World Traveler Talek Nantes Re-Invented Herself, Turning a Passionate Hobby Into a Second Career, But Still Has Places to Go – And You Can Join Her

by Anne Holmes on November 9, 2019

A big NABBW welcome to new member Talek Nantes, Cuban-American author and founder of the travel blog, TravelsWithTalek.com.
When I looked up her blog, I was very impressed. Talek covers topics many travel bloggers don’t deal with. For example, a recent – and very useful – post covered a number of common travel scams, giving tips on how to avoid them.
As I learned more about Talek, I was astounded by the number of countries she’s visited. And as she purposefully chose a career in international business in order to have opportunity to travel, I was reminded of the book Dr. Seuss-penned children’s book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! 
As Talek points our in her answers to our standard blog questions below, travel has been a central theme of her life and her interest in travel led her to study international business in college, and learn several languages. She says she believes that traveling outside your comfort zone helps you hone practical skills used in your day-to-day life like problem solving, goal setting and communication.
I totally agree. On my last international cruise, I frequently found myself accidentally separated from our tour group. Twice, they totally left me behind. Once I realized that I was alone in a city I’d never been in before, those were the skills I used to calmly – and timely – get myself back to the ship!
During Talek’s first career, she traveled to over 110 countries, and lived in Colombia, Spain, The Dominican Republic, Mexico and the UK.  She also worked throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and South America in places as diverse as Nigeria, China and Argentina.
Talek’s love of travel is what led to her hobby – now second career – as a travel blogger, and eventually to writing books designed to help others enjoy a better travel experience. Her two books:”Don’t Just Travel to Cuba, Experience Cuba Like a Local” and prior to that, 110 Best Travel Tips: Save Time and Money, Stay Healthy and Safe, Have Fun!
With the books, her focus is always on cultural immersion and encouraging interaction with local people in order to help travelers create their own unique travel experiences. But Talek hasn’t limited herself to book authoring. Her writing work has also appeared in several publications, including Reader’s Digest, Atlas Obscura and BostonHerald.com.

These days, Talek has stepped beyond authoring travel content, to conceptualizing and creating her own tours. She reports that she has a small group cultural tour to China for boomer women travelers in April 2020. As you might expect, cultural immersion will be a part of the trip. Those who join her tour will experience the opportunity to:

  • Share meals with local Chinese families.
  • Learn how to make authentic Chinese dumplings from an expert cook.
  • Sleep in a Chinese guesthouse near the Great Wall of China.
  • Explore Beijing’s Forbidden City
  • Walk the Great Wall of China
  • Experience Old Shanghai
  • See Xi’an’s famous Terracotta Warriors
  • Stroll through 1000 year old, winding “hutong” alleyways
  • Sample amazing food at China’s famous night markets
  • Visit multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Experience travel in an overnight train from Shanghai to Xi’an
  • Visit Tiananmen Square, the heart of China
  • Explore a 2000 year old water town with its curved bridges and winding canals
  • Travel at over 250 miles per hour on China’s fast train
  • Explore the legendary Muslim Quarter in Xi’an, the original start of the ancient Silk Route
  • Experience China’s nightlife in its many clubs and music venues

But enough of me telling you about Talek. Here, in her own words, are her answers to our “Voices of Baby Boomer Women” questions.

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Talek Nantes, author, digital content creator and founder of the travel blog, www.TravelsWithTalek.com.  I’m a native New Yorker of Cuban immigrant parents who instilled in me a love of this great country that gave us so much opportunity. I’m am a passionate travel enthusiast and enjoy sharing my travel experiences with others. I guess you could say travel has been a central theme in my life. As a student I determined that whatever professional I choose, travel would have to be a part of it, so I studied international business, obtained an MBA and learned foreign languages.

My corporate career as an international business professional led me to travel to over 113 countries, five of which I lived and worked in. I live with my husband in New York City and Miami. My most recent book, is “Don’t Just Travel to Cuba, Experience Cuba: The Ultimate Cuba Travel Guide.”

Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.

My husband and I just celebrated our 35th anniversary. We have no children but many nieces and nephews that keep us busy. Both our families are large and loud and love getting together frequently.

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

I have so many childhood memories; hanging out on the stoop of our apartment building, enjoying our beautiful NYC parks, checking out the clubs on Second Avenue. In the summertime, the cops would open up the fire hydrants and the kids would run through them squealing with delight. I was one of those kids and that’s one of my favorite memories.

What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

The women of my generation caused enormous, important changes in civil rights. It wasn’t easy to protest and march for what we believed in. I strive to continue that legacy of fighting for equality for all.

What inspires you?  

Stories of people overcoming adversity inspire me. I am especially moved by stories of immigrants that arrived with nothing and had successful, productive lives contributing to this country’s growth.

What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

I enjoy everything travel related; the planning of a trip, getting there, the trip itself and writing about it later.  I also enjoy getting together with family.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

My travel blog, TravelsWithTalek.com was initially a hobby which turned into a full time job.  I always enjoyed writing so that — and travel, my other passion — led to my travel blog.

Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.

My favorite book is George Orwell’s 1984 because his writing is so clear and descriptive from a technical aspect. The subject matter, a dystopian future, is a fascinating topic and he created it so well. It’s just a little gem.

Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

Travel is my passion. Always was, I guess it always will be. I enjoy traveling with my husband and small group tours.  I can’t think of one country that I’ve been to that I didn’t find something to like.

  • Having worked in China on and off for about 8 years, that country is certainly one of my favorites.
  • I also enjoy Spain.
  • Cuba has a special place in my heart because of the cultural connection, my family being Cuban. It is an amazingly beautiful place with a rich culture.

Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate. 

I do my best to eat right and exercise. I do yoga once a week, try to walk at least a mile each day and do weight-bearing exercises at least twice a week. I hope to stay mobile as long as possible to be able to continue traveling.

What do you stress about?

Social inequality stresses me because I believe it is such an important topic that I feel we as a society need to do so much more work to improve.

From a personal perspective, not being able to sleep for a straight 7 or 8 hours a night without waking up stresses me.

Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

I’ll color my hair and wear moisturizer but that’s about it.  I do fitness training but that’s more to stay healthy than to retain youthful looks.  I’m happy to say that’s not one thing I obsess about.

Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

When I left the corporate world, I decided to become a travel blogger and have been happily toiling away at the profession ever since. That certainly was a total reinvention.

Do you plan to retire?

Fortunately my second act as a travel blogger allows me to continue to work at it as long as I can or want to.  So, no, I have no plans to retire. And even if I did, I’d still do the same thing I’m doing now.

Are you doing anything to GO Green?

I live in a big city where the big opportunity to go green is recycling which we do.

 

Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?

I’ve got several turning points that led to my life’s work/play.  When I was a kid, no one in my family could speak English except me. We wanted to enjoy movies together so we went to see Mexican and Argentinian movies that were in Spanish.  That early exposure to different cultures instilled in me a voracious curiosity about other cultures. Later my mother opened a travel agency which had a huge map covering one wall.  I’d stare at it for hours and imagine what life was like in places like Fiji, Japan and Argentina. I just assumed I’d visit those places when I grew up.

As a teenager I found a book one day titled Ali and Nino about a Muslim boy and a Christian girl in Baku, Azerbaijan.  The book did such a good job of describing Baku that I fell in love with the idea of that city. I eventually did visit, and that book was certainly a driving force.

Just about everything else in my life; education, career, the type of person I married (another travel fanatic) and now my travel blog, has been the result of that travel passion derived from those turning points.

Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?

I have more unfulfilled dreams than I care to think about:

  • Photo safaris in Kenya and Tanzania
  • Train traveling throughout India
  • Crossing Asia on the trans-Siberian highway
  • Experiencing the Galapagos Islands

Little by little I’m crossing these places off my travel bucket list.

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?

I like to think that I inspire others to enrich their lives through travel by providing them actionable travel tips and advice and thorough destination guides. Through my blog, I try to communicate the joys of travel, I debunk myths that keep people from traveling and help people create their own unique travel experiences.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

My mother who instilled important values in me by her example and helped me gain the skills I needed to have a productive, independent and happy life. Also my husband for his constant support.

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.

I have several but my favorite is: Try and you might fail, but don’t try and you’re guaranteed to fail.

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