Travel Insider: Cassandra Santoro
As part of our ‘travel insiders’ interview series, we draw inspiration from the famous Proust Questionnaire, where we will regularly share our own Q&A with women who either work in the industry or are serial travelers. Here we can all get some tips as well as some inspiration for a new adventure. This week we chat with Travel Italian Style founder & CEO Cassandra Santoro.
I was first introduced to Cassandra through her business – Travel Italian Style – which provides custom vacations and tours throughout Italy, and I have been dreaming about returning to the beautiful country ever since. As a New Yorker, an Italian, and an avid traveler, Cassandra Santoro founded her business with the care and dedication of someone who really loves both her country and travel – it feels fun & personal, and her positive energy is infectious! As CEO, she provides personal trip planning and acts as (luxury) tour operator for small groups of fellow female travelers. Cassandra is an expert in slow-travel and authentic experiences throughout Italy, so be sure to visit her website and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram. (*Images provided by Travel Italian Style)
Q: Where was the last Country you visited?
I have been living in Italy for the past 5 months. However, I also just made my first visit to Sweden in July and it was fabulous.
Q: Who or what inspires you to travel?
I am inspired to travel for the very notion of the unexpected. I love the feeling of experiencing both something new and something familiar. For example, when I travel throughout Italy, I love the idea of reconnecting with friends, the food and culture. On the contrary, when I experience new cities throughout Italy or even a new country, I LOVE the feeling of being awed by the beauty and new experiences. To me, it brings me back to life and inspires creativity!
Q: What was a particularly memorable destination or cultural experience?
My first visit to Sicily was so wonderful for the fact that this is where my grandparents were born. I also really enjoyed my recent visit to Stockholm, Sweden. It was the perfect mix of European culture with a hint of the American lifestyle. The food, the sights, the (summer) midnight sun and overall experience was just amazing–I look forward to returning.
Q: Do you have any favorite hotels and/or airline routes?
I am always a fan of luxury B & B’s while traveling! In regards to airlines, my current favorite is SWISS Air. They are consistently on time and offer great service for Economy. Plus, they give free chocolate—can you ask for more?
Q: Where do you go to for recommendations, to research a destination?
Does social media have an influence? While searching for destinations I always check the original publications for
travel, such as Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast, this is important to be as an industry professional. However, instead of the magazine I often first visit their Instagram and recent Facebook articles. I also am a believer in travel blogs. I love seeing what my fellow writers and friends experienced on their recent travels or what is on their upcoming agenda. Being in the industry, I am lucky enough to have crossed paths with many of these people, especially other women solo travelers. I know I will get honest feedback with insider tips on authentic and safe travel.
Q: What is one fashion accessory or outfit you always pack? Any
additional packing tips?
While it may not come as a shocker to many women, I always pack a shawl or scarf. It doesn’t matter where or when you visit a city around the world, you can always use one, especially on the plane. I also always bring along a mini bottle of Febreeze and natural ginger pills. Febreeze has been a quick, easy trick in keeping my clothes and bag fresh! I love having natural ginger on hand in case of motion sickness, upset stomach or even just to get a quick dose of vitamins A, C, and E! For additional packing tips I always say keep it simple, bring only what you use on a daily basis.
Q. What destination(s) is still on your bucket list?
My next destination is Portugal. It has been on my bucket list and I have decided that 2017 is the year!
Q: What advice would you give to would-be solo travelers to encourage an adventure?
In my last Huffington Post article, I spoke about this very topic. When it comes to travel, especially as women, many of us have the same worries such as taking care of others in our life or not having enough money or time. I believe travel is important to keep use mentally, spiritually and psychically healthy. As women we need to make time for ourselves, if travel makes you happy then this should priority. You will be a stronger person by following your own heart and passion. Travel can be the change we need, the inspiration to bring us to the next level, and the therapy that will balance our minds and body.
Q. Finally, what is your travel motto?
When asked about my travel motto, I often refer to these two quotes:
‘Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.’ ~ Miriam Beard
“Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” ~ Bob Goff
Overall, solo travel has and continues to change my life. Every major change that has occurred has been as a result from taking the chance to explore on my own. I am happier, more inspired and always evolving. So, if travel is on your agenda, this is your sign to get out there, especially if you are considering doing it on your own. It may just be what you need to change you need!