Our lovely gallivanting lady this week is Sofie, of Wonderful Wanderings.
She chatted with us about important tips for how to manage travel with a full-time job, surprising lessons on the road and more in this week’s Girls That Go!
GGG: Welcome to Girls That Go! Can you tell us who you are, where you’re from and how you got your start traveling?
Thank you! Sure I can. I’m Sofie and I’m from Belgium, where I still live at the moment. As far as I can remember I’ve always traveled. I even went to Greece when I was still in my mother’s womb!
My first travel memory is of me playing on a beach somewhere with other kids, singing “Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse.” I was only a toddler then. My parents have taken me, and later also my brother, abroad at least once every year and although we mostly stayed in kid-friendly hotels (think pools), we also always did some day trips or visited the surrounding area.
When we got a bit older my parents took us on more exploratory trips. We went to Egypt, New York City, the West Coast … My dad had always traveled a lot for work, but I think that was the moment where he really got bitten by the travel bug. Now he’s planning trips whenever he has the change and not a month goes by where I don’t get an email from him saying that “Mom and I are going to X!!!” I think his enthusiasm is definitely part of the reason I love to travel that much as well.
My parents wouldn’t let me travel abroad by myself until I was 18, and so when I was 18 I planned my first own trip, with a friend, to Barcelona. It was absolutely amazing and from then on I was hooked.
GGG: Can you tell us a bit about the philosophy behind Wonderful Wanderings?
The philosophy behind Wonderful Wanderings is that there’s only one right way to travel and that’s your own way. If you feel the urge to travel non-stop, then do so, but you don’t need to sell everything and pack up to travel the world. You can perfectly combine travel with a home base, a job and a regular social life. Becoming nomadic and not traveling at all are just two opposite ends to a very wide range of ways to travel. The only thing that matters is that you find the way that’s right for you. That’s what Wonderful Wanderings is about. It’s a blog that wants to offer you travel tips and advice not so that you would copy the trips I’ve done (although you can, of course), but so that you can create your own. On a more personal note, Wonderful Wanderings takes you along on my journey to find freedom through travel. I feel like I’m never more ‘me’ than when I’m traveling. Travel challenges me; it shows me what I can do and what kind of person I can be. Travel literally shows you that the world is at your feet, you just need to grab it.
GGG: Sounds good! You love to dance and you’ve taken some dance classes in other countries. Where would you be most excited to take lessons, outside your home country?
Well, I’d go back to Los Angeles any time and have already taken classes there twice!
Cuba. I’d love to learn to dance so passionately. Just letting go, not minding if someone is looking at you.
I also have no experience whatsoever in partnering, so some hot salsa in Cuba would be a way to tackle that as well.
GGG: You wrote your first official bucket list last spring. Since then, have you checked anything off the list?
Darn, you got me there. I actually hadn’t planned to put up a bucket list when I launched Wonderful Wanderings. Too much pressure! But then someone invited me to do one and it was such a hard exercise. Of course there are still a bazillion places in the world I’d love to go to and a humongous amount of things I’d love to do, but I chose to make my bucket list a bit more atypical, you know, just because.
But to answer your question: no, I haven’t. I don’t mind, though. I do want to do the things that are on my bucket list, but I’m not in a hurry. I didn’t set myself a deadline and I plan to keep on traveling until I can’t do it no more and the wind can carry my ashes across borders. Now how’s that for poetic?
GGG: Quite! Now here’s a big question: What would be your advice to someone working full-time who wants to fit travel into her schedule?
Aha! My first advice would be to ask yourself how bad you want to travel. For me, it’s all about priorities. I know that having a house, a family, hobbies come with responsibilities which require you to do stuff’ outside your working hours. You might use the weekends for them, but I’m sure you could do the most important things during the week as well.
And then you could do a city trip in the weekend. You don’t have to do the laundry as soon as something gets dirty. You don’t have to clean the house every week. Just vacuum it and I guarantee you, you’ll survive. You can leave the dishes until there’s no more cutlery, and even then…
Of course it’s not just about doing less around the house. I almost never eat out because I’d rather spend that money on travel. I also shop way less than I used to for that same reason. I don’t travel each weekend, though, as I often use my weekends to work on Wonderful Wanderings. My blog goes hand in hand with my travels and so it’s definitely also a priority for me.
Another thing people with full-time jobs need to keep in mind is that you don’t have to take a plane to travel. I live in such a small country and even here there’s so much to see and do. I could spend years just traveling through Belgium and writing about it and so I try to do small trips on the weekend. An afternoon walk in a nature reserve, a morning at a museum, an evening trying out a new restaurant…And for the longer breaks: I plan ahead. Every December I think of the trips I definitely want to do and I compare the time I’d need for them with the amount of vacation days and long weekends that I have. Then I start planning.
A third tip, because three is a nice number: save up for travel every month. You don’t need to eat out every night. You don’t need coffee from Starbucks (you think you do, but really, you don’t) and you definitely don’t need a new outfit or two every month.
Define what’s most important to you and don’t spend money on anything else, or at least try not to spend too much. Whenever I want to buy something I don’t really need, I think about what I could get for the cost of that thing while traveling. A shirt is easily a hostel room. A pair of leather boots? A round trip somewhere in Europe. Prioritize, compare, decide.
GGG: If you could go three places, all-expenses paid, where would they be and why?
Australia, New Zealand an Antarctica. All because they’re so far, far away and expensive.
GGG: What have you found to be the most surprising lesson you’ve learned as a traveler?
Not really a lesson, but: that driving in Los Angeles is actually much more pleasant than driving in little Belgium. Much more pleasant. (Sorry if you were expecting something deep here.)
GGG: No, that’s a good lesson, too! So do you have any fun trips planned soon?
I’ll be going to the Japanese Festival in Dusseldorf in May. I’m really excited about that because it was actually a trip to Dusseldorf
that finally made me decide to start my blog. In summer , theBoyfriend and I will be going to the South of France. When he was younger he used to go windsurfing at Lake Leucate there and he’d love to go back, so we’re making that happen. Nantes and Athens are on my schedule because I will be attending two blog conferences there, and I might also squeeze in a trip to Brittany. The rest is still a bit undecided.
All photos in this post courtesy of Sofie Couwenbergh.