Ashley knows travel; you can’t venture to more than 25 countries on six continents without learning how to pack a carryon that can fit properly in an overhead bin or that must-bring item when shooting in the tropical forests of Jamaica (bug spray!). Ashley is an expert when it comes to getting from here to there and back again, which is why she’s the host of GOGO Vacations’ webseries, Paradise Found. We caught up with Ashley during her latest filming in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to discuss her climb to fame and the top of the Matterhorn.
Why did you start traveling?
I come from a family of travelers. Growing up I saw a lot of the United States; we usually went to at least two different states a year. My grandparents were the pros at traveling internationally. My entire childhood consisted of the game, “Have you been here?” They usually answered, “YES!” They inspired me to see the world, and so I did.
My first flight was when I was just three months old, and my mom says I screamed the whole way to Iowa for a family reunion. Luckily flights are much smoother for me now! My family took a three-week European vacation when I was in high school, and we visited a lot of relatives throughout Germany and Switzerland. This trip should have been my first TV show.
I really got the travel itch when I went to study abroad in Spain. Every weekend I traveled to a different city and knew that my life would be changed forever. At Colorado State University, I started a travel show throughout the state that aired on the local, student-run station. When I was hired at a TV station upon graduation, I immediately began producing and hosting travel shows, and we filmed in more than 20 countries in two and a half years. After that, I needed to get some more pages added to the passport.
What shoot has touched you the most?
One was when I was in Peru at Machu Picchu. We were filming my travel show, TAKEOFF, and we got to go into the Wonder of the World before it opened. I remember a specific moment of sitting on a rock with the fog slowly revealing the lost city and just observing my surroundings. It was like time stood still. After hearing the stories about its discovery and the engineering of such a beautiful site, I appreciated every second that I was there. I know certain places are always special to people, but this is one where I had my “moment” of awe!
What is the most outrageous thing that happened while shooting?
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first climb of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland, and in August 2013, I climbed the 14,692 foot peak. It was also filmed! The training was strenuous as this is the sixth most dangerous mountain in the world to climb, Everest being ninth. I made it up the mountain from the Hornli Hutte in five hours and back down in four and a half. It was the longest day of my life. I had a guide with me as recommended for safety reasons, but it was by far the craziest thing I have ever done. I’m so glad I made it, and now I will never look at the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland the same way again. This last summer, a year after my climb, I took my parents to see the Matterhorn. They told me to never do it again.
Paradise Found has taken you to several destinations throughout the Caribbean and Mexico. Are there any resorts have you’ve been absolutely dazzled by?
The first time I visited an all-inclusive resort was when we filmed the first episode of Paradise Found. I was blown away that everything was free once you were there. You would find me ordering room service every chance I got! I really have a better understanding of Mexico and the Caribbean since Paradise Found and love that I have gotten to see such a variety of properties, from perfect honeymoon destinations to family-vacation spots.
For families, I have to recommend Hard Rock in Riviera Maya. I loved how the families could interact and participate in so many fun music activities together. I recently was blown away with Garza Blanca Resort and Spa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. From the rooms to the service—it was some of the best service I have ever experienced in the world. The rooms look out to Banderas Bay, and we even saw whales jumping while sitting on the balcony and dining at the restaurants. This truly was an unforgettable experience.
Related Story: ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT, ALL INCLUSIVE at Hard Rock Hotels
Are there any resorts or resort activities that you’ve enjoyed more than others and look forward to returning to?
I love to keep active while traveling, and I’m lucky enough to usually be in beautiful destinations with lots of water to do so! Before we start shooting, I will go on either a run or a dip in the sea to get the day started. A morning run, no matter where I am, is a great way to familiarize myself with the destination or property, and getting a bit lost only means I get to see more. I love it when the all-inclusive resorts include non-motorized water sports so I can hop on a paddleboard or kayak. When we filmed in Jamaica, I got to do all kinds of activities like swimming with dolphins, riding a horse in the sea, rafting down the Martha Brae River, and so much more. The perfect vacation for me is an adventurous one, so the more activities, the better!
Where haven’t you visited yet that you’d like to?
I’m hoping to do a big Southeast Asia trip later this year, but there are lots of places still on my list. Some of the top destinations I would like to see are: Chile, Namibia, Iceland, Israel, Japan, and Nepal.
What are your favorite destinations?
My favorite places so far have been (in no particular order): Croatia, South Africa, Thailand, Peru, and Seychelles Islands.
As such an avid traveler, do you have any travel tips?
Sometimes when I really think about how much I travel and how “used” to airports and “the routine” I am, I laugh. The good thing is, it’s always an interesting experience in airports. I have decided that in no country, other than the USA and England, can people make a proper line to board the plane. I also never understand how people in the back of the plane ever think it’s okay to try to get to the front when the plane finally stops. However, I’ve learned to just laugh it all off and to be patient no matter where I am in the world.
I’m a strong believer in arriving early to the airport. I never believe people when they tell me that the airport is “fast and easy.” I never want to risk missing a flight or even rushing. I’d much rather enjoy a good magazine and coffee and feel settled.
Because I am usually early, I always eat in the airport before an international flight. I am not really a fan of airplane food, and if I want to sleep on the redeye, I get annoyed waiting to be fed. I’d rather already be full and ready to sleep (Yes, I can sleep on planes).
When it comes to packing—I pack outfits and usually try to stick to certain colors, so that I don’t have to bring five pairs of shoes. Being a TV host requires me to have some kind of coordination in jewelry and outfits, so I try them all on at home first. This also prevents me from over packing or bringing “just in case” of clothes.
Since I am on the go a lot, I also have two sets of all my makeup and bathroom products. One just stays in the suitcase, and another is at home, so that I don’t always have to think about that stuff and repack. This also makes it nice when I arrive home.
Oh, and when I am on a long flight, I dress in multiple layers because I am usually freezing, and nothing is worse than being cold on an airplane!
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Do you have any “must-have” items when you’re on the go?
I always pack Wet Ones and hand sanitizer in every bag because I never want to get sick while I am traveling. I also don’t leave for long flights without my neck pillow and my laptop. I like writing scripts on airplanes and doing necessary paperwork that doesn’t require Internet. I don’t ever leave without my OTBT (Off the Beaten Track) shoes because they are comfortable, stylish, and extremely practical for every kind of adventure. And, especially for Paradise Found shoots, I never leave without a full bottle of bug spray and all things that prevent mosquitoes from biting me.
What does travel mean to you?
Traveling is now a way of life, and I wouldn’t change it. It’s normal for me to live out of a suitcase, pack, unpack and wake up to full days of filming. I believe you can’t really understand the world unless you have traveled. It’s not about the fancy hotels and nice meals; it’s about the people you meet and hearing their stories. Bottom line is, we are all people with stories to tell, so what’s a better way to live than to make friends and connections worldwide while telling these stories? Every day for me is an adventure and full of problems that I am trying to solve, but at the end of the day, I’m thankful for a career that allows me to understand our world more.
Check out GOGO Vacations’ webseries Paradise Found with Ashley on The Journey now, and in next issue of On the Go: A Magazine for Travelers, discover Ashley’s Favorite Gear for Female Travelers!
Ashley Colburn’s first travel show WOW Croatia! won her Croatia’s Golden Pen and an Emmy in 2010. Following in the success, she created the travel series TAKEOFF with Ashley Colburn, which filmed in 25 countries on six continents, and her own production company, Ashley Colburn Productions. She won her second Emmy in 2012 for Wonders of the World: Machu Picchu.