Mike Cully is a driven, visionary, and strategic leader who has always worked to impact every organization he has led. He has served in leadership roles both nationally and globally in the public, private, and government sectors. Throughout his professional career, Michael has taken the best of what he has worked in various industries and successfully applied those takeaways in every industry in which he has worked.
Cully began his career as a television broadcast journalist, a faced-paced career during which he won a local Emmy award for his exceptional reporting of breaking news. After more than a decade working for various television affiliates across the country, Mike Cully moved into public affairs and then quickly into organizational leadership. In California, he was the chief executive of two Chambers of Commerce and the President and CEO of the San Diego North Economic Development Corporation. In the private sector, Michael Cully served as the North American Director of Operations of the business vertical of automotive industry giant Daimler AG – car2go.
In this role, travel became a key component of his job function and responsibilities. Mike Cully routinely traveled domestically to help build 15 markets across the United States, and it was this opportunity that fanned the flames of his passion for traveling – not only domestically – but internationally. Throughout his professional career, he already led more than a half-dozen trade missions to China, Ireland, and other countries in Europe, and it was those experiences that framed his future success professionally.
What is your hobby?
Travel, domestic and international, fuels my passion of learning, change and growth, both personal and professional. For me, there’s nothing like exploring a new city, country or region to expand my understanding of people and cultures, and the more immersive the experience, the better. These travel opportunities have generated new and lasting friendships; created a deep understanding of different cultures and people, and generally helped me become a more well-rounded leader in the workplace. The prospect of traveling too, fuels the imagination. The excitement of journeying somewhere new, exploring new cultures and lands, and immersing myself in the traditions and customs associated with those locales, and incorporating those experiences into my own life is priceless.
How did you get started with this hobby?
Mike Cully’s travel addiction began early in his life when his parents took him on trips to Italy and Paris, France. These trips happened earlier in his life and stoked his interest in seeing and learning more about different people and places.
His passion grew as he sought positions that offered opportunities for travel, which he embraced as a chance to immerse himself into the culture and customs of wherever he spent time. “Every place I’ve been, whether domestic or international, has introduced me to something unique, quirky, or otherwise inspiring that I have been able to incorporate into my personal and professional life,” said Cully. “To travel is to live. The opportunities to explore really do expand the way you think and can help shape how you grow and develop as a person.”
From his early experiences, Michael Cully saw the possibilities of exposing others in the business world to the opportunities of developing reciprocal relationships in foreign countries. This began the development of frequent trade missions – taking hundreds of local business leaders abroad – to China and Europe to inspire and ignite the possibility of trade opportunities.
Tell us what you love about your hobby.
Travel is a break from the routine in which so many of us find ourselves mired. It creates learning opportunities, encourages understanding, and inspires possibilities. Travel has also proven to be inspirational for Cully.
When traveling internationally, Michael Cully is careful not just to hit the high points, tourist attractions, and points of interest so many other tourists frequent. Instead, his interest lies in, “living like a local” and heading off the beaten path to see and understand the real underpinnings of the places he visits. For Cully, this is the true joy of travel.
Mike Cully says there is also a fair amount of spontaneity, adaptability, and the unknown to manage during travel. Rarely do things go as planned, so you need to pack your patience, understanding, and ability to pivot when the situation demands. Cully thrives in this gray area of the unplanned and unpredictable. “It’s what makes travel fun,” he says.
What types of things/equipment have you spent money on for your hobby?
Mike Cully’s appetite fuels my wanderlust to read, research, and prepare. Cully has spent a fair amount of money on two things: travel books and good, solid luggage.
“It’s always a good idea to do a fair amount of research on your destination. Not so much that you ruin the experience, but enough to know how to make the most of your travels,” said Mike Cully.
As for the luggage, “pack conservatively and don’t be afraid to invest in a durable bag.” His philosophy on packing: carry the essentials with you, and don’t fret about things you may have forgotten. Invariably, says Cully, you will leave something behind. The beauty of traveling, though, is that you will, without question, have the opportunity to procure a replacement and further fill that bag with unique goods from wherever you may be.
What are some of your favorite places to shop for your hobby?
You can find unique, informative, and entertaining travel books anywhere. And it’s not always about spending loads of money on getting the best ones. When shopping, I look for books and guides written from trusted, authoritative sources, like Rick Steves. Fodors make excellent travel guides, and both are readily available at your local bookstore or online.
When researching destinations, I use the internet as my primary resource now. Every country/destination has a ministry of tourism or tourism department that has proven to be a fantastic resource for information. The State Department, too, has been a trusted source for up-to-the-minute information related to travel and impacts that may affect your trip.
For luggage, shopping for this can be a hobby in and of itself. The internet here has proven to be Michael Cully’s best friend as there are endless resources and rating sites at your fingertips. Consumer Reports continues to be a favorite and consistent source for unbiased information.
How much money have you invested into this? How much would a beginner have to invest to get started?
During the span of his travels, Cully has invested many thousands of dollars in his passion. But with enough research, flexibility, and planning, travel doesn’t have to break the bank. Mike Cully uses sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights (Scott’s Cheap Flights | Save Up to 90% on Flights (scottscheapflights.com)) and, whenever possible, flexible with travel dates snag the best deals available. Be smart, pack patience, and set alerts from Google and other sources so that you’re notified when the best deals are available, says Cully.
Travel doesn’t need to be expensive, especially for beginners. Choose shoulder seasons of off-seasons to travel. Airfare and room rates will likely be significantly less expensive than your traditional travel dates – like Spring and winter breaks. Be smart and research your options.
Are there any good books for beginners?
For inspiration, Cully starts his journey by pursuing two of the monthly magazines he finds inspiring: Conde Nast Traveler and AFAR travel magazine. These publications come packed with inspiring stories accompanied by great visuals that really get the inspirational juices flowing.
Once he’s zeroed in on a destination, Michael Cully leans heavily on two sources, travel guides penned by Rick Steves and the Fodor’s guides (pro tip: you can plan your trips online at www.fodors.com). Both sources provide enough information (but not too much) to give you a flavor of your destination and a solid idea of what to expect upon arrival.
Cully says he purposely looks for interesting landmarks off the beaten tourist track with so much information available online. He seeks out the immersive, authentic experience, which can rarely be found by visiting the most common tourist attractions. If you really want to understand the culture and get an excellent feel for the locale, stretch a little and explore. You likely won’t regret it.
Are there any online videos you recommend to help beginners?
Videos related to travel abound. Most recently, Netflix has released a documentary related to cruising on mega-ships. While these are interesting, rather than a slickly produced video often sponsored by the destination in question, I find myself turning to sites like Youtube to watch amateur videos from those visiting the destination. These are typically raw and unfiltered and give viewers that unedited look at what it’s really like.
Check out the travel videos on CNN (Travel Videos | CNN Travel). Here you’ll find a potpourri of videos, but Cully has used this as an opportunity to gain inspiration for future trips and opportunities to explore.
How has your hobby changed your life?
Travel has added so many new dimensions to who I am as a person. Everywhere I have traveled, I have learned something which has helped shape my views, opinions, outlook, and even behaviors. In my eyes, there is no other hobby that is as potentially life-changing than international travel. It puts so much into perspective how societies function, which, in turn, affects my overall outlook on life. The trip can be mind-expanding and wanderlust, in my opinion, is healthy and necessary. I’ve said it more than once: to travel is to live.
What advice do you have for others starting out with this hobby?
Be realistic about your travels. Don’t start with a 3-week backpack trip across Europe. Instead, begin realistically, considering how much time you have available, your budget, and your interests. Start with shorter tours. You will find a rhythm by doing this regularly. You will ultimately understand the true meaning of “go with the flow,” which includes canceled flights, unavoidable delays, and unforeseen issues that pop up in the country. Be calm, be patient, and don’t stress. Travel should be fun. It should be exciting, and it should be fulfilling.
Once you’ve resigned yourself that trips are rarely perfect and that delays and the unexpected happen, you will be many steps ahead of your fellow travelers.