1. How do you fund your travels?
I’ve worked in the media for more than a decade. I got my first guidebook assignment in 2006 for MTV, and at the time, it cost me more money than I made to travel through Spain for six weeks. But I learned early, from that gig, how to live cheaply—CouchSurfing and supermarkets, instead of eating out—and that I didn’t have to stay in the super expensive hotels I was reviewing.
In the years that followed, I’ve written more than a dozen guidebooks, as well as contributed articles to 50 international publications, from Newsweek to The Guardian. Many of my travels are for assignments, so they’re often paid for by an employer; however, when I travel on my own, I use a combination of Chase Sapphire and Bold credit card points for flights and rental cards and Airbnb for lodging to keep my costs low.
I also do a fair amount of digital influencer campaigns for destinations; those are my favorites—they’re creative, they help pay the bills, andmy expenses are covered.
2. What do you focus on while travelling to a new place – people, culture, attractions, food, adventure, or nature?
Food! Always food. I’m newly obsessed with walking food tours, and I’ve always been known to try and squeeze in four to five meals a day, particularly if I’m going to somewhere with a big culinary scene like Charleston.
3. What is the longest you have travelled for? What advice would you give to travellers thinking of long‐term travel but are hesitant to go ahead?
In 2011, my husband Scott and I went around the world for 118 days on a ship. I was employed by Semester at Sea, an academic non-profit institution, and he got to go along for the ride. Traveling by ship was really nice, as we didn’t have to pack and unpack in each country we visited; it was all there with us on the ship. We’d dock anywhere from four days in Ghana to one week in India, and I definitely caught the bug of traveling by sea! I went back on three more voyages, ranging from two weeks to eight, as the communications coordinator.
For those traveling long-term, I’d say to take it slow. I’ve always wished I had a month or more to give to each country I visit, to really get a feel for the place and its culture.
4. Do you travel full time? Or do you take breaks in between?
Unless two stints studying in Europe count—one for four months, the other for a year—I’ve never been a full-time traveler. After college, I lived in New York City for a couple years and then moved to San Francisco for four. We’ve now been back in the Nashville area where I grew up since the end of 2011. We bought a house and a condo and love having a permanent base.
That said, I travel as much now as ever—anywhere from four to eight months a year—but it’s just done in shorter stints and, often, closer to home.
5. What are your upcoming travel plans?
The U.S. national park system is turning 100 in 2016, so I’m hoping to get a few assignments that allow me to explore my own country’s best parts. I also anticipate that Scott and I will go on a ski trip this winter—Montana is the current frontrunner—and then in the summer, we’re going on a river cruise with my parents through Eastern Europe (Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria). Depending on how things are in Turkey at the time, we’ll likely stick around in Istanbul for a little bit after that.
Tennessee is bordered by eight states, so it’s also really easy for us to pack up the car and go on road trips—we can be in Atlanta or Birmingham or Louisville in three hours or less. Some closer-to-home cities I’m hoping to visit in the next year are St. Louis and Indianapolis.
6. There are many ways to travel: from staying in luxurious resorts to hitchhiking and living off the grid. How do you travel?
I’m more of a luxury traveler. The way I see it is that I did the hitchhiking, backpacking and couchsurfing ways of travel in my 20s, and my 30s are for enjoying some really awesome resorts! Much of what I cover by way of lodging for magazines is moderate to nice hotels, so that allows me to check out some really killer properties on someone else’s dime.
If I didn’t have a house and career here in Tennessee and we were permanent travelers, Scott, our pup Ella and I could very easily be housesitters off the grid somewhere in rural Portugal.
7. What is that one destination in your list that you are dying to go to and why?
Iceland is one of my best memories to date, and I would love to take an expedition boat and circumnavigate its neighbor, Greenland. I’ve only seen it from above (and from photos), but it looks so magical and otherworldly. While I like cities, I’m definitely more drawn to natural beauty than to urban areas.
8. We know that travel affects our lives in many positive ways, but no one ever talks about the negative side of it (i.e. relationships can suffer, etc). Has travelling affected your life negatively in any way?
I met my husband 10 years ago while we were both living in Holland. In the years that followed, we lived 3,000 miles apart—him in California, me in New York—before I eventually joined him in San Francisco. Those years of long distance were key to developing a communication style that would benefit us in the long term.
Now, I travel about half of the year, and he only comes with me on a couple trips a year. It’s definitely not easy being apart like we are, but I knew I chose the right person in a partner when he still allowed me my independence and the ability to travel even though he can’t always join me.At the root, picking the right partner is important: one who balances out your worst traits for the best and who also allows you to still be your own person. So many of my friends say, “I can’t believe Scott lets you travel like that. My husband would never allow me to go off to such places by myself.” But I would never have married someone who didn’t respect me as an independent human being with my own thoughts and desires!
9. What was your favourite trip so far? Why was it memorable?
At the end of our first year together, Scott met me in Spain while I was completing the guidebook. From there, we took an overnight train to Portugal and spent nearly two weeks working our way up the coast from the Algarve to Lisbon. We were both so charmed by Portugal’s bucolic south, and it was very undeveloped and not touristy in places. We both always say if we could have a second home somewhere, it would be on the coast of Portugal.
Blog: Camels & Chocolate