“Travel Stars” is an interview series created to get to know people in the travel industry who are making a difference; writers/influencers, producers, and travel executives.

In this article, we had the joy of interviewing Chris Christensen.

Chris Christensen is a veteran travel blogger and podcaster who has been sharing his travel experiences since 2005. He has won several awards from prestigious organizations like the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). In 2014, Travel+Leisure Magazine named him the “Best Independent Travel Journalist” in their Social Media in Travel + Tourism Awards. Chris provides valuable travel planning content through his Amateur Traveler blog, including tips on how to travel, save money, and where to go. In addition to his passion for travel, Chris is also an accomplished technologist who works as a director of engineering at American Express.

Check out this amazing interview with Chris.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – where are you from? Where did you grow up? Etc.

I grew up in the farming community of Salinas California and have lived in California for most of my life, having spent decades working in Silicon Valley startup companies.

What made you want to be a travel blogger and explore this travel universe?

I started blogging in 2004 about travel, technology, and other things I was interested in. Of course, in those days many blog posts were quite short. In early 2005, I was introduced to podcasting and decided I wanted to have my own show. I thought about a tech show or a religious show but when we had some friends over for a backyard Memorial Day picnic all the best stories were travel stories. The idea for Amateur Traveler was born that day and the podcast launched July 2 of 2005. The show was originally going to be about my travels but I soon discovered I loved talking to other people about their travels which is the main format of the show still today. Over the years I added more and more in-depth blog posts in addition to podcasts. I also added more video and social media. Remember this is more than a year before Twitter tweeted their first tweet or before you could join Facebook and not be a college student.

In the next year, If you could only visit one place for one week, where would it be?

In reality, it would be going to see my grandson, but in the unthinkable case that I could visit only one place I am committed to go to Northern Morocco with listeners of the Amateur Traveler podcast next year.

What are some of the top places you enjoyed visiting the most? Why?

I don’t know… there are many places that I have not enjoyed visiting but certainly places with deep history like Istanbul, Egypt and Greece have been some of my favorites as well as places with amazing natural beauty or wildlife like America’s National Parks, Botswana and the Galapagos.

 Can you share a funny story that happened to you while traveling?

I was sitting at a restaurant in Key Largo in the Florida Keys watching the sunset when I realized that the people behind me seemed to be staring at the back of my t-shirt. I was wearing an Amateur Traveler tour t-shirt from a trip to India (I am always wearing an Amateur Traveler shirt). They had been to India and said they knew many of the place names but not the name of the one smaller town. After I explained that, you pause and think… should I say more. But I explained that it was a trip t-shirt and that I had taken a group of listeners to India. Their faces lit up and they said, they knew Amateur Traveler! They had just listened to the episode on the Florida Keys to plan their trip. That doesn’t happen that often, but it is fun when it does.

We saw you have a very successful podcast. Can you give people 3 essential tips for those who want to start a podcast?
It doesn’t hurt to start early, but if a time machine is not at your disposal I think the most important thing is figuring out what you want to get out of the show and then figure out what your listeners will get out of the show. I have seen fellow podcasters create a show that won’t get them where they want to go. For example, a friend wanted destinations to host him (pay for a trip)… but his show didn’t talk about destinations. Who is your target listener and what do they need. Amateur Traveler, for example, is targeting a North American English speaking traveler. Each episode is a one-week itinerary somewhere in the world that is worth them traveling to.

Where are you planning to travel next? and why?

I am heading to Greece for the TBEX conference next week. This is one of the premier travel blogging conferences. The week before I will be on a 4 cabin catamaran cruising in the Saronic Islands. The use of the boat is being provided by the yacht company so I will talk about this kind of vacation. We are playing for the crew. Not bad work if you can find it.

You have another travel blog only focused on California. Can you tell us the top 3 cities of that US state?

My 3 favorite cities for travelers would probably be San Diego, San Francisco and Monterey… but that’s a hard choice. Also, if you come to California, you need to realize that some of the best of the state isn’t the cities but the 7 National Parks and the amazing California state parks.

Thanks for joining and sharing with us your journey and these valuable tips, Chris!

If you want to know more about Chris, here is where you can find him:

Amateur Traveler Podcast and blog