Don’t blink. Because if you do, Mary Charmel Samonte would be gone from the last place you’ve located her at and would have hopped on a plane, train, or car. By the time you look again, she’s drinking beer with locals in Puerto Rico, playing with friends’ kids in the West Coast, or making her way through some jungle in Asia. Blink again, and she’ll be back at her favorite local Korean bar/resto in New York City, hanging out with friends. Before you know it, she’s off to her next adventure. With her easygoing lifestyle and constant traveling, you might think she’s the professional bum that she introduces herself to be. You’d think wrong.
Charmel, or Scully to college friends, is a doctor twice over: an MD and a Doctor of PT (with a possible JD looming in the future?). She runs a couple of physical therapy clinics in the New York City area while constantly being in school for some new degree. She’s just as adept at maneuvering around unfamiliar streets in Europe as she is with the dizzying Medicaid billing and documentation requirements. She’s quick to give you recommendations for great restaurants in Turkey and professional opinion why W-sitting in children is bad. It’s no surprise that you’re bound to run into her somewhere in the world, like we did in London this past fall. And no, she doesn’t let little things like visa complications and sudden travel plan changes affect her. She’s always having a good time, savoring what the world has to offer her.
Name: Mary Charmel Samonte Age: 36
Marital/Family Status: Single
Profession: MD and PT by education, Entrepreneur by trade
Cities you’ve lived in: New York, Manila
City you’re currently based in: New York
Your last trip was to: Turkey (Antioch, Adana, Nevshehir-Cappadocia, Ankara, Trabzon, Izmir, Sirince, Efes, Istanbul)
Your next trip is to: it remains to be seen…
1. What is your earliest travel memory?
I think I was around 7. My first trip to Hawaii, and dressing up for a Halloween trick or treat experience in California!
2. What celebrity or historical figure would you want to travel with and why?
I have a handful I could think of but the one on top of the list is Amelia Mary Earhart. For those who don’t know her, she’s best known as the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. I have read so much about her life and admire her courage in pursuing goals that no one has ever done before. Despite her tragic ending, she inspires me to be bold and to always go beyond my comfort zone. I believe she is a critical figure in history in pushing for equal rights for women.
I can only imagine how awesome it would be to travel with her. I do travel with her, in spirit. You see, I have this unusual hobby of giving nicknames to my gadgets and my MacBook Air is named Amelia. My closest friends can attest to this weirdness. Haha! I take my Amelia with me everywhere I go. So whenever I use my MacBook, it always reminds me of Amelia Earhart’s legacy. It also is a sense of great pride for me that we share the same birthday. It’s a silly thing but it still makes me feel more connected to her in a way since we are both Leos!
“Adventure is worthwhile in itself! The most effective way to do it is to do it.” – Amelia Earhart
3. What is your favorite travel movie or movie that inspires travel for you?
I’m not a big movie fan but I would say A Good Year by Russell Crowe is inspiring. I saw it in-flight and I was happy to see the laid-back lifestyle of Provence. What inspires me about this movie is that the main character’s life was so caught up in the fast-paced city lifestyle. His life was a routine. Yes, he had financial success but other than that, his life experiences were not worth much. When circumstances forced him to travel to Provence, a totally different world than his, he realized that there’s more to life than work and money.
4. What language would you like to be fluent in?
Turkish?! Haha. That’s my most recent travel so I may be a bit biased. But I’ve always wanted to be fluent in French, Spanish and Italian.
5. Aside from the basics (passport, money/credit card, clothes), what the three must-bring-can’t-live-without items for you on a trip?
I’m a very, very light traveler. I can bring just a backpack for a week of travel. That being said, I don’t really have can’t-live-without items.
- My iPhone/camera – I never bring a different camera when traveling. Everything is in my iPhone. I have over 20,000 photos.
- My MacBook Air (Amelia) – Even if I don’t end up using it most of the time. I still bring it in case I have to do some unexpected work. I use a remote access software that allows me to control my home or office computer and watch what my office manager is working on from wherever I am in the world as long as there’s internet.
- A small rosary – made of my birthstone and I always bring it with me wherever I go since I was in college.
6. What is one guilty pleasure you have while traveling?
I like checking out the local eye candies and snapping photos of them without their knowledge (of course!) when I get a chance. Oh and I also like touching! Wait, let me explain that fully… I like to experience things using all my senses. So sometimes when I’m at a museum, an ancient ruin, or anywhere where there are roped-off areas with DON’T Touch signs, I try to sneak in that split-second stroke to feel the material. (This applies to NO Photos sign as well! ;-P
7. What was the best meal you’ve ever had while traveling?
Hmmmm… This is a very difficult question. I love food from all over the world and I can’t pinpoint a single one. Turkish food, in general, is my favorite right now. The food in Antakya (Antioch) is the best in all of the cities I’ve visited in Turkey. They have the smoothest hummus I’ve had and I’ve never liked fava beans but I’m still craving for their Baklava.
If I have to choose a great dining experience, it would be the Testi Kebap served by Dibek in Goreme, Turkey. The food was amazing and the ambience was very authentic and traditional. Please take note: I mean “Testi Kebap at Debik” not Testi Kebap, in general. I’ve tried it in other places in Goreme and other cities in Turkey and none of them are noteworthy. Thinking about it now, the Testi Kebap in Dibek is definitely one of the best meals I’ve had while traveling. What makes Dibek different is how they properly prepare the food. They cook it 3-4 hours in a special pot so diners need to order in advance and make a reservation a day before. It’s worth the wait though!
8. What was the worst meal you’ve ever while traveling?
Nothing stands out as my worst travel meal as of this writing. Well, maybe except for airline food.
9. If you had a theme song for your travels and adventures, what would it be?
This is on the top of my playlist!
- I Don’t Know by Lisa Hannigan
- Leaving on a Jetplane by Aerosmith
- Where the Streets Have No Name by U2
- Come Away With Me by Norah Jones
- 1000 Miles Away by HooDoo Gurus
10. You’ve been given a round-trip ticket to anywhere on the planet and could take one person with you. Where are you going and who are you going with?
Why do you ask the most difficult questions? ;-P At the moment, I want to go to Southwestern Iceland and check-in at Hotel Ion near Thingvellir National Park to watch the aurora borealis flash over it!
11. What is your favorite souvenir?
I’m not big on traditional souvenir shopping. My actual experience and photos are enough mementos for me. For friends and family, I always buy magnets!
12. What is your favorite city in the world and why?
New York!!! Why? For one, it’s home. Also, it’s one of the best cities that constantly offer new experiences everyday no matter how many years you live in it. In New York, there will always be a fresh new adventure waiting around the corner.
13. If you had Groundhog Day version of traveling, what one day would you want to repeat over and over again?
My hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia. That’s on my top 3 list of best experiences in my whole life. Words are not enough to describe that experience. It’s like being in a surreal moment. A hallucinatory quality of a dream – it felt like we were happily drifting towards the sun and being in a different planet. And having been able to share the experience with a dear friend is an added bonus. (I regularly travel alone and I love the solitude but when I experience something amazing, I always wish people dear to me can experience the same thing as well.)
14. What do you fear most when you travel?
Falling in love with a place and people too much that it makes me not want to leave. I’m not a very sentimental person but I genuinely appreciate the kindness of strangers who open their homes to me.
But if you’re referring to the bad kind of fear which most travelers face like crime, that doesn’t really bother me so much. It’s part of life. Anywhere in the world there are bad people. If you’re smart about it, there’s really nothing to be scared of. For example, before my trip to Turkey there were some family and friends concerned about my safety and they tried to convince me to cancel my trip. I’m glad I didn’t.
15. What is your favorite foreign curse word? (Translate if you wish)
I don’t really use curse words much – foreign or not – but pendejo sounds cute.
16. If you had US$1 million to spend on travel, how would you spend it?
If I had a million dollars, nothing much would change in terms of my travel habits and spending except the fact that I will fly First Class more often. Hehe! Other than that, I would still prefer to sleep in the homes of friends who are locals in the country instead of staying in a lifeless hotel. I would still prefer to take public transportation in the cities I visit and I would still want to eat at the small street stalls where locals dine. For me, an authentic experience is what traveling is all about. It’s not the fancy hotels and restaurants, nor is it about spending time in extremely pricey and exclusive establishments which cuts off the locals.
17. What do you think is the most underrated city or country in the world?
18. Where is the most memorable place you’ve ever stayed at?
19. What is your pet peeve – travel version?
Taking out my laptop while going to airport security!
20. What is the last place on earth you’d visit?
Can’t think of any place and I hope I will never have an answer to this.