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Traveler interviews

Traveler interviews

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Watch this space peeps!  David Hutt of the craftily named blog DavidHuttsTravels is about to embark on a huge travel adventure to Latin America. Here he tells us about where his bug began and what Guatemala means to him.

1.     Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Guatemala?

Hello, bonjour, etc, etc… my name is David Hutt. I am a freelance journalist and travel writer. Originally from London, I have lived for the last three years in the seaside city of Brighton where I studied history at the University of Sussex. As graduation approached and the real world loomed overhead, I had no real idea of what I wanted to do. One evening I sat down with my girlfriend and we said ‘fuck it’, let’s move abroad. I had spent a year in Latin America when I was eighteen and annoyed just about every single person I know telling them about it. So it was decided, let’s go to Latin America. So next month I will be moving to Nicaragua to live and to work, as a writer and as a tour guide for a trekking organisation.

My website, www.davidhuttstravels.com, will feature a regular blog of my travels across Nicaragua and Central America. In order to make the adventure fun for me and then have something interesting to write about for you, I intend to travel widely and throw myself into experiences and opportunities whenever they arise.

Travel Guatemala: David getting his drink on

Looking at a list of things I plan to do that I have jotted down on a decrepit notepad, here’s a few: learning to dive and getting my open-water PADI certificate; learning to surf; trying to win some dollars on a cock-fight; partying on the Caribbean coast; surfing down a volcano; swimming in a bull shark-infested lake.

The blog will serve as my drinking companion and I will recount my anecdotes and tales to you as I sip on a nice cold beer, with the hope that you will be doing the same. I am also a correspondent for Vagabundo Magazine and will publish an article every ten days in my column, On the Gringo Trail.

Jesus, that personal introduction was not brief …let’s get down to some stories of Guatemala. I first visited Guatemala at the age of eighteen. I had just finished my A-Levels at secondary school and needed something to do for the summer. Whilst most of my friends were going to places like Ibiza to get pissed, I travelled half-way around the world to do the same.

Certainly, many beer bottles were emptied, but during the day I worked as a builder for an organisation that built homes for the local poor populations. We worked five days a week, and the average day went like this: up at seven for breakfast with my host family, which was usually black beans and scrambled egg (incidentally, I cannot stand the sight or smell of scrambled egg now),  then to the office for eight, to the building site by nine; then work until five, back home for a shower and a little something to eat, and finally eight until very late/very early in the numerous bars. It was a very good life, hard work and hard play.

The mixture of other workers were good. Mostly Americans but a few English. Plus, the rapport with the Guatemalan builders was great. They became good friends, a proper laugh on site and even better in the bars, The work was extremely worthwhile. After seven days we had built a new breezeblock house for people who were living in cornstalk shacks, most of the time with up to six/seven people in one room. It was a great feeling to see yourself helping.

On weekends I would travel outside of the city of Antigua, where I was staying, and visit ruins, waterfalls, lakes, etc. I kayaked across lake Atitlan, dived off a waterfall at Semuc Champey and roasted marshmellows on the flowing lava of Volcan Pacaya.

I returned to the UK after two months to collect my A-Level results. I got what I needed to go to university, but I didn’t feel ready to go. My parents understood. I sat on the Brighton beach with a hangover and a LonelyPlanet book of South America and decided that I needed to go there. I booked a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires and started a four month traipse from Argentina up to Ecuador. After I flew north back to Guatemala and took up my old job building houses. The base allowed me to settle back down into a normality of friends, partying, local bars, regular work and skirt-chasing.

2.     How does Guatemala compare to the rest of Latin America in terms of things to see and do, its food and its culture? Is it very similar to other countries or very different?

Compared to the rest of Latin America, Guatemala is still very rural, traditional and indigenous. It is also very low-key. The vast majority of people wouldn’t be able to mention one thing that is specific to Guatemala; yet most people know Machu-Picchu in Peru, or Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, or the food of Mexico and the wildlife of Costa Rica.

But Guatemala certainly does have much to offer the traveller. To the north of the country you can find some of the best Mayan ruins, including the well-known Tikal. There are plenty of active volcanoes, lakes, treks, waterfalls to find. There are many excursions ran from Antigua with guides and private shuttle buses.

It also offers a rich culture. Museums are plentiful in most big cities, and if you are interested in looking around churches then you can’t move for one of these. However, the expanse of US culture has had its roots in Guatemala for a long time. It is an interesting juxtaposition to see the indigenous eating in McDonald’s in traditional clothes.

It’s food is basic but good, featuring mostly corn, chilis and beans. It has hundreds of varieties of tamales and stews. The cuisine is quite similar to Mexican in that chicken, rice and potatoes are the staples of most dishes. If you have a sweet tooth then Guatemala can be very attractive. In Antigua there is the ChocoMuseo that teaches you how the Mayans made chocolate and at the end of the tour you can make some of your own. My personal favourite is a street desert that you will see most kids in the small towns eating; it’s a simple concoction of a banana on a stick dipped in chocolate and then frozen.

3.     How much money can someone travel around Guatemala for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?

Guatemala is cheap compared to South America, although it is slightly more expensive than places like Nicaragua. However, expense in Latin America is generally dependent on your lifestyle. If you want a Burger King or McDonalds (which they have in Antigua) then it will dent your wallet; along with drinking Coca-Cola and snacking from corner shops.

But perhaps the biggest expense are the excursions. The more daring travellers choose to sit on the chicken-buses (reconditioned US school buses that have their name sake because they often feel like being inside a chicken coop and locals often bring the caged animals onto the buses with them), and navigate your way around rural Guatemala, which is extremely difficult. But most travellers rely on the private shuttles to get them around. A weekend excursion can really tot up and take upwards of $200 from your pocket. The prices are often justified by the sellers since travel in Guatemala can be dangerous. On one trip, me and a friend got talking to a couple of cowboy-looking Guatemalans at a petrol station as our shuttle refilled. In conversation they decided to show us their loaded pistols, whilst firing one of at a can; luckily, they weren’t half-mad bastards and instead offered us a bottle of beer. But anecdotes I heard showed that others weren’t so fortunate.

On a more optimistic note, if you shop like a local then most things are relatively cheap. I survived on a diet of rice, pasta and packets of noodles, all of which cost me about $1 a day to eat. Even better is the price of having a good time. The local brand of beer, Gallo, costs around one dollar, whilst a shot of tequila is about double. These prices are in the bars, and supermarket prices are much less. Entrance in nightclubs is generally free, but minimal when money is asked for. My tip…look out for the ‘all you can drink’ nights. With some friends we heard about a Miss Guatemala event with an open bar. It was about $10 entrance and we arrived way too early. Another word of advice…too much of a good thing is bad. Two friends were thrown out by the bouncers for ruining a sofa, who then turned on me for payment, but I was able to escape before they could get me, and needless to say, we didn’t last long enough to see the women.

4.     What are your favourite destinations in Guatemala and why?

Antigua. Clear answer. This city is fantastically beautiful and like a second hometown for me. The buildings are wonderful as they are painted colourfully, which gives a sunset walk a real edge. You simply can’t go anywhere in this city and not bump into a restored church or a breath-taking view of the looming volcanoes. For travellers it is safe, whilst not too suffocating. The city is packed with hostels and bars, whilst you can take cheap Spanish classes in many of the schools. It also retains its Guatemalan culture.  The city is always peaceful and the climate is perfect.

5.     What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Guatemala and why?

If you get the chance, then visit Guatemala, and Antigua in particular, during Easter for Semana Santa. Across all of the Catholic world this is a big week, but in Antigua the whole city is dominated by it. Sawdust and flower carpets are made in the streets as huge processions of cloaked locals parade around. It’s a blast that goes on for a week. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of it, but have a look online and see how colourful it is.

6.     What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?

The vast majority of Guatemalans are the most friendly and welcoming people I have ever met. This is not just some middle-class, white-man tosh of happy but poor; I have received more hospitality from Guatemalans than I have ever received in Europe.

Then my least favourite thing is to constantly see these kind and good people, and how they have to live in such poverty. I am not one of those people who sees poverty as a kind of oxymoronic gift; that they don’t have materialism, or consumerism, etc…that they are back-to-basics and happy. Guatemala is still a very unstable country and the thirty-year long civil war only ended in 1996. The indigenous are still ostracized from society and the wealth gap is growing. The basics like good schooling and good health care is still out of reach for a lot of them. What makes it worse is that I studied Latin American history for three years, in particular Guatemala’s history, and it is very sad to see how different things could have been.

7.     What’s one thing you can’t travel around Guatemala without?

A rain coat. When the rain comes down, it really comes down.

8.     If you could have lived anywhere else in the country where would it be and why?

Definitely not Guatemala City. Avoid this place at all costs.

Perhaps I would have liked to live in Quetzaltenango/Xela, Guatemala’s second city, I never got a chance to go there but I had a lot of friends who said it was a lovely city.

9.     If you could think of one thing you wished someone had told you before you started travelling in Guatemala what would it be?

Learn more Spanish. My Spanish was mediocre at best and when I first arrived I naively, and perhaps a little ignorantly, thought that most people would speak English. The problem I found is that a lot of people do and you become incredibly embarrassed that you can’t talk your language. When an eight year old shoe-shine boy can hold down a conversation in English but you can’t string five words of Spanish together, it’s time to book into a language-school. Plus, you get so much more out of travelling when you can speak properly with locals.

Good luck David. We’ll be following your Gringo trail for sure…

Follow his story over on davidhuttstravels and check him out on Twitter why not?

If you’d like to be interviewed, contact us

 

Travel Ecuador with Man in the Middle

 

His name’s not Malcolm but he’s very much stuck in the middle. Of Ecuador that is. After getting an email from the mysterious “El profe britanico” we had to delve a little deeper and find out everything we could about this man living life to the full in the deep heart of South America. Here he is to tell us everything about Ecuador.

1. Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling and living in Ecuador?

Once upon a time there was a Brit who strayed.  He arrived in a new place, scratched his head in befuddlement and tried to work out what the hell was going on.  Every once in a while he would absent-mindedly wander off and end up someplace new.

Unfortunately for the world at large, this Brit was not illiterate and persisted in subjecting his ill-formed opinions upon them in writing.

The aforementioned wayfaring scribbler is me, and the ill-formed opinions, which you would be well-advised to avoid like a rather verbose dose of the plague, are located at:

http://maninthemiddleecuador.blogspot.com/

…you have been warned.

2. What made you choose to focus your site on this country and what is special about it?

As with most of my travelling, the decision to focus in on Ecuador was based upon my own monumental ignorance.  I had stumbled across most of South America on previous journeys, but knew a surprising amount of not very much about Ecuador.

The cracks that have started to appear in that monumental ignorance have allowed me to glimpse a rather intriguing land.

For me, the thing that is most special about Ecuador is its incredible, and somewhat compacted, diversity,  It has an estimated 25,000 species of plants (more in its 283,520 square kilometres than in North America’s 24,709,000), 1600 bird species (twice the total in Europe) and over 300 mammal species (more per square metre than anywhere else on Earth).

From where I am currently based in Cuenca, 2500m above sea-level in the Andes Mountains, I’m just half-a-day’s travel from the Pacific Ocean and half-a-day’s travel from the Amazon rainforest.   The variety in such a small area is pretty astounding.

3. How much money can someone travel around Ecuador for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?

A hearty lunch with soup, a main course of meat, rice and veg and a glass of juice should set you back between $1.50 and $2.50.  Anyone paying more than that should hear gringo-trap alarm bells ringing (the reason the proprietor is so jovial is that he knows the only fresh meat in the establishment is you).

A 600ml bottle of beer (the two big brands are Pilsener and Club) costs around $1 – $1.50.

Hostels cost around $7-15 a night, hotels upwards of $20.

All in all, a budget traveller could get by on $20-30 a day.

What is expensive in Ecuador is electrical goods and electronics.  If you are a gadget fiend, I suggest you bring all your technological crutches with you, as they are already expensive enough here even before they add on the high taxes (ah the joys of being in a socialist utopia).

4. What is the local cuisine like? What are some of your recommended dishes?

Ecuadorians pride themselves on their soups, which are mostly delicious.  The most distinctive is Locro de Papas; a warming, creamy, cheese and potato soup.

At breakfast you typically get Mote Pillo, a kind of corn-based scrambled eggs, and/or Llapingachos, a cheese-stuffed potato patty, often served in a peanut sauce.

If you’re down on the coast, get stuck into the fantastic Cebiche; fresh fish, marinated in citrus juices and spiced with chilli and pepper.  Unlike its Peruvian neighbour (spelled ‘Ceviche’), Ecuadorian Cebiche often includes tomato to add extra tang.

In terms of drinks to try, there’s Morocho; a sweet, milky, spiced corn drink vaguely reminiscent of rice pudding, and my personal tipple of choice, Canelazo; which combines two of my favourite things, cinnamon and near-medicinal-strength alcohol, into a cockle-warming concoction custom-designed to keep the chill of an Andean evening at bay.

5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Ecuador and why?

It’s difficult to spend much time in Ecuador without coming across a parade (a few days ago in Cuenca it was the Day of the Clowns parade), musical performance (stages seem to pop up in public spaces for no clear reason every few weeks) or one of the many Independence Day celebrations (as different towns and areas of Ecuador declared independence at different times there are plenty to choose from).

For culture buffs, Ecuador has some of the oldest and best preserved city centres in the Americas, with Cuenca, Quito and Loja being particular highlights.

For outdoorsy types, there’s plenty of Andes and Amazon to trek through, plus lots of rafting, canyoning, tarzaning up in the forest canopy and other acts of derring-do to try out.

However, my personal recommendation for adrenaline junkies would be The Swing at the End of the World in Baños: a swing in a treehouse hanging over the edge of a cliff, with a stunning view of the Tungurahua Volcano to distract you from the buttock-clenching terror of it all.

6. What is your favourite thing about travelling in Ecuador? What is your least favourite thing?

My favourite thing is the surreal surprises, like when I was asking if I could use the phone in a hostel and the receptionist responded by bending over and tying up my shoelaces.

One thing I don’t enjoy about Ecuador is the vestiges of the old caste system.  Black and indigenous Ecuadorians are often treated to undisguised acts of racism.  It seems much less prevalent amongst young people, but there’s still a long way to go before claims of an equal society have any real resonance.

7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about Ecuador? Why do you choose these things?

I’m interested in the odd, the obscure and the unexpected.  I’m also keen to put a little historical and cultural meat on the bones of my travel.

8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around Ecuador without?

My body: although I’ve heard that there are shamans down in the Amazon who can prescribe a drug called Ayahuasca to remedy the problem.

Apart from that, I’d go for a really solid pair of walking boots.

9. What kind of response have you had to your blogs about Ecuador? What post had the most interest?

The post which seems to have attracted the most interest was about the Ecuadorian Day of the deceased on 2nd of November.  I suppose because people normally associate the Day of the Dead with Mexico it piqued some curiosities.  It also started with one of my students offering me a baby in a black plastic bag, which may also have raised some eyebrows.

10. If you could think of one thing to tell people before they started travelling in Ecuador what would it be?

Have fun, but don’t take fliers from people on the street. Like as not they’re probably innocuous pieces of paper, but some unscrupulous types have taken to impregnating them with Scopolamine, a hallucinogen which renders the victim highly suggestible.  Take the flier and you will willingly empty out your bank account and hand it over.  Forewarned is forearmed.

Apart from that, just go crazy and drink in all the variety the country has to offer.

 

Ecotourism and Sustainable Travel: Bret Love of Green Global Travel –

 

Bret and Mary enjoying a sunset over the Amazon in Peru

Today we’re excited to launch a new set of interviews under the theme of ecotourism and sustainable travel, a topic that is steadily growing in importance with travellers around the globe each day. For our first chat in the series, we sit down with Bret Love, one half (along with his partner, Mary Gabbett) of Green Global Travel to hear about the issues involved and what we, as world travelers, can do to be more responsible.

1. Hey Bret! For those that don’t know about you, could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling the world?

Sure! I’m a veteran freelance writer/photographer who, in 2010, became the co-founder (with my partner, Mary Gabbett) and Editor In Chief of Green Global Travel, a web-based magazine devoted to ecotourism, nature/wildlife conservation and sustainable living. As for my experience traveling the world, it all started when I was 11 and went on a 3-week tour of Italy with the Atlanta Boy Choir, which culminated in me singing for Pope John Paul II in the Vatican 5 days after my 12th birthday. When I became a writer, I started out in music and had a monthly world music column. That’s definitely where my fascination with foreign cultures started.

2. What is about ecotourism/responsibly-minded travel that appeals to you?

Quite a few things. First off, I love nature and wildlife. Secondly, I love finding exciting adventures off-the-beaten-path, whether it be safaris in Africa or swimming through cenotes in the Riviera Maya or snorkeling with sharks and sea lions in the Galapagos Islands. Lastly, I think it’s the right thing to do, for ourselves and for the planet. Humanity has mucked things up in so many ways since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and ecotourism helps to preserve the few pristine places our planet has left. Honestly, I can’t imagine traveling any other way.

Bret and Mary getting each other wet in Panama

3. As travellers what are some basic steps we can follow to travel more responsibly and help preserve the world for future generations?

Save water by taking shorter showers, hanging towels up rather than having them washed each day, and NEVER use the hotel laundry. Turn off all lights and A/C when you leave your room, and leave the Do Not Disturb sign up to keep them from cleaning it every day. Buy directly from local artists to ensure your money supports the local economy, and never buy anything made from endangered species, unsustainable hardwoods or ancient artifacts. Most importantly, be a traveler, not a tourist: Step outside your comfort zone, embrace indigenous cultures, get to know the locals, and honor their traditions even if they differ from your own.

4. What difficulties does an eco-tourist face? What are the main things that obstruct the growth of this sector of the travel industry?

I’d say the biggest threats are progress, consumerism, globalization and the developing world’s fascination with Western culture. It’s becoming harder to find authentic travel experiences that aren’t commodified and sanitized for your protection (or profit), and modern-day colonial imperialism ensures that ancient ways are dying off about as frequently as endangered species… Ecotourism is all about preserving natural spaces and cultural traditions.

Yet another action shot of our courageous couple rappelling

5. What are some great eco-tourism projects that you have had first hand experience of?

We were really impressed by the Galapagos Islands, which we explored in-depth last year. Ecuador has really led the way in terms of setting the standard by which other ecotourism and environmental conservation ventures are measured, and the remarkable thing is that they’ve been doing it since the 1950s. Did you know, for instance, that you couldn’t move to the Galapagos Islands if you wanted to? They’re so hands-on in protecting the species there, and limiting the number of tourists and the ways tourists can impact the islands, that the wildlife has absolutely no fear of humans. It’s arguably among the most remarkable places a nature/wildlife lover could ever go.

6. What regions of the world are most advanced in eco-tourism, which areas have a long way to go? How can they improve?

So far we’ve been most impressed by Latin America and the Caribbean. In EthicalTraveler.org‘s 2012 list of the world’s most ethical travel destinations, six of the Top 10 (Argentina, Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Uruguay) were from this region. Add in places like the Galapagos Islands, the Peruvian Amazon and the north coast of the Dominican Republic, and you have some of our favorite destinations in the world. As for areas that have a long way to go, Africa and Asia are both facing huge challenges, particularly in terms of sustainable development and making sure ecotourism initiatives benefit local communities. Ecotourism is all about valuing long-term benefits over short-term profits, but it’s hard to preach that philosophy to people in impoverished nations who are struggling to survive.

Bret and Mary looking gleeful in the Panamanian sunset

7. How does your writing voice and article choice on GGT facilitate the promotion of eco-tourism and conservation? What is your mission?

Our tagline is “Saving the world, one story at a time,” and our mission is encouraging people to travel and live more responsibly and sustainably. By focusing on our travels to ecotourism destinations and our experiences with wildlife conservation and indigenous cultures, we encourage people to explore these things in their own travels, helping ecotourism initiatives become more financially sustainable in the process. While that all sounds very serious, the truth is that our adventures are a helluva lot of fun! We hope that our stories, photos and videos will convey that sense of fun and show people that ANYONE can enjoy a life of ecotourism adventure.

8. How varied is the eco-tourism industry? What types of projects are there out there for all demographics?

It’s incredibly varied, from cheap backpacking treks on up to eco-luxury options like our forthcoming trip to Churchill, Manitoba, where we’ll be hanging with polar bears in an “Arctic Tundra Lodge.” I mean, camping is ecotourism as long as you haul out all your trash and don’t destroy native flora and fauna. From voluntourism and WWOOFing to upscale tour operators like Natural Habitat Adventures and International Expeditions, there are ecotourism options for people of every age, budget and fitness level.

Bret and Mary “horseing” around at the beach

9. What kind of response have you had to your promotion of eco-tourism and conservation values? Are readers/other travellers generally receptive?

It’s interesting, because ecotourism is still a developing travel niche, but it is rapidly growing. Most people we meet generally respond well to it, but I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what ecotourism looks like. You don’t have to be a tree-hugging hippie to be eco-friendly; you just have to make smart, considered choices. With things like LEED and Green Globe Certification and organizations like the UN’s Global Sustainable Tourism Council becoming more widely-known, I think “green travel” will grow exponentially over the next five years.

10. Finally, if a reader takes only one thing away from this interview and your words, what do you hope that might be?

That ecotourism is fun, easy and accessible, and it’s also a fountain of youth.  When I was a kid, I loved Indiana Jones movies, and now I feel like I’m living my own Indy adventure (without all the Nazis). Exploring Mayan ruins in Coba, Mexico; watching a 1000-pound loggerhead turtle lay eggs in Dominica; finding 2000-year-old archaeological relics in Panama; jumping off 30-foot waterfalls in the Dominican Republic… these are memories I’ll treasure for the rest of my life, and I believe they keep me MUCH younger than my 43 years. Life is short, and I highly encourage people to get out there and live it to the fullest.

To read more about Bret and Mary and to find out more about ecotourism and sustainable travel make sure you click over to their fantastic online magazine Green Global Travel. You can also connect with them on Twitter.

If you have a blog you would like to talk about, contact us.

 

Building an Audience: Jason Castellani of 2Backpackers.com

 

Remember our favourite travelling couple, Jason & Aracely of 2Backpackers.com?  Well we thought that their expertise needed to be delved into a little further, so today we have our friend Jason discussing how he built his rather phenomenal audience. Sound advice here folks…

1.  Hi Jason, thanks for interviewing for us again.  For those that didn’t read your last interview, could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and why you wanted to write a travel blog?

In 2009, triggered by a casual conversation, my wife, Aracely and I, decided to quit our jobs, sell our possessions and go travel to Central and South America for a year.  Before our departure date and during our research we became inspired by a few travel blogs and decided to start our own. Our travel blog, 2Backpackers.com, began as a chronicle of our personal stories, but has morphed into a community resource for couples traveling to Latin America.

Travel Blog Audience – Trek Day 7- Torres Del Paine, Chile

2.  Who were/are your major influences when decided to create your own blog?

Our original idea was to create a travel story based on short videos.  This idea was based off of the entertaining videos from twoguysaroundtheworld.com. The site stopped receiving updates over 2 years ago, but it was our motivation to record our story and attempt to make it entertaining.  I still haven’t found anyone else who, till this day, who has made a more entertaining travel video.

Unfortunately, we quickly realized that producing video was extremely time consuming and uploading it was almost impossible from developing nations.

Our blog is over 3 years old, so at this point, there is very little I haven’t seen in terms of what bloggers are doing.  I now look towards larger sites for inspiration. What are the big community sites doing that we can do, or do differently.  We must constantly be improving ourselves to keep our blog afloat.

3.  How would you describe your writing style? How does it differ?

As a multi-contributor blog, there isn’t necessarily one writing style, but the articles are all driven towards sharing the experience of a place, adventure or tour and providing tips about traveling there.  Some writers are more personal than others, but overall we do want a personal style.  We aren’t going to compete with big brand online travel resources, therefore it benefits us more to offer a more intimate story.

Travel Blog Audience – Jason & Aracely looking over the Pacific Coast in San Francisco, CA

4. How would you describe your travel blog audience? Are they hardcore? Do they just come there once? What do you like about having an audience like yours?

Our audience is 20% returning customers to the website.  That’s as high as it has been since our first year blogging when people were following our personal story.  There also wasn’t many visits to the site back then.  Now, as the site is larger and has many more pages indexed and ranking on Google, we attract mostly one-time visitors.  It’s preferable to have a high return customer rate, but challenging to grow your blog and keep that rate high.  Visitors that only visit a website once are less likely to leave comments, share articles and engage on social media.  That’s another reason we prefer loyal customers, however I understand that our blog is no longer a personal story about Aracely and I backpacking for a year.  That personal story produced loyal customers, is something we have shifted away from.

The challenge is getting one-time visitors to engage.  We attempt to accomplish this through excessive social media integration.  We want to provide our visitors every opportunity possible to share an article.  I strongly believe social media will drive our site to 30,000 visitors a month.

5. What is the best way to get a readers attention? How have you managed to stoke your readers interest so frequently?

Awesome pictures.  Visuals attract attention. This is no secret, yet there are many that still don’t take full benefit of the opportunities great pictures can provide.  If you are an incredible writer, then you can stand on that alone, but for most of us, including me, we can’t rely on basic writing skills to grow our website.  We rely on beautiful travel photos from around the world.  Make them big, and put them at the top of the post.

Travel Blog Audience – Road Trip Day 3- Drive to Surire

6. How do you interact with your audience? What tools work best?

I interact with our audience on Facebook.  Facebook is where most people spend most of the online day.  If that’s where your audience is, then you must be there too.  You wouldn’t set up a lemonade stand across town from the football stadium.  You go to the football stadium.  I have invested heavily to build Facebook integration into our site and build a good Facebook fan base.  We produce the articles on2backpackers.com, but we interact with those articles on Facebook.

The Facebook commenting system integration is the greatest tool we use to accomplish this.

Travel Blog Audience – Jason and Aracely Travel on Facebook

7.  What are your thoughts on networking with other bloggers to grow your audience? How do you do it and how does this help?

Networking with other bloggers is very important in the initial stages of growing your audience and increasing exposure.  Once your blog is large and overwhelming by itself to manage, networking becomes a challenge. You must choose your time and investments wisely.  Retweeting each other’s posts, sharing Stumbles and commenting on other blogs won’t get you to 50,000 visits a month, but they will help you get started.

There are other ways to network with bloggers, such as sharing investments of services, web development and affilate programs.  The most popular networking is the sharing of sales referrals.  This isn’t effective until you have enough sales to refer.  I believe these items are more appropriate when your blog breaks the 10,000 per month visit mark.

8.  What is the best thing about having a wide audience? What do you get personally from people sharing in your travels?

An audience in general is gratifying.  To be honest, it makes you feel proud of your accomplishments.  We like the feeling of sharing our experiences and inspiring others to see and do what we have.  We strongly believe the world would be a better place if everyone traveled in their lives.  And, we search for ways to make money to continue traveling indefinitely.  A blog can help accomplish that if done creatively.

9.  Tell us about your most popular post.

Our most popular post was published over 2 years ago.  It was controversial, which explains why it did so well in terms of traffic and attracting comments.  In general, the comments were mostly positive and understanding, but a few were offended and angry.  10 Weird Things About Latin America was intended to highlight things that appeared weird or strange to someone like us, from the United States of America.  The word “Weird” was the spark.  Understand that just one word in a title can cause an article to go viral, but it can also cause confrontation.

Travel Blog Audience – Moray – Cusco, Peru

10. And lastly, what would be your top 3 tips to a new blogger trying to build an  audience?

  1. Understand SEO from the beginning.  Many of us find ourselves fixing poor SEO strategies or a lack of SEO, from when we first started publishing articles.  Those old, original articles will be very valuable 3 years later and it’s important that the SEO was done correctly.  Poor SEO will also slow your initial growth.  If you don’t understand it, hire someone to set it up and provide you some guidance.  That doesn’t mean pay $100 to your domain provider to get you listed on a bunch of search engines.  That’s bogus.
  2. Focus on Social Media as much as your physical blog.  People are on social media, today, not on your website.  Don’t try to avoid that fact or defeat it.  Just accept it and understand how to benefit from it.
  3. Be willing to invest just like you would in a traditional business. No investments means slow growth and slow returns.  We must always invest in our business.

Wise words Jason!  Thanks very much for sharing and featuring on our site again.

I’m a major fan of 2Backpackers– especially since Jason has let me write for them as a featured blogger over the last few months. But don’t just take my word for it, go over and check the site out.  Like them on Facebook and say hello on Twitter. Networking people!

Kiri

If you have a blog you’d like to share or some advice to offer, contact us for an interiew

 

Travel Colombia: Dani of Going Nomadic

 

Is it a Zombie? No…it’s just Dani of the blog Going Nomadic. Looking slightly terrifying here, Dani’s a wild one!  She gave away everything she owns and has been travelling around South America ever since.

1. Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Colombia?

My name is Dani Blanchette, and I’m a photographer, roadie, metal-head and self-proclaimed ‘horrible tourist’ (I don’t carry guidebooks and suck at seeing the ‘touristy’ thinigs). I am also the creator of Going Nomadic; my photo-heavy travel blog about my crazy adventures.  I also have a photography website at Dani Blanchette Photography.

I’ve mostly been in Medellin in Colombia and I LOVE IT!   I came for 2 weeks in October to go to a rock festival, then I came back in December, and have now been here for 4 months. I actually haven’t been too much outside of Medellin, but I have made a lot of friends here.  People here are unbelievably nice and helpful with no expectation of return.  Its amazing!

2. What made you choose this country and what were your first impressions?

Honestly?,

I wanted to come to Medellin and Colombia since I was about 8 or 10. When the whole cartel thing was happening and all over our news, all I would hear from my parents is “You don’t want to go there”; which of course made me want to come more.

At that young age, I really wanted to come to Colombia, get kidnapped by rebels, and live in a rebel camp for 2 years so I could learn the rebel’s side of the story.

Colombia is nothing now like it was back then, it is unbelievably safe and filled with wicked nice, fun-loving people. But this illustrates what my parents had to deal with raising me. Hahaha.

3.How much money can someone travel around Colombia for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?

I’ve found Colombia to be really cheap; cheaper than Ecuador. Hostels are not so cheap, and traveling by bus or plane outside of Medellin can get expensive compared to say, Ecuador and Peru; but I worked at a hostel in exchange for a bed until last week (I know live with a friend). Staying just in Medellin, and working for a bed, you can live for less than $50 a week (if you don’t party every night and you cook your own food).

I think the biggest expenses are the hostels, and the drinks and clubs. They are as expensive as going out in downtown Boston. What is the cheapest is the fruits and veggies. There are multiple farmer’s markets and you can get unbelievably fresh veggies, fruit and meat for really cheap prices.

The hardest thing for me to get uses to here is that the supermarkets are more expensive than the smaller, corner, convenience-type stores. In Colombia, it is a status thing to be able to afford to shop at the supermarkets. Totally opposite of the USA.

4. What is the local cuisine like? Did you find yourself trying new things or pining for the familiars of home?

UGH!

I love eating the local cuisine usually, but Medellin has an unnatural attachment to fried EVERYTHING! And low-heat fried so the food sucks up the oil. I’m pretty sure people here consider vegetable oil a vegetable in Medellin.

The traditional food here is some kind of usually cream-based soup with greasy, fatty fried meat (chicken, fish, pork, beef), sausage, AND ground beef, with rice, beans (usually fried and topped with vegetable oil), soggy greasy french fries, fried plantains, and sometimes a minuscule amount of chopped carrots or lettuce as a salad. And fruit blended with whole milk to drink.

And this is just lunch. You can literally squeeze oil out of everything you eat. But yet, you can buy an amazing variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, spices and so forth here. So it is very easy to cook healthy and flavourful here. It’s just Medellin and the whole department of Antioquia holds onto this high fat, high calorie diet with a passion.

So what thing I miss most in Medellin? FRESH, NOT-FRIED FISH! But since I love to cook, I am loving trying new foods and cooking them in ways my waistline is slightly happier about.

5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Colombia and why?

There is an abundance of theater, free movies, free music and so forth all over Medellin. The easiest way to find it is to talk to the tourism bureau or just ask at your hostel. Medellin also is one of the world leaders in public transportation development and if you come here you have to take a ride on the cable cars and go visit the outdoor escalators! Oh, and at the stadium complex (off Estadio station) is a FREE public pool anyone (tourist or local) can use.

6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?

I love the people here! The people of Colombia are the nicest people! I have had people walk me 4 blocks out of their way to walk me to the door of places I was looking for. Why? Because I didn’t totally understand the Spanish directions. The people here are unbelievably nice.

My least favourite thing? I’m still going with NO FRESH FISH.

7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?

I try to focus on anti-tourist things to do wherever I go. I dont carry guidebooks. I spent 6 weeks in Quito, Ecuador and never saw a single touristy thing. Museums and places filled with other gringos ooo-ing and awe-ing just have no appeal to me. I use social media and walking around to befriend locals and find things to do that you will never read about in a guidebook. I’m not going to say you SHOULDN’T see touristy things. By all means, there are many cultural things you should see, like the Botero statues in Parque Berrio, but I would rather do things like become a zombie in a promo video for the Medellin Zombie Walk.

8.  What’s one thing you can’t travel around Colombia without?

A camera!

9. What kind of response have you had to your blogs about Colombia? What post had the most interest?

People seem to be interested in Colombia, but honestly, I haven’t written a ton about it yet. My blog has chronological schizophrenia. One post I will be writing a story from Venezuela, 2 days later I will post about Chile, and I purposely started my blog a few weeks behind where I am.   I like to keep stalkers guessing.

My most commented on post about Colombia yet has actually been a photo I took of a very well-endowed female mannequin. There is zero stigma about breast enhancements here and the mannequins are made to look like the women. But being a zombie and the outdoor escalators have had more social media comments.

awesome outdoor escalators in Medellin

10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling in Colombia what would it be?

I wish someone warned me that Medellin is the Spanish equivalent to Boston!  The accent here is nothing like what I learned Spanish could be in school. (like since when can the ‘LL’ be a ‘ja’ sound?  I learned it was a ‘ya’ sound!)

Both Medellin and Boston (where I am from) talk wicked fast, in an accent and slang that exist nowhere else, and both are damn proud of the fact that no one can understand them. My biggest problem communicating here is understanding what people are saying to me! (So thank god the people here are so nice and helpful)!

Love this interview! Thanks Dani.

TraveLinkSites readers be sure to check out Going Nomadic and follow her on Twitter too.

Want to answer our questions? We want to know! Contact us here.

 

Around The World Travel: Fluent in 3 Months

 

around the world travel - Benny Lewis

Today on TraveLinkSites we’re talking to one of mine (Will’s) favourite bloggers and big-time inspirations (when it comes to learning Spanish), Benny Lewis. Benny is a force of nature when it comes to travelling the world and learning languages and runs a hugely popular blog at Fluent in 3 Months, focused on helping and inspiring thousands to do the same.

We’re super excited to be talking to the man himself and sure he’s got plenty of useful tips for those setting off on an around the world travel trip.

1. Hey Benny! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your travel experiences?

My name is Benny Lewis – I graduated as an electronic engineer and have been travelling the world ever since. It’s coming up to about a decade of total travel time (9 years consecutively), although rather than constantly hitting the road, it’s more a case of 3 or so month stays in a place.

Since I did poorly in languages in school, I never figured I had it in me to learn a language like Spanish, and even after living in the country for six months, made very little progress. Then I tried a much more efficient approach, which I’ve improved over the years to help me learn a language even quicker.

About 2 years ago, I started the blog fluentin3months.com to document my intensive language learning experiences and to share them with the world! It’s grown very well, and I use it as a platform to share my language learning tips and my travel experiences! I’m currently travelling in China, using the Mandarin I had learned in 3 months at the start of the year.

around the world travel - Benny Lewis

2. Could you give us a rough breakdown of where you’ve been in the world thus far?

Mostly Europe and the Americas. So I’ve genuinely lived in, for several months (and learned the languages of, although I don’t maintain a few) Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Czech republic, Hungary, Turkey, Holland, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, the US, Canada, Thailand, the Philippinnes, Taiwan, China, India and maybe a few more! I’ve visited some other countries for a few days, but everything on this list is a place I feel I genuinely lived in.

3. Why did you decide to travel around the world as opposed to focusing on a specific region? What countries are you looking forward to visiting most that you haven’t done so yet?

I don’t have a grand plan, and only tend to think of the current and next destination. So I’ll pick one interesting country, rather than a “region”. For example, in South America, I’ve only ever flown to one country and then left the continent, each time, rather than have a South America trip. Same with Asia.

I don’t have a base anywhere in the world (I travel with everything I own), but I do go back to Ireland frequently to spend time with my family around the holidays, so that’s sometimes the focal point between trips.

At the moment I know that I’ll be visiting the states in July, and I’m looking forward to some western comforts for a few weeks, and I’ll be back in Ireland in August, but after that I really don’t know. I’ll think about it later and then look forward to it! It will very likely involve another intensive 3 month language learning project though, so a 2 month break speaking English and Irish (Gaeilge) will be nice!

4. What are the most important preparations you need to make when planning on travelling around the world?

I’m not big on planning. I try to have a decently priced airline ticket, and make sure my travel health insurance is covered until the end of a current trip. Generally I wing it most of the time. In my early travels when I was on a tight budget, I didn’t even save up that much money (a huge issue I find with Americans who feel the need to have 5 figures in the bank before hitting the road), and figured out a way to support myself on arrival.

You won’t starve to death; absolute worst case scenario, you can always get a relative to Western Union you emergency money to get home or something. Learn to spend less, and embrace minimalism, rather than saving up for every possible contingency or luxury. Travel is more fun when it’s spontaneous!

5. What should people think about, based on your experiences, most when travelling around the world?

Learning the local language has changed my travel experiences, so I’d highly recommend you make the tough choice to not hang out with other English speakers. It will indeed make it less fun at first (I missed the expat parties I could have taken part in, in many places), but after you have learned it, you open up your world to absolutely everyone you could possibly meet!

Otherwise, keep an open mind and try to be flexible. Go out of your way to make it about the people – snapping photos and trying local food is great, but making cool new friends is what makes travel special for me.

6. What sites and resources do you use to help prepare for around the world travel? What do you use them for?

Skyscanner.net helps me find a cheap flight, Couchsurfing’s local message boards and the Thorn Tree forum (by Lonely Planet) helps me figure out logistics that I might be confused about (visas, where to look for accommodation if I’ll be renting etc.) And Couchsurfing again helps me get started on creating a social network, since I can attend their meetings, or contact people directly.

Usually I find the local equivalent of Craigslist to rent a room for a few months. This must be done in the local language to get a decent deal, since places advertised in English have inflated prices.

If I’ve literally just started learning the language, I have found that hiring a one-task bilingual personal assistant on odesk.com or elance.com and paying them, say $50, to do all the research and even look at the place for me if they live there, saves me tonnes of stress and money in the long run.

7. What are the common mistakes people make when planning an around the world travel trip?

Giving themselves a puny amount of time in one destination. You’ll get exhausted and soon can’t even appreciate the beautiful architecture as you zoom through cities. You see nothing worthwhile this way.

Forget round-the-world trips. Focus on one destination and REALLY take it in. Otherwise you are just checking off ”been there” on some silly bucket list.

If it is indeed a once-off trip before you hit a 9-5 job until you die or your knees give (I highly recommend reconsidering this path!!) then make it about quality rather than quantity. Pick a small number of countries and spend several weeks (at least) in each.

8. How long in advance should you begin to think about around the world travel? What are the first things you need to organise? What things can wait until the last moment?

As I said above, be spontaneous! Long enough in advance so the ticket isn’t so expensive, so usually a couple of months is fine. This is also enough to sort out visas in advance if you need them. In most countries, you can get accommodation at the last minute, and in many places, it’s preferable to find it on arrival for the best deal.

The first things you need to do are to decide to only bring what is essential for you to live. Don’t carry all your crap around the world – you’ll regret it! A few items of clothing, some light digital stuff (not an SLR camera! A point and shoot is quite fine nowadays unless you work for TIME!), and an ebook reader, since physical books can be so bulky to take on the road.

9. What things do you focus on most when you blog about around the world travel? Why do you choose these things? 

People need to encouragement to see that it’s possible, they need to be reminded that bucketloads of cash are NOT the deciding factor (despite moving to a new country every 3 months, with flights and all, my lifestyle is WAY less expensive than most settled people in the west), and of course, I like to share some of my fun adventures to give them inspiration for why I do it in the first place!

10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone had told you before you started travelling around the world what would it be?

Make more mistakes. The best parts of my travel experiences have been those I’ve learned from leaving my comfort zone and figuring it out as I went along. You grow so much as a person this way.

Big props to Benny for joining us and talking about his travels thus far!

Go check Benny’s excellent site Fluent in 3 Months and catch him on Twitter

If you’d like to be interviewed, contact us.

 

Travelling Families: The Nomadic Family

 

Before leaving for Israel

There are a few reasons I love Gabi Klaf. Not only because she’s the one of the most super positive, lovely travel bloggers out there but also because she has a beautiful family that all rivals her own fun-loving crazy self.

In this interview we’re going to find out more from Gabi, her family and her site, The Nomadic Family ,and find out just what it’s like to travel the world with all your family in tow.

1. Hi Gabi and family! Could you briefly introduce yourself and your sites?

My name is Gabi, I’m a spiritual family therapist who helps people heal their traumas, fix relationships, and replace pain with purpose. I love the wind, exercising, and writing. Kobi is an ex-hi-tech manager turned dog-trainer who loves to laugh, play pool, and read aloud great books to the kids. Dahnya, our eldest girl, loves reading in English (very new for her), making songs, and playing with her Pet Shops. Orazi, our boy, loves making weapons out of rocks and sticks; playing with sand and frogs; and fluctuating between adoring and terrorizing his sisters. Solai, our younger daughter, loves cutting paper art, giving gifts and art to others, and doing whatever Dahnya and Orazi are doing.

We’ve got two sites, The Nomadic Family, the travelers who are spiritual, and Gabi Klaf , the spiritual soul who is traveling. The first is our family travel blog, a very untypically honest family travel blog about all the things we face on the road. It’s a travel blog about a family searching for themselves, and all the joys moments and hellish low points that we experience in open-ended world travel. The second is my inspirational  spirituality blog about empowering us to find the light and love in our souls. GabiKlaf.com is a site that brings solutions to readers’ requests for help in personal life issues and Gabi’s own struggles. It’s an honor and privilege to share our lives on these levels with others.

Kids surging in Huanchaco, Peru

2. Tell us about your family!  Where have you all travelled together and when? What have been some of your favourite travel experiences as a family?

We’ve traveled now for 19 months. We travel slowly, and deeply, living with the locals and fully experiencing life in different communities.  In 19 months on the road, as a family, we’ve been in 9 countries. In almost every country, we spent between 6 weeks- 3 months in same spot.

USA- 2 months (mostly RV trip, and Houston with family)

Costa Rica- 2 months (mostly living in a ranch/ volunteering/ kids attending school)

Panama- 3 months (mostly in Boquete, teaching/volunteering in an expat community)

Colombia- 1 month (most of the time in Taganga where Kobi got his diving certification)

Ecuador- 2 months( mostly in an indigenous village in the jungles. Kids went to Quichway/Spanish Indian school. We meditated and talked for hours in the river.)

Peru- 3 1/2 months (mostly in Lima, Peru working in a hostel, living with local friends; great part in Huanchaco where we lived in a tent and kids learned to surf)

Thailand- 1 months (mostly in Kanchanaburi off the River Kwai, playing with local kids through pantomime)

Cambodia- 6-7 months (currently still in Siem Reap, working at a hostel and adoring the Cambodians’ kind nature and smiling spirits; studying Buddhism and Quantum Physics intensively)

Favorite, for sure, is our lives in the village in the jungles of Ecuador. We lived, for the first time in our lives, totally unproductive. We learned to give ourselves permission to just be, in the river, relaxing, talking for endless hours into the night. We cleaned our souls in that river, and watched our kids fully engaged in a village life of school, exploring nature, and in constant adventure with the village kids.

3. When it comes down to your blogs, what role does your family play?

Gabi writes the inspirational self-help therapy blog alone. It’s my baby, how I face the unresolved issues within me and inspire others on the path towards enlightenment, as well. The Nomadic Family site was once written by only Gabi, but now has Kobi getting more and more involved. Kobi is loving to express himself online, as he writes his heart out and picks from our tens of thousands of photographs to capture the shots that best reflect the memories he’s conveying. Dahnya, our eldest, has written one post so far, and was so excited by having her own tab, and getting so many kind-hearted comments. Her online writing affair, began, and ended, there. We’ll see what the future brings.

In Panama outside the Cabana

4. What have been the best and worst places you’ve travelled to with your kids thus far? Why?

Best has been the village, even though it’s a bit unfair to focus on one place. The world has been so kind and inspirational for us. When we lived on the ranch in Costa Rica; we were  volunteered like crazy- working with senior citizens, teaching English at the local school, working at an animal rescue, and teaching Clean Your Soul classes to the local ranchers. We fell in love with that community, and the beautiful people who wrapped us in their love. Likewise, we fell in love with the sleepy town of Huanchaco, Peru where we lived off the beach in a tent and spent our days walking on the sand, and the promenade that slopes across the town. And Siem Reap has grabbed us in a way that we never thought possible. I could easily see us living here for years; and can see how hard it will be to leave at the end of October.

So, so many places have been so meaningful and breath-takingly gorgeous. In Banos, Peru, the waterfalls were heart-stopping; in Boquete, Panama the clouds dancing around Volcan Baru were dramatically surreal; around Siem Reap, Cambodia, we’ve sat in silence and meditated with the wind caressing our bodies.  We’ve lived in almost everything– cabins, huts, tents, rv’s, hostels, and host-homes. It’s all been the perfect ying yang of amazing and shitty, and not because of necessarily this location; but because of whatever state of mind our family has been in. There have been seasons of active hiking, exercising, exploring, everyday studies with the kids, and meeting locals and fellow backpackers; and seasons of being withing- learning, sleeping a ridiculous amount, reading, cuddling, writing, and chilling as a family with long leisurely lunch talks and lots of Kobi playing chess and ‘the worms game’ with the kids. It has been unreal.

5. Tell us about the best cultural experience you’ve all had together? What makes really great moments for all you guys?

Culturally, we’ve attended these amazing festivals and religious ceremonies that have blown us away. In Cartagena, Colombia, we partied late at nights with our kids, and screamed our hearts out in foam-fights with the locals. In Siem Reap, Cambodia; had the unreal esteem and deepest honor to meet the King of Cambodia. He is a kind-hearted, unearthly soul who took us each in two hands, with love and wonderment shining out of his eyes. In Mancora, Peru; Magdalena, Peru; and El Quinche, Ecuador; we experienced breath-taking beautiful church festivals with respectively fireworks, street parades, and paper lanterns released to the sky. Unreal. Fuckin unreal.

travelling families

Snowman in Rocky Mountains, Colorado

6. How do you handle spending so much time together? Any secrets to share?

How do we deal with it? We use drugs heavily, and give them to the kids, and hence, don’t have any problems at all, ever, ever,ever.

We do spend so much more time together than we had in our entire lives together. We no longer pass each other on the way to jobs, school, cleaning house, and errands. We are no longer running around in insanity. Now, we are calm, we are there, we spend hours cuddling, talking, reading, and exploring the world together. Our typical lunch date is a three hour leisurely affair with long walks to and from our little restaurant spot, reading aloud or playing games at the table, and talking and laughing tons. It does our family and has done our normal dysfunctional family dynamics miracles. To be clueless, lost and illiterate; together with your children,is bonding and enlightening.

But, when we feel we need space, we take it. When we are not on the move or exploring; we live a life in which typically do not see each other for hours at a time each day. I love writing; I treat clients online via Skype; I love exercising alone. Kobi loves reading, playing pool, and watching movies. Kobi and I love long walks together, and go dancing at often at nights. The kids play chess, play outdoors, and raid the hostel’s computers on their computer days. They, and we, make friends around the world which we enjoy spending time with individually; and we all fill our time doing what we are most passionate about.

One of the things that I feel make the nomadic family lifestyle possible for us is that Kobi and I give a huge priority to satisfying our individual needs. We spend a huge amount of energy making our individual dreams come true. It has been unreal, and a key to us finding joy in this travel life. Kobi went off for two months alone (to sell our car in South America); I am going tomorrow (from the date I am writing this) for a two week+ Vipasana meditation, followed by a week alone to write and meditate.

7. What are your biggest challenges when travelling with your kids?

We’ve overcome the greatest challenge, which was how to live joyfully when we are together all the time. When we move a lot; we find ourselves lost, exhausted,and a lot less able to give and love and take care of our children. The beginning was tough for us, as we didn’t know how to parent in a constantly changing world.  We’re learning.

Like back home; we face the normal family issues, like melt-downs, fights, pushing buttons, and driving each other crazy. We work hard, in our travels, to remember to feed our kids before we hit starving; to drink enough water before we get dehydrated; and to put our kids to bed (even when we are doing really fun night-time activities) before we all get over-tired and can’t handle it. We’re normal, Will, so normal.

8. This is the dangerous one… Is there anything you would change about your family/kids when it comes to your experiences travelling? (Now no fighting please, criticism is productive remember!)

We are exactly who we are, Will, as we are, down to the very last detail. I believe, that our souls picked each other, and our family to learn from each other, to overcome the deepest issues that we were meant to. And so, though we each have pet peeves and character traits that drive us fucking mad; I, really, truly believe, we are meant to face those things, and learn from them. We are learning how to healthily express anger, how to set limits that respect us, how not to be taken advantage of, how to love myself while loving others, and how to deal with five people who sometimes act like the most irrational, selfish humans on the face of this globe. It’s perfect. It’s perfect. Blessed chaos, if you will.

Making friends through pantomime in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

9. It’s a common sweeping statement in the travel world that ‘you’re not really travelling if you’re with relatives’. Seeing as so many people travel as a family, this seems a little odd to us. What do you have to say about it?

I would go crazy, absolutely crazy if some relative, any relative traveled with us. I love them all, both sides of the family, dearly; but I could never travel with them. I do love it that it’s only us five and that I we have zero obligations to no one. Do you how freeing it is to not have to go hang out with people, or go to certain events, out of kindness or obligation? Our phone hasn’t rung in a year and a half; and I love that. I am free of any ‘relative’ dynamics, cuz I don’t count my kids as ‘relatives’; I’m a mom, they are meant to and supposed to be with me and Kobi. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Moment of truth: Of course, at times (many), I see that sole female traveler, or that young twenty-something year old couple with light-weight backpacks and say, “Do I really have to have three kids (and a husband) in tow? Wouldn’t it be so much fun to be alone, alone, alone?” But, my choices are simple: A- Wait until I retire and pray, maybe one day, that I’ll be alive, have enough money, be married, or healthy enough to travel. B- Take my life in my hands and make my dreams come true, with my children, now, as we travel the world as a family. Take these short years that my kids are still with me, and cherish that time by spending it together, celebrating our lives together, not passing each other on the way to and from insanity.

travelling families

Cambodian Baby Celebration

10.What’s next on your agenda? Do you have any family travel goals for the year?

We plan to stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a total of 5-6 months. We work for the Garden Village Guesthouse and love it to death. It will be hard to leave. Leaving Cambodia will be hard, in fact; we love the people and the country so.

Here is the plan, but we all know how fluid that is:
– end of October 2012: Siem Reap, Cambodia
-Nov- Dec 2012: around Cambodia
-Jan 2013, Feb, March- Laos, Vietnam, and Northern Thailand
-April-August- India
-September 2013- one month hike of the famous Anapurna with our kids (Nepal)
– a few more months Nepal, and then back to India for another 6 months
But, we meet someone in the street, sit next to a local on a bus and they invite us to their home, and the world of options opens up from there. We almost went to Moscow for 6 months for a hostel job. We’ll see. Anyone interested, can visit our site to see how we continue to meander the globe.

 

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