We had the good fortune of connecting with Christie Verran and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Christie, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
The word “Happy” is the underlying theme of the business I created… Happy Cactus Vacation Rentals! Ultimately happiness starts from within by finding contentment in the blessings you have already been given. Family, a home, a career and time to enjoy life. There is a quote I once learned that has stuck with me, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful”. I try to find joy everyday even in the little things. A sunny day, a hike in the desert, the serenity of kayaking on a still lake or a smile from a stranger. Happiness is a choice that comes with every new day so why not make today a Happy Day:)

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have worked for 20 years as a Hospital Pharmacist but my profession doesn’t define who I am. Since my day job requires precision and critical thinking at all times, I seek to balance life with ESCAPE to “Happy Places”. Traveling with my husband and family has always brought me joy and excitement. Exploring new places, immersing myself in different cultures and being active are important values to me. Having lived in colder climates of Canada and now Michigan where I permanently work and reside, I have always been drawn to escape to warmer climates. Enter Tucson! Wow what a place!! It’s truly like living in another world. The weather is fantastic, the sunshine, blue skies, mountains and oh the HIKING! There are just so many things about the Sonoran Desert that make it a Magical Place that I could write an entire book. In 2014 we purchased a second home near the mountains in Oro Valley. Initially it was intended as a vacation spot for our family and friends but since we are both still working in a state 2000 miles away, it sat empty most of the time. This is where I had the idea to start renting our home to others and started my business “Happy Cactus Vacation Rentals”! I started with direct bookings and word of mouth but with Airbnb on the scene I quickly added that platform to my business. As people started coming and my reviews starting mounting, it was clear that others felt the same happiness as me. There was real value in the Desert! My business is now growing and we are adding additional vacation locations built on the same principles we started in the Desert. Find a location that makes us “Happy” and a property that is large enough to bring family and friends together to make memories. This past year we added a Northern Michigan Location “Happy Cabin Lakeside” and are actively searching for our next Happy Place.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Recommending things to see and do in Tucson is easy for me. It’s my passion. In fact, I have created an entire guidebook that can be publicly found at https://abnb.me/Hi4Vwuny1pb. I have also created a similar guidebook for our newest property in Northern Michigan at https://abnb.me/meW7mRvy1pb.

When coming to Tucson for the first time I am biased towards recommending seeing the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. “Must See” places would include taking the Tram Tour into Sabino Canyon as it is absolutely one of my favorite places to visit. Every visit elicits a different experience. Sometimes there is water in the canyon and you can see waterfalls and find areas to take a cool dip after a hike while other times it is dry. Some days you could run into amazing wildlife like a diamondback rattlesnake or a Gila Monster . Other days you may experience the lovely cactus blooming or desert wildflowers.

Second on my list is visiting the Sonoran Desert Museum which is located in the area of Saguaro National Park West. This mainly outdoor museum features all the native plants, animals and geology of the Sonoran Desert Region and is a great place for the entire Family.

Horseback Riding, World Class Cycling, Hiking, Saguaro National Park, Pima Air and Space Museum, Biosphere 2, Downtown Walking Tour & Dining are just a few of the many activities that can be enjoyed if spending a week in Tucson.

Dining in the Desert is all about Mexican Food and Prickly Pear Margaritas! El Charro Cafe is one of the oldest and most famous family started Mexican restaurants in the City. They have expanded to many locations with the original in downtown Tucson. Another cool restaurant downtown is the La Cocina. This rustic cantina with outdoor seating is located within the walls of a quaint cultural shopping area known as Old Town Artisans. There is often live Music in the courtyard.

No matter what your interests, Tucson is a natural and cultural mecca that can surely appeal to everyone in one way or another.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My incredible & supportive husband has been the most influential person in my personal and professional journey. They say “it takes two to tango” and I couldn’t agree more. Together we bring the synergy to make things happen!

I was an international student when we met in college. To make a long story short, a Canadian Girl meets an American Boy and the rest is history. We married and over time I took the necessary steps to become an American Citizen.

Prior to Grad School my husband was an NCAA division 1 collegiate runner and very successful to the point where he was recruited to run professionally during Grad School with the Hansons Distance Project sponsored by Brooks Running Company. For many years he competed in Marathons and Half Marathons. He was a member of Team USA and competed in the World Championships many times. He was also an alternate for the US Olympic Marathon Team in Athens 2004. Because of his running ambitions, together we were able to travel all over the United States and Internationally while he competed in running races. Winning the Tucson Half Marathon in 2005 was one of the reasons that brought us to the desert. Little did we know at the time,Arizona would become a second home to us years to come in our future!

Website: linktr.ee/happytravels.girl

Instagram: @happytravels.girl

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.