Sophia Habl Mitchell is an environmental consultant living on the northern coast of California. She calls it a good year if she is able to travel out of the country. Her love of travel was sparked in college, when she traveled to Guanajuato, Mexico. Upon returning, she signed up for a Spanish class and started plotting a trip to South America. Since then, her travels have taken her to Japan, New Zealand, India, Austria, Italy, Spain and through many countries in Latin America. She maintains a blog called The Sea Ranch Rambles.
We enjoy learning from others travelers’ adventures. In this “Travel Chat”, Sophia shares some of her travel experiences.
The Jones: What inspires you to travel?
Sophia: Seeing new things and experiencing the world differently is what inspires me to travel. The more I travel, the more I realize we are all a lot more alike than we are different. My husband and I have made it a priority to travel regularly. We forgo the fancy cars, lavish nights out, and expensive electronics in favor of saving our money for trips.
Have you always enjoyed travel? What contributed to your love of travel?
Sophia: Growing up, my parents worked a lot, so we did not take extended trips. Instead, we spent long weekends at a beach house on the Sonoma Coast. That cemented my love of the northern California coast, and is where I current live.
My interest in travel was sparked by a trip to Mexico in college. My friend had family in Mexico and would be spending the summer in the Guanajuato area. She invited me along for part of the tip. From that point, I was hooked. I enrolled in Spanish, changed my college major to geography, considered a semester abroad in Mexico, and started plotting a big South America trip. In grad school I worked at Le Travel Store for extra money. Working there further fueled my interest in travel, particularly related to lower-cost and independent travel. Honestly, I can’t imagine NOT having travel be a part of my life.
What is your favorite destination? Why?
Sophia: Boy, it sure is tough to pick one, but I really enjoyed Chile. From a weather and landscape perspective, it felt very familiar. It really is California’s “mirror”. What impressed me about Chile was the diverse landscapes. From the arid north, to the bustling urban center of Santiago, to the charming Valpariso that clings to the hillside, to the untamed wilderness of Patagonia. I have been to Chile twice and would return in a heartbeat.
What about your hometown? Share your recommendations what we should try to do if we visit.
Sophia: I was lucky enough to grow up in Napa, right in the wine country. My high school was called “Vintage High” and our mascot was a grape crusher. Of course, you never appreciate your home town until you leave. My favorite times in the Napa Valley are spring and fall. In the spring time the mustard is in bloom and it’s a feast for the eyes. In the fall, the vines are turning beautiful shades of orange and gold, it’s just stunning.
I always remind people to make sure you take some time to enjoy the beautiful natural offerings of the valley and don’t spend all your time in the tasting room. Put together a gourmet picnic and go for a little hike, or rent a bike and pedal on Silverado Trail, or rent a kayak and float on the Napa River.
What destination has surprised you the most, either good or bad?
Sophia: Our visit to India was the most surprising, for sure. It was a total overload to the senses and the only country I visited where it felt like “work” to travel. I also got pretty sick while I was there too. I thought I had earned my travel chops on my big South American trip, but visiting India took the adventure of travel to a whole new level.
From your travels, do you have a practice or insight that makes your travel experiences more enjoyable?
No matter where I travel to, I always try to pack light. It’s much easier to have a good time and be nimble on the road and navigate public transit if you are not bogged down with tons of luggage. I am to the point where I travel with a convertible travel pack that meets carry-on size requirements and a small day bag. This means I can usually avoid checking my bag and I don’t have to worry about lost luggage or delays at the baggage carousel. I recently wrote a blog post about what I packed for a two-week trip to Spain.
Something else I enjoy doing is trying to read a book that is set in a place where I am traveling. For example, on our recent trip to Spain, I read The Shadow of the Wind while I was in Barcelona. It was fun to read a story that used street names just blocks from where we were staying.
Read More Traveler Interviews:
- “To travel is to see new things…sort of like eye candy.” A Travel Chat with an Illustrator
- “I never knew I could enjoy life so much without electricity …” A Travel Chat with a southeastern Missouri Attorney.
- “Travel means letting go and getting outside of your normal, stressful life.” A Travel Chat with a Lifestyle Coach.
- “When I travel, my camera is with me all day.” A Travel Chat with an Art Photographer.