Originally from Seattle, Mandy Haakenson is a London-based travel professional with a Masters Degree in sustainable tourism. She has worked in sales and marketing in the travel industry for over a decade. In addition to writing SEO optimized content and social media, she also uses her photography skills to capture beauty near and far. As an UnTours UnFluencer, Mandy is part of a unique group of travel ambassadors who help unlock the hidden gems in your favorite destinations while championing a better kind of travel that preserves and protects. We spoke with Mandy about what being an UnFluencer means to her.
What is your personal concept of the kind of slow travel that makes a positive contribution to the world?
For me, slow travel is about quality vs quantity when it comes to visiting destinations. It focuses on staying in one place longer rather than moving on to tick another place off a list. This allows the traveler to immerse themselves in the local culture, connect with communities and gain a deeper understanding of the destination. I believe this promotes cross-cultural connection, mindfulness, and a more sustainable approach to travel.
How do UnFluencers differ from influencers?
We feature off-the-beaten-path locations, or if it is from well-known destinations, such as a major city, we highlight hidden gems. There’s a heavy focus on nature and/or local culture and we stay away from the iconic overly-Instagrammed spots.
How can UnFluencers be a part of destination management that preserves nature and culture?
UnFluencers provide valuable tips for mindful travel, fostering deeper cultural understanding, showcasing conservation efforts, and promoting responsible behavior, particularly in nature. We share insights on staying present, engaging with local communities, and supporting conservation initiatives. Additionally, we encourage responsible practices like minimizing waste and even leaving a place in better condition than when you arrived.
Can you share a personal story of slow travel that was meaningful to you?
Twelve years after our Tuscan wedding, we returned with our kids, staying in the same 12th-century castle that had been the backdrop to that day. Free from family excursions and dinner parties, we delved deeper into this historic place and its alluring surroundings this time. We walked through olive groves, shopped at the local market and had lazy picnics by the pool, all things we couldn’t do during that busy week over a decade ago. The kids discovered dusty trails and collected wildflowers, and we ventured to hilltowns off the well-trodden Tuscan route. Slow travel deepened our love for a place we already adored.
Where can UnTourists find you?