Name: Keisha Senter
City/Country: New York, NY/ USA
Occupation: Associate Director, President’s Office at the Rockefeller Foundation
Passport Stamps: Brazil, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, England, Germany, Haiti, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland…
1. My best travel memory so far: I’ve been blessed to have a number of amazing experiences over the years so it’s hard to narrow down the list. I would have to say hiking about two miles over uneven volcanic rock and gas tunnels to be one of the very few people who have descended into an Icelandic volcano is very high on the list. While in Reykjavik, I signed up for a tour to Thrihnukagigur or “Three Peaks” a volcano that has been dormant for about 4,000 years. It wasn’t until on the hour long bus ride outside of Reykjavik that I learned that this was the first volcano ever to be opened commercially worldwide, our little bus of 15 people would make the second or third group to descend since the tour opened about three months prior, and typically volcanoes are considered inactive after 10,000 years without an eruption which meant Three Peaks had 6,000 more years to go! Immediately, I started texting my family back home to let them know I probably made a decision that most wouldn’t have made had they read the fine print. It turned out to be an experience that was so magnificent and abstruse that photos and words do it very little justice. Everything about the experience felt like an encounter with God–the hike to Thrihnukagigur over thousand year-old rocks, the majestic terrain, my fellow adventurous (possibly crazy) group members, and the inside of the volcano filled with the brightest reds and golds and the deepest blacks and blues that I’ve ever seen. For about an hour we played in the belly of Three Peaks. We climbed, explored crevices, mediated, prayed, yelled, laughed and took many pictures. Iceland is definitely high on my list of recommendations and if they are still offering this opportunity, I highly suggest trying it out. You won’t regret it.
2. Favorite Hotel & Why: I am a points and miles freak so I tend to fly One World when possible and stay at Marriott brand hotels so I can accumulate more points. However, I have stayed at some pretty fun hotels. The Peninsula in Beijing was really enjoyable and Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel in London was as well. As long as it’s modern, clean, has stellar service and an amazing bed I can manage.
3. My must-haves on any flight are: A killer movie selection. I’ve been known to shave eight hours off a 14 hour flight by catching up on my must-see list. A window seat. A quiet neighbor. I don’t mind chatting for a few minutes, but talking all the way over the Atlantic and parts of Europe is torturous and cuts into my movie time (see first must-have). Good reading material on my iPad—after I’ve watched every decent movie being offered. A delicious glass of champagne or wine is also the best way to start a long trip or short one!
4. When I’m on the road, I absolutely hate: Two things: checking luggage and traveling with people who are closed minded and disrespectful of the local cultural norms.
I pride myself on the fact that I can most likely get everything I need in a carry-on. Utilizing the hotel laundry service, mixing up my clothes and only packing what I need saves time on the front and back end of my trip and ensures that my luggage and I will arrive to our destination at the same time. As much as I love my fellow Americans, I’ve been with folks who make me cringe when they are upset that they can’t have it in Rio like they have it in Houston. Suck it up, be respectful and learn to adapt to a different environment.
5. My dream destination or vacation: The Maldives. It looks absolutely amazing. When I studied in Ireland, my former classmate was from the Maldives and she carried a little book that she created called “The Maldives for Dummies” because very few people knew anything about her small, yet beautiful homeland, myself-included. I fell in love with the pictures of the people and the islands as I thumbed through her creation and decided that the Maldives will be where I honeymoon.
6. The three things I can’t travel without: 1) My iPhone. The Google translate app was a life saver when I lost my bank card in Beijing. 2) My journal. I’m old fashioned and I enjoy a good pen and nice leather journal. I don’t take being able to visit all of these amazing places lightly so whether working or playing, I always find a quiet moment to mediate and document my gratitude, emotions and thoughts in real time. 3) Something that makes my hotel room feel familiar and cozy. I often like to grab a scented candle to burn, some nice flowers, or a bottle of wine. All three are a staple at home in NYC and can be quite comforting to have in my home away from home.
7. Top lesson learned while traveling: Don’t be afraid to travel alone. Someone else in this series said it beautifully: having a passport is a privilege not a right and one should be thankful for the ability, flexibility and means to be able to explore and learn about other places around the world. If you can travel do it. Don’t wait until you have a boyfriend or girlfriend to travel with. Don’t wait until you can plan the perfect trip. Just go. Start small if you have to, but get out there and explore. My profession requires me to travel very frequently and often at the last minute, so friends aren’t always able to buy a ticket to Kenya with a week’s notice, but that doesn’t stop me from scheduling an extra day or two to explore the city or country.
As a woman, I try to always be vigilant and have the presence of mind not to do anything that will put me in harm’s way, but I don’t let the fact that I will have to hike to the volcanoes in Reykjavik, feed the giraffes in Nairobi, watch the sun rise over the beach in Punta Cana or learn about Hamburg’s infamous red light district all alone stop me from stepping out there!
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