How I Travel: Paul Christie Of Walk Japan

Travel

November 30, 2017 | BY Kissa Castañeda

The itinerant CEO on scratching beneath the surface and helping travellers discover hidden Japan.

There are few universal truths in travel. First, the best way to get to know a place is on foot. Second, you have to get lost in order to find something special. By working in Walk Japan—an experiential travel company celebrating 25 years in 2017—Paul Christie knows for certain that going off the beaten track is a transformative travel experience. “Two journalists told me that Walk Japan changed their lives, which I took with a pinch of salt but we've heard similar feedback a couple of times. An Australian client also said that she was able to see the world in a different, more positive light after going on a tour. I think it has to do with the immersive nature of the experience and Japan as well.”

 

Twenty years ago, Christie joined Walk Japan as a tour leader. Five years in, he persuaded the founders to make him a partner. Since then, the CEO has grown the company—it now has 90 employees conducting 15-20 curated tours and experiences year-round. Their newest creation is the Tohoku Hot Spring Snow Tour and the Tokaido Trail both debuting in Feburary 2018. He was also recently named as an All Nippon Airways (ANA) ambassador and will be advising the company on inbound tourism and the sustainability of Japan's lesser explored country side including the beautiful Kunisaki Peninsula in Kyushu, which he calls home. Here, he shares with us his life in travel.

Last Trip? 

Paul Christie (PC) Last week, I went to Aichi prefecture and then to Tokaido to finalise the Tokaido Trail. We do plenty of research and spend about 2 - 5 years to formulate a tour; we're very excited to introduce this one. 

Next trip? 

PC A day or two in Fukui prefecture.

What do you love most about travelling? 

PC Meeting people. Especially in an ordinary environment and circumstance… in a shop, at a bar, on the street. I really enjoy that.

Most memorable travel experience? 

PC When I was still living in London, I worked in the media industry. I remember traveling for an Islay whiskey tour. We were up there filming, did whiskey tastings at a distillery then flew back to London. Within hours of arriving, the TV bureau I was working for asked me to travel to India to cover the world’s third world air disaster. I went from tasting the most exquisite whiskey straight to an air crash site. It’s memorable for good and bad reasons.

And the worst? 

PC Angola. I had the worst food poisoning ever and almost died of dehydration. It’s something I wish to never experience again.

One place you’d visit over and over again? 

PC Nakasendo Way. Walking on that highway encouraged me to leave London and fulfil my dream of living in the countryside. On the tour, we visit the same accommodation so every time I do it, I get to visit the people we work with. I’ve seen grandchildren grow up into adults.

Three things you always travel with:

PC Eye mask, mask for colds, noise cancelling headphones. I must look so strange when I’m travelling.

What do you normally read on the plane? 

PC Work related business papers, although I’d rather write things. There’s always something to write. I do that for a few hours then try to sleep.

Favourite travel companion? 

PC Myself. I love travelling on my own. Makes it much easier to get through the process as uneventful as possible.

Aisle or window seat? 

PC Aisle. I don’t mind being disturbed so much but I don’t want to disturb others.

Favourite travel app? 

PC IHG Priority Club. It’s brilliant—makes it very easy to find a hotel anywhere.

Best travel tip:

PC Invest in sound cancelling headphones. I have one from Bose, which has changed my ability to sleep on long distance trips.

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