Please meet Katharina Parsons of A Life Beautifully Travelled. A blogger who once let her guard down and got into a mafia car.
What is your name?
My name is Katharina and my boyfriend and travel companion is called Gary.
Which country do you come from/call home?
Oh. That is such a complicated question. No really. I would say, I am proudly European.
I was born in Germany, to an English father and a German mother. Grew up and was educated in France. And have lived most of my life now in the UK.
Two years ago my boyfriend, Gary, and I moved to London, in the pursuit of a more fulfilling and exciting life and matching careers. We live in a small flat with a Garden in North East London, with a very large aquarium and my five Goldfish (Blacky, Little Lemon, Big Red, Clementine and Jaffa). On Weekends we head out into the countryside and explore the local areas that surround London. Most of our spare money and time is spent on travelling. We couldn’t live without it!
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
None of the above. I work full-time as an Architect, travel every spare moment I have and blog in the evenings.
With my blog A Life Beautifully Travelled, I hope to inspire other young professionals to travel more by exploring their local surroundings. There is more on your doorstep than you might think.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
I have a full-time job. Living in London is expensive, but any spare cash goes towards our trips.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
At a very young age, and before I can actually clearly remember. My parents are keen world explorers themselves. So they took us on trips around Europe when we were very young. As we got older, the adventures got bigger. And I am lucky to say that I have seen a fair share of the world, thanks to my parents.
Whilst my dad frequently whisked us off on wild adventures in far-flung places (such as Africa, the Canary Islands, the Caribbean Islands and Egypt), my mum and stepdad spoilt us with cultural trips in England, Scotland, Germany, Austria and France. These childhood vacations played a big part in forming the person that I am today.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Iceland. This country has featured on my bucket list for a very very long time. And we finally took the plunge last November, for Gary’s 30th birthday. I saw so many pictures, read so many blog posts. But nothing truly prepared me.
I expected beautiful landscapes, but what we found was so much more. I don’t expect the vastness, the emptiness, the lack of people and the diversity of terrains. For some reason I never expected the towns, to look so American, for the buildings to be metal.
I think everyone experiences Iceland slightly differently.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
This year, we went on a two week trip to Thailand. Within those two weeks, we stayed in six different locations. So we were pretty tired, when we finally arrived in Bangkok and obviously didn’t quite have our wits about us. After being very cautious for two weeks, we set all our own rules aside.
So this man approaches us in the terminal and asks us, if we need a taxi. We ask him how much it will cost and agree a price of 800 baht. Then instead of taking us to the taxi rank, we follow him into an elevator and up into the car parking. Here we get into a shiny car and he requests we pay upfront. Which for some reason, we do. Surprisingly (not) he then gets a phone call, leaves the car.
He comes back in company. Tells us he has an urgent matter he needs to sort and that his colleague will take us instead. We follow the new guy down to the car drop-off area. Where he tells us to wait for him. We do. Why? I don’t know. A car drives up, stops and we get in. Feeling very queezy about the whole thing at this point.
We drive up to the security check-point. I try to communicate with the guard, by staring at him anxiously. It works and he stops the car. Our driver begs us to tell the guard, that he is simply picking us up. We don’t. The security guard makes us all get out of the car and takes us aside. He explains to us that we got into a Mafia taxi, and that we could have got robbed. The police get involved too and take pictures of our passport. Then we are put into a “real” taxi and sent off to our hotel.
I now realise, just how dangerous this could have been and how lucky we were. The one good thing about this experience is that we now have a very interesting story to tell.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
Ok. So first, I need to explain that I am terrified of heights. Cannot stand on a chair without feeling uneasy.
When we were in the Dominican Republic, my dad decided to we should go on a “Tree canopy Walk”. What I was expecting? A lovely walkway in the canopy of the trees, Singapore style. What I got? An adventure parkour. As soon as we arrived we were strapped into climbing gear, a carabiner was attached to a metal wire and off we went. There was no going back, I had ten people behind me.
That day I ended up ziplining over a huge canyon and jumping straight from a tree, with nothing else but a rope to catch me. I was terrified, nearly peed my pants. My dad and sister thought it was hilarious. I was pi##ed. But now looking back at it, I am really proud of myself.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
I wouldn’t say, I have been anywhere truly disappointing. However, we did visit Egypt in 2005, right around the time of the Sharm El Sheikh bombings. My mum (back at home) panicked, and forbid us to leave the resort. So I never got to see the pyramids. It was also incredibly hot, with temperatures over 40C.
But my dad made the most of the situation and enrolled us in a diving course. I ended up getting my PADI certification in the Red Sea.
I am however planning to go back. I really want to see the pyramid and the Sphinx.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
As a destination to travel to? Gary would say Japan, in fact he wants to live there. But for me it has to be Africa. I have been to Namibia and Kenya. And have fallen in love with the continent, the animals, the landscape and the people. I could go back every year. One day, when I am fit enough, I plan to climb Kilimanjaro.
What is your favourite destination in the UK?
Anyone who hasn’t been to Scotland, should book their tickets right now. Scotland has my heart. I lived there for five years and my boyfriend is Scottish. I am determined to get married in Scotland. I love Scotland’s rugged, wild and untamed landscape, its friendly people and its food.
What is your favourite destination in the England?
It has to be Cornwall. My grandparents live in Devon, so I know that corner of the United Kingdom really well. It takes about four hours to drive from London to Cornwall, and you might as well be in a different country. The climate is milder, the coastlines beautiful. There are so many quaint towns to see.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Yes I do. In my mind at least, if not officially on the blog. A huge one. I am very ambitious. But I don’t think I will live long enough to achieve everything on it.
However, I also like to remain flexible. I don’t strictly follow goals set on a list. In fact, usually, we decided on our next destination in the spur of the moment. Depending on flight costs and what takes our fancy.
Can you imagine life without travel?
No. I honestly can’t. This year I am finishing the final part of my architectural education. In order to do that, I need to study part-time. I am still holding down a full-time job, with unpaid over-time and blogging on the side. Yet I can’t imagine myself not travelling.
You do not have to go far, to have new experiences. There is so much to do, in our own country, on our own doorstep. I think people often underestimate just how much.
So we have set ourselves a goal for the coming year. To visit at least one London attractions every single weekend. That is 52 attractions / destinations and comes no-where close to scratching the surface of all the things you could do in London.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
Not that that would ever happen, but I would keep busy. I have plenty of hobbies. I would probably continue blogging. My garden would be in much better shape. It took a beating this year, because we were gone almost every weekend. And I would have lots of aquariums. Ha!
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
The name of my travel blog is A Life Beautifully Travelled (www.beautifullytravelled.com)
When did you begin your website A Life Beautifully Travelled?
I started blogging in January 2015. The project, I had worked on for over a year, in my full-time Job as an Architect, had just been cancelled out of the blue. And I needed a creative outlet.
My boyfriend and I had also made a new year’s resolution to get out of our house on weekends and explore our local surroundings as frequently as possible. So, naturally, I started blogging about our excursions.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
For many reason and they have changed over time.
It started as a creative outlet. I felt stifled in my career and needed to express myself. Then it rekindled something in me. My passion for travel. We did so much that year, went to so many places, had so many adventures. The blog was our fuel. We couldn’t come up with excuses to stay at home. I needed material to write about.
Then I realised, that lots of people dream of travelling but never do. They think it’s too expensive. They are convinced that they do not have enough time. But what they often forget is that they can simply start with their own country. Instead of sitting at home watching TV, they could be out and about exploring their surroundings. I want to inspire people to get off their couch.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
There are so many travel blogs written by full-time travellers, by digital nomads. And they are incredibly inspiring. But not everyone can travel full-time and in fact not everyone wants to.
And it really is possible to lead a fulfilled life, packed with adventure WITHOUT quitting your full-time job. One doesn’t exclude the other.
My blog targets those of us who only have a limited amount of vacation days per year. Those of us, who enjoy the comfort of our own home but still love to travel.
I want to inspire people to make the most of every weekend, to explore their local surroundings. I also create very detailed for two week trips abroad. Most of us can afford to take two weeks off and I show my readers how to maximise their holiday allowance.
How do you balance working full time and travel?
Mainly, by maximising my weekends. I keep 10 days of my 21 day holiday allowance, for a big adventure abroad. I need to allow at least four days for Christmas, because my family would never forgive me, if I didn’t spend time with them, over the holiday season. That leaves 6 days for the rest of the year. Those I use in order to maximise my weekends, creating four or five day mini trips throughout the year.
Living in London is obviously an advantage. There are several airports nearby, and you can travel to most cities in Europe within three hours. But just as often, we jump in the car and head somewhere in the UK.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
Not yet. But I am hoping to have some in the future. Probably travel guides in the form of ebooks.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My travel series about Japan is the most visited on my site. Probably because quite a few of my articles are ranked fairly high by the search engine. I also believe that Japan has become very popular as a tourist destination over the last two years. I certainly hope my itinerary and budget plan are useful for those planning to go.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
I really enjoyed writing “Memories of Travels Past: On Horseback through the Dominican Republic”. It was one of my very first blog posts and a bit of a breakthrough. It also reminded me how grateful I am, that my dad infected me with the travel bug. Writing it, brought back a lot of fond memories.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
When I was a little girl, I loved flying. That was before terrorist attacks and the scanning malarkey.
Nowadays I prefer travelling by train. You see more and it’s more relaxed.
I also enjoy being driven about in the car by my boyfriend 😛
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
- If you have never travelled before, start on your own doorstep. Open that computer, do some research. What exciting adventures can you have, without travelling too far? Don’t underestimate your own country.
- Plan your trip but always leave some scope for flexibility. Read blog post about your destination. There are some great itineraries, tips and advice online. But know that not everything will go your way. Accept that and move on.
What has travel taught you?
Three big things:
1. To be flexible. Things will go wrong. Your plans will not always work out. You just need to relax, enjoy the moment and make the most of it.
2. Always learn at least a couple of words and sentences in the native language. Even if your language skills aren’t perfect, the effort is much appreciated. And locals will often show you places that are of the beaten track.
3. Travel is what you make it. Everyone has their own travel style. There is no such thing, as the right way to travel.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Turkish Airways
Favourite country? Namibia
Favourite city? Tokyo
Favourite beach? The coastline of Devon and Cornwall
Favourite food? Bread. With a little butter.
Favourite language? Celtic. It has such a musical lilt.
Please provide the following:-
Website url? www.beautifullytravelled.com
Twitter handle? @BeautyTravelled
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/alifebeautifullytravelled/
Google+ profile/page? https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/116496834349851904779/+Beautifullytravelled