Wanderluster, Student, Mother, Cape Town, SA

Equality champion, Trans-Siberian railroad navigator, Beijing/Moscow/London; Big Sister; resource for skilled immigrants; advocate; legislator liaison; 54 countries in the past 14 years; the list goes on. For this chat and shoot I met Cristina in her 55th country - South Africa. Did I mention that most of the travelling she did (like Trans-Siberian railroad) has been just her and a backpack. I caught up with Cristina at a vineyard, hence the love for the pinot.

1. Name.

Cristina Francisco-McGuire

2. Where is your hometown?

Lombard, IL

3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?

Graduate student/full-time parent/wanderluster

4. What was the journey like to get where you are (career wise)?

I had worked in political advocacy for my entire career, but I was sick of partisan politics, especially with the state legislatures (the focus of my work) becoming increasingly conservative. So I quit my job, went traveling for five months, came back to NYC, and started applying to graduate school. Once I knew what my life was going to look like for a few years, my husband and I decided to begin our family. I ended up starting grad school while I was pregnant with my first, and I will graduate in May as my second child turns one. In retrospect, it was probably insane to tackle a M.A. program and child-rearing, but given the draconian parental leave laws in this country, it was really the best option I had for taking as much time as I wanted with the kids. It's been fortuitous - things fell into place in a way that made sense.

5. When was the mental shift to start the journey?

The work stress took such a toll on me and my life. After awhile, I just couldn't live like that anymore, so I began focusing on how to get out. My husband was fully supportive of my decision to travel solo, which was huge. It seems scary to leave a routine, even if that routine sucks, but once I began thinking of what else was possible and normalizing those possibilities, it didn't seem so out of reach.

6. Biggest accomplishment since making the (physical/mental) move?

I'm maintaining a 3.97 GPA while raising two kids. My husband and I also continue to indulge our love of travel - in the past year alone, we've taken our kids to Brazil, the UK, Croatia, Italy, and South Africa.

7. What was biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?

I had a really rough time in the spring before my second baby was born. I was trying to finish the bulk of my final capstone project before his birth but it was a hard pregnancy and, anyway, my oldest wasn't exactly cooperating. I didn't have much by way of extra help, since neither of our families are in NYC, so I spent a lot of time stressed out and crying. Honestly, I didn't have many options beside staying the course and sneaking in some work when I could, even if it was just 10 minutes here and there. The alternative - missing my deadlines and then trying to finish everything with a toddler AND a newborn - was just too ridiculous to comprehend, so that definitely motivated me out of my tears.

8. Advice for other women?

I can't say enough good things about taking advantage of natural breaks in life to do some long-term travel. It's easy to come up with a million excuses not to do it, but at the end of the day, you can put your stuff in storage and your friends and family will still be there when you get back.

9. Where in the world do you feel “tallest”?

I feel tallest when I'm discussing dimensions of culture, particularly privilege, post-colonialism, and other dynamics of power. I'm a nerdy graduate student, after all! I also feel tallest when I'm traveling, of course.

10. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?

I'm a great cook, and I get it from my parents. Like my Filipino parents, I always make too much food and I am always worried that people didn't eat enough. Food is a way for me to express love and community, so we've cooked some really memorable dinners for friends over the years. It's also a way for me to have adventures when I'm not traveling - I'm always experimenting with new recipes and flavors.

11. What is the future goal/challenge (career and/or life goals in 5-10 years)?

Once I graduate, I'm planning on starting a new career in a still-to-be-determined field, so there will be a million challenges related to that coming up. As far as life goals are concerned, if my husband and I can keep traveling the way that we do, I will be happy. He is already lobbying me to travel for a year with the kids sometime in the next ten years, so we will see what happens!

12. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?

Self-doubt is a big one, particularly coming off of an extended parental leave.

13. Anything you'd do differently (if you had another go at life)?

I've made a ton of mistakes that still make me cringe when I think about them, but so many of them were formative for me. Generally though, I would do a better job of telling the people in my life how much they mean to me.

14. What inspires you?

It has been tough to feel inspired lately, with a looming Trump presidency and what that will mean for the world. But all of the resistance I've seen, all of the people compelled to come out of the woodwork - they've been like a million points of light for me.

15. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)

Various journal articles for my capstone's literature review, "The Sellout" from Paul Beatty

16. Who is a “WOW Woman” in your life who inspires you (and why)?

I am blessed to know many women of color who are total bad-asses, particularly in the workplace - they know exactly what they deserve and do not settle for less, whether it is with regard to pay or respect from the men in the room.

17. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?

I'm in Facebook and LinkedIn, which is what I use most. I also have an old travel blog that hasn't been updated in awhile, but it's a fun read if you don't mind observations about all the food, hippies, and squat toilets I encountered while abroad.