Welcome to our brand new series, “WordPress.com Favorites”! In these interviews, we’ll be highlighting bloggers about their passion project. Caution: contents guaranteed to be inspiring.
First up, The Travel Architect. A teacher from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, The Travel Architect has been documenting her world-wide travels (usually alongside “the husband”) since 2018. It’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of her writing; she’s always funny and entertaining, provides great tips, and is quite obviously a natural storyteller. Let’s learn more!
1. When did you realize that you loved to travel, and when did you start making it a priority in your life?
It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact moment in time when I recognized travel as this thing I had to have in my life on a regular basis. Travel was a frequent part of my childhood and youth — cross-country road trips, ski vacations in the Rockies, Jamaica twice before first grade, a class trip to Spain, a month in Belgium as an exchange student, among other adventures — so my love almost certainly stems from those experiences.
I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to know what’s just beyond the hill in front of me or what’s just around that bend in the river. While I’m not a danger junkie at all (my husband jokingly calls me “Head Safety”), I am attracted to adventure, whether that adventure is trying via ferrata or exploring a new culture.
There were some lean travel years when I was in college, but after that I went on a two-and-a-half-month Colorado Outward Bound course that involved mountaineering, rock climbing, river rafting, and canyoneering. Shortly thereafter I moved to the mountains of Montana for a new adventure. Those were lean travel years, too, but living in the mountains in a new state felt a bit like travel. There I met my husband and eventually we relocated back to the Midwest, where I did all the mundane things like get a career and buy a house, but I always had to have travel on the horizon.
That’s the funny thing — I’m actually quite a homebody. I love my home and being at home, but there’s a restlessness there that can only be relieved by travel. Thankfully, I’m married to someone who is a lot like me in that regard. Nearly indistinguishable from my love of travel is my love of travel planning. I know lots of people would sooner take a trans-Pacific flight in the baggage hold of an airliner than plan and book their own travels, but for me it’s pure bliss (except for international COVID travel, when it’s pure hell).
2. Obviously, COVID has totally disrupted “normal” travel. I’m sure some of your plans were set aside — what did you decide to do in place of some of those plans? Was there anything you learned about your passion in the midst of the pandemic?
Yes, aside from a few colleagues at work who tell me they don’t like to travel (huh?!), I hardly know anyone who didn’t have plans ruined. I personally had a solo spring break trip to Sedona that went up in flames, and my husband and I had to cancel our trip to Spain, Andorra, and France.
Instead, we enacted “Plan B.” We have a little 12-foot travel trailer that we took on a three-week Colorado-Utah-Colorado socially-distanced road trip.
Once we were vaccinated we felt comfortable flying domestically, so we took a couple of trips out to different parts of California and one to Arizona. That Arizona trip was for my 50th birthday. I had long planned to do a much bigger trip to mark the occasion, possibly Japan, but that just wasn’t going to work with all the travel restrictions.
As for lessons learned, I guess it would be about money. When you’re good about saving for travel as I am, and then you don’t have any travel to spend your money on, your travel account can start to get wonderfully plump. That was our state of affairs partway into the pandemic. When we finally started flying domestically to travel, we really splashed out on some nice accommodations in some beautiful spots. I learned that this form of travel, while lovely, can quickly deplete the account that once seemed bottomless. Now that we’re back to traveling a bit more regularly, I’m trying to rein in some of my luxury impulses.
3. Do you have a favorite locale that you find yourself recommending all the time? Maybe you could share one stateside and one international?
Though I was born and raised in Wisconsin, I’m a mountain girl at heart. I will shout from the rooftops my love for Colorado — hands down my favorite state. I’m just transfixed by mountains. I’ve been to Colorado so many times I’ve lost count I and can’t seem to stop going back. Then there’s southern Utah, a close second, followed by the entire Four Corners region, and heck, the entire Mountain West all the way to the Pacific. This is why we haven’t seen much of the eastern seaboard and vast swaths of the southern US — the western United States just keeps calling to us.
Internationally, for Americans who’ve never traveled abroad before, we often recommend England, which is where my husband is from. It’s a foreign country, but the lack of a language barrier makes it a great first-timer destination. However, our true favorite is France. We love the food, culture, and history. We love practicing our French with the locals. And no, we’ve never found French people rude or unkind. That’s a stereotype I get asked about often. Frankly, I’ve had people be outwardly rude to me only twice on my travels, and those incidents were in England and Italy.
A Few of The Travel Architect’s Favorite Posts:
- A Travel Running Run-In
- Prepping for Travel: Learning Welsh
- Laos, Day 4+: Hiking, Remote Villages, and One Really Bad Indian Meal
- Thoughts on Air Travel
4. Any favorite travel tips that you can share with our readers? Whether about saving money, or the best apps, or some suitcase/backpack hack — we’re all ears!
I’m more of a “travel stories” than a “travel tips” kind of blogger, but I do have one or two things I’ve learned from experiences that may help others. First, if you’re renting a car, as soon as you take possession of it, take a photo that includes the license plate, make, and model. Accommodations usually ask for this information when checking travelers in, and this way you don’t have to run out to the car.
Second: always, always, always scrutinize your travel documents for accuracy. I failed to do this once and the airline nearly succeeded in denying me boarding on my flight to Jamaica. Another time I didn’t scan a hotel website as thoroughly as I should have and ended up booking a nonrefundable room. That was for the canceled trip to Spain and I’m still on the hook for it. (So far, they keep letting me kick the can down the road.)
5. When and why did you decide to start documenting your travels in a blog? What have you gained from blogging?
For me, blogging is the perfect marriage of my two favorite things: writing and travel. For two decades my only writing outlet was my annual Christmas letter. Every year I got compliments on it and people suggested I start a blog, but I always thought, “What on earth would I write about?” My husband, too, often urged me to start blogging.
One evening, fresh off an afternoon of travel planning and still experiencing some residual giddiness, our dinner conversation gave birth to the idea of a blog based around travel. I had long noticed that, despite being introverted, I could talk at length to anyone as long as travel was the topic. My husband had tried to start a blog once but it didn’t take, so the framework was there. We just transferred ownership of his blog to my name and the rest is history.
In addition to honing my writing skills, I have gained friends (or what I like to call “blog buddies”) around the world. I’ve even met up with some of them — one in Laos, one in Thailand, and one here in Minnesota.
6. What are your travel plans this year?
After a calamitous trip to England this past Christmas when Omicron was at its peak, we’ve sworn off international travel until the US removes its testing requirement to return home (I check weekly for news of its demise).
Still, there’s plenty to see and do in this massive country, so we’re taking advantage of that. I have my long-awaited solo spring break trip to Sedona coming up, two years after it was originally scheduled. Then we’re spending a few weeks in June with our travel trailer in Colorado where we’ll be cycling, hiking a pair of 14ers, and soaking in lots of hot springs. My 85-year-old mom and I might head out to (yet another part of) California for a few days mid-summer, an idea that’s just come about and that will provide me with many hours of glorious travel planning.
Finally, we just booked a week in Death Valley over Christmas. We’ve been there twice before, but always in summer when it’s 125 degrees with overnight lows in the 90s. It’ll be nice to have cooler temperatures so we can finally do some hiking and not have to force-feed ourselves a diet of Gatorade and ice cubes.
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