Where do we begin? Mary Cecchini has been a colleague, mentor, inspiration and most importantly a dear friend to all of us at Soda Pop PR for many years. How could you not love a girl who makes it a point to create a life bucket list and cross off everything on it?
In September 2014, Mary launched Living Big, a travel company dedicated to crafting unique trips for small groups of women who have a passion to see the world, make new friends and indulge in new experiences. Her inaugural Living Big trip was to Costa Rica where she led a group of nine women zip lining through the jungle, trekking through mountains, cooking traditional Costa Rican cuisine and more. We highly recommend visiting her site to learn more about upcoming adventures including Switzerland in June and Spain in August.
We asked Mary to share some of her holiday and international travel advice in our latest 5 Questions Series. Enjoy!
1. If you could travel anywhere in the world for New Year’s Eve where would you go and why?
New Year’s Eve is always a really reflective time for me. I use the holiday to reflect on successes and learnings from the past year and an opportunity to plan adventures for the year to come. So, I generally look for a quiet place to be among friends with delicious food and drinks to ring in the New Year. That being said, I’ll hop on a plane any day to ring in the New Year with either a glass of raki in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey; yoga at sunrise on the beach in Nosara, Costa Rica; a small café in Paris overlooking the Eiffel Tower, or listening to a Spanish guitarist while sipping sangria and snacking on pintxos in San Sebastian, Spain.
2. What’s one piece of advice you would give travelers to prepare for holiday and winter travel?
If winter weather has delayed or is likely to cancel your flight, be proactive in finding solutions for yourself. Rather than just wait in line with everyone else to get help from the ticketing agent be prepared to jump on the phone or start an online chat with your airline’s customer service department to get help. They can often help you faster than the ticketing agent at the counter. Ask about alternative cities you can fly through to reach your final destination. And if you’re in this situation, don’t even attempt to check luggage. The likelihood of your luggage making all your connections, especially last minute ones, is pretty low when crazy winter weather is in the mix!
3. What is the best way to fight jetlag?
The best way to fight jetlag is to get your body accustomed to the local time as soon as possible. The classic example is it’s 9AM and you just landed in Europe. DO NOT try to take a nap and then wake back up. That’s a great band-aid, but what you’re really doing is prolonging the affects of jetlag. Have a plan to keep yourself awake: drop your bags at your hotel and then go on a guided walking tour, create an experience that you’re really looking forward to (and will keep you stimulated) such as a trek to the top three spots in the city to try an Irish Coffee. And when the time comes to fall asleep (when you know you’ll sleep through the night) set your alarm so you wake up the next morning at 8AM. You’ll be spry and awake (like a local) in no time.
4. What is one hidden gem destination you’ve come across throughout your travels?
Built onto the side of the mountains 5,000 feet up is a small rösti house called Berggasthaus Aescher Guesthouse. In the Appenzell region of Switzerland, this place is unlike any corner of the world I’ve visited. It’s an epic journey to get there, full of trains, cable car lifts, hiking along the edge of a cliff, through a cave and past a 400 year-old church used by hermit monks; but once you’re there the warmth of owners Claudia and Benny, the amazing mountain views and their out of this world rösti (a traditional Swiss potato dish) will make the journey worth your while.
5. Any tips on how to find a local favorite or undiscovered restaurant in a new city?
Hands-down: talk to locals. I’ll often ask the hotel concierge or my airbnb host if there are ‘must-eat’ restaurants in the city that require advanced reservations. Also, spend some time reviewing the international message boards on Chowhound.com. Once I’m in the city I’ll ask people I meet at the local coffee shop or tour guides for their go-to place to try the local specialty. And as you walk around pay attention to restaurants that are full of locals vs. tourists. Always ask for the house specialty. Walk well beyond the core tourist area. And please, skip restaurants that have menus with pictures and don’t be afraid of menus that aren’t in English. With a combination of these tips you’re likely to experience an undiscovered corner of the city and a meal you’ll remember for years to come.