Rick Griffin and Sandi McKenna are the co-hosts of Midlife Road Trip, and they’re seasoned travelers who bring the unknown travel world to their followers. Rick and Sandi met through the Twitter travel community years ago, and they’ve been spreading the joy of travel online since then! Strong believers in the “cure-all” effect of travel, Rick and Sandi came by to give our readers some “plane and simple” travel advice coupled with their outrageous travel stories!
Maximizing One’s Travel Experience
How does one find the best travel experience?
Sandi: Networking. Networking, and asking other people. Watching what’s on Facebook, where did your friends go? Stepping out of your comfort zone. I think that is a skill that anyone who wants to travel has to learn. I’ve learned a lot of things from Rick, that’s one of the biggest things he taught me. How to be flexible. After a decade, I don’t really get worked out. There are gonna be delays, flight cancellations where you have to sleep by a chair. How do you take that experience and turn it into something positive.
We also just recently stayed at an airport hotel, and I had never stayed in Dallas. It took me ten minutes to get off the plane and into my room. I would have never considered it before. The convenience of it. Look beyond what your expectations are.
Rick: It has more to do with your state of mind than where you go or where you stay. If you have a real super tight schedule, you miss the next appointment. Go with the flow and leave some moments for spontaneity. Whatever happens is all part of the adventure, part of the story we tell.
What would you tell someone who wants to travel but doesn’t feel like they can because of money/work conflicts?
Rick: I think that travel is the best gift you can give yourself, and you need to make it a priority. Things that you purchase, cars, TVs, they have a limited shelf life. Travel, your memories last forever. It’s a matter of making it a priority. It’s not as expensive as some people think it is.
Sandi: It’s simple planning. If you don’t have a lot of money, start small. Maybe a long weekend away. Once the travel bug bites, you’ll get creative. You’ll cut those other things out in order to travel. Back in NY, people weren’t extravagant with the way they traveled. We would go to LGA or JFK and watch the planes come in and talk about where we would go. I didn’t even have to go anywhere to get the travel bug. As I got older, I made it a priority.
What is the biggest travel misconception you run into?
Rick: Travel is too expensive. You’d be surprised with research and a little bit of budgeting. Go in the off season instead of peak season. A lot of times, it’s a better experience because places are crowded during peak seasons.
Sandi: I agree with Rick, it’s far more affordable than it used to be. The other thing is that travel isn’t safe. Nobody is more fearful than I am, but I wouldn’t let my fear prevent me from going places. I just don’t want anybody to feel like travel is unsafe. There are a lot of places you can go. I was really leery about going overseas by myself, but I’ve got to tell you it’s so liberating. You have to stand on your feet, but you don’t realize what you can do when you’re by yourself. People are genuinely nice. You have to be cautious, but you have to do that anywhere. You don’t walk around with your phone out. It doesn’t matter if I’m in my parking lot or a foreign country.
Who do you look up to in the travel industry?
Rick: Some of the brands just make their customer experiences, like Viking Cruises, Signature Travel, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, I really look up to. They seem to really understand the customer.
Sandi: Brands that really recognize the consumer. That’s a good thing where social media has come in. People that share my interest, but they use social media and use their voice with integrity. Jean Newman Glock, someone I really admire, she’s a master storyteller. She has beautiful, colorful photos and they capture the essence of what travel is not just for her but for me. She inspires me to want to travel. Those are the kinds of people I like to follow and that inspire me based on their social posts. There are a lot of people that post socially, the family bloggers, the fashion and beauty travelers and foodies but I try to find people that travel the way I like to travel.
Food: The Most Important Part
What is a food that you didn’t think you would like but you did?
Rick: we had breakfast in an hotel in Tahiti. It was raw fish and coconut milk and lime and tomatoes and it didn’t look that good but I kept seeing people coming for seconds and thirds. And I loved it. I tried to make it at home, but I wouldn’t have eaten it if I hadn’t see it. It was for breakfast.
Sandi: A couple of things come to mind. Macaroons. In France I had a vanilla truffle…The other thing I tried that I never thought I would like is muesli. I had it in Viking Cruises I looked forward to it. Now, I’ve changed. Try things you don’t think you’ll like.
What is a food you want to try?
Rick: Thai food in Thailand. I love Thai food here and I hear it’s even better there.
Sandi: I love curry, so curry in India. Dim sum in Hong Kong, pho in Vietnam. We have this huge long list of things we want to eat wherever we go. We try to eat something authentic wherever we go, in the deep south, biscuits and gravy or shrimp and grits (of which Rick is a connoisseur). Deep dish in Chicago or pizza in Naples.
What is so important about food in your travel experience?
Rick: I think food is the best way to experience the culture of whatever place you’re visiting. It’s the best way to have that authentic experience.
Sandi: Food is my travel experience. It’s how I remember a place. I can remember what I ate five years ago, and I can’ remember what it tastes. I have recipes from all the places we’ve been so I can recreate that experience at home. I’ll ask the chef for the recipe so I can come home.
The Inside Scoop on Destinations
Top three destinations you want to travel to?
Rick: Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia.
Sandi: I wanna do Great Britain Islands, Scotland, to follow my ancestors; the Nordic countries and Southeast Asia.
What is the most underrated place that you’ve been?
Rick: For me I would say Portugal. It has all the charm of Europe and nothing is overrun with tourists. It’s Europe best kept secret and it seems to be a little less expensive than a lot of Europe.
Sandi: As far as a European country, I love Croatia. Rick said that’s like Italy-lite. Less expensive, less touristy. At the time, a couple years back it was wonderful. The other place is small-town USA. You can have a really affordable amazing vacation visiting any.
What are your carry-on must-haves?
Rick: Cash, camera, and a corkscrew.
Sandi: Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, a bottle of water, and noise canceling headphones.
What is your biggest airplane pet peeve?
Rick: Boarding the airplane. They’ll call up every group of people in the world: handicap veterans, priority elite, gold members, everyone but about 15 people. Then it’s finally zone 1. It’s a free for all!
Sandi: That doesn’t work for me. Because I’m a fearful flier, I’m neurotic about where I sit. If I’m on a plane where I cant get a seat I want, I’m gonna panic the whole time. Keep your shoes and socks on. Don’t have your feet encroaching on my plane. Smelly food! Do not bring bowl of hot smelly chili onto the plane. I don’t want that smelly food on the plane.
And the middle seat, even though I rarely get a middle seat. It’s punishment enough to get the middle seat. It should be common courtesy to give them the middle seat. Just be kind. Be kind to your fellow passengers. Be kind to the flight attendants. My real pet peeve is if the seat belt sign is on, sit in your seat.
What is the sweetest thing you saw at the airport?
Rick: I don’t know if it’s necessarily sweet, but I saw a group of soldiers getting on board. This couple, man and wife, gave up their seats. By the end of it, everyone in First Class had given up their seats.
Sandi: I agree with Rick, one of the sweetest thing is with our military men–how genuinely respectful and kind people are, giving up their seats to them. It’s just we forget the sacrifice people are making, and when you’re in an airplane thinking about ow these soldiers coming home. It makes an aggravating flight much more agreeable. It’s also touching when you see a mom struggling with a bag and somebody is helping her. Or when a baby cries and people don’t get upset.
*Interview edited for grammar, length, and clarity.