Angelina Zeppieri: Podcaster, Writer, Expert Wanderer
“I feel like I’m listening to your podcast!” I exclaimed as Angelina answered my Skype call. She laughed and smiled, “I’m so glad you liked it!” After finishing the entire first season in two days I guess you could say I “liked” it (spoiler alert: I’m obsessed). Angelina’s travel podcast, “Unmapped,” focuses on her global explorations as well as the millennial travel lifestyle. Episodes cover all things wanderlust— from the thrill of moving to India on a whim, to the secrets behind travel influencers’ success. I was immediately hooked, and for good reason; after its release the podcast was featured by huge names including The New York Times and Refinery29. But Angelina isn’t just a master podcaster, the NYC native also runs her own travel blog and writes frequently for publications like Bustle, Electrify Magazine, and Elite Daily. By the end of my hour with Angelia I felt like I was hanging out with an old friend, laughing over the unexpected quirks and mishaps of travel. And through our easy, free flowing conversation I got the perfect sense of Angelina’s travel style: fun, spontaneous, and adventure seeking. The next time I’m in New York, I know who I’ll be calling to show me around.
Olivia: What travel experience inspired you to begin blogging and podcasting?
Angelina: It was definitely my trip to Greece, the first episode of the podcast is all about it. We actually started the podcast with the Greece trip for this reason, because it was the travel experience that changed everything for me. Since that trip I haven’t been the same, I fell in love with traveling, fell in love with the world and the experiences you can have on the road, and just everything that comes with the freedom of travel. It was my first big trip abroad and alone— I mean, I was with my cousin Amanda, but we had only ever been on vacations with our family or trips to the Caribbean Islands and Mexico. This was a really big deal for us to do, and to be doing it by ourselves. Especially going all the way to Greece, no one in our family had ever been that far.
We did a ten day trip starting in Athens, then traveled through Mykonos and Santorini. We joked the whole time that we were basically on our honeymoon, we just wined and dined ourselves. We were looking at these beautiful sunsets and doing all these excursions together, it was so fun. Amanda had a full time job at the time so she flew back home after the ten days. I had just graduated from college and didn’t have a job to come home to yet, so I flew to Italy to meet up with my family. I have family that lives there and hadn’t seen them in 13 years, so we reunited. Overall I was gone for a whole month. That trip to Greece was really the experience that made me want to blog, want to podcast, want to keep traveling.
O: And when did you launch your blog?
A: I got back from that trip in July of 2013 and later that year started travel writing for Elite Daily. Luckily Elite Daily was up and coming, they were working with lots of freelancers so I was able to get my shoe in the door. I had a lot of ideas I wanted to write about but some of them weren’t fit for Elite Daily. They’d say: “That’s cool, but we already did something similar,” or “We don’t want to do that angle.” But I still had these stories and these experiences that I wanted to write about, so I was like: okay, I’ll just do my own blog, because this is something I still want to share. It was the beginning of 2015 when I launched my blog, and it’s been a work in progress. In the last year I’ve really found my groove, what I like to write about, and what people like reading about. That first year was a lot of experimenting and just figuring out how to write and run a blog.
O: What’s the strangest custom you’ve come across while traveling?
A: I recently traveled to Morocco with a friend, a girl I work with actually. We had never traveled together and weren’t really friends outside the office, but we both wanted to go so we were like: alright, let’s go to Marrakech together! We booked the trip so it would fall on America’s memorial day weekend, but didn’t look at the dates in terms of what was going on in Morocco at that time. We ended up visiting in the middle of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month long religious holiday when they don’t eat from sunrise to sundown, plus a lot of stores are closed and certain tours can be cancelled. A part of us was like: what are we going to do, it’s already booked and we’re not going to not go. But it actually ended up being one of the best cultural experiences I’ve had while traveling.
When they break fast in the evenings it’s called “Iftar,” and we actually got to break fast with locals two of the four nights we were in Marrakech. On our first night we got to have a traditional Iftar dinner in the middle of the desert, cooked and prepared by a Berber tribe. They cooked this amazing meal, set us up in a really cool tent with all these candles, then explained all the different traditional menu items they had prepared for us. We got to experience Ramadan like the people in Morocco do. Honestly for anyone looking to have a really cool cultural experience, especially in a culture and religion that’s different from the West, I recommend visiting Morocco during Ramadan. It didn’t affect our trip that much— there were a couple of tours we had wanted to do which were cancelled because of the holiday so we had to find alternatives, but we still got to see almost everything we wanted to, it was amazing.
O: Reflect on a time you found something special while traveling, then had to leave it behind.
A: I have to leave my family behind every time I visit Italy, I have first and second cousins that live there. I first met them when I was very young, they would come to America a lot and I went to Italy when I was 12 or 13. I hadn’t been back for years, so the first time I went back as an adult I could really appreciate these relationships— my cousins and I were older and we could bond. I went back in 2013 after the Greece trip, then two years later I went back again. Leaving them is always really hard because they’re family and they love me, even if they don’t see me or speak to me every single day. At the airport there is always crying and bawling, it’s difficult to say goodbye and not know when you’re going to see someone again.
O: What’s your Italian family like? I imagine big meals of spaghetti and red wine and boisterous Italian conversation.
A: Haha, yes! My family lives in this very very little town in the hills of Italy. So what you imagine the Italian countryside to be— that’s where they live. There’s a lot of them and the biggest meal of the day is usually lunch, so everyone comes home from work and we have this big, giant, multi-dish meal. They make everything from scratch. They have a farm so the chickens lay their own eggs, then they eat the chickens. There are cows that provide milk. There are pigs they make prosciutto with. They make their own pizza and pasta— everything is made by hand. It’s the freshest, most amazing food you’ll ever eat. They also make their own wine, it’s delicious and you can just drink glasses and glasses and you never feel like you’re getting drunk. It’s a crazy experience, and they are so loving, they are so caring.
O: Do you have any crazy transportation stories? Maybe you missed a plane or had to spend an absurd amount of time in an airport? As a traveler, you know it doesn’t always go as planned.
A: Oh I definitely do, it was the trip to Greece. We spent a day or two in Athens then took a ferry to Mykonos. We booked our tickets in advance and knew it was supposed to be a four hour ferry ride, but within an hour we pulled into a port. My cousin and I thought we were in Mykonos so we grabbed our suitcases and got off the ferry. There weren’t that many other people getting off which we thought was weird, but we were like: “We’re going to Mykonos bye!”
So we got off the ferry and there were these guys holding up signs for different hotels. There was supposed to be a sign for the hotel we were staying at, but we didn’t see it anywhere. So we were trying to speak to this guy who clearly only spoke Greek, we were trying to ask him where our hotel was and we kept saying Mykonos. He’s was like: “Oh Mykonos, Mykonos no... Tinos,” and pointed to the ground. We were like, what the hell is Tinos.
So it turns out we got off at the wrong stop and we were on this little random island called Tinos. The next ferry didn’t come until 11pm and at that time it was 10am, so we had the entire day to spend on this island we knew nothing about. Turns out it’s an island that a lot of local Greeks go to for their vacations.
O: And how was it, did you end up enjoying yourselves?
A: Yes it ended up being really fun, we definitely made the best of it. We literally put our suitcases in a locker and just explored. We were hungry so we found a restaurant, we went to the beach, we went to a little plaza and had coffee, we drank beer. It ended up being really nice. We were so go with the flow we didn’t care, and it was lucky that we both felt that way. We were able to just be like: you know what, what are we going to do, we have to stay here so let’s make the best of it and have a good time. Eventually we got to Mykonos, our ferry came an hour or so late but we go there eventually, around 2am.
O:What is one strength that you’ve gained while traveling?
A: I think it would be that ability to go with the flow. In my regular day to day life when I’m not traveling I’m very organized. I have a schedule, routine, and to-do list that I follow because I work nine to five Monday through Friday. But when I travel, I’m able to turn that off and know that it won’t always go as expected. Not everything is going to go according to plan and you’ll have to wing it sometimes, but those may end up being the best experiences you have. Like spending the day in Tinos— we wouldn’t have done it if we had planned it that way. And even though it ended up being this day that we had to spend there, we actually have really great memories from the island.
O: Do you have a favorite travel story?
A: The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman. This story may have pushed me to start my blog; it inspired me to get out there, travel more, and do more. It definitely gave me some serious wanderlust. I read it on a plane coming home from Mexico and I remember being like: Oh my God, I’m so depressed I’m on a plane going home, I need to be going somewhere else!
Angelina is obsessed with all things travel. She shares destination tips and guides on her blog, Where Next, and inspiring travel stories on her podcast, Unmapped. You can usually find her on a yoga mat, at the wine store, or off on a new adventure.