As my travel increases I have had the pleasure of getting to know more and more people! David Mortensen is one of those travelers. Each time I receive notification that he signs up for a trip it's always a nice relief as I have come to know him as someone who enjoys experiences, has a very relaxing presence, always does research before the trips for things to do during free times and takes time to learn about places we are visiting. I have found his suggestions and advice to be a welcome conversation and after this little get to know him interview, I now understand why. The guy has been around! He has traveled, he has experienced and so his suggestions and advice are well earned! The pictures he captures are always fantastic!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself David, for instance where you live, your profession, anything about your family.
A: I live right near Old Town Scottsdale, and have been in the Phoenix area since 2007. Before that, I spent my whole life living in one small area - Long Island NY. I made a purposeful, drastic change of lifestyle moving to the valley, and then a similarly radical career switch, from Software Analyst to Ultrasound Technologist, soon after, at age 50. I'm divorced with 2 grown sons, both currently attending UofA in Tucson. I now consider myself semi-retired, working 2 overnight shifts at a hospital most weeks. This leaves me plenty of time to travel when I have an opportunity.
Q: You are a traveler, so I am afraid if I ask you where you have been the list will go on for days haha. What are your top three locations you have visited and what about them stick out?
A: Well first I will say, a great location helps to make a great vacation, but there are also many other factors. So these "top three locations" are not my three favorite vacations. Grand Cayman stands out as having perhaps the best beach I have seen (Seven Mile Beach), along with the clearest water for snorkeling. It's a small enough island so that there are no huge crowds, and you feel like you can cover the whole island in a week. Switzerland was incredibly beautiful, and I traveled there mostly by hiking around the alps. So at that speed, the beauty is really able to sink into your awareness, and make for lasting memories. Lastly, the four day hike along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru, was a challenging adventure, with amazing sights all along the way. The guides told us the journey would be even better than the very famous destination, and I absolutely agree.
Q: I had a very defining moment that made me fall in love with travel. Is there anything that happened in your life that turned you on to travel?
A: My parents were never big on travel. Our family vacations every year were camping in upstate New York or nearby states. I was equally non-adventurous throughout my 20's, only finally venturing as far as Florida when I was 30. Then, I got engaged, and it was time to plan a honeymoon. I took charge of that whole project, first taking time to decide the general area (the Caribbean), and buying a book to read about all the different islands. Once I picked an island, I studied up on all the things we could do there, and finally made detailed, but loose, plans for each day. I spent months planning, and it was all very gratifying. When the vacation finally came, it was all so worth it. It was the first time in my life that I was in a place extremely different from where I lived. From then on I always took great joy in planning all our vacations. Now, I also enjoy group vacations, where most of the details are planned for me.
Q: What is the strangest food you have tried and from where?
A: I'm not a foodie, and don't value eating experiences as much as many people, but of course like everybody, I do like delicious food. In Peru, we kept hearing a lot about their special delicacy, Guinea Pig. A friend and I decided to try it at a restaurant. It was expensive, and we were pretty disappointed, so actually we complained and got a discount on our meals. Either they didn't cook it very well, or it's just a hyped-up thing there, I'll never know. Honorable mention goes to Turtle steak in Grand Cayman!
Q: What is the scariest situation you have ever been in during your travels?
A: One evening in Antigua, near sunset, my wife and I decided to take a walk down the deserted beach to a pier. On the way there, we walked by a pack of feral dogs, and it made us both a bit nervous. They were not friendly, a few were barking and growling. We walked in the water a bit to keep our distance. We should have turned around and walked back at that point, but I had a naive trust that this "Caribbean vacation paradise" just had to be safe for tourists. After we got out to the pier, we looked back and saw that they were still very interested in us, barking, pacing and watching us on the pier from their section of beach. A few more joined them, and they were all focused on us, and getting more excited. They seemed... hungry! It was getting dark, and we were worried about how to get back to our villa at the other end of the beach without getting eaten. We managed to wade in the water thigh-high as they barked at us from the waters edge, until we passed the area of the beach that they were patrolling. It was a harrowing 30 minutes from the pier back to our villa. Next to that, jumping off a cliff to a 200' free fall, for the Canyon Swing in Queenstown, New Zealand was a piece of cake!
Q: I know you LOVE snorkeling. In your experience so far, what has been the best location to snorkel and why?
A: I mentioned the Cayman Islands earlier, as perhaps having the clearest water I've seen. However, having never snorkeled in the same place twice, I can not fairly judge the "best" location, as so much depends on recent weather and water conditions. What is a great location one day, may be poor the next. Also, most people think of the ideal "best" snorkeling, as the clearest water, with the largest variety of small colorful fish swimming in very close proximity. Although I've experienced that numerous times, my most memorable snorkeling days are the ones that are more unique. Stingray City in Grand Cayman is a spot in an open bay where you swim with, pet and feed wild stingrays up to 6 feet wide. San Diego is a great place close by, where you can swim out from shore at La Jolla Cove and see swarms of large, beautiful bright orange Garibaldi fish, and then swim with 5 to 6 foot leopard sharks (harmless), in chest-high water right off La Jolla Beach. A nighttime snorkel in Hawaii with giant Manta Rays with 12-15 foot wingspans was quite amazing. Even snorkeling in Alaska was unique! But top honors for me has to go to being in Kealakekua Bay on the big island of Hawaii, with a pod of 15-20 Spinner Dolphins that swam around and played with us for as long as we wanted, about an hour. That was most likely one of the 5 most memorable and enjoyable days of my life!
Q: What is one thing you have learned throughout your travels when it comes to packing that you always default to no matter where you are going or how long you are going for?
A: Once I went on a long weekend trip, and soon discovered that I had forgotten to pack ANY shirts at all! Since then, for any trip, I write down a list that includes EVERYTHING that I need to pack and do to get ready. It doesn't get checked off until the action is complete or the item is in my luggage. A few items, such as keys, wallet, thermostat, stay unchecked until I confirm my UBER.
Q: We already invest so much into these trips any secrets to saving a few euros here and there?
A: Food is probably the biggest expense, once your trip actually starts. I try to pack as many snacks as I reasonably can. A sandwich for a layover to avoid airport food, trail mix to munch on so that I never get really hungry, chocolate, which is the one food that I really love, and a reusable water bottle for refilling rather than buying drinks. Besides being the most important meal, breakfast is also the cheapest meal of the day, so it pays to fill up in the morning (second breakfast!). You noticed several days in Ireland, when all I wanted for lunch was a Guinness. It was perfect to fill me up, and I probably spent half as much on lunch as most people those days. Also, taking lots of photos for memories, is way cheaper, and better, than buying lots of souvenirs!
Q: Every trip, I always admire how you just go with the flow when it comes to the different personalities that inevitably creep up. Share some words of wisdom with us regarding this.
A: A group vacation is like a social experiment, or better, a one-week microcosm of your life. Everyone's personality will come out, and you will interact with them in an accelerated fashion, relative to if you saw them less frequently over a period of months or years. No matter who you are, the larger the group you are with, the less you can know about what to expect, or influence how things will go. So expect the unexpected, and try to be patient with everyone else's needs.
Q: Do you have a life motto or favorite quote?
A: I don't have either, but I just saw this yesterday, which I like, from Plato:
"The greatest wealth is to live content with little"
"The secret to happiness is to have low expectations" might be how I phrase it :)