Cindy Chiang Halvorsen, Talks Winning Amazing Race, Travel, and her Bucket List

If you like to travel then chances are you might watch The Amazing Race. For those of you out there who aren’t familiar, The Amazing Race is a reality show where eleven teams of 2 race around the world, competing in various tasks called Roadblocks and Detours, in hopes to be the first team to cross the finish line. During each leg of the race, the last team to arrive to the pit stop faces possible elimination. The final three teams race to the finish line in hopes of winning the $1 Million prize. Enter, Cindy. I’ve known Cindy since we were little (ahem, adorable) children. No really, we were SOO cute. But I digress. Cindy is one of the most interesting people I know and seeing that she has had some extremely unique experiences, I thought that you all might really enjoy hearing what she has to say. My questions are in bold and Cindy’s answers are below.

Tell Us a Little About Yourself? You know, sum up your life in 5-6 sentences. Easy, right?

Hello there! My name is Cindy and I’m honored that Katie has asked me to be a guest blogger on Katie and I have been friends since we were wee little girls back in Beachwood, Ohio. We’ve shared so many fun memories (and lots of shenanigans) over the course of elementary, middle and high school. After high school, I went on to study at the University of Cincinnati where I got my BS in Biomedical Engineering. I quickly learned that I preferred leading student organizations over studying for thermodynamics exams and decided to enter the business world. My career started at P&G, and then I received my MBA at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. I currently work in Brand Management at Kraft Foods and live in Chicago, loving this vibrant Midwest City.

When Katie heard that my husband, Ernie, and I won Season 19 of CBS’s Emmy Award Winning Reality show, The Amazing Race, she asked that I share some of our Amazing travel experiences with you!

Amazing Race Winner

What Made you want to do Amazing Race?

The Amazing Race was a far-fetched dream of mine for several years. It’s the ONLY TV show I watch in real-time. When Ernie and I first started dating, we would watch The Amazing Race together and play the game vicariously… we would choose which Detour to take and decide who would compete in the Roadblocks. The course looks so much easier when you’re watching from home! We thought we would be great competitors and that it would be a once in a lifetime experience. I proposed the idea of applying to Ernie, who promptly said, “we would never get picked.” I responded, “the worst they can tell us is ‘no.’” After several months, I finally convinced him that we should send in the video application.

What was your casting video like?

My career is in Brand Management, and so we constructed our application to look much like a brand plan. The “Ernie and Cindy” brand had several key equities – or “truths” about our relationship, distinct points of difference (POD), and reasons to believe these truths and POD’s. We had an overarching vision and strategy on why “Ernie and Cindy” was a great fit for the Amazing Race. After we made the video, a role reversal happened where I thought we wouldn’t get picked, but Ernie was sure that we would. Our Opposites Attract storyline caught interest with casting and the rest is history!

What happened when you found out you were going to be on the show?

I was sitting at my cube at work when I got the call from casting that we were going to be on the show. I wanted to scream and reach through the phone to give the casting director a HUGE hug and jump up and down! But no one at work knew I was applying and I wasn’t able to tell anyone. Ernie and I were beyond thrilled and amped up our training to a new level!

What’s the funniest experience that happened to you on the show?

The funniest experience was hands down the end of our 6th leg of the race in Malawi. The task was to pick up a wooden bed from a furniture maker in town, and bring it out to a rustic campground in the middle of the bush. It was easily a quarter- to half-mile from where the taxi dropped us off to where we were meeting the host, Phil, at the pit stop. These beds were awkward to carry and we each had to carry one. At one point, I thought it would be easier to carry the bed over my head. Ernie helped to hoist the bed up. It wasn’t more than seconds later where I had this moment of panic that I couldn’t actually carry this bed over my head. I crumpled right underneath it and was trapped under the bed! All I could do was laugh because it was all so ridiculous! It was a great moment for us because we needed a cathartic laugh amid all that stress!

What’s your favorite place you went to on the show?

On our season, we went to 8 other countries and over 20 cities. I really loved so many of the places we went to during our season. Some were new locations for me, and others were places I had already visited. But the Race is so different from your typical travel experience and you truly get to see a different side. I would love to go back to Copenhagen and explore the city a bit more. The people there are so friendly and welcoming. There’s no time outside of filming to explore our destinations, so I’d love to spend more time around the city and countryside. The other place I would like to return to is Indonesia. I have heard wonderful things about Bali and we didn’t get to visit during our season of the Race. Our Indonesian fans are wonderfully supportive and we hope to visit there again soon!

Most Luxurious Destination?

The Luxurious Amazing Race is an oxymoron. What most people don’t know is that the racers sleep anywhere and everywhere, you eat any food that’s available, and you wash up in the nearest sink, or garden hose. We slept on a restaurant floor in Indonesia, a boat dock in Phuket, a clay and straw hut in Malawi, and a hammock in a rural village in Panama. We stayed overnight in airports across the world (Singapore has a wonderful airport) but we also had some luxurious hotels! If you’re in Yogyakarta, the Sheraton treated us wonderfully and the outdoor pool and gardens are extremely peaceful and serene. The Sunbird Livingstone in Malawi was right on the lake with a stunning backdrop for your meals taken on the patio. Two other modern hotels were the Riu in Panama City and Siam@Siam in Bangkok (I highly recommend their Pad Thai!). We also had a wonderful cultural experience, and delicious hot chocolate, on the Havet Ship in Copenhagen!

Any shooting nightmares?

One of the scenes that didn’t make the cut was my terrible bike accident in Malawi. The task was to operate a bike taxi and deliver a man with his fish to a specific address. In Malawi, they drive on the left side of the street. I’m so used to being on the right side of the street that I was biking on the wrong side of the road! A bike with two grown men was coming directly at me. My instinct was to swerve to the right to avoid them, and their instinct was swerve to the left to avoid me. We ended up swerving into each other and I landed between two bikes and under the two men. My body was really banged up with hematomas all over my legs. There was a camera mounted to the bike but it broke during the accident so there wasn’t good footage to show on-air. A week later at our body-building challenge, I still had these awful bruises.

Was it hard being judged by the world the whole time? What’s your advice for people to deal with the haters?

It was incredibly difficult to be judged by viewers while our season was airing. I knew we were subjecting ourselves to some criticism, but really had no idea the depths to which disgruntled fans would seek us out social media. Some of the fans can be very hateful – not only attacking my character based on the limited view they saw, but also attacking my physical appearance based on my Chinese heritage. After the 3rd episode aired and I caught up on the blogs, Ernie had to screen anything I was reading. I wanted to block out the negative talk during this once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable experience.

At the same time, there are some truly wonderful and supportive fans who have reached out over the past 2 years. My favorite letters from fans are filled with an outpouring of love and encouragement. They’ve said I have inspired them to reach for their dreams and others who confessed that they feel more confident about being in a mixed relationship. We’ve had incredible support from fans around the world and they truly made the experience worthwhile.

For reality show hopefuls my advice is to prepare to take the good with the bad, enjoy the experience, and don’t take anything personally. It’s good to be aware of what people are saying about you, but don’t let it negatively affect your experience.

What destinations are on your bucket list?

The funny thing about traveling is that the more you do, the more you want to do. I’ve been so fortunate with my travels. This summer, we plan to go to 5 new places: Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia and Iceland. Other locations on our ever growing travel list (in no particular order): Norway/Scandinavia, India, Nepal, Turkey, Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco, and Antarctica! I want to see those huge penguins!

Where do you never want to return?

Never say never! If someone offered me a free trip to anywhere in the world, I’d probably get on the next flight!

Thanks so much to Cindy! Feel free to ask her questions or comment below! If you want to keep up with her on Twitter be sure to check her out @CindyCHalvo

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