How I Travel: Lauren the New Tortuga Backpacks Concierge!

Jenn Sutherland-Miller
In today’s installment of How I Travel, we talk to Lauren, our new concierge at Tortuga Backpacks. 

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Lauren Kulifay and I am the Concierge for Tortuga Backpacks. I am, for the most part, who you will talk to if you have questions about our products, travel tips, shipping, or anything Tortuga/travel-related.

What about your travels inspired you to work with Tortuga?

The condensed answer is this: I habitually overpack. This led me to find Tortuga Backpacks, which inspired me to work with them. I want to expand a bit, though.

I love to help people. I love to travel. It’s the perfect situation for me.

I was excited to just be a Tortuga Backpacks customer. As the wife of an Army Aviation Officer stationed in Germany, we have the luxury of being able to travel to a new country almost as often as we want.

While planning for an 11 day trip to Ireland, I was browsing the internet trying to find tips on how to not bring all of my belongings with me every time I travel (I have a problem). I stumbled onto Tortuga’s blog and saw their awesome packing tips; then I saw their backpack and HAD TO HAVE IT.

It had such an effect on me that I wrote a blog about it before I even bought it. I wrote a review once I actually received the backpack and used it, too.

The Tortuga Travel Backpack completely changed the way I travel, and I loved their mission to help people experience the world. I loved their standards for customer service, their Study Abroad Scholarship, and their genuine desire to help people. I wanted so much to be a part of that.

When I saw that Tortuga Backpacks was hiring a Concierge, I jumped at the opportunity. As a military family, we will most likely be moving every few years. As a military wife, it’s challenging to really find a career you can both enjoy and stick with when your living situation is constantly changing. This was the perfect opportunity for me to do what I love from anywhere in the world.

What is your travel style and why?

While I would like to say that I am a budget traveler, I really have gotten to a point where I just want to be comfortable. I have the skeletal frailty of a 90 year old osteoporotic. Well, I at least feel like I do.

I really try to be as frugal as possible except when it comes to meals. (I like to go where the food is. I base my daily routines, and thusly my travel experiences on what and when I will be eating. It’s the best part about living in Europe.)

I don’t mind hostels if I can have a private room. I’m not picky about where I lay my head as long as it is fairly quiet and clean, in a semi-convenient location, and doesn’t smell like wet garbage. I’m more concerned with eating and sightseeing, and I am definitely someone who needs an agenda. Without having an agenda when I travel, I am likely to just eat and go back to my room to rest my brittle bones.

What was your first great travel experience?

When I was 14, I was lucky enough to get to spend 6 weeks in Maui with one of my best friends and her family. That was the first time I had ever been out of the southwestern United States, and definitely the first time I had been away from my family for more than a weekend. It had a big impact on me as far as learning how to be away from home and being encouraged to try new things.

Moving to Germany has really been the greatest travel experience for me, though. It’s allowed me to visit 11 countries in 14 months. I have learned so much.

One of the most eye-opening experiences was a trip to Russia last February for the 2014 Winter Olympics. My husband and I went to Sochi to see a few events and we spent 4 days in Moscow as well. I felt entirely unprepared for Russia. It was so different from anything I had ever seen or experienced and it was a lot to take in— but It was an experience I will always be thankful for.

I got to see where Tolstoy lived. I got to see a Van Gogh exhibit where the paintings were shown at life-size. I was in heaven. The language barrier was brutal, but the people were still so kind and helpful.

One lady in particular spoke German, so I was able to somewhat communicate with her. She went completely out of her way to help us find our lodgings. She took us on the bus route that we needed and stayed with us the whole time to help us find our way. She even paid for our bus fare and made sure we were okay before she left us. Not what I expected at all, but it changed me.

I no longer listen to people when they tell me to expect rudeness or ugliness from the locals in certain countries. I’ve learned if you make an effort to speak the language, even if the attempt is abominable, people are more willing to help you.

I’m so grateful for opportunities to learn and grow, both individually and with Tortuga Backpacks. I am looking forward to a phenomenal year in 2015, and I hope everyone has big adventures planned. I’m also looking forward to getting to interact with more members of Team Tortuga. Have any questions? Send us an email and I’ll be happy to help.


What luggage do you travel with? What do you like about it?

Ever since I got the Tortuga Travel Backpack, it’s the only thing I have used luggage-wise. Before, I had this enormous and expensive Samsonite abomination. I have successfully folded and fit myself into this suitcase, which was fun. It’s as big as my dog.

Last Thanksgiving, I took this suitcase to Paris and looked like a complete goon. It’s almost as tall as I am; and while the universal wheels on the bottom are awesome and allow me to push or pull the bag while it stands erect, it’s completely impractical for traveling here in Europe. Especially on cobblestone streets.

I probably won’t have much need for the Samsonite anymore because the Tortuga Travel Backpack is so great. I can’t fit myself into the backpack, but I totally could if I were in several smaller pieces. The hip-belt is my favorite part about the Tortuga. I broke my lower back cheerleading in high school. It’s still something that gives me grief, but with the Tortuga’s awesome padded hip-belt, I could make the bag as heavy as I want and “sweat and shout” my way through a Richard Simmons dance workout. PIECE OF CAKE.

What are some of your favorite travel gear products or brands?

I’ve used a few different brands of packing cubes, but nothing that really changed my life.

I’m really not terribly particular. If I find something that solves a problem for me, then I hang onto it. I guess one example would be headphones. Apple’s EarPods fall out of my ears and annoy me. I’ve got a pair of Philips Earhook Headphones that are super comfortable and stay in place.

What’s your best packing hack?

I like to pack versatile outfits: tops that can be mixed and matched with different things. I like to pack clothes that I can layer as opposed to bringing jackets or coats. Also, I wear a lot of shirts that are light and sheer (like polyester) because they’re super easy to pack. If you roll those bad boys up, you can fit, like, 900 of them in your backpack.

Even the most utilitarian traveler can be sentimental. What do you bring because you want it, not because you need it?

  1. All of my makeup- which I guess technically is a “need” because without it, people mistake me for an 11 year old boy.
  2. My traveling gnome, Jeff Jr. He was given to me by a coworker in Albuquerque and he has his own Instagram. (Although he hasn’t updated it in a while because he is incorrigibly lazy).
  3. Literature. I like to always have something to read.

To learn more about Lauren, read her blog or follow her gnome on Instagram

Are you taking an interesting trip? Or know someone who is? To suggest a subject for the next ‘How I Travel’ post, contact us.