This traveller ziplined over alligators, swam with whale sharks, and ate guinea pig in Peru. She’s also the Digital Editor of Budget Travel Magazine. Kaeli Conforti kicks ass and we proudly proclaim her our Wanderer of the Week!
What I do when I’m not travelling (aka occupation): As Digital Editor at Budget Travel, I’m usually writing and editing various stories and projects for our website and digital magazine. Otherwise, I’m spending time with my friends and family or playing tourist in NYC. I love to go for walks around the different neighborhoods and stumble upon random and amazing things like movie premieres in Times Square. There’s always something going on somewhere and an energy here that just renews you. I love that.
My next stop: My first trip to California since I was 11. I’ll be spending a few days sightseeing and visiting friends in L.A. before speaking on a panel about budget travel tips at the Women’s Travel Fest in San Francisco.
My wildest and craziest adventure was: Zip-lining over alligators at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park—definitely one of those “Only in Florida” experiences!
Weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten or drank: So far, tasting cuy (guinea pig) during a trip to Peru. It was prepared “the way Grandma used to make it” so we couldn’t say no, and was surprisingly tasty. It reminded me more of dark meat turkey dinner than anything else. Alpaca steak was also pretty good, as was chicha morada, a sweet purple corn-based drink that is popular in Peru.
I’ll never forget that time: I faced one of my biggest fears and went swimming with whale sharks in Mexico. It wasn’t the whale sharks themselves I was afraid of, but the fact that we were in very, very deep water about a two-hour’s boat ride off the coast of Cancun, and I was very concerned about what else might be in the water with us. It took me almost an hour to work up the nerve to jump off the boat. The rest of the group had already gone in and I figured if an eight-year-old boy could do it, so could I. Our guide was very sweet and asked me in Spanish if I was afraid, saying that he would hold my hand the whole time. At the end of the day, I’d made three jumps and it was really cool to see such graceful creatures up close.
Most memorable meal: The last night in Paris during the Contiki London & Paris tour I went on two years ago, where our Trip Manager took us to dinner at Le Bonne Franquette, a popular Montmartre restaurant. We feasted on French onion soup, beef bourguignon, escargot, and delicious French wine while someone played piano music. It felt like I was in a movie and I started geeking out like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris when we were told Ernest Hemingway and Edith Piaf used to hang out there.
One thing on my bucket list is: To drop everything and spend a few months backpacking around Australia and New Zealand visiting friends and picking up odd jobs if I need to.
Three things I always pack: A scarf (versatile enough to serve as a fashion piece, wrap for visiting churches, blanket on the plane, or a quick picnic blanket), a paper map (because I’ve learned the hard way that WiFi isn’t always as reliable as you hope it will be), and a travel-sized bottle of Febreeze (great for spraying your shoes, hiking boots, and jackets along the way).
My travel advice: Never be afraid to travel by yourself. If you are the only one in your group of friends who has the time and money to do it, don’t wait—just go! Sure, it might be a little intimidating at first, but the freedom to have your own adventures is what makes it totally worth it. Everything is up to you—go see whatever you want, whenever you want to, or choose to give yourself the night off and just chill out on the balcony with a glass of wine if you feel like it. If something looks interesting during a solo road trip, go check it out! If ever you feel a little lonely, try sitting at the bar instead of getting your own table, and let the locals come to you. I’ve had some amazing experiences by just playing things by ear and not being afraid to chat up the people around me. You never know what will happen, and you’ll always end up with a great travel story to tell your friends when you get back.