In this month’s Frequent Flier Sound Off, we feature an amazing woman, Claudine Nicaisse, who achieved an amazing goal of taking one international trip per month. This is her story.
Name: Claudine Nicaisse
Location: New York
Occupation: Director, Operations Internal Audit
Number of Countries Visited: 36
Last Country Visited: Currently in Spain
What is your favorite country you have visited and why?
My favorite country is actually a wonderful Caribbean island called St. Maarten. I love the authenticity and calmness of the French side while I like to enjoy the energy on the Dutch side of the island. I’m a beach girl and the beaches there are absolutely gorgeous. It is the only country I have visited repeatedly every year for the last seven years.
What is your least favorite country you have visited and why?
A few months ago, I would have said Egypt was my least favorite. And that was more so because of the experience my daughter and I had when we visited. It was just my then 14-year-old and me on the trip. We had to endure fending off some very aggressive men on more than one occasion. I paid for a guide to accompany us during our entire stay but he was ineffective and that soured our experience. However, we enjoyed seeing the pyramids and all the history of this ancient country. I’m glad I was able to take my daughter there and was okay with not returning. But as it turned out, a large group of my friends have booked a luxury trip to visit Egypt with an upscale travel group and I have decided to join them. I’m not taking my daughter on this trip, but I’m hoping being there with my friends and a large group will be a better experience.
What countries are on the itinerary for this year?
This year, I’m trying to scale back a bit with traveling. I’m currently in Spain and will be heading to Morocco in a few days. I’ll be heading to Turkey and India for Holi in March. I just purchased an awesome deal to South Korea and China for my daughter and I to celebrate my 40th in August. Then, I have Egypt in November.
When did you start traveling? Did it start at an early age for you?
I took my first flight out of the country with my parents when I was seven. We went to visit my family’s home country of Haiti. After that, my family trips consisted of a two hour drive to NJ to visit family. I started traveling again in college when I did a spring break trip to Cancun, Mexico. I have kept going since.
Why do you travel? What is your personal reason for traveling?
Ever since I was little, I remember always wanting to travel and see the world. I also had a fascination with moving/living abroad. Traveling is cathartic for me. I have been in fairly high demanding (and pretty stressful) jobs for the last 15 years. I realized that when I travel is when I feel at ease. I’m able to enjoy the moment and just being here (there). Even more so, is being able to enjoy the time away with my daughter. Between my schedule and my daughter’s, we are always on the go at home. Being away, we not only get to see the world together but we can let go of everything back home and just be.
Why do you believe it’s important for others to travel and see the world?
Not everyone has a desire to travel, and I actually think that’s okay. What makes me happy and at ease won’t work for everyone. However, for anyone that wants to broaden their perspective, experience other cultures, and the beauty of the world, they must travel. You can’t truly appreciate all of the wonders of the world by reading it from a book or the Internet. It’s just not the same as experiencing it with all your senses.
You are a parent. When did you start traveling with your daughter? How do you manage traveling with a family?
I am a single mother to a 15-year-old young lady. I started traveling with my daughter since she was one. Our very first trip together was to Chicago. She actually took her first steps in Chicago. 🙂
Since then, I booked at least one trip a year with my daughter. Back then, I had two jobs barely making over minimum wage for each, I received government assistance for food for my daughter, and I was going to college. It was difficult but my desire to travel never waivered. Our initial trips were small to various states around the U.S., then at age of 4, we started venturing out internationally as I became more financially stable. I lived a modest lifestyle and saved in order for us to take our yearly trip. As I grew into my career and learned of all the various ways to go on budget trips, we increased our travel.
What is your advice and recommendations for parents, including single parents, who think travel is out of their reach?
Simply put, traveling is not out of reach. There is so much information out there on finding flight deals, traveling on a budget, learning how to save for travel that really anyone can do it. I can say that I put in the effort to ensure that I am creating a great experience for my daughter and myself without breaking the bank. I set a budget, save, and align my priorities to travel. For example, I am driving a 13-year-old car. I can afford to buy a brand new car but I choose not to because I value being able to travel freely with my daughter more than driving a new or luxury car.
This year you achieved a major travel milestone and goal. Tell us about your goal and how you did it? What are some past travel goals that you have set?
My initial goal for last year was to travel to a brand new international destination each month that I haven’t visited prior. Early on in the year, I knew I would not be able to successfully accomplish that goal. So, instead I decided to make my goal to just travel internationally each month.
I was lucky in finding several flight deals. I booked my trip to Kenya for $240. My trip to Egypt with my daughter was under $1000 for the both of us. I even had a flight to Dubai for $190. All of this helped me to be able to afford to travel internationally each month. I also work for a pretty good company that gives me substantial Paid Time Off. I paired some trips over long weekend holidays to limit the number of days I would be out of the office.
Some past travel goals, were to visit a Asian country, travel internationally at least once each quarter, complete an adventure activity with each trip abroad, perform some form of service/donation abroad, etc., all of which I have completed. One of my new goals is to check off visiting all of the 7 New World Wonders. I have visited two thus far. This year, I have scheduled to visit two more and I’m hoping I can cross off the final three in 2017.
So in doing one international trip per month, break down your 2015 travel itinerary. Let us know where all you went each month.
Well, here goes:
January – Panama
February – Egypt
March – Kenya & Netherlands
April – St. Maarten
May – Denmark & France
June – United Kingdom
July – Puerto Rico (not really international but I’m counting it anyway)
August – Iceland
September – Cayman Islands
October – Mexico
November – Colombia
December – Brazil
I also visited 3 new states in the U.S. I went to Washington, Montana, and Arizona as well as revisited states I enjoy like Georgia, California, Texas, and Florida. It’s not only about international travel. There is lots of beauty and experiences that can be accomplished right at home.
What inspires you about the travel experience?
Just being free. I love experiencing different cultures, nature, people with my daughter. It is a wonderful thing to be at a Japanese restaurant with my daughter and for us to have a conversation that starts as, ‘Remember when we had this in Kyoto…’ Or to meet someone from India or New Zealand and talk about my experiences there. I love the memories. I love the experience. And I love that I have shared most of it with my daughter.
What do you like least about travel?
More recently, my least favorite part of travel is the process of getting there. I have become more uncomfortable with being in planes for a long time or long drives between cities. I wish I could just teleport myself to any destination.
What recommendations do you have for someone who is looking to be more adventurous and travel?
Get over fear of unknown. Embrace it. Research, research, research. You can never have too much information about a place you’d like to visit. Set aside a travel fund and keep an eye out for travel deals, fare sales, or glitch fares. Plan ahead and be present when you are at your destination. Once you have opened the door to traveling, you will never go back.