Nick Valencia is a CNN correspondent based out of the network's world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We’ve been following Nick’s meteoric rise to success for the last decade and he just keeps getting better. He’s been on the frontline of some of the biggest breaking news stories including the Baltimore riot, Mexico’s drug war, the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill, and the Arab Spring in 2011. Nick spends an average of 150 nights a year on the road and has reported from some of the world’s most dangerous places. We’re so excited to share this road warrior’s tips and tricks for being camera ready in any timezone.
Describe your earliest travel memory
We went to Hawaii when I was about 7-years-old. I had never been that far away from home before, or been on a plane that long. I remember as a kid being fascinated with time zones and how people in different parts of the world were on different time zones. I don’t think that ever struck me until it happened to me. I was so influenced by my trip I think I wore puka shell necklaces up until middle school. I had dreams of going to college there too, but I’ve never gone back. My wife and I plan on going maybe sometime in 2018.
For work my very first assignment was in 2013 to cover a manhunt for a disgruntled former Los Angeles cop. There was something so special about going back home to report my first field assignment for CNN from my hometown.
What or who inspired you to travel?
I think it’s always really been my own curiosity, more than familial influence, though that did contribute. My aunt and uncle were always going somewhere (China, or Europe or wherever) and they just seemed so cultured. As I got older, I wanted to see the world. It’s a big reason why I became a journalist.
Tell us about your travel essentials.
Spending an average of 150 nights a year on the road, I have my whole system worked out. Definitely headphones. I love listening to music on the road. I am also a voracious writer, so I have to have a journal packed in addition to my reporters notebooks. Running shoes to decompress in between long days or assignments. Earlier this year I lived out of a hotel in Miami for a month, so I went so far as to pack framed photos of my family. That’s not common, but when you’re away from home that long, any way to make your hotel feel like home helps.
What’s your packing style/strategy?
Always pack for more than 10 days and different weather conditions, even if the trip is for the day. Breaking news happens at any moment. So, even if I’m only expected to be gone a couple of days, I always pack for longer and warmer/cooler weather. And no matter the conditions I go into, I always have a suit, dress shoes, a couple dress shirts, ties and pocket squares. You never know who you’ll have to interview and you always want to dress for the tone of the story.
Do you prefer to work on flights or disconnect (watch movies, read etc.)?
I like to unplug. It’s my time to catch up on sleep, or write about my experiences. If I need to button things up for work I will connect to the wifi, but usually flights are my time to read magazines, mentally prepare for the story ahead, or decompress from the story I just covered.
What has been your favorite place to visit so far?
It’s hard to pick, but I keep coming back to Morocco when people ask me this question. For vacation my wife and I spent time in La Pause, Morocco. It’s in the Agafay desert outside of Marrakesh disconnected from the world and it was wonderful. The architecture was amazing throughout the country and the history as well (did you know Morocco was the first country to acknowledge the U.S.’s independence?) I also really love the small town my distant cousins are from in Spain. It’s about an hour outside of Barcelona, in this tiny 1,200 person pueblo called El Catllar. And for the record, I think Cape Town, South Africa, is the most beautiful city in the world.
Nick and his wife Rachel in Morocco.
One thing you can’t live without on a flight
Do you head to the airport with plenty of time to spare or just in the nick of time?
Usually just in the nick of time. We tend to get assignments last minute. My record, from getting the call at home to being on a seat on the plane is 1 hour 20 minutes.
Check in or carry on?
Both. I carry a lot of stuff and never really know how long I’ll be gone for. Our tickets are usually booked one-way
Airplane food or bring your own meal?
Those Delta honey roasted peanuts are everything (can I get two please?). Also, no one likes the person who brings their food from home/restaurant, am I right?
Aisle or window?
Window, I want to see where I’m landing, even if I’ve been there before.
One thing on your travel bucket-list
I would really love to see more of Asia. I’ve always wanted to go to India and Pakistan. We’re planning a trip to Vietnam next.
And for work, I’d like to see more of the Pacific Northwest as well as the Northeast. Though, usually when we’re on-assignment there’s never enough time to see the cities we go to. We’re always so busy bringing you the latest news.