Our next guest in our Interview series is Vanessa from TurnipseedTravel.com. Vanessa to talks to us about planning their big RTW trip which starts later this year!
You are planning a RTW trip for later this year. What’s been the most challenging part of planning such a big trip?
There have been two major challenges. The first was establishing a budget. Our plan was to book the flights using our Aeroplan points. We knew we could turn the points needed for Australia into an unofficial round-the-world. Once we knew how the rules worked, it was a waiting game until the different partners of the Star Alliance opened up their flight availability. We didn’t really know which flight paths we would take until just before booking! This was a budgeting and planning challenge. Usually I start with a budget and then decide where we can go, what we can do, and for how long. In this case, we had to work backwards.
The other major challenge has been a fun one – we’re going to so many different countries and there’s a lot to learn. Visas in Istanbul, Myanmar, Australia. Regulations concerning prescriptions in Singapore. Where to store our luggage in New York City. I’m used to trips concentrated on one region, so the research and planning has been an amazing challenge, one I’m very happy to take on! It’s even a bit of a challenge to switch from paper guidebooks to the e-book version! What –no more Post-it notes?
What has been your most valuable lesson learned from travel?
I’m a bit of a chicken and a bit of an introvert. To get out of my shell, to get out of my house, to challenge myself in so many ways, has been an invaluable lesson in self-discovery and self-identity. Travel has allowed me to get away from myself, get out of my own head and yet it has also made me more in touch with myself at the same time.
What does travel give you that nothing else has ever given you?
Gumption! And with that, a chance to earn a living, create a lifestyle I love, and foster a happy home through travel writing.
What has been the most moving or emotional experience you’ve had while traveling?
On my very first solo trip, I went to Holland. On a quiet Sunday morning outside of Utrecht, I was waiting for a bus. And I waited, and waited. It seems rural Sunday bus services are the same all over the world! An elderly couple driving by stopped and motioned that they would give me a ride into town.
They spoke limited English but I learned two things. 1.) Sunday bus service is never reliable and 2.) They picked me up because of the Canadian flag on my backpack. The Canadian army liberated the Netherlands during World War II and the Dutch royal family took exile in Canada during the war. I was greatly moved at the power of this historical bond and how an elderly couple felt the obligation to take a young Canadian girl under their wing.
Fast forward ten years and Ryan and I are in Hawaii. Touring the Big Island, we plan to drive to the snow packed peak of Mauna Kea. Stopping at the crowded visitors’ centre half way up the mountain, I happened over overhear a young Dutch couple ponder their dilemma of not having a large enough vehicle to safely continue the drive to the top. We offered them a place in our jeep and on some level it felt great to repay an old favor.
You are using frequent flier points to pay for some of your travels; Any tips for anyone who would like to utilize these programs?
It’s easy to get swept away by points programs and buy products you don’t need and overspend on items you don’t want just to gather more points. I think it’s better to save actual money in the moment instead of overpaying for the promise of a free theoretical trip in the future.
That being said, there are many ways to earn points, and earn them quickly. We read the fine print of our points programs and followed the online chat rooms and forums. There is a whole community of people whose passion for points far exceeds our own and, while it takes a while to learn their lingo, you can learn a tremendous amount of information about points promotions. In the end, we booked a 9 stop, round the world trip for about a third of the usual points and only $350 each in taxes. We’ve got so many questions on how exactly we’ve done this that we turned all our tips into a blog post ‘How We Maximized Our Status Miles‘.
Have you conquered any fears while traveling?
I’m still a big chicken – afraid of horseback riding, amusement park rides, motorcycles, roosters. Yes, roosters. But I’m not afraid to be myself, be by myself, to travel by myself. And that’s huge!
What’s your advice for aspiring travelers?
Start easy or start hard. For example, start in a country that speaks your language, where you are familiar with the cultural norms, that is safe, stable, well organized, and that requires little prep in the way of research, visas, immunizations – think Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand.
Or go all in and just do it. Think Botswana, Mongolia, Easter Island, East Timor. If you’re going to be in over your head and immersed in something much bigger than yourself, you might as well just go for it. You’ll be forced to confront all your fears at once, get over your self-consciousness right away. Everyone will think you’re crazy, but as long as you have a plan to be healthy and safe, I think it’s a good idea.
Just don’t go for something in the middle – someplace that reminds you just enough of home to appear easy, but is just enough different that you’ll feel lost. Someplace that forces you to get over your language hang ups but still sells McDonalds – Brazil, Italy, Japan.
Fun Fast Five…
What was the first overseas trip you took?
I was 16 and spent the summer in Bavaria, Germany, as part of an exchange program with the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps.
Favorite country and why?
England, specifically London and East Sussex – not very exciting, I know. But I loved it. I spend a semester studying in Sussex, and two summers living there. I was able to indulge my passions for literature, politics, history, and the arts and it really motivated my love of travel.
What city was best value for money?
Paris! Yes, expensive Paris, where you can spend $30 on a coffee and croissant if you’re not careful. Value is more than the price tag – it’s about getting the absolute best travel experience for limited time and money. You don’t need to stay in a 5 star hotel to be swathed in luxury in Paris and nor do you need to eat stale baguette to subsist on a budget. No matter where you go and what you do in Paris, you are surrounded by beauty, history, romance. The French value quality over quantity and a simple coffee on the terrace or macaroon in the park can be a drop of lovely luxury that fits into your frugal travel plans.
If you could travel with one celebrity, who would it be and why?
Hillary Clinton. She’s experienced, unflappable, and a good flyer. I can’t imagine anyone better to have by my side on my imaginary trips to Niger, Oman, Pakistan, and Paraguay.
If you had to chose a country other than your own to settle down in, where would it be and why?
Hawaii! I’m an island girl at heart- I grew up on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, on the North Atlantic coast. I feel a real connection to the land and culture of Hawaii and would love to live on an island that reminds me of home (only without the proximity of family and the winter gales whipping in off the ocean!)
If you are a seasoned traveler and would like to take part in our interview series please express your interest via firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!