This week we got a chance to catch up with Kristin Henning, a senior travel influencer! After a 30-year career in publishing, Kristin Henning and her husband Tom Bartel shed their last publication, their house, and most of their possessions. In 2010, they gave their dog to their daughter and set out on a journey to see the world. Kris and Tom combine a love of culture with enthusiasm for the outdoors. Their travels vary between long stays in such cultural cities as London, Barcelona, Rome, and Beijing, detours to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and spurts of hiking or biking in Europe, Australia, Asia, or the United States National Parks.
Their blog, TravelPast50.com, aimed at active senior travelers (“for those who’ve been around”), recently won eight awards from the North American Travel Journalists Association.
1. What inspires you to travel? What was the major driving factor behind Travel Past 50?
We’ve always loved to travel. We decided while on our honeymoon that we would quit our respective jobs and travel. That was 40 years ago! In between, we had a career and raised a family. But travel has always been our back-up plan.
Once we started traveling full time in 2010, we naturally wanted to share our experiences through writing and photography. Our blog, travelpast50.com emerged in 2013, and the social media part of our business continues to evolve. (Just this week, Vero takes off!) We love hearing from our readers that we’ve inspired them to travel.
2. What has been your favorite memory on the roads so far?
It’s all those little moments when we realize how lucky we are: when we first visited Spain in 1975 when a glass of wine was six pesetas; when we had an apartment in London, a place in Quito, and others in Santiago, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid. All these places have been home. And top among our favorites was walking the Camino de Santiago, our first active travel experience.
3. Where was your most recent trip?
Unbelievable, but true: Our last trip was to northern Minnesota (our home state) to attend a winter festival in Detroit Lakes. This ‘lake country’ region is perfect for all sorts of summer and winter sports. But it was below zero Fahrenheit while we were there. Still, we drove on a frozen lake, went snowshoeing, and learned about the town’s history of ice harvesting. Our next stop will be northern Sweden, staying with the winter theme.
4. What are the top 3 destinations that stand high on your bucket list and why?
I’m assuming bucket-listed means we haven’t been there yet. Alaska, New Zealand, Sub-Saharan Africa, Ukraine. I could go on….
5. How do you determine where to go next? what kind of places appeal to you?
One things lead to another. We really remain open to opportunities, and we always build extra time around specific itineraries so we can improvise. We’re drawn by places we haven’t visited yet, of course. Otherwise, the appeal can be anything from an historic site to a top-notch museum, to good food and wine. Sunshine helps. Spain is our second home. And we’re always happy hiking in national parks.
6. Let’s talk fashion, what has been your most stylish buy ever and from where?
On one hand, I’ve enjoyed buying from local designers in Minneapolis: everything from a prom dress of hand-painted fabric I bought for my daughter, to a fantastic small convertible clutch purse . While I’m not usually shopping for clothes while I travel, I’ve made some notable exceptions: a felted wool hat from Florence, a cozy Reiss spring coat from London, and a fun hooded coat by Adolfo Dominguez from Madrid. I must have needed extra warmth.
7. Name 3 of your favorite brands for travel clothing!
I wear ExOfficio shirts. A long sleeve shirt, sleeves rolled up or down, is great for flying or hiking or dinner. I always travel with my Mountain Hardware down sweater/jacket (excellent layered, too) and loved my Mountain Hardware pants hiking in Patagonia. My Bernie Mev shoes are light and can be worn in the city or in a hotel gym, or even in the water. At home this time of year I’m usually wearing a Patagonia fleece zip-up hoodie.
8. What are some packing hacks that you swear by?
My “rule of twos.” Don’t pack more than two of any item type. Two pants, two shirts, two shorts, two skirts, two T-shirts, etc. But ignore this rule when it comes to shoes and eyewear! I use small cubes for small items like underwear, socks, bras, and handkerchiefs, and stuff in as much underwear as I can. And I advise keeping to the same arrangement when packing and repacking. This makes it easier to find what you are looking for and also helps avoid forgetting things.
9. What are your 5 must have travel essential items that you can’t step out without?
10. How do you manage to keep your skin healthy and fresh while traveling? What is your everyday beauty routine while travelling?
Moisturizing and sun protection are the most important routines for me. I use mild soap and refining lotion. And I splurge and carry an extra moisturizer while traveling. Sun protection is part of my daily moisturizer and CC cream. If I’m active, I make myself wear a hat for more protection.
11. How do you manage travelling to new places, not knowing their local languages? Share any experience you faced because of communication gap.
The best way to communicate is to try! At least learn “thank you!” After that, pantomime is acceptable.
12. Do you follow travel blogs? If so, name some bloggers that you personally like?
We follow many bloggers and influencers. Lina and Dave at Divergent Travelers are tackling the top 100 adventures around the world; Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler, takes some incredible safari photos; Sherry Ott (Ottsworld) has a ton of content on traveling solo and with her nieces; and Gary Arndt photographs everything everywhere. All of these bloggers are hard-working, a lot of fun, and a wealth of information.
13. How do you afford to travel? What is your daily budget whilst travelling?
First, we sold our house. So, we basically traded our property taxes for life on the road. For a while we did housesitting to extend our travels. Having a long-term rental with kitchen saves lots of money. Over time, we’ve built a business by providing content services–writing, photography and social media. We can do this work from anywhere. We travel with our offices.
14. Is there any travel tip you would like to share with us?
Be open to spontaneous opportunities. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Be patient, It’s all part of the show.
15. Let’s conclude with a few favorites:
Cuisine: Seafood paella and mixed salad, with wine of course
Brand: ExOfficio and Mountain Hardware for travel; Madewell jeans
Outfit: Athleta yoga pants with FreeFly bamboo T-shirts
Adventure sport: Biking