All Episodes

March 3, 2020 27 mins

At the end of 2018, Marcy DePina — an ethnomusicologist, DJ, podcast producer, and self-admitted workaholic — realized she had forgotten to take her vacation days, even though she loves to travel. So she set out to fix that situation by taking 12 trips in 12 months in 2019. And crush that travel goal she did, ranking up 17 trips for the year. As for 2020, she's setting her ambitions even higher and planning to discover more remote destinations. Here’s how she did it. Find more info about this episode at

Learn more about your ad-choices at

See for privacy information.

Mark as Played

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:03):
What is wrong with you that you're not taking your
vacation days like this is absurd? And then I made
a promise to myself that in two thousand nineteen, I
was going to get back like on my travel grind,
and I was going to travel at least once a month,
and I was going to make it into this twelve
Trips in twelve Months project. Welcome to A Way to Go,
a production of I Heart Radio and Fathom. I'm Jeraln

Garba and I'm Pavio Rosatti. We're at the time of
year when people are abandoning resolutions right and left. But
on this episode, we're going to talk about one of
those kinds of projects that only an industrious, thoughtful planner
and resolution keeper can make. We're talking with Marcy Topina,
an ethno musicologist, a dj A radio host, and arts

and culture advocate, and the producer of this Here podcast.
An avid traveler, Marcy embarked on a passion project in
entitled hashtag twelve Trips twelve Months to experience new spaces, people,
and culture and was documenting along the way her journey

through what will be a podcast of the same name. Marci,
Nice to see you on this sphone, Hi, this is
so strange to be on this size fun of the
of the table. We would love to have you talk
about how this trip project came about, this life, whether
this year long goal really because it's more than a trip,

it's kind of a goal. It's actually turning into a lifestyle.
We applaud that I that I figured you would um
as average travelers yourselves. Basically what happened was in two
thousand and eighteen, I was working a job as an
executive director of an organization that was really intense. I
had been with this company for four years and in
the summertime, I have like no life whatsoever, program or

park in the city of north And that means that
all summer long, Monday through Sunday, I was working. And
I've always been an average traveler. Up until that point,
most of my career had been revolved around travel, you know,
doing international music festivals, that booking artists overseas. There was
a lot of travel in my work. And now all

just came to like a screeching halt because suddenly I
was like grounded in Nork. And so in two thousand
and eighteen, I was like, Okay, I can't do this anymore. December,
I booked a trip to Guadaloup in the Caribbean, and
I came back on I think it was December nine,
and I went to go put in my time for
you know, my my time sheet, and I realized that
I had like twenty eight vacation days left. And I

was like, what is going on in the world. Yeah, Like,
first of all, I could have stayed in Guadaloup, like
that was like the first thing. It was the off season.
Second of all, I was like, what is wrong with
you that you're not taking your vacation days? Like this
is absurd and you can never do this again. So
right then and there, I took out there, I took
off the rest of the month, and then I made
a promise to myself that in two thousand nineteen, I

was going to get back on my travel grind and
I was going to travel at least once a month
in make this into a project, a podcast, because I
am a producer and it's kind of like what I do,
and I was going to make it into this twelve
trips in twelve months project. And that was the beginning
of the journey. And did you actually take all twelve trips?
I did. I did. I actually took seventeen trips in

two thousand nineteen way to crush the goal. Marcie, how
did you pick Guadaloup as the spark for this? Well,
I was actually in Guadaloup in December. I went back
to Guadaloup in March of two thousand nine. It is
just such a magical place. It really makes you feel
like you're getting away from the hustle and bustle. It's

very different from the urban environment that we live in here.
And you know, for me, it was just the Internet,
wasn't that great? Which is always the best vacation. Yeah,
Because I'm sort of like a low key or maybe
hike orkholic. So the only way for me to really
relax is when I'm away and I can kind of
turn everything off. So Guadaloupe from me is that place

where I can go and I'd be like, hey, sorry,
my internet is not working. But that's what I'm telling myself,
Like I'm telling myself, he's Harry, the internet is not working.
You should be on the beach. Whatever it takes, whatever
it takes. What was your criteria for choosing the destinations?
So I realized really quickly that I was going to
have to be flexible. So the main criteria for me

was that I had to go someplace I was going
to stay overnight. So that obviously made it a little
bit easier to achieve the goal because I didn't have
to get on a plane every time that I was
taking a trip, but I did have to go someplace
and stay overnight. Did you find yourself on the any
month looking at the Jersey Shore thinking well, you're only
fit twenty minutes away. I gotta squeeze you in. That

happened to me with Philadelphia. Philadelphia, that's a great place
to go. No, Philly is great for New York City
overnights or just yes, somebody where on the East coast. Now,
Philly is a great good food too, Yeah it was.
It was really interesting too because I actually went there
for a meditation retreat. Who goes to Philly to meditate? Marsifu,
City of brotherly love, I guess, also teaches you how

to be at one in pieces. Now Philly teaches you
a good uh. Well, I like going for the rest
poor coogies. That's funny. Well I didn't have any of that.
But what was interesting about it is that I booked
an Airbnb, and I booked a tiny house, and I've
al I always wanted to stay in a tiny house.

And I was like, where am I going to stay
in Philly? Like, I'll just get a hotel, I'll stay
right next to the convention Center. And I was like,
maybe they'll be like a cool Airbnb. And I went
on you know, Airbnb, and I found this incredible little
tiny home and when I got there, it was in
the back of this woman's house in Germantown, which was
not exactly the nicest neighborhood. I literally came around the
corner and I was like, whoa, okay, Like, am I

going to be safe in this tiny house? And you
live in Nork right exactly, you're a stranger to no. Listen,
it's not though you live in a really posh, protected suburb.
You are somebody who lives in a city and no cities. Yeah,
I've so as we all are. Yeah. Absolutely. And so
when I arrived there, it was you know, this is
this woman at her house and she has this tiny
house in the backyard of her property. And I walked

back there and it was first of all, it was
like all Cedar would so it smelled a little sauna.
It was amazing, and she had all of these little
yoga and meditation details all throughout the whole place. So
it was k Yeah, it was totally Kisma. It was
meant to be. And it was so quiet because it
was fully insulated. So every night when I would get

home I was there for three nights, there was all
this commotion, police sirens, you know, loud noises, people whatever,
And then the minute I would shut that door, it
was silence. German towns end in exactly. Could you list
all the seventeen places that you went or would it
take you a long time? Would you have to make
a list to me? Like, no, Um, I think I
can list them. I probably should go in chronological order,

because then I will be able to give you a
better Um. I like that you're talking slowly because you're
trying to go. Can you wary? Yeah? Okay. So I
started out in January and I went to Rome. That
was my first place. Yeah, and I had to start big.
The second trip was to California. I went to Palm
Springs and l A. The third trip was again Guadalupe.

I went to Woodstock for the fifth trip, which was
also like a quick like it's the end of the month,
I need to Yeah. For the next trip, I went
to Florida. I was in Fort Laarderdale and around that area.
Then I went to Philly. I went to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I went up to a different place in the cat Skills,
which was really cool. There's a Tibetan mosque that's up there,

so I went to Tibetan Moscow, Tibetan temple um so
I went to that, which was like amazing. I climbed
this mountain. It was I was like, okay, where am
I It's that's in the Skills. Yeah, and it was
so interesting. Do you know it? Yes, it's the Karma
Trianna Dharma Chaklate Tibetan Buddhist monastery exactly in wood stuff
exactly and overlooked mountain is right there. So I climbed

the mountain and I went to the monastery. That was
actually incredible. I felt I literally felt like I was
not in the United States, and I definitely felt like
I was not in New York. So that was really
really cool. Then I went to New Orleans, which was
my first time going there. That had been on my
bucket and then I went down to the Florida Keys.
I went to Portugal to Lisbon and Sincra, and then

I went to Savannah, which was also Savannah. Savannah was incredible.
I had always wanted to go there. That was another
place that I had never been, which was really cool.
And that was Trip twelve actually, so I was technically done,
but I didn't stop there because the goal was to
go someplace once a month and that was only September.

So then I went to Greece. In October, I went
back to Florida for a family trip to Orlando, which
was interesting, and then I went to Las Vegas. But
I can't tell you about it. Why because I can't.
You're not supposed to talk about what happens. And where
did you stay in Vegas? I stayed at where did
we stay? Oh god, I was there for the Soul

Train Awards. That's actually the reason why. Yeah, I saw
some pictures on Instagram feed and they're pretty hot. Yeah,
it was. It was so much fun. We stay at
the Palms. We said at the Palms because that was
where like, yeah, that's where all the crew was staying
for the Soul training. Were you working the soule train
awards or were you just dancing like a no, so
you were just there for the party? Pretty much. Awesome.

It was so much fun. Okay, so after vegans, that's
all we're going to ask you about it. You can
keep the rest, thank you. Then I went to Atlanta,
and then my final trip at the end of the year,
which was really interesting, was Montreal. And I drove to Montreal,
which was really fascinating to drive there in December because
it's so and I almost died on the way. That's

a lot of traveling and one question I have immediately
is how did you budget for this? That's the question
everybody asks me. Okay, So in December, I received a
bonus from work and I think it was like, I
don't know, like two thousand dollars or sometimes it was,
and I literally took that and bought used it all
to buy tickets. So I went online and I was like, Okay,

I have to be smart about the way that I'm
going to go about this. I have a list, sort
of a wish list of places that I want to
go and when I want to go, but I also
remained really flexible about where I could go, how expensive
things were, was it the high season, the low season,
so on and so forth. And I really organized my
travel around that because I knew that I wasn't going

to I mean, that's a lot of trips. If you
really go all out, I would have spent a small
fortune doing that. So I just found really great deals.
My ticket to Greece was three where I went to
Rome for two hundred I did for the flight. I
was unbelievable. And you kind of bulk bought tickets some

of them, and it upfront, so you knew some of
the bigger trips and then you kind of filled them
in with smaller trips that you were driving to within
the US. Yeah, and then I kind of did the
same thing, Like when I got my tax return, I
took a portion of that and then I used that
to purchase other tickets, and then you flew whatever was
the cheapest. You didn't have any loyalty to flying Delta,
for example. I didn't have any loyalty to flying a

particular airline. But there's airlines that I will absolutely not
fly on, which was never like if you get what
you pay for, yeah, if your seat doesn't recline, like
I'm sorry, I can't be on a flight with your airline.
That's just ridiculous. I know, it's like keeping animals in
a little cage. And when you were going on these trips,

did you plan to go alone or were you inviting
people along the way. So part of what I had
to do to make this happen was to be willing
to step outside of the normal way that I would travel,
which is usually with friends or family, and you know,
take the leap of faith and travel on my own.
It was the first time that I had ever traveled
completely on my own to a destination where I didn't

know it, Like, I didn't know anybody in home. I
knew two people in Rome through other people, but I
didn't actually know anybody in Rome. And I was like, okay,
I'm just gonna do this. So I really had to,
you know, be bold about the choices and where I
was going to go. And of course my mother was
like terrified. She's like, you're trappling by yourself and you're
a woman. And I'm like, it's okay, Mama, I live

it again. I live in Nork. I think I'll be okay.
Do you have a favorite trip the one that when
you think back, you're like, yes, I love you all equally,
but this one was amazing. I there were two, can
I say two favorites? Yes, okay. I absolutely loved Rome
and I absolutely loved Greece. I loved it. I felt
like I was seeing a Mediterranean thing. Yeah. I really

just felt at home in both of those places. And
they're so different but have so much like the history,
the culture that's there, the warmth of the people that
you know it. It was really interesting in some ways.
I felt like I was taking like this historical journey
that I started off in Rome was really significant for
me because there's all this rich history there. I went

to the Vaticant. I felt like I was sort of
retracing some steps of human history throughout this process. And
then I went to Greece and I was like, okay,
now I've gone back even a little further, you know.
So I felt like I was uncovering these gems and
the people that I'm at. The one great thing about
traveling on your own is that you talked to people,
like you really talk to people. I ended up having

dinner with this couple that was on a tour that
I did in Greece, and like, I ended up hanging
out with them for like two days. They were the
nicest people and I never would have done that if
I was with my friends. It's such a benefit to
going so as you're much more open and you don't
have to check with anyone. You're like whatever strikes that
sounds great, And meeting people was like so cool. Like

when I was in Italy, I met this woman she
actually reads tarot cards, and so I went to her house,
Like she invited me in her home? Did she charge you?
She did charge me. It was an air ME and
B experience that I found, which was fine. We ended
up talking to each other for like three hours. It
was great and we're still friends now, you know. That's
really it's interesting mentioned AIRB and B experiences. Were there

any other things that you pre planned. I did pre
plan because I'm the type of person that likes to
know things whenever I travel, Like I'm that person that
you know gets a book or goes online and figures
out like where the key places to go. I don't
always go to them, Like I have this one thing
that I always kind of leave open where I want

to see where the people live in just insurance, Yeah exactly.
Um so I did pre plan a lot of stuff,
but not everything. I definitely depended on where I was.
Like when I was any place in the United States,
I didn't pre plan a whole lot because I didn't
need to. You know, I know the language. It's pretty
easy to figure out what you know, you kind of
know what to do. But definitely, like Rome, Greece, I

pre planned where did you go in Greece? I went
to Santa Reni and after that I went to Athens.
When you were in Greece and round where you mostly
with other travelers or were you with Italians and Greeks?
Both in Rome, because I did three or four tours,
because I knew that. Because what amazed me about Rome
was that everywhere you go it's like a museum. Like
you're walking down the street and it just looks like

you're in a museum. And I was overwhelmed by that.
You know, I live in the United States, where like
our country is not that old, so we don't have
things like that, So it was mind boggling to me.
I know, we think nineteen sixties is old there, it's like,
oh no, this is from the sixties, the first one
exactly exactly. So I did do a lot of tours

there because I really wanted to understand what all these
things were and I knew that like just walking trying
to look at signs, that wasn't going to happen. So
on those tours, I did meet American people like I
met other Americans, but I tried my best to spend
my time with people that were from there in Greece.
I didn't talk to any Americans. I didn't see any

Americans because I was there in October, so it was
the end of the season, so Santorini was like a
ghost town. That's amazing. You're like the first person I've
ever heard he said there there were no tourists in
Santa Many. Yeah, it was great. Okay, let's ask the
flips out of the question. Is there any place you
went that you're like, well, I don't ever need to

go back there again. I don't think I need to
go to Vegas again. That was my first time there,
and I was like, yay for adults. And similarly, I
never want to go back to Orlando. I really don't.
Did you you only did the theme park? There were
you in Orlando the city as well? We were in

the city we stayed on one of the properties and
we did Universal Studios and Disney. And first of all,
that trip for four days was the most expensive trip
that I took. It was insanity. I couldn't believe. And
I said to my family and like, we just planned
a family trip to go to Orlando. We could have
gone to Greece like the same money for less, Yeah,

for less. But I do think that once you are
adding people to the trip, people and their ideas and
their opinions, that's when the budgets expand, it's really hard
and you can't be as flexible. It's true. That is true,
because it was like, oh, we need to eat hear okay,
we want to get Voodoo donuts and that was it
was great, but it was we had I think there

were eight of us and like twelve donuts was like
sixty bucks. Right, are they amazing donuts? They're pretty good. Yeah,
they're like a famous Donah, they're pretty good. Yeah, I know.
The Voodoo with tato chips. Those are do you know?
That was Zapps New Orleans potato chip company. I love
New Orleans. It was my first time there and I

was really partly overwhelmed because there's so much. There's like
I mean, the stimuli is insane, between the colors, the
crazy people that you see, the sounds of the music,
the tastes. It was just like a sensory overload in
the best kind of way. And I have this weird
thing when I travel, like leays go to the hood,

I always do it, Like it doesn't matter where I am,
I always figure out, okay, like where do the people
that are not well off live or where, you know,
like what's happening. So I literally was in like every
neighborhood in New Orleans, like searching for a second line.
You know. We were all over the place, just and
we ended up in like this crazy party that was
like partly outside and partly indoors that we had to

walk through a huge metal detector. But they had the
best crawfish Like they had this huge boil. It was unbelievable.
Just dump it on the table and everybody gets in there.
It's awesome and the music was great. So I have
a question about the music were you so you said
you were making a podcast along the way, what kinds
of sounds were you recording everything and anything I could find?
So it's you know, as an athe musicologist. I'm looking

at how music moves a culture, like what is the
purpose in the culture, And you know music, as you know,
there's many different layers. You have traditional music, you have
popular music, you have music that's more like for chilling
out and meditation like that kind of stuff. So for me,
I was like, okay, what are people listening to? Just
across the board in Italy. It was really interesting to
me because everywhere I go I kept hearing reggae tone

and I was like, what's like the Italian pop music?
And they're like, this is the attempt this is like
what we listened to. We listened to this. There was
a lot of Italian hip hop, but I couldn't find
classic Italian music. I guess I needed to go to
a place that was playing classic Italian music. But then
I found these guys. They were like on the street
with an upright basse and the guy had an accordion

and they were making music, and I just, you know,
in my like broken Italian I started talking to them
and I'm like, Hey, what's this music called? And they
started telling me about it and they're like, yeah, these
are folk songs recorded them when I was in Guadalupe,
I recorded people doing go quam music that were on
just like randomly on the beach doing it. But then
I also went to like a zook party and did

some you know, like recording there to like kind of
get the vibe of what it feels like to be
in a dance party. And Guadalupe, you know, other places,
it was a little bit different. When I went to
Palm Springs, I went to a sound bath. So that's
like a totally different type of music. It's not pop music,
it's not classical music. It's healing music. So here I
am in the middle of the Mojabi desert with these
massive courts singing bowls that they're making, and I'm like,

can I record this? They're like no, I just recorded
my mind and then find I'll find things to splice in.
So what would you tell people who wanted to implack
on this kind of project, knowing what you know now,

I would tell them to plan ahead, be flexible, be
open to do doing something totally different, like traveling by
yourself or going someplace that maybe you hadn't considered but
that came up on your radar and fits your budget,
your time schedule, you know, all of that. And I
would also tell people to leave your expectations and be

completely open to whatever experience that you might have, the
people that you might meet, the challenges, all of it,
just like embrace it. No place is like home. Every
you know, the way the comforts of home, the way
that people do things at home. Whether it's your city
and you're going to another city or you're going to
another country, everybody does things differently. So I feel like
when you travel you have to be patient, you have
to really really be patient. And part of that for

me is not having expectations. Like you know, we live
in a fast paced city, Like I'm used to everything
happening like right now, and that can be like annoying
when you're traveling because nobody moves the way New York
City moves. So those are the kind of things like
for me, that's that's I think the key things for
anybody that wants to do something like this. And when
you get money by those tickets, do you have any

souvenirs that you have brought home from every one of
your trips? Yeah? I do. I get a few things. Um,
I like to shop. I always want something like cultural
like that I can wear, so it's either an article
of clothing or piece of jewelry. Always, I always do that. Um.
The other thing is music. I always bring back music
like That's probably one of the big things for me.

Sometimes I bring back instruments. If there's an instrument that
I've never seen before, I'll buy the instrument, as long
as it's not like ridiculously expensive, which sometimes they are.
So tell us some of the instruments that you've brought back.
I'm curious. Piano, Yeah, so I have a mediva. I
have UM. When I was in Santorini, I was like,
this is very African, but they're like, no, this is
from Santorina. I'm like, okay, whatever if you say. So.

I got like it's like a shaker kind of thing.
It's like a stick and on the end are like
husks of some type of gourd, yeah, or seed or something,
and it shakes. I have m castanets. Castanets from Portugal
or from no I got them in Morocco actually, but
they have a different name for I forget what it is, um,
but the belly dancers use them. So the little tiny

castanets UM. I have a couple of like ks the
you know, like the gourd that shakes. I have a
couple of those from I have one from Santegal and
I got one in Gambia. I have from Cape Verde.
I have it's called the chebeta. It's a type of drum.
It's made out of cloth. It's very traditional Cape Verdian.
When I was in Guadaloupe, I got another little type

of drum. You know. I try to get something that's
not like crazy for me to bring back on the plane. No,
but you have a whole rhythm section in the house.
And it's fun because when I make music with friends,
I'm like, oh, bring some instruments. Yeah, you have a party,
You're like, everybody, grab an instrument exactly, let's do this.
If there's any kind of like little food thing that
the place is famous for, I usually try to get
at least a small sample of that. And for my son,

I always bring well, now he's older so he doesn't care,
but I still do it. I always bring him back
a toy that's so sweet. Local. You were so inspired
by your twelve and twelve months that you're doing something else,
aren't you. Yeah, I'm sort of insane. I guess you
could say, but I can actually blame somebody for this.

There is a person to blame and his name is
Christopher hasiotis our producer. Christopher was like, well, you did
seventeen and it's twenty. It's a new decade. Why don't
you just do twenty and twenty? And I was like, Okay,
why not. Have you made your list of twenty and twenty? Yes,
I have. I have like my wish list. Never been

to Asia, so I definitely have Asia on my list.
I would like to go to Japan, Um, maybe Bali, Thailand.
Those are like three places I wouldn't be interested in Korea.
I'm working on a podcast about Korean culture and now
I'm like sort of fascinated with all with all things Korean.
Um ill can't get a bad meal in Korea? Is
that true? I'll say a millionous. Korea is crazy. Soul

is one of the coolest places I've ever been. You're
inspiring me, so that to Yeah, And I've also never
been to the Middle East, so that's definitely on my list.
Where I would like to go to Jordan's I think
Jordan would be an interesting place. Yeah, I've heard it's
really beautiful. I also would like to go to Israel.
I would be very interested to see Israel and Palestine. Um,

I know it's a little bit of a dangerous trip,
but I still I heard Israel is like absolutely breathtaking.
It is. Yeah, I'd like to go to Turkey. I
worked for a Turkish television station for several years, so
I'd love to go and ext pick up a lot
of the language a little bit a bit. Yeah. Good food, yeah,
really good food, and cool people. Good shopping, yeah, good shopping.
I also would love to go to some other places

in South America. I've been to French guy On, I've
been to Surinam. I'd like to go to Brazil, maybe Chile,
but leaving a little bit up to chance as well.
I'm leaving a little bit up to chance because I
kind of want I don't want to repeat things. So
even though I really want to go to Italy and
I saw great tickets, I'm like, Okay, you can go

to Italy, but you can't go to Rome, like you
have to go someplace else in Italy. So I bought
some tickets. I'm going to Cape Bird in April, which
is where my family is from. So I'm really looking
forward to that. I haven't been since two thousand fourteen,
so that's definitely a great trip for me, and I'll
stop at Morocco. Also, you're gonna have a great time.
You are right, absolutely inspiring traveler. Absolutely, we're super excited

for the Thank you. Thank you so much, so much
for joining us at the table for one. This has
been so much fun. Hey, if people wanted to follow you,
could they could they see what you're doing on Instagram
or on Twitter? Absolutely, Um, you can find me on
all social media at just my name Marcy Topina. That's
m A r c y d E and it is

a capital P I n A. And that's our show.
Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, please
subscribe and you know, leave us a five star review.
Oh Way Ago is a production of I Heart Radio
and fathom You can find the details we talked about
in the show notes and on our website fathom away
dot com. Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter
when you're there. You can get in touch with us

anytime at podcast at fathom away dot com and follow
us on all social media at at fathom Way to Go.
Please tag your best travel photos hashtag travel with Fathom.
If you want to really go deep on the travel inspiration,
pick up a copy of our book, Travel Anywhere And
Avoid being a tourist. I'm Jarlyne Gerba and I'm Pavio Rosatti,
and we'd like to thank our producer, editor and mixer

Marcy Topina and our executive producer, Christopher Hassiotis. For more
podcasts from I Heart Radio, visit the I Heart Radio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

Dateline NBC
Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.