COTF January Traveler Of The Month: Carson Henderson

One of my fondest memories of January's Traveler Of The Month was in Fort Worth, Texas when I ran into him at a cafe. We were both getting school work done, but ended up talking for 2 hours about life, travel, and what it was like being an expat. Carson Henderson, a native Texan, is a true adventurer and world traveler. Before living in Dublin, Ireland, he followed his dream of living in South America. He spent a Northern Hemisphere summer in Santiago, Chile. I love Carson's desire to seek out adventure and go after what he wants. He also has some very practical travel fitness advice and he is a big advocate for stretching, something that is often an overlooked fitness tool while traveling. Here's what Carson had to say:

1. Carson, Thanks so much for joining! I know you have lived in a few countries. Which ones have you lived in?


Chile, Ireland, and Texas!


2. How is your Spanish?


It could use some improvement but it's conversational. I took years of Spanish throughout my education, but living in the language in Santiago, Chile really helped.  Growing up in Texas, I was always surrounded by latin culture, however, there has always been a stark divide between gringo and latino culture. With that said, it's getting easier and more popular to be bilingual in the states, which I see as a huge cultural shift in the right direction. The more languages you have under your belt, the easier it is to adapt in any given situation.


3. What were some difficulties adjusting to the culture in South America?


There are two things that were the most difficult for me. Chilean Spanish is incredibly different from the Spanish we hear in the US. We grew up learning Mexican Spanish and most latino music I had listened to was from the Caribbean and Colombia. Chileans speak incredibly fast with slang that you have to be told what they’re are saying or else you’re screwed. For example, ‘po’ could be added to any word to add emphasis, ‘sipo, nopo, obviopo’. That took awhile to get used to. Besides language, there was the divide in feelings towards Americans. Long story short, Chile democratically elected a socialist president in 1970 that was overthrown by the CIA backed Chilean Military in 1973. The following 17 year dictatorship was repressive and deadly. This resulted in a deep scar and rift between those who supported or were against the dictatorship in Chilean society since the return to full democracy in 1990. While Chile is now a very successful capitalistic country, I still came across many socialist or left leaning people my own age who were disgusted that I was an American and had very few words to say to me or nothing but hatred toward my country and culture. While it only happened a couple of times, it was enough for me to learn to be cautious about the history of anywhere I travel and read my audience before being too open about my own background.

Carson In Chile

Carson In Chile


4. Where are you right now? How did you end up there?


I am currently living in Dublin, Ireland! I came out here because they have a working travel visa, just like Canada, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of working abroad while still young. I recently just got hired on as a Marketing and Communication Officer at Mac Interiors, a leader in sustainable commercial construction in Ireland. I have always wanted to work for a construction or real estate company with sustainability in mind so you can imagine how excited I am to work for such a company!


5. Do you like Ireland so far? Have you had any culture shock?


I love Ireland and the Irish! They are incredibly kind and helpful people and Dublin is a wonderful city. The biggest shock is how small it all is! In Texas it took me 3 hours to get to my family home in Dallas from Austin where I was living and that’s all it takes to drive across the island! While Dublin is a major international city of about 1.8 million people, they’ve done a real good job of keeping a small town feel. Its very easy to walk around and take the public transportation, a huge pull in getting me over here. I can walk to work in less than 15 minutes!


6. What’s your normal fitness routine?


Growing up, I swam competitively for 13 years. In college and after graduation, I would always try to spend at least 2 to 3 days of the week in the pool for an hour, getting in a good full body exercise. I would alternate this with 2 to 3 days in the gym, doing a good amount of cardio on the treadmill while lifting weights to focus on a certain muscle group, which I would alternate between days. I am also HUGE on stretching. Some call it Yoga, calisthenics, etc, either way, I have always had to stretch because of a back injury as a child. I stretch out my lower back, hamstrings, and lats (where I carry my stress) every morning for 20 minutes and do the same before I go to bed. During the day at work, I would try to find time to stretch as well. A day without stretching is day wasted for me.


7. How are you staying fit while traveling?


While traveling, I stick with my normal stretching routine and try to do as much as my normal routine lets me. In Santiago, I had a neighborhood pool so I used that but without a gym, running was my next best alternative. Since I was job hunting the first 2 months I was here in Dublin, I decided to go the cheapest route possible. That meant including a circuit of crunches and pushups with my normal morning and night stretching. As in Santiago, running was my best option and I’ve grown to love it here because it is so cold in Dublin! I live right off the River LIffey so I can run up and down the river, taking in all the scenery of the city without dying of a heat stroke like I would back in Texas. While this isn’t technically working out, walking as much as I can is a huge benefit. There are many times I could easily take a cab, the bus, or the train, but for me, walking 40 minutes is not a big deal when I have the right coat on.

Carson Chasing Waterfalls

Carson Chasing Waterfalls


8. What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Why?


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s hands down the most beautiful city I’ve been to. With the combination of the topography of the city combined with the white sandy beaches, I could easily find myself living there in retirement.


9. How do you balance healthy eating while sampling the local cuisine?


Since Irish supermarkets are the same as back in the U.S., it's easy to continue to buy the food I normally would back home. I go with a healthy mix of proteins (chicken, turkey burgers, salmon), fruits (bananas everyday for breakfast), and vegetables (I put spinach on  everything). Since Irish food standards are much higher than they are in the U.S., I know I’m getting good quality food even if it's cheap. In regards to sampling the local cuisine, I just try to watch how much I’m eating out a week. Dublin’s food scene is exploding with new cuisine, which can lead to a plethora of unhealthy options. However, since I am in Europe, the portions are much smaller than they are back home. No supersizes or free refills, not that I drink too much soda. I try to drink 4 liters of water a day which is a great health tip regardless of if you’re traveling or not.


10. 3 words to describe your fitness regime


Stress-reducing, Stimulating, Flexible


11. What is your motto when you travel?


I am always educating myself on where I am going while being respectful of our differences. I can’t imagine traveling anywhere in the world with a closed off mindset.

Carson In Germany

Carson In Germany


12. What is your most embarrassing travel story


Trying to get to the Rio de Janeiro airport. I had a Chilean sim card in my phone so I had to rely on wifi while in Brazil and I got off at the wrong metro stop to then be able to catch the bus to the airport. Also, nothing in Brazil is in English and a very small portion of the population speaks it. Basically I was walking in the middle of a giant highway interchange in downtown Rio trying to go off of screenshots of Google Maps that I had taken earlier to find the airport. Thank God a taxi driver pulled off the road and told me to get in. With my broken Spanish/Portuguese mix, I told him I needed to get to the airport and I made my flight as soon as the gate doors were closing.


13. Solo Travel or Partner/ Group Travel?


This one is hard because I love both. I traveled completely on my own in Chile but I have have traveled around Brazil and Ireland with friends. I love having the freedom of doing and going wherever I please when I’m alone but it's so much fun to travel with a close friend or a good group of friends because they may suggest something you’d never think to do.


14. Any advice for someone that wants to stay in shape while they travel


If you’re thrifty like I am, walk EVERYWHERE! (Check out this article to see why else humans walks!) If your hotel or hostel doesn’t have a gym, pool, or any workout equipment, go for a run. There’s no easier way of getting your bearings and really understanding a place until you’ve walked, or run, around everywhere. There’s nothing more fun than trying to blend into the fabrics of a community to see how others interact and live amongst each other.


Thanks so much for your time, Carson, and it was great to hear about how you travel and stay fit! If you know anyone that deserves to be featured for my Traveler Of The Month section, feel free to contact me.

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