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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 Jeremy Branham, who does double duty as the featured budget traveler blogger for the Sacramento Examiner and his own popular travel blog, Budget Travel Adventures.
1) What is it about traveling that makes you smile?
The answer to this question varies by age. When I was young, a trip to Disney World or my first baseball game to see the Atlanta Braves. In college, it was that first trip to Estonia as a wide-eyed kid from the South had his eyes opened to the world and his passion stirred.
As an adult, my perspective is different because my life has changed. Now, it’s a beautiful sunset on a deserted beach or a cabin in the mountains surrounded by trees, peace, and quiet. As a dad, it’s seeing things in this world that we often take for granted through my kid’s eyes and words. It’s those simple moments that you realize what a great opportunity we have to see the world and experience it with other people.
2) What is your favorite place in the world?
You want an honest answer or want me to mention some great place that I have visited and loved?
I am going to seriously cheat on this one and name a few. In my travels abroad, I have two places for two very different reasons. The first is Estonia because it was my first trip overseas and it had a huge impact on me. I can honestly say that I am not the same person now because of that trip. While those who have visited Estonia tend to visit Tallinn, my favorite place is Tartu – a college town a few hours from Tallinn in the southeast part of Estonia. My other answer to this is Portugal because I really loved my time in Lisbon. Maybe it was being there at the right place and time but I really enjoyed the city.
However, my honest answer to this question is home. When I am not traveling, there is no place I would rather be than home with my family. My kids are at a great age right now and although being a parent of two kids under 3 can be tough, it is rewarding as well. There aren’t three people on earth I would rather hang out with than my family. I am very much a homebody and just enjoy the simple things in life. It’s ironic that I even say this now – I’ve changed so much.
For me, it’s all about the relationships and quality time with my family. It’s probably the same reason why I value my experiences with people when I travel more than the places or sights that I have seen.
3) What place would have to pay you to come back and even then you’d have to think about it?
I’ve had this discussion with people and I know some are going to know immediately what my answer is – Venice, Italy. I will share my reasons why but here’s an interesting side note to this answer. A few months ago, I had a discussion about Venice with someone on Twitter and we disagreed rather strongly about this. I guess it was a big disagreement because I think this person stopped following me and I don’t think we have talked since.
As for why, I think the city is quite boring. Many people who grew up in Venice are moving out and it’s becoming more of a place that caters to tourist. Piazza San Marco and the canals are interesting. The city is very overpriced and gondola rides are very expensive. Also, I think Amsterdam and Brugges are cities with canals that offer far more for people to see. I’ve shared with a few people that my best experience in Venice was wandering back into the streets and canals and getting lost (a great way to connect with locals).
This isn’t to say I won’t go back at some point because I am willing to give it another shot. However, Venice is at the bottom of my list of places that I want to go back and visit. (Let the hate mail and comments begin! 🙂 )
4) What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given about traveling?
Be an extrovert. Honestly, this is sometimes hard for me because I am quiet and definitely an introvert. I actually love getting away from tourist places and finding the quiet areas of a city with local life, parks, and non-touristy experiences. I have found that to be outgoing – even just a little more than what is normal or comfortable – will lead to better travel experiences.
5) How has traveling changed you as a person?
It opened my eyes to the world around me that I never knew existed. I think all people should be required to travel. I think it would make all of us less self centered as we understand that people are different and that other cultures have something to offer. I believe people would see how much simpler we could love and that people can be happy without all the things we want or think we need here in America.
Estonia was the big one for me. A nice quiet southern kid goes on a trip to Estonia and meets people and a culture he loves and experiences. It was a real life history lesson from the former USSR that I could never get from a book. I spent three hour bus rides learning phrases in Estonian that I may never use again the rest of my life just because I was that interested. What happened on that trip was that a passion was stirred in me I never knew existed.
6) Have you ever volunteered during your travels? If so, what did you do? If not, will you ever?
That first trip to Estonia was a volunteer trip. I went in college as part of my college church group. 40 of us went over there to help out a former church member living over there. We weren’t there to baptize or heal or anything strange like that. We were there to talk to people, engage them, and love them. We did some different volunteer work in churches and some other things but it was all about engaging the people we met. We went there to help out in Estonia. We came back being changed because of how they touched our lives. I went back again the next year in 1996. Out of my experiences, I even wrote a story about it – The Crush.
I know that trip had an impact on a lot of people who went with me to Estonia. At the end of that trip, the guy from our church who was now living there approached two people about living in Estonia for a year and helping out. I was one of them. I couldn’t do it at the time because I was still in college and had another 2 years left to graduate. Sometimes I wish I had but my life has turned out OK anyways. 🙂
On top of that experience, I’ve had similar trips like that to Toronto and Boston and have done my share of volunteering in my community. I may volunteer to do some work in Colombia next year.
7) What is the best piece of advice that you can give our readers?
Travel with your eyes open and be respectful of the places you visit. I know some people will love this and others may roll their eyes but the “ugly American” stereotype does exist. Our culture here in America is great but that doesn’t mean we have to travel and try to make everyone else fit our way of doing things. When traveling, take the time to look around – stop, listen, and really observe the places you are visiting.
There is a lot to enjoy when traveling and a number of fun experiences to be had. However, there is a difference between traveling and vacation. A vacation is something we do for ourselves to relax, enjoy, and self indulge. Traveling means exploring another place with our eyes, hearts, and ears open that we may learn something new or be changed by who we meet or what we experience.
8 ) Since this is a budget travel blog, what is your best budget tip, bar none?
The best budget travel tip I can give – money can actually be a barrier to a memorable travel experience. I have found that some of the best experiences I have ever had when traveling didn’t cost me a thing. That’s summed up in the motto of my blog “Travel passionately, budget wisely, and experience more.” Do the things you want to do but try to find one place or activity everywhere you go that doesn’t cost a thing. That can include finding a local park, check out a local sporting event, and find free activities going on in the city.
9) Where do you plan to travel this year?
Here are the definite plans right now – Huntington Beach/Los Angeles, Vancouver, and South Carolina. There may be more on the agenda this year.
Without a doubt, there will be some trips here in northern California to various places close by (Tahoe, San Francisco, and more). I’ve been all over this country and lived in a couple of different areas. However, if you aren’t traveling abroad, this is one of the best places in the country to live because there is so much to see and do.
10) What are the three things that you could never do without during your travels?
My journal/computer, a camera, and something to read (book, travel guide – something to engage the mind).
About our Traveler
Jeremy Branham is a married father of two who lives in Northern California . His love of budget travel keeps him constantly on the lookout for great deals for his family as well as his many fans. Check out his website, Budget Travel Adventures and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.