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Meet the Curator: Christian

"I think travel is the best way to broaden horizons... it's how we learn not just how to put ourselves in the shoes of another, but also the makeup of our own character."

Christian Gibney
Origin travel curator

A Travel Creator on Origin's curator team, Christian is based in Austin, Texas. Coming from the biomedical engineering field, he brings a keen eye for detail and innovation to trip planning. Besides scouting out destinations for himself and his clients, he's often researching what cuisine to enjoy next – Cantonese, Caribbean, and American BBQ are a few of his favorites.

What sparked your passion for travel and how did it become your career?

My dad traveled frequently for work when I was growing up and I was always interested in hearing about the countries he visited. I remember going to my local library before he would embark on these trips and taking out books on the different places he traveled to so I could understand what the culture there was like. I even slept with a globe in my bed so I could follow along and figure out how far away he would be! Since then, I've always felt that I too wanted to travel around the world one day.

How many countries have you visited? What were your top 3 and why?

I've been to 41 countries with Japan, South Africa, and Iceland probably being my top three. In my eyes, these countries in particular each showcase an aspect of life to its fullest potential, whether it be the intentional and focused culture of Japan, the raw and bountiful wildlife in South Africa, or the majestic landscapes of Iceland. These destinations truly have left me with a deeper understanding and rich appreciation for life that I don't think I would have found otherwise.

What’s the place you most want to visit that you haven’t been to yet?

New Zealand! I am dying to visit Queenstown to just hike and camp out in the incredible sceneries that until now I have only seen through photos.

Why is it important for travel to make a positive impact?

I think travel is the best way to broaden horizons and open yourself to ideas, opinions, and cultures that you otherwise may find challenging. To get uncomfortable and expose yourself to experiences that break the status quo in life allows people to turn "others" into "us." It's how we learn not just how to put ourselves in the shoes of another, but also the makeup of our own character.

How can you promote positive change when traveling?

While traveling, I believe it is important to engage with people. Not necessarily through some pre-scheduled experience, but in a more authentic way. I personally like to learn some phrases of the local language to interact with the hotel staff, waiters, or taxi drivers.

From a more global perspective, I really appreciate knowing where the money I'm spending is going. Many eco-friendly accommodations even offer an "Economic Nutrition Chart" so you can see exactly how they are spending the revenue coming into their property. I believe this transparency is vital to ensuring tourism funds are being allocated for the most positive community impact.

What’s the most surreal travel experience you’ve had?

The first time I went on a safari drive in the Sabi Sands was one of the most incredible experiences I have been lucky enough to have while traveling. Rolling up to an elephant mother and her calf grazing together, a pair of lions mating, or tracking a rhino on foot felt like looking into a world where humans didn't exist. It was a feeling that I won't soon forget!

Catching sight of a leopard is a highlight of any safari
Which was the most memorable property you've ever stayed at? Why?

My "favorite hotel" really depends on the day, but if I had to pick a singular experience, it might be the Argos in Cappadocia, Turkey. I love a hotel with a good sense of place and the Argos evokes that and then some. It's a cave hotel carved out of the former underground system in central Turkey that feels like it was born out of the earth.

The landscape of Cappadocia is truly surreal. From your room balcony you can take in the otherworldly rock formations while listening to the call to prayer from the local mosque, creating a full-on experience for the senses (although no view is better than a sunrise hot air balloon ride). I also got to travel there with my mom which was a fun treat and made it all the more memorable!

What item can you not travel without?

A comfortable pair of walking shoes. Navigating the streets on foot or going for a hike into nature is the best way to see a destination from the eyes of a local.

Pick a favorite photo from your travels and explain why.

That's tough, but maybe a picture walking the streets of Shinsekai in Osaka. I had just left a boozy nomihodai party with a friend and was on my way to a karaoke bar when I remember thinking to myself how different the energy felt compared to anywhere I'd been. It was raining pretty hard and I recall walking down this street and feeling like a ghost—I could've easily not have been there as much as I definitely was physically there. Passersby with their umbrellas navigated their way around me on their way to wherever they were headed and I took this spectral photo.