By Elizabeth Hazard
Alyssa Caverley has canyon jumped in the Swiss Alps, wrestled with eels in New Zealand, test driven a Ferrari with David Beckham, sheared sheep in Scotland and tasted culinary delicacies the world over. These are just a sample of the adventures the host of Ora.TV’s Modern Traveler does in a day’s work. In a rare moment not in transit, we caught up with Alyssa on her most memorable trip, travel tips and more.
MM: Have you always had the travel bug?
AC: I got the travel bug after I traveled to Paris for the first time. Once I was off the plane and got a taste of another culture, another language, and a different way of life, I was hooked. I wanted to find more places, learn more about the world, and appreciate different perspectives.
MM: How did you come to host the show?
AC: I was a correspondent for a travel show on PBS and had done a lot of traveling prior to working on #ModernTraveler. I did a series called “Giving Back” where I traveled to countries like Jamaica, Malaysia, and Panama, showcasing different ways travelers can help give back to the places they visit. I then went back to my news roots and produced and hosted a show with Ora TV called “NewsBreaker.” From this opportunity, I jumped at the chance to work on a new travel show for the digital network.
MM: Is there a favorite spot that you’ve traveled to?
AC: Each place is memorable and amazing for different reasons. One in particular is South Africa. We went on a helicopter tour of the area and explored the gorgeous wine region, the incredible coastal communities and even swam with sharks. That was one of the most terrifying and exhilarating things I have ever done.
MM: Any specific memories of your travels that stand out that you’d like to share with the reader?
AC: There are so many great moments. One that always stands out in my mind was on a trip to Cuba. I had a chance to explore the western region called Vinales. I had rented a car (manual transmission, of course!) and was trying to get to one of the famous cigar factories, but couldn’t seem to find it. I was almost out of gas and lost. I stopped at a little pink house on the corner with the intention of asking for directions. I speak very little Spanish and a little bit of French, and the woman spoke no English. She had two little boys and they showed me all around their house, explaining the business of tobacco farming. She made me local coffee and showed me the hunt they used to dry the tobacco. I gained such an amazing sense of this family and the local culture through them. It’s a memory that has stuck with me for years. So simple, yet so profound.
MM: And on that note, any travel horror stories you’d like to share?
AC: It’s not really a horror story, but I was in Borneo (the Malaysian part), a hot, humid, jungle Island which has one of the largest concentrated population of orangutans. We were there doing a story on the orangutan orphanages. Nothing to do with the Island or the people, but I got really sick while I was there with a throat infection. I had to take a plane back to mainland Malaysia and ended up spending four days in a hospital in Kuala Lumpur. It’s never fun being in the hospital, but it’s definitely not fun when you are missing out on amazing experiences!
MM: I love that you really discover the local spots and culinary treats of the places you travel. Do you research these before you leave, or is it more about surprisingly coming across these spots as you’re there?
AC: It’s a bit of both. Most of it is researched before we go, so we have an idea of where we are headed and how it will work with logistics, but the best discoveries are the ones you make when you are there. It’s more of an adventure and is truly local. There is only so much you can research before you go. It’s when you talk to locals and discover the hidden places only they know about that will make the trip truly memorable. Having a good balance of both is ideal. If you go to a new country with no idea of where you are headed or what you want to see, you will come back with missed opportunities. On the other hand, if you simply sign up for the bus tour and only check off the items on the tourist list, you’ll be missing out on an entire culture. We found out about the sheep farm in Scotland from a local who had lived there for years and it was one of the most memorable experiences of the whole trip.
MM: Any culinary dishes you regret trying?
AC: NEVER! I have tried some really weird things over the years and I have never regretted a single one. Some were strange and not to my particular taste, but I don’t regret a single one! The strangest I can think of was raw squid in Japan. We also did haggis in Scotland–look it up for a description of what it is. It actually tastes very good, although when you describe it to people they just sort of stare and think you are crazy! But food is a large part of a culture and something you should never shy away from experiencing.
MM: Are you a producer on the show as well?
AC: Yes. I make sure I am part of every step of the process. I want to be sure we are staying authentic and giving viewers a real experience — experiences I would be comfortable telling my friends to do.
MM: Where is home for you? Are there any favorite things at home that you miss when you’re traveling?
AC: I am originally from Toronto, Canada, but I’m now based in Los Angeles. The biggest thing I miss when I hit the road is my dog.
MM: Do you have any tips for a more novice traveler?
AC: Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many people think that once they leave their home country, they are a little less safe. I don’t think I have ever felt unsafe in any country I’ve been in and I’ve been to quite a few different countries. That being said, be smart. One really useful tip: Always know the address of the place you are staying. Get a card from the front desk. If you are traveling to a country where English is not the first language, you want to be sure that a cab driver can easily get you back to where you are staying.
MM: What are the must-haves you pack in your suitcase?
AC: I never over pack and it seriously took me years to master this. I always bring a maxi dress, a pair of jeans (you don’t need to bring four pairs), comfy shoes (I usually bring TOMS with me because they are lightweight and easy to pack), a scarf (depending on where you are going, this can become very useful), a couple of comfortable t-shirts, and a lightweight jacket. Those are the essentials, I always supplement with other things depending on the travel location. I also love a good pair of flat boots, but make sure you wear those on the plane because they are too big to pack. I always make sure to pack a great carry-on bag too. This is key. I have my own little survival kit for the plane (especially for longer flights): lip balm, heavy-duty moisturizer, water spritzer, makeup remover, tissue, headphones, Dramamine (I get motion sickness sometimes and it doubles as a sleep aid), aspirin and socks. Other than that, I always have a scarf (in case the plane gets cold) and a good book.
Twitter: @alyssacaverley, @moderntraveler
Instagram: @alyssacaverley @ModernTravelerOra