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Q&A with Fiona Flores Watson: On living in Spain and the romantic side of Seville

16 Oct
alc cord trees

Fiona at the Alcazar in Cordoba

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on Busbud.com. To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences wandering the world. Last time, we featured Abigail King from Inside the Travel Lab. Today, we’re happy to feature Fiona Flores Watson from Scribbler in Seville.

Fiona Flores Watson hit the road to Spain 11 years ago and has since been discovering the country, all while documenting her adventures in her blog, Scribbler in Seville. Now, this expat has settled in Spain and works on balancing the task raising her two bilingual children along with her successful freelance career. Lucky for us, Fiona takes some time from her Spain musings to answer our burning questions about the Iberian Peninsula and romantic Seville, the city she now calls home.

me albaicin river Granada

Albaicin, Granada

1. Where are you now and where in Spain are you headed next?
I’ve lived in or near Seville for 11 years, and have no plans to move anywhere else. I’m looking forward to a weekend in Granada, one of my favorite cities, in November – part work, part pleasure. I’m hoping to go on a night visit to the Alhambra, which should be spectacular.

2. You’re a wife, mother, teacher, translator, and journalist who has been published in The Guardian and Condé Nast Traveller. What tips do you have for striking a balance between work and personal life?
Haha, good question! I’m not exactly a poster girl for work-life balance, as my kids are used to me growling at them from my computer when I’m on a deadline. But I try to get as much as possible done (writing, phone calls, meetings) while they’re at school, and then we go to football, dance classes, etc afterwards, while I sneak in time on my iPhone. I also work as a Social Media consultant so Twitter is perfect for when you have a few free minutes. We always go out somewhere at weekends, as if we stay home I’m inevitably glued to my computer or iPhone, and they’re glued to the TV – not a recipe for a fun, healthy childhood!

3. Why do you think Seville is Spain’s most romantic city?
Because of its magical architecture – Moorish palaces and towers, Gothic churches, sweeping contemporary bridges, and its secret corners – squares hidden down narrow windy streets, lined with pretty tiled benches, sweet jasmine and orange trees. As well as my above-mentioned work, I take people on tours of the city. Watching their jaws drop as they’re blown away by its beauty is a reward in itself.

me Giralda (Seville)

Giralda, Seville

4. What’s your favorite destination in Spain and why? Do you have a must-see attraction?That’s a difficult one as it changes after each trip when I fall in love with a new place, but currently it’s Vejer de la Frontera, a pueblo blanco (white hill town) in Cadiz province. It is stunningly picturesque, has fabulous restaurants and excellent small hotels, and is minutes from great beaches. Plus, a good friend of mine does cooking courses there, which are centered around seafood and Sherry – two of my favorite things. Don’t miss the food market, Mercado San Francisco: It’s small but very well-designed and has exquisite tapas (small food dishes) and fresh fish, especially the local atun de almadraba (bluefin tuna).

5. What advice do you have for travelers visiting Spain for the first time?
Try and learn a few words to use, even if it’s only “hola” (hi), “gracias” (thank you), and “buenos dias/tardes” (good morning/afternoon). You should say this when you walk into any bar, shop, or office, or you’ll be seen as rude. And don’t be afraid to sample odd-looking foods you’ve never seen (or even heard of) before – especially fruits, shellfish, and cuts of meat. The variety of produce here is quite incredible, and the quality is usually excellent!

6. Your blog also focuses on Spain’s celebrated culinary culture. Name the ultimate dish you need to try when visiting Spain.
For me it would have to be coquinas – small clams cooked in garlic, parsley, and wine (or, even better, Fino, which is very dry Sherry). Para chuparse los dedos (finger-licking good)!

Fran Hidalgo Carmona

Coquinas

7. At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better travel decisions. What do you think about this mission and do you think this type of service would benefit the travel community?
I think it’s a fantastic idea – bus is a great way to get around Spain as it’s cheap, there’s an extensive network, and it’s relatively reliable. Since I have small children, we usually drive (much easier with all the clobber), but if I’m on my own I love taking the bus. I can stare out of the window and dream, or catch up on some work.

8. Finally, do you have a memorable bus story to share with our readers?
Years ago when I was travelling in India, I took a bus trip with friends to a mountain pass in Himachal Pradesh, and the bus got snowed in! We had to hike several miles down the road, then the Army met us to give us blankets and hot food, and took us back home. The worst part was we were all wearing shorts as it was summer – the weather was freakish and totally unexpected. That was quite an adventure.

Thanks, Fiona!

You can follow Fiona’s adventures on her blog, as well as on Facebook & Twitter.

Photos by Fiona at Scribbler in Seville & Fran Hidalgo Carmona 

Q&A with Abigail King: On Swapping Scrubs for Travel Writing and Photography

19 Jul
Abigail King

Abigail King

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences wandering the world. Last time, we featured Matt Long from LandLopers. Today, we’re happy to feature Abigail King from Inside the Travel Lab.

When Abigail decided she was going to leave her day-to-day life behind to pursue a career in travel writing and photography, she also left behind her career as a doctor. Now, she’s a successful lifestyle journalist and blogger who splits her time between writing travel stories and snapping photos that will leave you in a permanent state of wanderlust. Lucky for us, Abigail takes the time to answer our questions!

Beit Sitti Amman Jordan

Beit Sitti, Amman Jordan

1. Where are you now and where are you headed next?
Right now, I’m in Cardiff getting ready for a summer of festivals as part of the #MustLoveFestivals projects (16 digital storytellers heading to more than 40 festivals across Europe this summer). I’ll be covering festivals in Nuremberg, Puglia, Dublin, Malta, and Barcelona.

2. You gave up your life as a doctor to achieve your dream of becoming a travel writer. How did you make the jump and what was your biggest challenge?
I did what I always do and read a lot of books on the subject! Then, I saved up some money to cushion the blow and gave myself a one year trial period to find out whether I really wanted to write or whether it was just a fantasy. The biggest challenge was definitely getting that first commission. I think that’s easier now that there’s blogging to soak up your time and talent (and energy!) but those first few months of nothing but rejection letters were definitely the toughest.

3. You’ve been published in the BBC, National Geographic Traveler, Lonely Planet, and have won numerous awards. How do you balance work and travel?
It’s tricky! Again, blogging is slightly easier because you’re usually covering the place you’re currently in. With traditional freelance work, you can be, say, in a market in Hong Kong and get a query about a piece on a beach in Barbados that the editor wants feedback on ASAP. So, then you find yourself tucked in an Internet cafe writing about Barbados while the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong swirls around you.

Fish, Okinawa

Okinawa

4. You’re also a talented photographer; where did you pick up the craft and what is the most photogenic place in the world?
Well, thank you! Again, a lot of reading and a lot of practice – that’s my top tip for getting better at photography: Take more photos. Then, ask yourself whether you’d be happy sending those photos to a customer. That really sharpens up your skills.

Ah, there are so many photogenic places in the world. But the Namib Desert is exceptionally beautiful so I think I’d have to say that. Sossusvlei (Death Valley) has a jigsaw cream floor that spreads out across rusty red sand while dark skeletons of trees spike into the sky…it’s stunning.

Namib Desert

Namib Desert

5. At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better travel decisions. What do you think about this mission and do you think this type of service would benefit the travel community?
It’s a great mission, so in one word, yes!

6. Do you have a memorable bus story to share with our readers?
Hm. I was on an overnight bus in Mexico once near the border with Guatemala when soldiers stormed on and yanked out the passenger sitting behind us. That was pretty memorable.

7. Wow, that must have been quite an experience! Has it changed the way you feel about taking buses and do you still rely on them to get around?
Haha! No, well I’ve seen people marched off planes and trains too by the police so I think if you let things like that put you off you’ll never do anything and never go anywhere. Buses definitely still have a place in my travel toolkit – they have the advantage that they usually arrive in the center of town and they provide great views and chances for reading (and sleeping) that driving can’t match.

Landing in Madikwe Game Reserve

Landing in Madikwe Game Reserve

Thanks, Abigail!

You can follow Abigail’s adventures on her blog, as well as on Facebook & Twitter.

Photos by Abigail at Inside the Travel Lab

Q&A with Matt Long: On Being Bitten by the Travel Bug & Where to Find Good Eats

12 Jul
Matt Long

Matt Long

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences wandering the world. Last time, we featured Michael Glass from Backpacker Travel. Today, we’re happy to feature Matt Long from LandLopers.

When Matt caught a bad case of the travel bug, he decided to cure it by visiting over 65 countries on all seven continents. Now, sharing his numerous experiences and adventures with a large roster of daily readers, Matt writes on the best the world has to offer. Based in Washington, DC, he took the time to answer a few of our questions.

Antarctica

Antarctica

1. Where are you now and where are you headed next?
I’m spending a lot of time at home this summer to catch up on work and get myself organized after a really active spring. I start all over again in late August though when I head to Alberta, Canada to explore the Cowboy Trail and a few of their beautiful national parks. This fall, I’ll also be visiting Milan, Italy, Malta, Jordan, and Sri Lanka!

2. How did you decide to make the switch from working a 9-to-5 job to becoming a travel writer, editor, and photographer?
Well, it wasn’t really my choice. I’d been working towards that goal for a couple of years when I lost my job. Rather than look for something else, I decided that it was a sign and used it as an opportunity to make the transition to full-time travel blogger. Two years later, I’ve learned a lot but so far so good!

Venice

Venice

3. Your blog’s Good Eats section is my personal favorite! If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be and which country would it be from?
That’s a really hard question. Food is such an important part of the overall travel experience and I have a lot of favorites around the world. My (current) all-time favorite is well-executed Peking duck. I had the meal of a lifetime while in Taiwan and have since tried it a few other times and as long as the meal is executed well, it’s my personal favorite. I’m already salivating just talking about it, in fact.

4. Finally, you mention that your blog caters to “everyone from the novice to the pro traveler.” What are your go-to tips and which do you think all travelers should have in their back pocket?
A few of my favorite tips include:
1. Don’t overplan your trip! Organize a few things, but keep the schedule loose and allow for the spontaneous.
2. Pack Ziploc bags to use them for everything from organizing your carry-on bags to storing dirty clothes.
3. Check out local grocery stores not only to see what the local area values in its food, but for the best deals on snacks, beverages, and food-related gifts and souvenirs.

Cape Town

Cape Town

Thanks, Matt!

You can follow Matt’s adventures on his blog, as well as on Facebook & Twitter.

Photos by Matt Long at LandLopers

 

Q&A with Backpacker Travel’s Michael Glass: On Smarter Travel and Curating a Resource for Backpackers Worldwide

5 Jul
Michael Glass

Michael Glass

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences wandering the world. Last time, we featured Adam Groffman from Travels of Adam. Today, we’re happy to feature Michael Glass, founder of Backpacker Travel.

When Michael Glass decided to start Backpacker Travel, he was looking to fill the void previously occupied by travel industry professionals. In an age where travel info is popping up from everywhere on the Internet, where do people turn to for expert tips? With a strong army of contributors behind him, Michael created his website with the vision of producing a resource for travelers everywhere.

1. Along with being an avid traveler, you’ve worked many jobs in the industry, like being a travel agent and leading walking tours. How has this helped you cultivate your website into a resource, as opposed to another destination guide?
Having worked in the travel industry over the last 16+ years, I have seen some pretty massive changes to the way people find travel-related information. Before the Internet was as powerful as it is today, people relied heavily on recommendations from the people they trusted. These were often family, friends, and work colleagues, but most importantly, the bricks and mortar travel agent.

Nowadays, that information can be accessed with the click of a mouse, though the challenge has become how to filter through all of this available information into what’s relevant. Because I have worked in a number of roles over this transition, I would say I have come to understand travelers’ needs better than most.

In saying that, Backpacker Travel is the culmination of not only my knowledge, but the combined knowledge of our team of amazing contributors, each from different walks of life and all specialists in their own unique fields of travel. To be clear, this is NOT a destination guide. What we hope to achieve is to become the go-to resource for people looking to travel independently.

2. Backpacker Travel’s mantra is “smarter, safer, and cheaper travel.” What do you think is the key to being a successful backpacker?
Backpacking is an incredibly life-building discovery. You will learn more about yourself in a few short months on the road than you could ever imagine. The Backpacker Travel site is there to help guide you through the many situations you might encounter, but if there is just one tip I can give to budding backpackers, it is this: View the world, its people, customs, and cultures with an open mind. The more open-minded and accepting you are, the quicker you will learn.

Five big traits you will learn along the way are: Patience, tolerance, communication, adaptability, and confidence. We will do our best to give you the tools, but it is ultimately up to the individual to discover their backpacking success.

Backpacker Travel Homepage

Backpacker Travel Homepage

3. It can be quite overwhelming for someone looking to embark on their own adventure, whether it’s working abroad or taking a gap year – where’s the best place to start?
This conundrum is one of the reasons I decided to create the site. You would be surprised to know that not knowing where to start is one of the leading reasons why people don’t actually get started. Because of this, we are busily creating our Backpacker 101 self-help guides. These “how-to” guides are easy to understand and categorized into specific sections like “Before you go,” “Flying,” etc. Again, like anything, the key is to take that first step! It can be daunting for some, but we have lots of experienced travelers here to help out.

4. As a world traveler yourself, what are your top three favorite destinations and where are you planning on going next?
Anyone who has traveled extensively will tell you this is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child, but I will give it my best shot!

Favorite destinations:
1. Ibiza, Spain for nightlife and relaxing by the beach during the day – great combo.
2. Tasmania, Australia for nature and wildlife. This place still seems untouched in many ways.
3. Kyoto, Japan for food and culture. I’ve been here four times but would still go back.

Next week, we are taking a short break to go to Hawaii, but our big trip is planned for November when I am getting married on Gili Trawangan Island in Indonesia, followed by our honeymoon in Burma.

5. You also mention that you’re a festival junkie. What has been your most unforgettable festival to date?
Now that’s a much easier question to answer! Although I have been to many incredible festivals over the years, last year we took our first trip to Burning Man in the Nevada Desert. People told us it would be a life-changing experience but nothing prepared me for the unbelievable time we had. During the searing heat of the daytime, we explored Black Rock City, which is purposely built every year for the festival. There is so much to see and do, but be sure to check out all of the wonderful art that is scattered throughout the playa.

Burning Man is a self-sustaining community. There are no shops to go out and buy food and drinks – you must bring everything you need to survive the week. At the end, you must take it with you and leave no trace. There is also a gifting culture where people are encouraged to give their fellow “burners” their time, food, a hug, or something material, and this philosophy truly brings out the very best of human nature. The media often portray Burning Man in a negative light, but I can assure you there is only positivity to be found at this festival!

Burning Man Festival

Burning Man Festival

6. At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better travel decisions. What do you think about this mission and do you think this type of service would benefit the travel community?
I actually heard about Busbud over a year ago and thought the idea was spot on. It has now become so much easier for people to find good deals when it comes to flying, so why not ground transport? There are many places throughout the world where buses are the main mode of transport, especially throughout South and Central America. I am 100% positive that our backpacker community will be using Busbud’s services to plan and book their bus travel, and can only see you going from strength to strength as you add more routes.

7. Finally, do you have a memorable bus story to share with our readers?
To be honest with you, I struggle with pretty bad motion sickness so I am generally knocked out whenever I need to take a long bus ride. My tour group can attest to that during our bus ride from Alice Springs to Darwin. All I need is an open window, a pillow, and something to put me to sleep!

Thanks, Michael!

You can follow him on Backpacker Travel, as well as on Facebook & Twitter.

Photos by Michael Glass at Backpacker Travel

 

Q&A with Travels of Adam: On Hipster Travel and Moving Halfway Across the Globe

27 Jun
Adam in Dresden

Adam in Dresden

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences wandering the world. Last time, we featured Seth Kugel, the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler. Today, we’re happy to feature Adam Groffman from Travels of Adam.

After quitting his 9-to-5 job as a graphic designer in Boston, Adam Groffman took to traveling the globe and hasn’t stopped since. From visiting most of Europe, to North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, he’s seen a large chunk of the world in less than five years. Lucky for us, he takes some time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions while on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Ljubljana.

Chiang Mai Temple

Chiang Mai Temple

1. You’re currently living in Berlin, right? How did you choose to “settle” there and are you planning on staying?
I came to Berlin in 2011 for the first time and fell in love with the city hard and fast. I decided to move to Berlin pretty quickly after that and did everything possible to make it happen. No plans to leave – this is the coolest city in the world and it’s so very easy to live here. With such amazing culture, more than enough cool things to do, and a great quality of life, I’d be crazy to leave!

2. As you explain in your blog, you were bitten by the travel bug after a trip to Iceland in 2009. What advice do you have for those wanting to travel long-term but don’t know where to start?
I’m a firm believer in making a plan, but I do think you should quickly throw it away and not stick to it. I made a rough itinerary before my round-the-world trip. I spent tens of hours putting it together, researching costs, and possible itineraries. I didn’t even look at it again until a month into my big trip – and I haven’t opened it since! To get started, I definitely think you need to read up on the world, figure out where you want to go, and what you want to do. But you should be willing, flexible, and open-minded enough to throw it all out the window. Also, you should read Rolf Potts’ book Vagabonding.

3. You refer to yourself as a “hipster travel blogger.” What exactly does that mean?
While many blogs might advise people to get rid of all their stuff and buy special travel gear, I went around the world with my favorite t-shirts, my favorite pair of jeans, and all my regular possessions. I didn’t buy too many travel products but just went as I was. I bought what I needed as I went. These days when I travel, I typically take short city breaks. When I travel, I like to see the world and to explore new things – it’s part of what I call my hipster manifesto. That means traveling to see and learn new things, but also to think about what you’ve learned and what you’ve done.

Adam in Vietnam

Adam in Vietnam

4. I notice you visited Montreal in 2012. What did you think of our city and did you have a favorite spot?
I had a mixed reaction to Montreal. I’ve actually been a few times but mostly as a kid. I got to explore the city during my trip in 2012 and I really enjoyed Casa del Popolo as I thought it was a pretty hip place with a nice history. Oh, and the bagels! The bagels in Montreal were so good! I’d actually love to return to explore the gay scene as I’ve heard it’s one of the most colorful and vibrant gay areas in Canada. Maybe next year!

5. At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better decisions. What do you think of this mission and do you think this type of service would benefit the travel community?
I really love traveling by bus – in Europe it’s often the cheapest way to get from point A to point B. And when the bus service is top-notch (as it is in Europe, with free coffee and WiFi!), then it’s just as comfortable and enjoyable as taking a train or a plane. I’m sure there’s a place for your business!

6. Do you have a memorable bus travel story to share with our readers?
I remember many of my bus rides in India – it was a crazy, but fun way to get around the country. The buses were colorful and the people were friendly. I took several long bus journeys, but my most memorable was a short bus ride (about 2-3 hours) I took from Pondicherry to Mamallapuram on the southeastern coast of India. My friend and I were on the bus on New Year’s Eve, so we had a fun time chatting with some of the locals before getting off to celebrate at midnight!

Plaza de Espana in Seville

Plaza de Espana in Seville

7. Finally, where are you headed next?
This weekend, I’m visiting a European city I keep hearing is the “next Berlin”: Ljubljana, Slovenia (it’s supposed to be very cool and hip). I’m there on a blog and social media project called #TasteLjubljana so you can follow along all weekend and read more about it here.

Thanks, Adam!

You can follow Adam’s adventures on his blog, as well as on FacebookTwitter.

Photos by Adam Groffman at Travels of Adam

Q&A with Frugal Traveler: Exploring the World on a Budget

6 Mar

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences traveling around the world. Last time, we featured Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere. Today, we are happy to feature Seth Kugel, the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler.

This traveler’s path is quite atypical. After teaching in public schools, Seth worked in immigrant and child protection services. Then he started as a columnist for the City section of the Times before taking up the torch as the Frugal Traveler for the New York Times in 2010. You can read more about his career path here.

In 2010 you started your adventure as the NYT Frugal Traveler with a 13 week trip from Sao Paulo to NYC. How often did you travel by bus during this trip? How were your experiences traveling by bus?

I really like traveling by bus, because it’s cheap and so different everywhere you go.

In some Latin American countries buses are still old and in many cases they are old United States school buses that have been repainted. That’s not the case everywhere, so it’s interesting to see the contrast between different bus services.

One of my first trips was a 36-hour bus ride. That was an interesting journey. I sat next to a coca leaf dealer, which is all legal business in Bolivia, but as an American it seemed kind of funny to be with a guy who was transporting coca leaves on the bus. He was able to explain to me how the legal trade of coca leaves works and that was totally fascinating. We stopped in little towns, saw this llama entertaining passengers.

There are always tons of crazy things that happen on bus rides.

In Central America it’s more the school bus thing, it’s actually very uncomfortable because you have no cushioning at all in the seats. Luckily, countries in Central America are smaller than Bolivia, so you don’t have that far to go. You travel in the mode of transportation that everyone travels with there. In most countries, especially in the developing world, not everybody can fly. In fact, most people have never been on a plane before. Everybody takes the bus so you get to interact with better mix of society.

It was also very interesting to see what the system is like, sometimes how inefficient it is, and it can surprise you sometimes with how comfortable and efficient it gets.

16Frugal-span-blogSpanSource: New York Time Frugal Traveler

Any advice for first time travelers? Those who long to travel but fear to take the jump?

I’d just say to do it a little bit at a time. If you wanna do it all at once, take a big jump, a year around the world, going to crazy places, that’s fine, but you can certainly also just start small. Take a small trip, be a little more daring than you usually would be.

There is a rule that I always like to follow in many situations: if you’re ever wondering if you should do something or if you shouldn’t, like if you should take this street of if you shouldn’t, if you should talk to this person or you shouldn’t. Within the balance of reasonable physical safety, you should always do it. That’s a good rule to follow. You’re on vacation and you’re not sure if you should do something, then you should probably do it if it doesn’t involve a physical risk for yourself.

Photo: Patricia Stavis

At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel easier. Especially allowing travelers to search, compare and book bus tickets anywhere in the world. What do you think about this mission? Do you think this type of service would help travelers during their trips?

Well, it sounds like a very difficult task because there is no worldwide regulation of buses like there is in trains, right? My experience is that in a lot of places in the world you still can’t book a bus online, and even if they have a website, it’s usually impossible to use it if you’re not from the country. I think that if you guys can do it, that would be fantastic! It sounds to me like a very hard job, you have a ton of language issues, it would be great if it works.

Of course, it’s a hard job, but it’s what we love to do. Our 20 brains and pairs of hands stay busy to keep making bus travel easier anywhere in the world and to get more and more coverage. We are now serving bus schedules for over 9600 cities in 81 countries in the world.

Thanks a lot Seth!
You can follow his adventures as Frugal Traveler on Twitter.
Read his column on The New York Times

Q&A with Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere on Photography and Bus Travel

16 Feb
Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere

Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who’ve had firsthand experiences around the world. Last time, we featured Miro & Lainie from Raising Miro. Today, we’re happy to feature Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere.

Gary Arndt sold his house in 2007 and have been traveling around the world ever since. He’s visited all 7 continents, over 116 countries and territories around the world, all 50 US states, 9/10 Canadian provinces, every Australian state and territory, over 125 US National Park Service sites and over 180 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In 2010, Time Magazine named Everything Everywhere one of the Top 25 Blogs in the World.

1. Where are you now, and what’s your next destination?

I am writing this in a bus station in Liberia, Costa Rica. I’ll be heading to San Jose in an hour and tomorrow I hope to visit my 192nd UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Talamanca mountain range.  Next week I’ll be heading to northern Canada to the Yukon.

2. You’ve traveled over 7 continents and visited over 116 countries. How do you keep travel interesting and exciting?

There is always something more to learn. You can spend your entire life traveling and never run out of new things to learn and experience. The Earth is much larger than any human lifetime.

3. You’ve got a great travel photography ebook that everyone should dowload. I was especially touched by the Red Shirt Protester in Bangkok, and the Kids in Canoe at Rennell Island. Can you share your photography process— do you set out to capture moments, or let them come to you spontaneously?

It all depends. Both of those images have interesting stories behind them.

Red Shirt protester in Bangkok

Red Shirt protester in Bangkok

The photo of the red shirt protester took place in Bangkok in 2010. There were huge political protests taking place in Bangkok while I was there. I went down to the main protest area several times to meet and photograph the protesters. One day they were going to hold a rally at the Prime Minister’s home which was only a block from where I was staying. I went down with my camera and was between about 10,000’s protesters and maybe 1,000 police in riot gear. It started to rain and all the other photographers took shelter. I had an umbrella with me, so I stood out in the middle of the street and took the photo of the single man standing in front of the police. It is one of my favorite images.

Kids in Canoe on Rennell Island

Kids in Canoe on Rennell Island

The photo I took on Rennell just happened. The Solomon Islands is a country which gets very few tourists. Rennell Island is off the main archipelago and gets maybe 100 tourists per year. East Rennell is a 20 mile drive from the airstrip (which is just grass) over coral. During that 20 mile trip we had 8 flat tires. At the end of the road is a large lake you then have to cross. I was told they get about 10 tourists a year in this part of the island. One day I visited one of the villages on the lake and the kids in the village had a blast following me around. When I left by boat, they hopped in a canoe to follow me, waving their arms the entire time. The photo I took was my parting shot of the kids as I left.

Great photos can happen at any time. Sometimes you can plan for it and sometimes they happen unexpectedly.

Underwater photography in the Great Barrier Reef

Underwater photography in the Great Barrier Reef

4. In yesterday’s blog post, you mentioned taking the bus in Costa Rica, and how confusing the bus system can be because there is no central bus depot. What do you think of Busbud’s mission, which is to gather the world’s bus travel information? Would this type of information help your readers in their travels?

Absolutely. In many countries such as Costa Rica and the Philippines, the bus system is very distributed. There are many different bus companies which run different routes from different places in each city. There isn’t necessarily a central bus station. There is also seldom any signage to tell you where to go.  The more information you have, the easier your life will be.

Bus in Queensland, Australia

Bus in Queensland, Australia

5. Can you share a memorable bus travel story with us?

I took a bus in Egypt from Luxor to Suez which went up along the Red Sea. The bus was so dilapidated that spent most of it sitting on a spare tire. I’ve never counted the number of countries I’ve traveled by bus in, but it is certainly a big number. Even in some countries with an extensive train system, I often end up taking a bus because it is cheaper and just as fast.

Hammock over water in Caye Caulker, Belize

Hammock over water in Caye Caulker, Belize

6. Finally, there are many random facts about you that people are surprised to discover, like the fact that you are a part owner of an NFL franchise, and you also have a huge collection of magazines and DVDS. For Busbud readers who hesitate to take on a long-term travel trip because they’d be leaving behind so much “stuff”, what advice would you give them?

Stuff can be replaced. The actual act of getting rid of much of your stuff is actually a rather therapeutic experience. Once you spend an extended amount of time living out of a bag, you realize just how little you need to actually get by. Most of what you need can be put into storage and it will be waiting for you when you get back.

Thanks Gary! You can get in touch with him on Twitter and Facebook.  Follow Gary Arndt’s adventures on Everything Everywhere.

Photos by Gary Arndt at Everything Everywhere

Q&A with Lainie from Raising Miro on Travel and the Road of Life

19 Jan
Miro and Lainie from Raising Miro

Miro and Lainie from Raising Miro

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who’ve had firsthand experiences around the world. Last time, we featured Nicole and Cameron Wears from Traveling Canucks. Today, we’re happy to feature Miro & Lainie from Raising Miro.

Lainie and Miro are a mother and son team who have traveled to 12 countries and experienced many personal changes, living an inspired possession-free-lifestyle, volunteering and learning naturally. They are blessed to be accidental unschoolers and have become advocates for “life learning” at any age.

1) Where are you now? What are 3 reasons why you picked this place?

We are currently in Cusco, Peru. We have been in Peru for over a year already, and the last four of those months we’ve spent here, high in the Andes, deep in the Sacred Valley. There are several reasons that have initially drawn us here, and several more that have kept us here. Briefly, both Miro and I are taken aback with the powerful energy of this country. It’s a cultural, historical, mystical and harmonious place. The people, although culturally diverse, are kind and welcoming. But mostly the landscape, ruins, history and countless mysteries inviting us to participate deeper keep us here. Peru has provided a fertile ground for all kinds of investigation and natural learning for both Miro and myself.

Miro and Lainie in Tambapata

Tambapata, Peru

2) What has been your favourite place so far, and why?

Miro and I both have different answers as we both have different interests. For example, Miro’s very keen on some of the adventure aspects of our trip. Ica, Peru was one of his favourite spots because of the vast sand dunes (and the ever-so-fast dune-buggies that bounce up and down with speed ), the deep amazon jungle for the wild adventures, sounds and the first hand experiences of animal and plant life not found anywhere else on the planet, and finally the capital, for so many reasons that remind him of the comfort of home and it’s wonderful sushi eateries topping the list.

For me, I am enthralled with ancient cultures, archeology and mysticism. I love the southern coast of Peru, including Nasca and Paracas for stretching my imagination and allowing ‘other worldly’ ideas to become a part of my vocabulary (yes, I’m talking “Ancient Aliens”). I loved the jungle too, having spent days and nights acutely aware of my surroundings, being invited to be deeply planted in each passing moment of presence. But at the moment, my heart belongs in the Sacred Valley, near the ancient structures left behind by the Inca and the mysterious pre-Inca cultures, temping my imagination with each new star-gate, elongated skull, megalithic structure and petroglyth I personally experience.

Raising-Miro-Chan-Chan

Miro at Chan Chan

3) How do you decide on your next destination?

Two factors determine our ‘next destination’. First, depending on where we are geographically, we normally decide to go where is next (I know, very Zen.) Second, our destination depends on our budget. If we are inspired to go farther than where the next bus will take us, if we can afford to go, we will.

But how we decide is equally important to two other factors. First, Miro and I are partners in our journey. It’s based on a conversation between the both of us. If Miro feels strongly about one way or another, we talk about it. And vice-versa for me. Sometimes it’s about giving and taking, for example our 8 month stay in Lima was because Miro was very comfortable and wanted to be there. After a period of time, I was inspired to be closer to the archeological sites and that was my preference to move to Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Yes, we are partners.

Next, we both are keenly in touch with our inspiration and our intuition. There had never been a case where Miro and I disagreed about a destination or moving on since our inspiration and intuition are finely tuned within ourselves and with each other. Being guided by inspiration is a blessing and we both listen.

On the way to the Ballestas Islands

On the way to the Ballestas Islands

4) I really enjoyed reading your perspective about unschooling and learning math, and I agree with you that ultimately, it’s up to the parents and their children to decide. But what about learning social iterations? I’m sure that by travelling together so much, you and Miro must meet a lot of people. What are some valuable social lessons that you’ve acquired and can’t be learned in a classroom environment

I’ve been told by many, the answer to this question should be the basis for a book. Maybe it will someday, since I’m certain I could fill many, many pages. But for now, would like to present a question to you, and your readers. When is there a point in our lives that we are NOT learning? It a matter of framing the experiences we are having as such.

You are right in assuming we meet people of all walks of life, all ages, all interests, all social and economical status. As humans we are social creatures and function within social structures. The difference between a child educated in the world, the world being his classroom, is that he / she interacts with a cross section that more represents life, because in fact, it is life! Children in traditional school systems are put in a classroom to socialize only with those of their same biological age. To me, that’s arbitrary and not conducive of learning social lessons. As for curriculum, math, other ‘educational’ topics, I invite you and your readers to visit our web site, as we talk a lot about learning, as in ‘natural learning’ which is also known as ‘unschooling‘.

In fact, you can read about my unschooling too.. (remember my question above about ‘when are we not learning?’ This also applies to me. )

5) What is a great anecdote you have about a bus ride you’ve taken in your travels?

Both Miro and I don’t mind bus rides, even like the long ones from time to time. We have been on two 40 hour bus rides at different times on our journey. And once in Guatemala, we were caught in a shuttle bus for 30 hours in a bad storm where the roads were literally washed out. In this case, Miro and I got to observe the best and the worst of ‘creating your own reality”. We were both patient, wide-eyed and accepting of what was happening. On the other hand, we were in the company of a couple of travellers who choose to experience the situation in a very negative manner. Both Miro and I were observers, and choose to learn in every experience, reflect and grow than making the choice to suffer, judge, or condemn what is happening. (Again, very Zen, right?) I wrote about that experience in detail here.

Miro with an Alpaca

Miro with an Alpaca

6) At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better travel decisions. Have you ever had difficulty going around to places due to language barrier? How do you manage communicate when you don’t speak a local language?

At this point, we’ve been traveling for the last 3 1/2 years in Latin America. My Spanish is embarrassing, but Miro’s is fluent. We’ve both learned what we’ve learned through listening. But there have been times and will continue to be times where we cannot communicate accurately with others. But I can say, the most important aspect of communication is tapping into your own humanity, recognizing that in others, and of course SMILE all the time!

Lainie and Miro at Machu Picchu

Lainie and Miro at Machu Picchu

7) Finally, do you have some advice for those who are seeking to be nomads like you?

I would say, fear is the most common reason people do not embark on a lifestyle like ours. If you are interested in a travel lifestyle and are frozen with fear, here’s my most valuable piece of advice:

First take your own journey inward. Learn to listen to what fears are coming, up, learn to decipher the difference in your fear voice or your inspiration.

This focus will keep you grounded when your rational mind is cycling through the giant to do list, feeling stressed and fearful, and experiencing self doubt. Yes, it’s all part of the experience, (and it’s magnified once you are on the road) unless you have tools to keep the surface noise in check.

Just what is that spark of inspiration that led you to this place? Let’s look at the ‘spark’ itself. Like any living thing, it needs attention to stay activated, to remain alive. Simply, give it attention. Give it attention often. Feel the feelings associated with your inspiration and just sit with it. With a little practice, you’ll be able to access that feeling at a second’s notice, and it’s there with you when you need it. And that connection will keep you safe and your journey fear-free. Then, you can get back to enjoying and appreciating all the ups and downs of travel, even those occasional 30 hour shuttle bus adventures!

Thanks Lainie! You can get in touch with her on Facebook. And follow Lainie and Miro’s adventures on Raising Miro.

Photos by Lainie Liberti at Raising Miro

Miro in Lima

Miro in Lima

Q&A with Cameron from Traveling Canucks: Marriage, Travel, and Finding Life Balance on the Road

23 May

Nicole and Cameron from Traveling Canucks

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we contact travelers who’ve had firsthand experiences around the world. Last time, we featured Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott from Uncornered Market. Today, we’re happy to share an interview with another traveling couple, Nicole and Cameron Wears from Traveling Canucks. Residing in Vancouver, Canada, this married couple has visited 50 countries in the past seven years.

Nicole and Cameron share a common passion for travel. In 2008, they traded their jobs for a backpack and a long checklist. After a year on the road, they chose to make their home in Vancouver, British Columbia, and continue to keep travel as part of their lives. They are living proof that it is possible to build a career and family AND travel the globe.

1) What’s your next travel destination?

Our next trip will actually be the first international trip that we take with our baby boy. We are flying to sunny Palm Springs, California! We can’t wait to catch some needed sun and relaxation; it’s been rainy and cold in Vancouver BC. Surprisingly, we have never been to Southern California, so we are really looking forward to the trip.

In the coming months, we plan to visit Honduras, Hawaii, Germany, Switzerland and France. So hopefully Baby B won’t have any issues with airplanes.

Easter Island

2) In a previous interview with CanadianLiving, you’ve given tips on how to keep a relationship healthy while on the road. What about the benefits of traveling as a couple?

We love traveling together because we always have someone to share the adventures and memories with. It’s nice to have someone to dine with every night or play cards while on a long train ride. We’ve been traveling together for 10 years, so we really don’t know any other way.

Traveling as a couple has helped us get to know and understand each other on a completely different level. We travel well together and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, making for a much better travel experience. In our opinion, exploring new places and experiencing new things is essential for a healthy relationship!

3) I’m a fan of your Photo of the Week series. What’s your favourite picture taken in Canada? How about one of your favorite in the rest of the world?

Wow – that’s a tough question! It’s so hard to pick just one. We really like the photo from Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta. It’s a picture perfect turquoise lake that is dwarfed by giant snow-capped Rocky Mountains – it’s brilliant!

Canoe at Moraine Lake

It’s way too hard to pick one favourite photo from around the world, but we put together a collection of our favourite travel photos.

4) At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better travel decisions. Have you encountered moments in your travel where you found yourself wanting a service like this? And do you have a bus travel story you’d like to share with our readers?

Absolutely! It recently happened on our trip to Belize a few months ago. We booked our return flight to leave from Cancun and we had to figure out how to get from Belize to Cancun by bus. It was actually quite frustrating because most bus lines didn’t have a website that was up-to-date (many didn’t have one at all!).

One of the hardest parts about finding transportation in foreign countries is that it’s difficult to find a website in English that provides honest and accurate information. We can definitely see ourselves using a service like Busbud.

A bus travel story to share would be the one we took from Luxor to Dahab in Egypt. We were told by many tour operators that the bus trip would be approximately 14 hours. We were prepared for a 14 hour journey, what we were not prepared for was the 22 hour journey that it actually ended up being!

5) I’m actually traveling to Vancouver this spring to judge a swing dance competition. Any restaurants/venues that I shouldn’t miss in Van city while I’m there?

There are so many things to see and do in Vancouver; it really depends on what you’re interested in. It’s very possible there will still be great spring skiing on the local mountains in April, but that’s weather dependant. Walking around the Seawall at Stanley Park is a fan favourite, as is wandering the cobblestone streets of Gastown near Waterfront. Some fun places to enjoy drinks are Granville Street, Robson Street and Granville Island, which has local artist shops, fresh seafood and restaurants with amazing views.

We wrote an article about “Things the Locals like to do in Vancouver”.

Caramel candy apple at the Vancouver Summer Night Market

6) Finally, I really enjoyed your message about balancing career & family with traveling and chasing your dreams. I saw that you are even traveling with your baby this summer! What advice would you give people who are struggling to find balance in their lives? How do you make it all work?

We believe that everyone should travel, at least once a year (ideally more). It opens your eyes to new cultures, food, music, traditions and experiences. It’s a great way to connect with your partner, family and friends in ways you simply cannot do at home. This doesn’t mean you have to backpack across Southeast Asia or take a career break. But make an effort to experience the world, even if it’s just a quick weekend getaway.

So many people have said to us, “I guess now that you have a baby you’re travel days are behind you”. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. We now want to introduce him to the world and have a new purpose for our travels.

Finding balance in your life is essential. It really isn’t hard to achieve once you make it a priority. Start by setting small goals, like saving an extra $100 per month or planning a local camping trip. Life balance is different for everyone, but if travel is important to you then you must make time for it and understand that sacrifices will need to be made to reach your goals.

Nicole and Cameron from Traveling Canucks

Thanks Cameron! You can get in touch with him on Facebook and Twitter. And of course, visit the blog Traveling Canucks to follow their adventures.

Photos by Cameron Wears at Traveling Canucks

Q&A with Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads: On Traveling, Photography and Making Lifelong Friends

1 Mar
Jodi Ettenberg at Tichka Pass, the highest road in Morocco

Jodi Ettenberg at Tichka Pass, the highest road in Morocco

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we contact travelers who’ve had firsthand experiences around the world. Last time, we featured our first traveling couple, Dan and Audrey from Uncornered Market. Today, we’re thrilled to share an interview with Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads, who was featured just last week in the New York Times. She’s a former lawyer from Montreal currently eating her way around the world, one country at a time. Jodi has been on the road since 2008.

1. Where are you now, and where are you headed?
I’m answering this on a flight from Istanbul to Amman, actually. Hurray for Gmail Offline. I spent the fall in Turkey, Morocco and England and am headed to Thailand again after my weeks in Amman. I can’t stay away from sticky rice too long.

Jodi Ettenberg at the Citadel in Amman

Jodi Ettenberg at the Citadel in Amman

2. You’re great at reporting and sharing stories that matter, both on your blog and on social networks. What gives you the drive to document all these stories and share them with your fans and followers?

There’s a bit of a delineation between the stories I share on the blog and the links and information I posted to Twitter. I used to have a newsletter I sent out daily as a lawyer that cobbled together the science, tech and political news of the day, with copious geekery thrown in. When I quit to travel, I stopped sending it out, but Twitter has become a repository for real-time distribution of links to learn from. On the other hand, the blog houses all the transportation misadventures, longer form narrative about spices, food and connecting with people as a traveler, and photoessays from the road. Throughout, I’ve tried to keep a sense of humour about the more ridiculous of stories; it’s always helpful to not take yourself so seriously.

In the coming months, I hope to bridge those two versions of my online self with a Legal Nomads newsletter. The newsletter will cobble together the best of the links from Twitter and Google+ and also round up the stories I’ve written, each with editorial. I’m looking forward to getting it off the ground because it’ll mean circling the two aspects of what I love to do online, both involving sharing.

3. I heard you had an Olympus EP-3 camera, and use it with a Panasonic 20mm 1.7 lens. I’ve got the same lens myself, coupled with a Panasonic GF1. How have you enjoyed the micro four thirds format so far, and what’s your favorite photo taken with this camera?

I really do love the new camera. People would write and ask what lens I was using from the Myanmar or Thailand photos, which is fun because (as you know) I was just using a point and shoot. The answer would be met with incredulity, as though you have to have a terrific camera to get a good capture. However, I have noticed a difference with the new E-P3 – photos are more crisp, the colour seeps through so much more beautifully and with the 20mm lens I’m able to get close and personal with what I’m eating.

Despite the camera’s lens being used primarily for macro shots, my favourite photo thus far has been from Istanbul, inside Ayasofia. The moody, gloomy lighting and complicated caligraphy combined with shooting through a pinhole has made this my pick. So many to choose from though; I’m like a kid in a candy store when I pour over the photos from the new lens.

Sulemaniye Mosque, Istanbul, shot through a pinhole

Sulemaniye Mosque, Istanbul, shot through a pinhole

Quiet waters  off Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)

Quiet waters off Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)

4. You wrote an entertaining post entitled “It’s Not a Proper Bus Ride Without A Chicken or Two” about public transportation in Laos. I guess it’s safe to say that traveling by bus gets you up close and personal to locals. Can you share a memorable bus story with us?

It’s true! I think that story was a wonderful one, highlighting the differences between our culture and those from elsewhere. The kids on the bus were all vomiting because of the ride, the entire group of us were laughing each time (as were the kids between retches) and what could have been a total disaster was actually a very funny and heartwarming trip.

One of my favourite bus moments was also one of the more absurd, when I was in the middle of a 30-hour gauntlet from Flores back to Lombok, careening atop a minivan with a goat in my lap. The ticket collector climbed up to the roof to ask me for a ticket, and I couldn’t help but laugh – with one hand holding the roof rail and the other holding the baby goat in my lap, there was no way he was going to get a ticket from me until we stopped.

5. How do you usually plan for a bus ride if you don’t find bus schedules online?

I ask at the hostel or place I’m staying, look at some of the forum responses online but what inevitably happens is that I arrive in a place and get to the bus station the day or two ahead of my planned departure, to get the bus ticket sorted and find out the schedules for the region overall.

Unusual road hazards while traveling

Unusual road hazards while traveling

Goat crossing

Goat crossing in Morocco

6. At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better travel decisions. Do you think this is a worthwhile goal, and one that would benefit the travel community?

I do! While there are many forums and great resources online, a bus-specific site is a great node for connecting people to necessary information, and I think buses are certainly a very common way to travel. The downside is the changeability of schedules and the fact that some buses just leave whenever they’re full, as opposed to when they are supposed to leave. But those are small hiccups in what could be a great, comprehensive database of useful information for the travel community.

7. You’re a fellow McGill alumni, like three of us at Busbud! What advice would you give students who are about to graduate and are choosing between travel and starting their career right away?

I highly encourage travel, of course, but I do think it’s great to leave the longer-term trips for later on, after a few years of work. For starters, it gives you some savings to have on hand before you go, but also some useful skills and dealing with management hierarchies before you’re on the road. It’s a controversial response because so many people do encourage going to travel at any point, but personally I was glad to have set up a worst case scenario to revert back to – if I stopped travelling, I could go and do legal work again. The contacts you make as you start out from school are great ones to have as you travel, and people who can help you get reacquainted upon a return.

A doorway in the old media of Essaouira

A doorway in the old media of Essaouira

8. Finally, you’re a great example of a person who has fully embraced travel and all that it has to offer. You’ve detailed many of the benefits on your blog, including how travel helps keep your life in perspective. Can you summarize what you think are the best benefits of travel?

I think travel is an education in and of itself. Combined with whatever you bring to the table as a citizen of the world, travel makes you more attuned to your surroundings, more adaptable when things go awry and more interesting as a human being. As you’ve said, it also helps you keep your life in perspective, helping you recalibrate to what life sends your way. It’s also a great way to make lifelong friends, all around the world.

Inle Lake: Nyangshwe & Pa-O Villages

Jodi and her friend Honza at a market in Myanmar

Hogmanay in Scotland

Hogmanay in Scotland

Thanks Jodi! You can get in touch with her on FacebookTwitter and Google+. And of course, visit her blog Legal Nomads to follow her adventures.

Photos by Jodi Ettenberg at Legal Nomads

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