Nienke from The Travel Tester is a fellow nomadic traveler who has an impressive number of stamps in her passport! We talk to Nienke about money, emotions and aspirations!
What changes did you make in order to save money for your travels?
I’ve been on a big trip three times now and every time I worked very hard as a teacher to save for travelling. The last time I went overseas to work, so I left with a little less, but I couldn’t have done it without working very hard in advance. I did live with my parents for a long time, so that definitely helped me save a little extra. Another thing you can save massively on is by not spending money in a bar or club. Luckily I’m not the party type, so that was easy for me!
What has been the most moving or emotional experience you’ve had while traveling?
In Fiji, I lived about 2 months with a local tribe on a small island called ‘Vorovoro’. We fished, cooked, laughed, worked and played together and they taught me much about their culture and about caring for others and the land around you. The island never left my mind, but as it later closed for visitors, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to go back. Imagine how proud I was to be asked to work for ‘Bridge The Gap Villages’, a responsible travel company looking to re-open Vorovoro soon. They have a strong message that tourism should empower, not exploit. Ever since visiting Fiji, that is the way I always want to travel and I hope other travelers will explore the world in a responsible way as well.
What’s your advice for aspiring travelers?
Just go. There is only so much you can prepare for and plan ahead, but plans always change and the road will show itself to you. Trust in yourself, you can do it!
What has been your most valuable lesson learned from travel?
That you can do anything if you set your mind to it. And that you don’t need anyone to tell you how to live your life, just follow your heart. The best example is that me and my boyfriend gave up our house and jobs to start living and working in Sydney, Australia. Some people didn’t understand. But we both got jobs we enjoyed, met people we wouldn’t have otherwise and changed the rhythm of our daily lives. Coming back home after 2 years, we noticed that people around us immediately started filling in our future again. We would search for this and this job, live there and in such way, get settled, in short: live ‘normally’ again. But that’s not us anymore. We need that feeling of freedom and are more open to opportunities that others might turn down because they seem insecure and too adventurous.
What inspired you to start traveling?
My family. I had a grandfather who wrote destination guides and books about lightweight travel & survival, and my dad passed along this passion for camping and exploring the world. His work as an archaeologist took our family to a few interesting countries too.
My mom was also not shy of adventure, she once drove her moped (scooter) with some friends to Lapland (the north of Finland) all the way from Amsterdam. My parents totally understand my passion for travel, luckily.
What is your proudest accomplishment you achieved while traveling?
That has to be the moment I reached the 4130m top at Annapurna Base camp, Nepal. It was tough and I’d never done any physical exercise before. I cried all the way through the last two hours, ploughing through the snow with no sounds around us and no clear vision ahead. But I made it, everyone at the base camp applauded for me and I was so proud of myself.
What has been the most under rated country you have been to and why?
I’ve met a lot of people (planning on) travelling to Southeast Asia that skip Laos. Or just go there for the tubing. I haven’t been tubing, but explored more inland and think it’s an amazing country. Such friendly people, stunning nature and lots of culture. I’d love to go back there.
What is the best and worst thing about traveling solo?
I noticed I became very assertive in talking to people. I don’t usually feel comfortable talking to strangers, but I met the most beautiful people by just starting a conversation at the breakfast table.
Having travelled with a partner later, I really enjoy cooking together on a trip and sharing the experience together. It’s great to come back home and have someone that understands exactly what you’ve seen and been through.
In what ways, if any, has travel changed you?
It changed everything. A lot of people will probably say this, but travel really does opens your eyes. I find it great to compare the way people live their daily lives in different countries. To notice how at home we get upset about something, that people in another place never bother about. I makes me a bit more relaxed. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about an experience I had on a trip, or talk about it.
Fast fun five…
If you could only describe yourself as one would it be: beach bum, city slicker or country bumpkin?
I love all types of destinations, but I’d have to say I’m most drawn to cities. I love buildings, museums, hidden streets and restaurants, being close to everything and in the middle of the action.
If you could travel with one celebrity, who would it be and why?
Stephen Fry. This guy is a walking encyclopaedia. I’d love to hear him tell me all facts and quirky stories about everything we’d see on the road.
What city was best value for money?
After living in Sydney, all cities seem good value for money. I love how we can buy a lot of cheap, fresh fruit and vegetables on the markets here in Amsterdam, for example.
What is your preferred method of travel; Trains, Planes, Driving or Cruising
I really enjoy road trips. Tent in the back, music on and drive!
Favorite country and why?
That’s an impossible choice, so I nominate 3 of them: Australia because of its vastness, roughness, easy-going life and not-to-miss pear cider, Japan because of the fantastic contrasts between modern and traditional life and Fiji because of the strong community feeling, loving people and simplicity of daily life.
What was the first overseas trip you took?
When I was 4 and 7, our family went to live 6 months on the Caribbean Island of St. Maarten (St. Martin). My dad worked every day in the burning sun on an excavation, we spend most of our time looking at pelicans, eating ice cream and spare ribs and gathering shells at the beach. We had the tasks well divided amongst us.
If you could travel back in time, which era and place would you go to and why?
I’ve always been interested in the Roman area, and I would love to go back and have a peek at a normal day of a family in that time period. Seeing the houses, structures, baths and temples we now only know to be ruins in their full glory, that must be a great sight.
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