especially on airplanes. I always carry a box of granola bars so I don’t feel like I have to start my day with a huge time-sucking breakfast. There are so many tips and tricks out there, but for the most part, I enjoy my trip and hit the gym extra hard when I get back.
CF: Is there a destination that without fail (barring floods and famine) you visit regularly?
AT: Great question! No, there’s really not. It’s always been dependent on where I’m living. When I lived in New York, I went to Spain every year. From Costa Rica, I took many trips to Nicaragua. Now it looks like I’ll be going to Napa frequently. Almost all of my friends live in New York, so I would say I go there most often. I love that city so much – the excitement, the charm. I always assumed I’d move back, but now I think it’s turning more into “that” place I always visit. I’m quite used to the slower pace of life out west!
CF: Of the airports you’ve passed through – Stateside and abroad – which is the most convenient?
AT: I was very impressed with Singapore’s airport. When I visited, I remember there was candy as they checked my passport – and there was no line! During an overnight layover on a separate trip, everything was open 24 hours. In the US, airports often shut down at 9pm. Nothing is worse than getting off a late flight where they fed you nothing to find that your arrival airport is completely dark already.
CF: What’s your routine before you fly?
AT: The bag I fly with stays packed at all times. It contains my watch, ugly plane sweater, earphones and travel-sized toiletries. Those go in the same compartment as my laptop, so I have to open only one zipper at security. I hang all of my clothes on two feather-light hangers and cover them with a plastic cover from the dry cleaners. I am a super-light packer and can literally pack for any trip in record time. I also wear the same black tank top, leggings and flats every time I fly.
CF: How do you recommend anxious travelers stretch their comfort zone?
AT: Research. Find someone who’s like you and has done a similar trip. With all the bloggers out there now, there’s bound to be an essay or two out there that lets you know that you can do it, too.
CF: How do you deal with a difficult seatmate?
AT: I have to sit in aisle seats for this very reason, so I can get up and take a break whenever I want. I’m also not shy about elbowing someone off an armrest if they’re invading my space!
CF: How do you discover local or off-the-beaten-path places?
AT: Stay longer. I love weekend getaways, but if you’re a person who loves those local spots, you should plan on not doing a rush trip. Reach out to expats who live there; they’re a great resource. Also, try not to just check places off a list. Go back to the same place again – each time, you’ll find more and more local places.
CF: How do you get around a new country if you don’t speak the language?
AT: Smile! And learn to talk with your hands. People will help you if you’re nice. When it comes to tourist activities, I always track down the closest five-star hotel and visit their concierge. I’ve booked so many bus tours and weekend trips by walking from my hostel or cheap apartment rental to the nearby Ritz Carlton, which people seem to understand in any language!
Cheapflights is proud to have guest voices express their opinions. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheapflights Media (USA) Inc.