Jetsetter of the Month: Travel Therapy® TV’s Karen Schaler
When Karen Schaler, the three-time Emmy Award winning creator and host of Travel Therapy® TV, was a young girl, she would receive postcards from her grandparents and dream of traveling like they did. Her fascination with travel, it turns out, led to a successful career helping individuals plan a trip that is right for them. Karen’s Travel Therapy® TV segments are based on her book, “Travel Therapy: Where Do You Need to Go?,” which features inspiring and empowering trips to take based on what a person is going through in his or her life.
“The Travel Therapy® concept is all about how travel can enrich your life, but with vacation time and funds so precious you need to be sure to take trips that fit where you’re at in your head, heart, and pocketbook,” Karen explains. Her goal is to help future jet setters quickly and easily research top destinations, hotels, spas, dining, and adventures so they can create a vacation that best fits not only what they want but also what they need. “Traveling to the right place can open your eyes so you can appreciate new people, places, and experiences and grow as a person,” Karen says, adding it “can also help you relax, reboot, and reenergize so when you come home you’re ready to tackle anything.”
Karen’s first big travel adventure came during college, when she spent a summer backpacking in Europe. She had a travel book that never left her side and planned every second of the trip so as not to miss anything on her to-do list, which led to some stressful situations when she got lost or her plan got off track. “I wish someone had told me before that trip that often the best part of travel is getting lost!” Karen recalls. “Once you’ve picked where you want to go it’s great to have a plan, but you’ll also get so much out of being flexible and letting adventure take you where it will.” She recommends asking locals for their suggestions because they can share information about the location that might not be in any guidebooks.
Karen’s goal of doing as the locals do reflects in her videos, which she hopes will give travelers an authentic look at the destinations she has been to all over the world. “It’s true first-person reporting, giving a real feel for the destinations so [viewers] can see what place grabs their heart and calls out to them to visit,” Karen says.
One place that captured Karen’s heart is Africa. She says she visited Malawi and South Africa when she was writing the chapter of her book called “Pay It Forward,” which is about volunteer vacations. “It was life changing,” she says, adding she can’t wait to go back with a video camera to show Travel Therapy® TV viewers how special Africa is.
Karen also often recommends travelers visit the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. She first visit the BVI more than 15 years ago when she sailed from one island to the next, and even though she has now traveled to more than 60 countries the BVI still remains a favorite recommendation for those looking to relax and re-energize. Karen gushes about the BVI’s laid-back charm, beach bars with the famous Painkiller drinks, and posh boutique five-star resorts and spas and says the destination offers something for everyone, whether it’s hiking on an uninhabited island or spoiling yourself by staying on a private island such as Peter Island Resort & Spa. “This Caribbean destination is old school and authentic, and that’s just the way I like it,” she says.
Although Karen has had an opportunity to visit many countries, she says there isn’t anywhere she would refuse to go to again because each travel experience is so unique and she has learned from every one, the good and the challenging. Karen believes people are realizing the emotional and financial rewards of traveling off the usual tourism radar, and she says she is excited to see more people asking about places that are undiscovered and off the beaten path. She thinks this trend will continue as social media sharing helps people connect their experiences all over the world.
One person who stands out from her travels is an American woman named Dana Eakin Blanchard who left Alabama to live in Malawi and run an orphanage, at which Karen volunteered. Dana, who was still in her 20s when she left home, and her young daughter had already gone through so much in their own lives, and Karen praises their will to take on the challenge of running the orphanage with limited funds and resources and no electricity or running water. They embraced the chance to make a difference in people’s lives, Karen says, and were thankful for each day they had to help those children. “Whenever I think things are tough for me now I remember that time in Malawi and do a serious reality check about what is really important,” Karen says. “I truly thank Dana and her daughter for teaching me that priceless lesson.”
“I have had so many life changing experiences when traveling, and that’s what I love most about it—how it can inspire, challenge, and transform you,” Karen says. “Honestly, every place I have ever been I have learned something about the place and about myself, and that I believe is travel’s true gift.”