If you’ve ever considered traveling through Latin America, but don’t know where to start, Marina K Villatoro is a good person to ask. Leaving her home in New York, she first traveled through Mexico, Argentina and Chile, in the end covering fourteen countries and meeting her husband in the process!
Now Marina helps other travellers and families organize their trips, acting as a travel planner and the author of the Travel Experta blog and its accompanying guidebooks. We interviewed her about her travels and her life as an expat.
Hi Marina! First things first, where do you come from and where do you live now?
I was born in USSR, which was communist Soviet Union, and we immigrated to the United States when I was 6 years old. I was raised in the US and for the past 10 years have been living in Central America (6 years in Costa Rica and 4 years in Guatemala – where I am now).
What first inspired you to travel? Did you always plan to end up living abroad?
We always traveled with my family a lot. However, when I was 19 I took a semester abroad in London and then backpacked through Western Europe and realized this was my calling.
I then traveled and lived around the US for 3-4 years until I decided to hang out in NYC for a while saving money for my never ending trip.
I never thought about living abroad. I was never against it, let’s just say I was open to anything…
What first brought you to blogging? And how has it affected your travels?
Ironically enough, I partnered up with someone to do a Costa Rica travel business website and it totally fell through, but I loved writing so much about my family and my travels, I decided to do it on my own. Next thing I knew people were contacting me to help them plan their trips to Costa Rica and organically it grew to be the sole livelihood for my family and me for the past 5 years.
But what it really gives me is a chance to travel with my family and enjoy all the amazing places which I get to write about and inspire other families to do!
Are you a part of any expat community? Does the online world help you, as an expat?
Yes, that’s really the only way to connect and survive in an foreign country. Through my blog I was able to connect with some people that are my friends now. And before moving I found some people with blogs in Guatemala which really helped my move to go smoothly and with a support system.
You have an e-book about travelling with kids in Costa Rica – how did you come to write it? Is Costa Rica a favourite location?
We lived in Costa Rica for over 6 years, and traveled the entire country many times over with my son. I decided to put all my information into a guidebook for families.
Costa Rica isn’t my favorite Country, I don’t really have one, I just have a lot of good advice to give families about traveling there. I also have guide books for 5 other Central American countries and Cuba too.
How many countries have you visited? Have you many on your list left to visit?
I’ve been to over 35 countries. I think there are over 209 countries in the world (granted I have no interest to visit some like Iran, Iraq, mid east, and some countries of Africa) but whatever is left from that figure, it’s enough to keep me and my family exploring for a lifetime.
What have your best and worst travel experiences been?
There were sooo many great ones, that you can read them all on my site, however, I have had two bad experiences and they were both in Nicaragua. Which is the least favorite travel place for my family.
1. The border crossings are terrible for their corruption.
2. Also we had a horrible experience in one of their hotels, which really put us in a bad vibe for a portion of the trip.
Other than that, so far we’ve had amazing times and hope to have many many more!