This is the seventeenth article in Bears Doing Big Things, a weekly column celebrating the stories of notable M-A alumni. Read last week’s article here.
After graduating from college, Christine Williams saved up money while working odd jobs, including a stint at Café Borrone, before spontaneously buying a large backpack and a one-way ticket to Mexico. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “I just wanted to see the world. I’m not much of a planner when it comes to travel—I usually just go with the flow.” She ended up traveling around Mexico, then Guatemala, and then Nicaragua and Panama, embarking on what became an 8-year-long trip around the world. While exploring Central and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia, Williams stayed in hostels, hitchhiked, started her own marketing business and a successful travel blog, and met her current husband while working at a Peruvian nonprofit organization.
Williams’ adventurous spirit and passion for writing creative stories and understanding other people were nurtured by the courses she took at M-A, including Maria Angelone’s Creative Writing class and Jim MacKenzie’s Psychology class. She said, “Ms. Angelone was so cool—kind of funky and fun, a little younger than the other teachers at the time. I do a lot of creative writing for work, so I think that class kind of jump-started a passion in me to write stories and be creative. And psychology was super interesting—I now do a lot of content writing for brands and social media, so I have to get into the mind of the customer by thinking about what they need and want out of life.”
Outside of class, Williams enjoyed acting and film. She created a film club with a friend, studying films and filming scenes from movies, and performed in plays with the California Theatre Center.
After M-A, Williams attended UC Santa Barbara. She remembered, “College was super fun. I bopped around a lot of different majors—I was going to do Communications, then Psychology, then Sociology. It was really hard to choose just one thing. I eventually settled on Global Studies. I really just wanted to explore and travel, so I figured that Global Studies was the closest thing to traveling.”
Then, Williams headed off to Mexico and beyond. She periodically ran out of money and came home to work and save up again. She said, “I really wanted to do nonprofit work in different countries because that was a big part of what I’d studied in Global Studies. On my first day at an organization in Peru, I met my current husband. Back then, he was just some crazy Australian man who was doing the same thing as me: volunteering and backpacking. We spent six months together at that nonprofit and decided to keep traveling together.”
Williams continued, “We worked with lots of grassroots nonprofits and were able to make connections with people in the communities and really listen to what they wanted instead of coming in and being like, ‘Don’t you want this?’ In Peru, we helped out after a big earthquake by doing construction and community development, and teaching in local schools. In the Philippines, we worked with a group of female typhoon survivors and helped them develop their candle-making business, which was awesome.”
Williams and her future husband Jules Hatfield wanted to continue traveling but needed to find a way to earn an income. Williams hadn’t yet established a career besides working at nonprofits, and Hatfield had been a high school English teacher in Australia. Williams said, “We had collected all these stories and photos so we were like, ‘Okay, let’s make a travel blog!’ and that’s how it started. We decided to focus on sustainable travel, like how to be eco-friendly and respectful of local cultures. It was going okay—we were kind of losing some steam, and then we went to a travel blogger conference in Thailand and met other bloggers from all over the world which was really inspiring, so we decided to keep going. After that, the blog skyrocketed and became really successful. We almost gave up on it, but thank goodness we didn’t!”
Williams and Hatfield’s blog, Don’t Forget to Move, partners with brands like Expedia and Kayak, as well as luggage, backpack, and clothing brands, airlines, and hotels. Their mission statement reads: “We help promote and inspire adventurous, authentic, and responsible travel around the world. We show travelers how to see the world authentically through unique stories, engaging photography and videos, honest reviews and practical travel tips.”
On her favorite places to travel, Williams said, “Cuba is very cool and unique. The Philippines is gorgeous—think islands, white sand, turquoise water—and the people there are so friendly. Guatemala is really jungly and gorgeous. There is so much to see there. Bali is very peaceful, the culture is beautiful, and the beaches are amazing.”
Williams and Hatfield travel on buses and trains instead of airplanes when they can in order to be eco-friendly and see more sights. Williams said, “We’ve been on some long, 18-hour bus rides, like, lying down flat barrelling down a street in Vietnam thinking, ‘Please let me survive this!’ On buses, I get motion sick, so I usually listen to music or true crime podcasts. On planes, I try to get work done because I feel like I can really focus without internet—otherwise, I tend to get distracted by social media. When I need a break from working, I play Angry Birds or Bejeweled.”
Williams and Hatfield have faced mishaps and challenges while on the road including several medical crises. In Cuba, Williams contracted Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne viral disease. She remembered, “We went to a local clinic and they were like, ‘You need to go to the hospital immediately or you’re gonna die.’ They took us in this very rickety ambulance and when we got to the hospital it looked like an abandoned hospital out of a horror movie. There was one other patient in there, the lights were flickering, the whole thing was so broken down. We spoke some Spanish and they spoke some English so we were trying to figure out what they were saying. It was so creepy being in that hospital with like no WiFi or anything. It was a bit of a disaster. Luckily, I ended up being fine.”
“And hitchhiking always leads to crazy adventures,” Williams added. “You never know who’s gonna pick you up. Once, we were hitchhiking through the mountains in Colombia and the driver offered my husband and I some really hard Colombian alcohol. He was like, ‘Want some?’ and we were like, ‘Uhh, no thanks!’ In El Salvador, we got picked up by a big school bus and it was an El Salvadoran gospel choir band. They played us all these songs and I had an egg shaker in my bag so we were singing songs in Spanish, just chilling like we were a part of the band.”
In 2019, Williams and Hatfield got married on the beach in Mexico. When the pandemic hit, the couple founded a marketing business called Passionfruit Creative, doing social media advertising and content marketing for brands in the sustainable and social impact space. Williams said, “All of our clients are giving back and having a positive impact. One of them manufactures organic bed sheets, another is a health and wellness marketplace that only sells ethical products. It’s been really fun—starting a new business is always fun. It’s been really taking off, too. Passionfruit Creative is kind of our full-time job right now.”
Williams’s advice to current M-A students: Travel! Just go literally anywhere. Even if your parents don’t want you to, do it anyway. No matter what you want to do for work or anything like that just go traveling—just get a backpack and go. In my parents’ generation you kind of had to get a job and do that one thing for your whole life. I feel like now you’re able to bounce around a lot more and try a bunch of careers and start your own businesses and stuff. You never know what you will end up loving.
On her favorite books, Williams said, “I recently loved Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. The ending was such a trip, and nobody else I knew had read it so I was like, ‘Can somebody please read this book so we can talk about it?’ I also really enjoyed White Oleander by Janet Fitch and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I usually just read whatever the latest popular novel is.”
Disclaimer: Bears Doing Big Things is not meant to be a list ranking the most accomplished or famous M-A graduates on Earth. It is a collection of people with a wide range of expertise, opinions, and stages of life who were kindly willing to share their stories. All have wisdom, entertaining anecdotes, and book recommendations to share. There are 45,000+ additional accomplished M-A alums out there, so keep an eye out for them!