Today, we continue our series where we sit down to interview fellow Travel Bloggers and get them to give up some of their best travel tips for you, dear reader. Next up, we get to discuss the wonders of travel with Laurel Robbins, who runs the popular travel blog, Ex-pat in Germany.
1. What is it about traveling that makes you smile?
I love meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and discovering new places and landscapes. I also love seeing wildlife in their natural surroundings and learning where and how to spot local wildlife. All of these aspects of travel make me smile.
2. What is your favorite place in the world?
This is a tough one, but I love the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. I didn’t know much about them before my volunteer trip and I had no idea that besides the main islands, there are hundreds of small uninhabited islands. Besides the people on our boat, we only saw a handful of other people in ten days. I loved the remoteness and peacefulness of it. Laos, Guatemala, Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica, Galapagos and the Canadian Rockies are also some of my favorite places in the world.
3. What place would have to pay you to come back and even then you’d have to think about it?
Finally, an easy question. Without a doubt South Korea. I was deported and had to pay a lot of money to avoid being sent to jail. Until my passport expired, I had a big black stamp in it indicating I had been deported, which always raised questions from Immigration Officials when traveling to other countries. When it finally did expire, I have never been so happy to have a new passport in my life.
4. What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given about traveling?
Throw away the guide book! I think guidebooks are very helpful and definitely have their place, but I’ve seen so many travelers that don’t think a destination is worth visiting if it’s not in their guide book. As a result, they miss out on a lot of off the beaten path places that often end up being the highlights of my travels.
5. How has traveling changed you as a person?
Traveling has really developed my problem-solving skills. As a traveler, you can face many challenges. When I first started traveling I found catching numerable chicken buses, with erratic schedules, and trying to ask for information in a language that I didn’t speak, incredibly daunting. But it all works out in the end, even if it takes a day or two longer than planned and your journey is not as direct as planned. When I saw I could do that, I realized I could apply the same problem-solving skills learned while traveling to other areas in my life and achieve other things that also seemed daunting at first.
6. Have you ever volunteered during your travels? If so, what did you do? If not, will you ever?
I volunteered for ten days on a sail boat in the Hebrides in Scotland doing observational research on whales and dolphins. It was an incredible experience. The volunteers ranged in age from 21 to mid-50s coming from all walks of life but having the most incredible conversations around our common interest in wildlife. We saw dolphins and their calves and even spotted a large community of thresher sharks in a location they weren’t commonly known to be. I loved it so much that the next year I signed up to volunteer with turtles in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, it rained a lot and the road was washed out so I wasn’t able to make it. I definitely plan to volunteer again and am hoping to next volunteer at a chimpanzee sanctuary in Spain.
7. What is the best piece of advice that you can give our readers?
Live abroad for at least a year. Spending time in one place gives you a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the culture than just visiting it for a couple of weeks. Living abroad is also when I’ve learned the most about myself. I’ve had some of my most memorable moments while living abroad and also some of my lowest, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
8. Since this is a budget travel blog, what is your best budget tip, bar none?
Working while living abroad is a great way to pay for your travels. When I finished university I knew I wanted to travel but had no money so I found a job teaching English in South Korea. OK, so that didn’t turn out so well (see #3 above), but then I found a job teaching English in Thailand, which turned into an internship for the Canadian Embassy in Thailand. Working while living abroad paid for my travels and enabled me to spend far longer exploring both countries on a much deeper level than I would have been able to had I not been working there.
9. Where do you plan to travel this year?
I moved to Germany last year and will continue exploring Germany and the rest of Europe, which I’ll continue to do for the foreseeable future as there’s so much to see. Being based in Europe I have the time to go to many off the beaten path places that I would never get to see if I was just traveling through Europe. I’m also getting married in Canada this summer and we’re doing a trip through western Canada which includes lots of hiking, kayaking with whales and scuba diving.
10. What are the three things that you could never do without during your travels?
My camera, Kindle (e-reader) – since it saves me from lugging around half a suitcase of books and my fiancé because he’s such a wonderful travel partner.