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There are many different ways to travel – there are those who travel on a limb, not knowing how or when they will arrive at their next destination; there is unplanned travel where travelers don’t have a set destination in mind; and then there is calculated travel – travel that is carefully thought out in advance!

Mary Chong is a huge fan of calculated travel, in fact her blog is named after it!  We recently chatted about calculated travel, and how she deals with those “un-calculated” moments in life; like when her husband’s nipple was mistaken for fish food while snorkelling in the Caribbean and nearly bitten off!  

What do you love the most about travelling?

What I love the most about travelling is learning about the different cultures and meeting the local people. I like to visit the regional markets, eat the indigenous foods and just try and experience what their life is about. Sure, I visit the tourist sites as well, but for me that isn’t the essence of travelling – that’s checking things off of a list. If I wanted to see only the main tourist sights I might as well just visit Disney’s Epcot Centre or Las Vegas – I can see all the “sights” of the world in 1 day there!

Wandering the Ruins of Ephesus in Turkey.

Wandering the Ruins of Ephesus in Turkey.

What inspired you to start travelling?

When I was 18 years old, my parents sent me on a month-long student tour of Taiwan. The students, aged 18 to 24, came from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and were all of Chinese descent but were born outside of Asia. The goal of the trip was to learn Mandarin and Chinese culture in general, but really, I think the goal was for us to find our future spouses! It was an amazing adventure and was my first time away from home by myself. While I didn’t find a husband in Taiwan, I did find a genuine love for travel!

I am fortunate that my husband also loves to travel; we’ve been all over North America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Europe, and Asia.

What is “calculated travel”?

Calculated travel is travel that is carefully thought out in advance, undertaken after careful estimation of the likely outcome, made or planned to accomplish a certain purpose. Basically, I don’t like to be caught off guard. If something unplanned happens – I’m ready for it!

Have you ever travelled without carefully planning out a trip in advance?

I probably have but I’ve blocked the experience from my memory bank! I was raised in a very cautious household so I’ve never been one to wing it. Even if I’m just running errands around town I have a list and I plot out my route to avoid traffic, save gas/mileage etc. I know I sound a little obsessive but time is short sometimes and I’ve got a lot I want to do!

Best trip you have ever taken?

Best trip ever would have to be the 3 weeks spent in Asia. We started our journey in Hong Kong, travelled to Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore then back to Hong Kong for the trip back to Canada. It was incredible…the sights, the food and the shopping. I add shopping because for once in my life everything was “Mary-sized” – everything I tried on fit me perfectly and I didn’t need to alter or hem a single thing.

Good Eats in Hong Kong.

Good Eats in Hong Kong.

The greatest challenge you’ve faced while travelling?

Greatest challenge would have to be when my husband and I were midway through a Mediterranean Cruise. He ruptured a disc in his back near the end of the trip and was bed-ridden in Barcelona for about 5 days – he couldn’t stand or sit. I had to nurse him back to health plus deal with non English speaking doctors, medication, lodging, travel insurance, food as well as figure out how to get him home on the long flight back to Toronto by myself. It was scary and a challenge but I learned plenty during that trip – I learned that I was a much stronger person (mentally and physically) than I originally thought I was.

Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment?

Whenever we are in the Caribbean we like to snorkel and visit the beach. One time my husband and I were snorkelling and we had brought food to feed the fish. Little did we know but there were A LOT of fish there that day! I started getting freaked out as entire schools of fish came towards us, so I swam away. Dear hubby, being the tough guy, stayed in the area. In his excitement at being in the midst of all the fish, he accidentally drops the entire bag of fish food. Wouldn’t you know it that there’s a feeding frenzy from all the chum in the water and his nipple gets mistaken for fish food! A hilarious sight from a distance but not when it’s your chest that’s bleeding! He didn’t lose the nipple but he did gain a scar.

Biggest cultural shock you have experienced while travelling?

That most definitely would have to be during one of my early trips when I toured India. I was there in April and it was so incredibly hot – I had never experienced heat like that before. The heat as well as the smells of all the spices, the traffic, and massive amount of people everywhere was really overwhelming. The cars and bikes in the streets, the people on the sidewalk – everything was just a buzz of commotion! I had to give myself a time-out for a couple of hours one day in Mumbai and I took refuge in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel for some peace and air conditioning!

Panjim Morning Market in Goa, India.

Panjim Morning Market in Goa, India.

 Three things you can’t travel without?

  • I’m obligated to say my husband first (so he doesn’t get mad at me);
  • Camera – I go everywhere with a camera when I’m at home so this one is easy; and
  • Sunscreen and a hat – I’m kinda fragile when it comes to the sun.

 Most practical travel advice?

I’m Canadian so, If I’m travelling outside of North America, I always register my itinerary with the Canadian government office and I bring with me the contact information for our consulate offices for all the cities in my itinerary.

I also bring the US and British consulate information, just in case Canada doesn’t come to my rescue. I like to have all my bases covered, just in case…

 Which destinations are at the top of your bucket list?

  • China is right up there on the list because that’s where my family heritage is. The closest I’ve been is Hong Kong but I would love to go to Southern China to visit my family’s ancestral village and see where my parents were born.


  • Egypt/Middle East is incredibly interesting to me because that entire area has so many historical and archeological sites.


  • Africa to me is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I would love to go on a safari and live on a reserve and just experience nature. The terrifying thing about it is that I’m a city girl and I hate camping, bugs etc. I don’t even like gardening!

 Why should people travel?

I feel that if people travelled, learned and understood more about the various cultures in the world that they would realize that we are all just human beings. Perhaps then, with our eyes fully open, there would be less prejudices in the world and we would have a more peaceful co-existence.

Mary Chong is a Canadian travel blogger, world cruiser and founder of the website Calculated Traveller. When she isn’t working as a graphic designer, she’s travelling with her husband. “I’m not an expert. I’m just a person who loves to travel, take photographs and write about it. PLUS I have a habit of over thinking everything – I hate surprises like going over budget, or missing connections…so I’m always prepared!”

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  1. I can relate. I love to plan trips. I’m not a big fan of surprises. But my travel life has changed as we’ve started bringing our son along with us. Travels never go as expected with a kid.

    • I can imagine! Just spending a week in Hawaii with my young nephews was enough to learn how to be flexible with plans :D

      I used to be very rigid with my planning – everything was in excel documents planned out to the minute but over time I’ve become a lot more flexible and learnt hat often plan B works out even better!

  2. Always love getting to know fellow travel bloggers better!

    I completely agree with Mary. Travel really opens your eyes to the fact that we are all just people and nothing more or less. I feel lucky to get the opportunity to travel and to get to open my eyes to new experiences and ideas.

    • I love interviews for exactly that reason! It’s always awesome to get to know each of you a little bit better!

  3. Thanks so much Meg for these thought provoking questions. You really made me think and confess a bit too much perhaps!

    • Lol and then exploited your “too much” info over all of my social media channels :D Thanks for an amazingly honest interview; one of my favorites!

  4. its wonderful place.

  5. I think I’m naturally a “calculated traveller” too. I love researching and planning a trip, almost as much as I love taking the trip itself! However, I have become much less stuck on itineraries, especially on longer trips, I still like to have a vague overall plan but tend to go with the flow as well.

    • Sounds like the perfect balance! I’m generally very unorganized in life but when it comes to travel I have to calculate everything! This year have learnt to go more with the flow and let plans fall into place naturally :)

  6. Wonderful interview!. I am completely the opposite where travel is concerned: I am happy leaving home with a RT ticket and the first 2 nights’ hotel booked, and nothing else. My husband and I have in mind what we want to see, but things change: one trip we planned to spend one week in Crete – that turned into 2 months (and now Crete is our second home). However, my husband is very good with making sure we have all the right paperwork, info, documents…he makes it all possible.

    • So glad you enjoyed the interview Maureen! It always comes down to that there’s no right or wrong way to travel, I love interviewing different travelers to highlight their different styles :)

      Sounds like you guys have a really great style of travel that works for you! Happy travels :)

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