About me – Cindy Carlsson

As a photographer, writer, blogger, and public speaker, I love exploring the world and sharing my discoveries.



Contact me at xplormore(AT)ExplorationVacation(DOT)net

I believe that travel should be about discovery. Travel is an opportunity to really explore a different place and culture. In doing so, we not only gain a better understanding of the world around us, but also ourselves.

I’m a soft adventure traveler with a big interest in other cultures, history, and nature. At ExplorationVacation.net, I provide travel stories, tips, and images from my own travels that bring the world to life whether you are planning your own trip or just interested in the world beyond your living room.

My ever-patient and helpful husband and I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but we’re often off checking out the rest of the world and trying to capture it in words and images.

I haven’t been everywhere, but I’m working on it

Over the years I’ve traveled extensively in the USA and have visited more than 70 countries across the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the South Pacific. However, many of these trips pre-date the creation of this website. Others are just awaiting the time I need to tell their stories. Thus there are not posts on all countries.

I’ve traveled extensively in some countries, sometimes returning multiple times over the years. And there are a few where I’ve only spent part of a day, stopping to explore while en-route to somewhere else or on a cruise tour. But in all of them, I’ve taken time to look around and try to understand what makes that place unique.


World Travel Map Placeholder
World Travel Map


My trips include a mix of independent travel, private guided trips, group tours, and travel with friends via private car, train, bus, plane, cruise ship, ferry, and sailboat. (There are lots of ways to see the world.) But I firmly believe that the best travel is done as slowly and local as possible.

I’m a photographer

I’ve been interested in photography as long as I can remember, starting with my mom’s old Brownie in the early years of primary school, then moving on to a Kodak 110 Pocket Instamatic before diving into the world of 35mm photography with my dad’s Zeiss Contaflex in Junior High. Today my Nikon D610 is mostly in storage and my Olympus OMD-1 gets the most use, but I have a variety of other cameras that get used in certain circumstances.

I worked as a staff photographer all through college, where I also did photography for various student publications. I also spent a couple of summers running the photography program at youth camps.

I’m currently an active member of the Saint Paul Camera Club and regularly compete in regional competitions.

Exhibitions and Art Fairs

Over the years I’ve occasionally sold my work at art fairs and participated in exhibits.

I made it into the ultimate Minnesota art show in 2020: The Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition!

Chinese pavilion with snow

Other exhibits include:

            • Solo exhibition Minnesota and Beyond at Nativity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota ( 2016)
            • Solo exhibition Minnesota, Morocco, and More: Travel Photography at Nina’s Coffee Café in St. Paul, Minnesota (2016)
            • Group exhibition In the Eye of the Lens: The Very Best of the Saint Paul Camera Club at the Landmark Center in St. Paul, Minnesota (2016)
            • Art at the Oval art fair in Roseville MN (2015)



My photography has appeared in several publications, including

Purchase my work

You can always purchase my photography at www.CindyCarlsson.com

  • Contact me (thetravelgal at explorationvacation.net) if you would like me to take on a special assignment or if you would like a specific image from this blog

I’m a writer

I became a writer in 5th grade, when I discovered that writing a short story or essay for extra credit was an easy way to maintain good grades. Later I discovered there were careers that paid people  just to write. I planned to take advantage of that by becoming a journalist, but life had other plans. Instead I’ve continued writing as an integral part of a variety of other jobs. (Writers can be anything!) I can’t imagine not writing and am expanding the range of my writing for publication in this blog and other media.

  • Contact me (thetravelgal at explorationvacation.net) to tell your story

I run a travel website

I began blogging in 2005 as The Travel Gal on Blogger. From the beginning it was both a way to share my travels with friends and provide information for other travelers. I’d always sent long multi-page Christmas letters (complete with photos) about my travels. To the on-going frustration of my high school English teacher, the blog largely replaced those letters. The idea of starting a blog actually came about a few years earlier while researching a trip to Montenegro. At that time (2004) there wasn’t much information on travel in Montenegro. In the end, the best information I found came from an English language blog by a Norwegian whose pictures and stories served as my guidebook on that trip. His blog was also the inspiration for what later became The Travel Gal.

Exploration Vacation is an expanded version of that earlier blog, with more destination content to supplement the travel stories, pictures, and journals. It’s a website for curious adult travelers interested in soft adventure and cultural travel.

I’ve been a guest on the award-winning national podcast The Amateur Traveler and featured in Travel Notes and Beyond.

I love talking about travel and photography

Public speaking came about as a by-product of various jobs and volunteer activities. I discovered I enjoyed it and have been fortunate enough to conduct training and speak before groups ranging from co-workers to national (and a few international) leaders. I’ve always given informal travel talks, but now I am also developing a travel training course to help others make their travel dreams reality.

I’ve made two guest appearances on the award-winning podcast The Armature Traveler:

Travel and photography presentations include:

  • Cultural travel in Vietnam community education class through the Minneapolis, Minnesota, school district. (2019)
  • Simple steps to Improve Your Travel Photos illustrated photography talk at the Landmark Center in St. Paul, Minnesota (April 2016)
  • Exploring South Africa travel talk for the Global Drifter’s Minneapolis Meet-up (January 2016)

Contact me (thetravelgal at explorationvacation.net) to speak at your event

Other things about me

I do other things too, like sail, garden, and create jewelry. I’m also interested in indigenous art and culture, textiles, traditional clothing and jewelry, contemporary glass and ceramics, sustainability, historic preservation, and urban planning. You’ll see these topics show up occasionally in this blog.

These days I’m running my own business again after a varied career that included association management, land use and strategic planning, sustainability, and government relations. I spent the last dozen years working in transportation, which gave me the opportunity to do all sorts of interesting things at the state and national level, but I never intended to make transportation my life’s work. By June 2014 it was more than time to redirect my time and energy. I left my office job in order to spend more time with my husband and develop my own business . . . and I am loving every minute.

You can contact me at thetravelgal at explorationvacation.net

About me - ExplorationVacation.net

6 thoughts on “About me – Cindy Carlsson”

  1. Cindy, I had’t checked your blog in a while, so spent some time this morning (coffee time) reading your postings. I am pleased that you and Lane have been traveling and seeing the world as many of us stay-at-home folk only dream of.

    We were in Scottsdale a few weeks ago; I wish I had read your coverage of Arizona before we ventured that way, but we’ll be back as our timeshare villa is at the Westin Kierland Resort.

    Now…it has been many-a-moon since you and Lane were last in Columbus and surely it must be time for another adventure this way. You’d find more to photograph and write about; such as the new National Veteran’s Memorial and the world’s largest Cartoon Library of famous cartoonists’ originals.

    Cheers..Gil and Carol..

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