Experts + Insiders:
“I have to give that credit to my dad. He was big on taking us on road trips as kids,” says B&R guide-turned-Trip Designer Christina Cain, in explaining where she got the travel bug.
“I can’t remember if it was his bravery for bringing three teenagers to New York City or to Tijuana, Mexico that actually did it for me, but either way the seed was planted early on.”
With her love of travel well entrenched, she embarked on a life spent on the road, which is where B&R first crossed paths with her in Cortona, Italy.
“I remember after my interview being so curious about the people working for the company and how everyone seemed unique, well-travelled and all-around fun,” she says.
In other words, she fits right in. And having spent the past decade leading and researching trips as one of our “unique, well-travelled and all-around fun” guides, she’s once again found herself the perfect fit for B&R’s growing team, this time as one of the expert Experience Designers.
Years in Travel Business: 9
Years with B&R: 8
Countries/Regions of Expertise: Italy
Countries Visited: India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Austria, France, Hungary, Holland, Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, Morocco, Kenya, Chile
Countries Lived In: Italy, Kenya, U.S. (Hawaii) and Canary Islands as of July 2014
Trips Guided: 70(ish)
Q&A with Christina:
What’s your preferred method for immersing yourself in a country or region?
I think the best thing is to learn as much as possible about the place before you go. People all over the world are impressed when a foreigner knows about what’s going on in their country. It makes for a good icebreaker and a way to chat with the locals. (Ed. Note: If only there were a blog that could help you do that…) Definitely learning the basics in the language is ideal. People appreciate the effort.
What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? (I know, I know, but try to narrow it down to one!)
I’d have to say solo travelling through India. I’ve made two big trips to India, each one about six months long. The second time I went solo to study music and I must say this country changes you in so many ways. One could spend a lifetime travelling through this fascinating country.
What’s a destination you haven’t visited, but would love to see?
Brazil. Looks amazing, with a little bit of everything. The music, the culture, the food, history, the Amazon, the beaches…I know way too many fun Brazilians to not have gone yet.
In your opinion, what are some of the world’s most underrated destinations?
Le Marche, Italy is definitely one. After living there for five years I discovered loads of amazing spots in this region that boasts mountains, rolling vineyard countryside, beautiful coastline and charming little hilltop towns.
Dharamsala, India is another. Known almost solely because of the Dalai Lama’s residence and the headquarters of Central Tibet’s administration, this beautiful town sits at the foothills of the Himalayas and when the Dalai Lama is not present, the place falls empty—making it a trekker’s dream.
You’ve guided 70 trips for B&R and have travelled extensively in your personal life. What’s the best thing that ever happened to you while travelling?
The best thing that continues to happen to me while travelling is the open hospitality of people no matter what country you are in. If you are open to it, people can be surprisingly welcoming to a stranger.
And in all your travels, what memory leaps out as one you’ll never forget?
I will never forget backpacking in Morocco with some friends many years ago. I became sick and our local guide brought me to his family’s house. I stayed there for several days while his family took care of me. When I was better, we all celebrated with a family meal; to my surprise, my new friend’s grandmother was feeding me with her hands! True hospitality.
Favourite trip you’ve ever designed?
I’m working on a fun one now that’s different in that it’s over the Christmas holidays in Tuscany. An extended family looking to celebrate the holidays and see Italy in its quiet, unique beauty in wintertime.
Favourite hotel in the world?
Six Sense Ninh Van Bay in Vietnam is a fun one. I love the isolation, using a bike to get around on the property, the personal pools for each bungalow, the personal butlers and the beautiful scenery.
Favourite restaurant in the world?
I’m a big fan of the simple, local food spots. One that comes to mind is in Nha Trang, Vietnam. They literally pull up plastic seats and a grill on the sidewalk and cook up the freshest catch right in front of you. It’s the simplest thing sitting on the sidewalk watching the world go by like the locals do, but it’s meals like this that stay in my memory.
Favourite bar/wine bar/watering hole in the world?
I love little old enotecas (wine bars). One of my favourites is in Le Marche and is run by the local Sommelier association. It’s like stepping into a library of wine from the region. I also love the small old-style ones you find in the south of Italy where you can sit outside on the piazza and enjoy a glass of wine and people-watch.
Favourite bottle of wine?
Depends on the season. When it’s cold outside, I love a good Barbaresco from Piemonte . In the summer, I love a crisp white from the Südtirol and Alto Adige region in northern Italy, or a Rosato from the Salento in Puglia.
Do you have a favourite travel quote, mantra or words to live by?
“Go with the flow” is the first. Be open, invite conversation, notice things.
Someone has just landed in a country they’ve never been to, where they don’t speak the language. What’s your number one piece of advice for them?
Enjoy, turn off your cell phone, live in the moment.
And finally, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen or done while on a trip?
Ah man, you can’t ask that! You know the golden rule: what happens on a trip stays on trip. (Ed. Note: I get that a lot, but I keep asking. Tough crowd, these guides turned Trip Designers.)