Traveling Lives: Biomedical Engineer Fiona Chandra
A native of Surabaya, Indonesia, Fiona Chandra came to the U.S. to attend high school in South Carolina. Before relocating to Massachusetts for a postdoc at MIT, she spent 12 years in Los Angeles, where she launched her successful food blog, Gourmet Pigs, in 2007. I met Fiona at the Women in Travel Summit in March, and she’s since become my go-to source for restaurant recommendations in the Boston area. We also took a trip together to Quebec City.
NAME: Fiona Chandra
OCCUPATION: Biomedical Engineering
How have you made your life a “traveling life” and why?
Luckily, as a postdoc, my work schedule is fairly flexible. I have been taking a lot of short trips – mostly long weekend trips. Sometimes I also go out of town for conferences, and I try to extend those trips by a day or two so I can explore.
Why is travel important to you?
To me, it’s important to see the world. There are so many wonders out there, both natural and man-made. I think you learn and grow a lot by traveling, by seeing what is out there and how other people live. You grow by connecting to other people, but you also grow when you find yourself breathless, alone in the middle of what nature has created.
What are some of your first travel memories?
My family travels when they can. Even though it wasn’t that often, I still had some great experiences as a child. The first time I felt air cold enough to puff steam from my mouth was at Mt. Fuji in Japan (I grew up in Indonesia, where it was never, ever cold). I’ve been traveling for a while, but it ramped up in the past couple of years, especially since I got SCUBA certified. Now I’m addicted to diving, on top of everything else!
What is your most significant travel memory and why?
My best memories range between seeing amazing natural wonders and just spending time with my favorite people. For the latter, one time I took a trip across to New Zealand with my family and my extended family, aunts and cousins and all. We took over almost the whole tour bus (the other small family there might have felt left out) and had a blast the whole way! For the former, there was the time I walked into an ice cave underneath Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. Truly breathtaking.
What are some misconceptions friends & family have about your travels?
I think there are mostly two misconceptions people tend to have about anyone who travels a lot: that it must take a lot of money and a lot of time. That I must not actually work. The truth is, even though I take a lot of trips, they’re mostly short trips. I take off for the weekend, and I can use the time on the planes to get some work done. I also look for deals.
What advice do you have for others who want to incorporate more travel into their lives?
A lot of people just imagine this big, epic trip when they think of traveling. It doesn’t have to be. Smaller, short trips can also be amazing. There’s a lot you can see and do in just a three-day weekend. Start small, with a road trip.
Where are you headed next? Paris!