Co-Pilot: Karina Stewart

Posted on March 13, 2017 by Nikki Pepper

Karin with her husband and Co-Founder, John.

The Co-Pilot Spotlight navigates into the minds and experiences of travel professionals and professional travelers. Join us in the cockpit with Karina Stewart. Karina is the Co-Founder and Wellness Brand Director of Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa in Koh Samui, Thailand. She founded the resort with her husband, John Stewart.

OTPYM: Where was the first country you ever traveled?

KARINA: I was born in Mexico to an American father. I suppose you could say the USA was the first country technically speaking but I have always consider both countries ‘home’.  That being the case, the first foreign country was Guatemala when I was 16 years old, and I traveled on my own!

Where is the last place you visited?

I’m just back fromTaiwan where I enjoyed visiting close friends, my godson and sipping the best oolong teas in the world!

And where is next?

I am traveling back to the US for an extended visit with my mother who is 77 years old and radiant in mind, heart and spirit although her body is frail.

Why do you choose to travel?

My interest in cultures and diversity probably began from my origins traveling back and forth between various regions in Mexico and various states in the USA. It eventually led to my to study cultural anthropology at Princeton University. It fuels my passions for meeting interesting people and exploring cultures and ways of living that are so different from my own. I always learn so much about life, people and myself through traveling.

Where is the favorite place you’ve traveled and why?

That is an impossible question to answer as I have so many countries I adore: Thailand, Mexico, Burma, Guatemala, Italy, Nepal, Tibet, Australia, New Zealand, Japan… it might be easier for me to say which country I do not adore- the ones I have not yet had the opportunity to visit!

When on your travels have you felt the most out of your comfort zone? 

The first time I visited China in 1996. The difficulty was the fact that I spoke no Mandarin, and I was there as a TCM student, not as a tourist, so I lived in an area where no one spoke English. I had to rely completely on a translator so when I was without one, I was truly at a loss for words. It took several weeks until I adjusted. After that, I loved being there so much I did not want to leave.

Who is the most interesting person you have ever met while traveling?

An Italian man in his 60s who my sisters and I met on a train. I reminded him of his daughter who had passed away and though he could not speak a word of Spanish or English and we spoke no Italian, we could communicate. He allowed himself to grieve over his loss and we adopted him as our ‘father’ for the rest of the day. This memory will forever linger in my heart.

What is the most adventurous food you have tried while on the road? 

Mountain larvae in a monastery in the mountains several hours’ drive from Shanghai. I would not recommend it.

What’s the next trend in travel?

Wellness travel, of course!