The Joy of Travel Planning with Dr. Edith Gonzalez – May 31, 2022

Dr. Edith Gonzalez

Dr. Edith Gonzalez is an historical archaeologist studying the global flow of ecological knowledge within the context of transatlantic slavery. She has an extensive career in museums and is dedicated to communicating scientific research to public audiences. She received her MA from Hunter College, MA from University of Virginia, MPhil and PhD from The Graduate Center – CUNY. Edith is an Eccles Centre Fellow with the British Library and her current research is funded by the Society of Antiquaries – London. She is the current Science Advisory Fellow to The Story Collider, and a two-time champion of the Smut Slam sex storytelling show because of her creative use of profanity and complete lack of shame. Her dedication to logic and sci-fi fangirldom have earned her the nickname of “the Puerto-Rican Mr. Spock.” She spends about 5 months a year traveling and the rest of the year making plans!

Episode title:
The Joy of Travel Planning with Dr. Edith Gonzalez

Episode summary:
Are you eager to get back out there on the open road and travel? Memorial Day marks the start of the summer travel season. Now with prices and demand high and the COVID-19 virus still circulating with shifting travel rules, travel requires more planning than ever before. Dr. Edith Gonzalez, an anthropologist, professor, and expert travel planner is here to help us with tips, ideas, and experiences to make our travel easier and more joyful.

At the end of the podcast, I share something that brought me joy this week related to the episode. This week, I tell you about the Netflix food travel series Somebody Feed Phil and the free app, Word of Mouth, an independent restaurant guide powered by a global community of culinary experts.

Topics discussed in this episode:
– Our mutual love of spreadsheets and maps
– How to optimize your packing
– Trip planning research
– Traveling with kids
– Traveling as a food lover and taste testing food specialties wherever we travel
– Bullet journals
– The wonder of Google maps and guidebooks
– Having a schedule versus winging it versus the happy medium
– Edith’s travels to the U.K., Venice, New Orleans, and Cuba
– A special shout-out to Phil Rosenthal, Somebody Feed Phil, and the Word of Mouth restaurant guide app

Links to resources:
Edith’s website –
Edith on Instagram – @egon.the.great
Christa on Twitter – @christanyc
Christa on Instagram – @christarosenyc
Christa’s website –
Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix
Word of Mouth app

The Joy of Travel Planning with Dr. Edith Gonzalez

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 • 19:08 – This transcript has been edited for clarity


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Edith Gonzalez, Christa Avampato

Christa Avampato  00:00

Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the JoyProject. I’m Christa Avampato, your host.

It’s been an especially challenging few weeks around the U.S. and around the world. Honestly, I was sad and angry for most of it. Making this podcast and seeking out joy is one of the things that’s helping me process my emotions and turn them into motivation and action.

It’s my great hope that this podcast is helping you too, and that it will continue to help you. Helping you find more joy is the whole reason I’m doing this project. I hope you’re taking care of yourselves and those you love. We have a lot of work to do. And this world needs all of us at our best. Finding and making joy is a part of our self-care and part of how we care for others. And thin that spirit, something that brings a lot of us joy is getting out of our homes and routines and into the world.

If you’re eager to get back out there on the open road and travel, this episode’s for you. Memorial Day marks the start of the summer travel season. And now with prices and demand high and the COVID-19 virus still circulating with shifting travel rules, travel requires more planning than ever before. Dr. Edith Gonzalez, an anthropologist, professor, and expert travel planner is here to help us with tips, ideas, and experiences to make our travel easier and more joyful.

Edith is a very dear friend of mine, someone who was an enormous support to me as I fought and beat cancer, and the first person who encouraged me to pursue my PhD in Environmental Sustainability at my dream university.

Please join me in giving Edith a very warm welcome.

Edith, welcome to JoyProject.

Edith Gonzalez  01:28

Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.

Christa Avampato  01:30

Can you tell us where you are joining us from today?

Edith Gonzalez  01:33

I am joining you from very sunny and cold Buffalo, New York.

Christa Avampato  01:39
And what do you do in Buffalo?

Edith Gonzalez  01:41
I am an assistant professor of archaeology at the University of Buffalo.

Christa Avampato  01:46
I’m going to start this conversation the way that I always start our conversations by asking you, “What brings you joy?”

Edith Gonzalez  01:51
You know I have a secret love of spreadsheets. But besides that, what brings me joy is travel. But it’s all the stuff that happens prior to that in the planning of the travel that makes me really happy.

Christa Avampato  02:05
Yes. And I think that spreadsheets are unsung heroes in our lives. I love a good spreadsheet, color-coded. I love charts made from spreadsheets. I love data categorized with lovely headings. I like to check things off on them. There’s no end to the joy that I get from spreadsheets. So I totally get it. Can you tell us a little bit about your travel planning process? What does it look like when you have a vacation coming up or you’ve got a block of time and you’re going to do some traveling? What’s the first thing you do?

Edith Gonzalez  02:39
It depends if I’m traveling for work, or if I’m traveling for pleasure. If I’m traveling for work, there are a lot of set parameters of things that I have to do. So usually the first thing that I do is block out a schedule of the things I know that I have to do for work. So any known meetings and events.

Then I look at where will I be. In addition to I’m spreadsheets, maps are the other serious artifact that brings me joy in this process. I’ll break out some maps and figure out where I am. And then from there, I plan where I will stay in relation to where I have to be.

And then it goes into this deep territory of my other love, which is fashion, to figure out what am I going to wear while I’m there. I love to pack. I’m very good at packing, I like to pack as light as possible. I like everything to have double duty. But sometimes when I travel for work, I have multiple things that I need to do. Some of them include fundraising events, meetings, working in a dusty archive or in a lab. And then I figure out the weather where I’m going to be. And then I get to accessories.

I don’t do the cube packing because that’s not flexible enough for me. I have this specific clear plastic quart size zipper bag for toiletries that I really, really love and it’s kind of always set to go. I have a separate one that I would take for a longer trip and then I have other Ziploc bags for a weekender.

Christa Avampato  04:18
It’s all in this journal. So it’s written down with paper and pen.

Edith Gonzalez  04:22
I do have a bullet journal and it has page inserts for every two months. There’s a little sheet that is just for planning what to pack.

Christa Avampato  04:30
Obviously, as an anthropologist, you’re very into the archive, the artifact that’s left behind. Hundreds of years from now somebody will take a look at these journals and they will be like, “Look at everything Dr. Gonzalez was packing!”

Edith Gonzalez  04:41
I had to travel to England. I got a fellowship and I was going to be there for a few months. That was a super fun trip to plan because I was going to be staying mostly in London but I had to go to Oxford, too, and having to figure out what neighborhood I wanted to live in, what things were important to me, what was open? What would I be able to do?

Christa Avampato  05:07
Do you think of these travel documents in some way as diary entries? Do you go back and look at them and revisit the trip? By looking at these lists, and these maps, does it let you relive the trip?

Edith Gonzalez  05:20
It does. It also lets me relive some of the planning.

There is a spectrum of how people like to travel. On one end of the spectrum are people who like to throw a dart at a place on a map and grab their backpack and go with no plan, with a one way ticket

Christa Avampato  05:38
How do you feel about that kind of travel?

Edith Gonzalez  05:39
I have done that, except that I still pack very carefully. Other side of that spectrum are people who love to plan. They plan it all out They schedule it hard, and then get upset if you don’t follow the schedule. I am not that person.

Christa Avampato  05:55
Oh, interesting. So you make the plans. But you also leave flexibility room for flexibility in the plans.

Edith Gonzalez  06:00
I do a lot of work with government so regulations and things like COVID testing sites, a doctor ‘s office. Those are all important things to know in case you need them. You have to plan for the those things in the time of COVID. So that is included with all my reservations and context numbers.

When I went to England, I knew I wanted to take a cruise on the canal boats that are in the shipping canals. And I found the group that runs those. I found when I looked for my Airbnb that I love to use Google Maps because you can do the Street View and walk through so that I can plan the walk to see how long would it really take me to get to my destination like the Bodleian Library. I knew that I wanted to go to the Globe Theater. So I booked tickets ahead of time. And then there are these old places that I really wanted to go and check out—old pubs, historic buildings. So I put them all on my list and put an approximate date of when I want to do them. But I don’t have to do them on those dates, except for the theater tickets because those you have to get ahead of time.

Christa Avampato  07:05
So in your journal you’ve got clothes, toiletries, gadgets, and research supplies for something that’s a work trip. And then you’re also doing some fun things mixed in as well. The joy that comes from that, is it just looking forward to the trip or is there a sense of security that you get from having a plan?

Edith Gonzalez  07:23
When I was in my 20s, I could easily throw a dart at a map and go do something. I am a very practice traveler. Three or four years before COVID happened, I was traveling a week or two out of every month and I love going to a place I’ve never been before and the exploration that goes along with that.

When I became a mom, I changed how I had to plan to travel. I’ve dragged my poor kid all over the world since he was three months old. And in doing that, I needed to have a packing list where prior I’d be like, “Oh, I’ll just pack some skinny jeans and a pretty dress and some sandals and flip flops, you wing it because it didn’t matter.

But when you’re traveling with a baby, you have to know if you can get the things that you need for them along the way. So my planning got more practical and less like, “Oh, I’d love to see what can we do there.” And also because my son’s father is the kind of traveler that does not think for a moment about the trip until they’re on the trip, they get no pleasure from the anticipation of it for a long time, I felt like if I leave it up to him, “Will we have the stuff for the kid when we arrive?” And his philosophy has always been, “If we don’t have it when we get there, we can always buy it.”

Christa Avampato  08:40
Your son is now in college. Do you feel like your travel planning could change, will change, might change? Or do you feel like now you’ve had so many years of this kind of planning, it’s ingrained in you,

Edith Gonzalez  08:53
I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I had to do it. And I got such a sense of satisfaction from it. My suitcase is completely packed a week before I leave, and then I can relax and just have that last week of anticipating all the fun I’m gonna have. I love when my travel documents are in the order I need them in the folder. And this became even more important traveling during COVID when I had to work and all of a sudden I needed every kind of form you could imagine just to be able to pass through any gate.

Christa Avampato  09:23
And you were traveling internationally during COVID so then you had to be conscious of not just U.S. and New York rules.

Edith Gonzalez  09:30
Absolutely. Internationally, the rules are vastly different than they are in the U.S. Being able to get back into country was also a concern. It was a constantly shifting landscape of what the requirements were to get back into New York.

I think the best trip I ever planned to go on with my family was with my son and his dad and his stepmom because me and his stepmom are the same in this way. We planned a trip to Venice together, which is one of my favorite places to visit, and I will go back there anytime. (Anybody want to go to Venice?) So she and I sign up for Duolingo. And we would do in our Italian lessons four months out. We’re working on our Italian (she was much better at it than I was) and we would send each other emails about it, or when we would encounter something of interest in Venice. We’d be emailing each other and adding things to the itinerary of all the stuff we wanted to see while we were there. My son and his dad—they’re the opposite of this. So when we arrived there, all of a sudden, I have a teenager who’s like, “I don’t know what I want to do.” I’m like, did you not in the six months since we’ve known we were going, did you not like think maybe to look it up once? It was so funny.

I used to go to Barnes and Noble to the Travel section and pick up a Let’s Go Guide for Student Travelers and sit there and look through it. There’s something about having a guidebook that’s really really kind of charming and fun when you travel.

Christa Avampato  11:06
It’s a curated experience. People who write travel guides have been there. They’ve been in all these hotels. They’ve been to all these restaurants. Whereas when you’re on Google, you’re having to sift through a lot of stuff on your own. With a paper guide, you can mark up.

Edith Gonzalez  11:23
I always have a notebook, you know this about me. I always have a notebook and I will start a file for every trip. And sometimes it’s a paper file, an actual file folder in my file cabinet. And sometimes it’s a notebook, just for that trip. And sometimes it’ll be a digital file. And I’ll just start to drop things in there: links to exhibits or museums that I know I want to see. I work in the museum field. And so I will frequently, if I’m someplace, want to check out the competition. Hahaha, no! I want to check out and see what people are doing. What’s new and exciting in the museum field with exhibits.

And I also love food. I always want to find out what is the specialty of a place, and then find out where to go to get that specialty. And sometimes I want to do a taste test.

I jokingly say I kidnapped my son one year during spring break. I picked him up from his dad’s house in Austin, Texas, in the middle of the night. We get in the car and drive to New Orleans as a surprise. He had so much fun. We just went for a couple of days. But when he woke up, because he was sleeping in the car. When he woke up, I said, “Take out your phone. We’re going to New Orleans. Pick three things you want to do.” The next year he said, “Hey, can we do that again and can I bring a friend?” So one of his friends goes with us. My son is a very adventurous eater. He likes all kinds of food. His friend was not. And so we decided, “Well, how can we have fun with food in New Orleans with somebody who’s not an adventurous eater?” We decided to choose a food specialty of New Orleans that we knew this person would actually eat. And then we decided to do a taste test of the three places best known for this. And then we all wrote our Yelp reviews.

Christa Avampato  13:17
That’s so fun. In New Orleans, what food did you pick?

Edith Gonzalez  13:19
Roast beef po’boys.

Christa Avampato  13:22
Did you agree on which one was the best? Or did you all have different opinions?

Edith Gonzalez  13:26
We agreed which one was the best. Because I am a scientist we had to have categories by which our sandwiches were judged. We had to judge bread, gravy, any other toppings, size, saltiness. There was a bunch of criteria. There was a spreadsheet, a checklist. We had a lot of fun. New Orleans is another city that I really love. So I knew two places to go for the roast beef po’boys that I really liked. I had my son find another place to add to our list so we could have three to sample.

My son and I went to Lisbon, Portugal. That was the last big trip before COVID that he and I made ahead of time. I told him to figure out what kinds of food he wanted to have and I would figure out where to go for it. So we did that. It was also really fun. And we are now currently planning a trip to Cuba together.

Christa Avampato 14:10
You’ve been to Cuba before?

Edith Gonzalez 14:13
No. Never. Never. No, I’m dying to go.

Christa Avampato  14:19
I’ve been to Cuba and I love it. I went in that very narrow window during the Obama administration when anybody could go if we applied for this special visa. It remains one of the most enlightening trips I have ever had. I’m looking around my apartment because I have some art that I bought there that I love. It was amazing. I can see you in Cuba, absorbing all of it because it’s just it’s so beautiful. Very tough trip to plan for though because it’s very tough to get information about what’s going on in Cuba. It’s very tough to know what’s open in advance. You really have to rely on recommendations when you get there. You ask the person at the hotel. You go to a restaurant that you like and you ask them where they would recommend you go. It’s sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure depending on who you meet, which is very exciting!

Edith Gonzalez  15:07
Because the window for free travel has closed, the only reason I’m able to go is on an academic visa for a conference. We’re not going to be in Havana. We’re going to be in another city. And I asked my son if he wanted to go because he’s a student and he can come with me on a student visa, an academic visa. We’re really excited. We’ll be there for two weeks, and then I’m going to continue research elsewhere for the rest of summer. I don’t know where I’m going yet, which for me is…

Christa Avampato  15:36
a little stressful.

Edith Gonzalez  15:39
Yes, it is! I’m waiting to find out if I got this Fulbright grant. If I get the Fulbright grant, then I know that I’ll be in England for six months next year. But if I don’t get the Fulbright grant, I have to go to England this summer. So it’s happy reasons that I’m waiting to find out. But my son has announced that he’s coming with me wherever I go.

Christa Avampato  15:57
That is so exciting. I love it. I know he’s your adventure partner and your favorite person to travel with. I love that you’re gonna get to do that with him. And you’re giving him all these wonderful memories and good and joyful planning practices.

Edith Gonzalez  16:13
We’re working on packing, which he’s terrible at. He always forgets something. But He’s his father’s son so his attitude is we’ll figure it out when we get there.

Christa Avampato  16:23
Edith, thank you so much for joining us on the JoyProject. I love that you find this joy in travel planning. I’m hoping that many more of us will have the opportunity to do more travel planning in 2022 than we’ve done in more recent times. I’m so excited to share your artifacts with listeners, and they can see the beauty of these spreadsheets. Thank you so, so much for joining us. I hope that you will come back when you get back from Cuba, when you get back from your trips over to the UK, and share some more joy with us.

Edith Gonzalez  16:53
Absolutely anytime. My pleasure.

Christa Avampato  16:55
I’m so grateful to Edith for her time, her friendship, and her wonderful advice on how to plan our travels during these challenging times. The transcript for this episode along with pictures of Edith’s travel planning documents are on our website,

At the end of every episode, I share something that brought me joy this week related to the episode topic this week.

I want to tell you about the wonderful series Somebody Feed Phil which is back on Netflix for its fifth season with delicious food travels to Oxaca; Maine; Helsinki; Portland, Oregon; and Madrid. Phil, his crew, (including his brother, Richard) his guides, and his guests will inspire you to get out into the world, eat delicious food, make friends, and enjoy all the richness that life has to offer. Phil’s parents were a wonderful part of the show. And unfortunately, they’ve both passed on. To honor the jokes his dad, Max, used to tell on the show, he has comedians tell jokes that Max would have loved. It’s an endearing series filled with joy. And I’m so grateful to Phil and everyone involved for making the show.

On one of the episodes, Phil recommends the free app, Word of Mouth, which I had never heard of before. It’s an independent restaurant guide powered by a global community of culinary experts. It’s made for passionate foodies who want to discover the tastiest parts of the world. And it’s delightful. So on your trips, I hope that you will use the Word of Mouth app and enjoy all of the culinary delights that this world has to offer.

Thanks so much for joining me here on the JoyProject. I make this podcast for you. I hope it brought you some joy. It certainly brought me some joy. We all need a respite in this difficult world. And I hope this podcast is a way that you are finding some peace and some happiness and some joy so that we can recharge and get back out there in the world to do the work that we need to do. Thank you so much for joining me.

You can check out another episode of joyful news, which also drops today, the same day as this episode with Dr. Edith Gonzalez. It is a collection of stories over the past two weeks of joyful news that I have found from all over the world. I hope it’s something that you love. I hope that you’ll check it out.

I’ll be back with another interview episode in two weeks on Tuesday, June 14. Please take care of yourselves. Please take care of each other, and I’ll talk to you soon. I hope you go out there and find a lot of joy and tell me all about it on Twitter at @ChristaNYC, on Instagram at @ChristaRoseNYC, and on our website