Frances Atkins features in this interview. She is a travel blogger who was less than impressed with the leaning tower of Pisa.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
I was born and live in England, United Kingdom and was lucky enough to live in Canada for six months in 2009/2010.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
Backpacker and constant holiday planner! I go on longer trips for weeks and months but also love weekends away and cultural city breaks.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
Personally, I’ve not worked whilst travelling, apart from writing for my own blog which could loosely be considered ‘work’. I fund my travel through my salary and work full time in marketing. I also spend my money wisely and look for good deals and exchange rates when I pick where to go next.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
One of the first trips I remember is a family holiday to the Isle of Wight when I was around six years old. I remember getting the ferry across from Portsmouth and staying in a traditional British hotel with floral prints everywhere and wooden flooring.
My first holiday abroad was to Normandy on a school trip when I was 11, closely followed by a cold weekend in Paris. It’s a city I’ve come to love as an adult and have been back another three times.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
That would have to be Bulgaria, and indeed Romania. I had no idea of how beautiful the small towns and villages could be – huge expanses of green landscapes dotted with historical landmarks. Through walking tours I learnt a lot about the experiences with communism and my eyes were well and truly opened.
From the countryside in Bulgaria, moving into the city of Sofia, I realised there was so much versatility and just as much difference as you get between destinations in the UK.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I struggle to use the word ‘bad’ when thinking of travel experiences as they all seem part of the journey, however, saying that, there’s been a few hairy moments! In Transylvania I got nasty mosquito bites and bed bug bites that were a real pain and halfway through a month in Italy I felt exhausted by the heat (peak of summer) and almost missed my chance to explore the Cinque Terre. I managed to get myself up knowing I would always regret missing out.
Apart from that, in all honestly the worst experiences have probably been with the actual travelling part; hot and sticky night trains, lack of toilets on long coach journeys and not having time to wash clothes! Although even as I think about it, I remember it fondly.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
The first story that comes to mind is trying to travel from Gothenburg to Copenhagen and everything going wrong. It was my first solo journey but it ended up being funny as I met so many nice people that managed to turn it into a bit of an adventure, as opposed to a disaster.
Firstly, a man got arrested delaying the train, so we missed a connection and the next train was cancelled. After over an hour we were herded onto a coach and then it looked like we’d have to spend the night in Malmo train station – eek! Eventually we got to Copenhagen very late but I’ll always remember it as being a random afternoon and evening, full of laughing with random people who I’ll never see again.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Last year I went to Pisa with my boyfriend. After visiting the town when I was a kid, I wasn’t expecting too much as I remember it being a bit dull but it really was much worse. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of these attractions that’s lost all heart and has had the tourism factor pushed on it. While it is interesting to see, there’s nothing else to do and it’s quite far out from the main travel hubs.
It didn’t help that the weather was very cloudy and trying to rain while we were there but I actually just found it rather depressing as it was so commercial. Afterwards it felt like ticking a place off rather than really experiencing something special. I remember thinking that I’d never go back again… far from a stamp of approval.
Where is your favourite travel experience?
Towards the end of two months backpacking through Europe, I got to one of my dream destinations – Monte Carlo. Spending a weekend here, it was absolutely amazing and exceeded my highest expectations. The streets were like walking around a film set and everywhere I looked there was greenery, beaches, cliffs and the impressive harbour. And sports cars.
I was basically smiling for 48 hours. On my final evening, I walked up to the palace for a panoramic view of the city and watched the sunset over the harbour. It was magical: just me, the skyline and my reflections on my adventure as it was coming to an end. Afterwards, I walked to the opposite side of the harbour and ate a pizza slice near the casino when a shooting star crossed the sky.
Have you ever regretted being away from home?
I think with social media, Skype and technology in general it’s made it easier to be away. When I was in Canada I missed a family Christmas. I was staying in a log cabin in Lake Louise with about four foot of snow outside, skiing everyday and surrounded by my travel companions, who after six months were also great friends. Yet, in this scene that was a picture of Christmas itself, it just wasn’t Christmas being away from family. That’s one time where it would have been great to be at home rather than abroad.
What has been your best culinary experience?
Anything with a bit of theatre to it I enjoy. In Florence I had a gorgeous Florentine steak that the chef came out and cut in front of us and it was presented perfectly. Probably the best steak I’ve had, it was also in a charming restaurant. Really traditional.
I’ll also mention having limitless ribs in Brussels and a pure melted hot chocolate in a cafe in Prague. Indulgence at it’s best.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Iceland has been on my bucket list for many years, so will hopefully happen sooner rather than later. Perhaps my ultimate bucket list is a bit more specific; I’d love to drive Route 66 and end up in Vegas. America is such a treasure trove for travel but this journey above all fascinates me. My plan is to one day rent a sports car and hit the road in style.
Can you imagine life without travel?
I think as long as you can find new places and new experiences, it doesn’t HAVE to be travel, so in that way I can. I think without travel I’d have to find new hobbies and things to interest me but it would be difficult to match the satisfaction of travel. Perhaps I would go to a local group or start doing more active things locally as I’d need to feel that adrenaline and connectedness.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
My travel blog is called Get Jaunty and can be found here: http://getjaunty.com. I spent a few weeks coming up with the name and it’s all about seeking happiness and getting out there in the world.
When did you begin your website Get Jaunty?
I started blogging on Get Jaunty in May 2015, getting it set-up before my first solo trip interrailing through Europe. I wanted to blog whilst I was abroad so got into the swing of it before I left and built up a small following, then packed my bags!
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I’ve always loved writing so starting a blog felt very natural and long overdue. I write for pleasure, to record my journeys and to reach out to like-minded people. It’s a true hobby of mine and gives me an excuse to plan cool days out and new adventures. As I like photography, it also challenges me to improve my skills and the next step for me is to learn more about videos and editing.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
It’s all in the name – ‘Get Jaunty’ as I imagine it is a place to chase happiness and find things out there in the world to inspire and excite you. With this mission in mind, it’s unique as that’s the core of everything I cover. Even when I’ve had a bad experience or am being critical, I think it comes across that it’s the sum of all the parts and your own attitude and positivity is the most important factor.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
Only my reviews to help readers get a real view of an attraction, location or whatever it may be. I’m always available to give my insight and tips as well. As a passionate writer and traveller, I’m available for press trips and to review accommodation with all views being my own.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My ‘What to Pack for Interrail’ blog post is my most successful. It focused on what essentials to take for travelling through Europe and what you should leave behind. I think it’s been so popular because it works as a practical checklist and everyone needs this before going away long term. Before I travelled, I consulted a lot of other travel blogs to help me so I’m glad I can do the same for someone else.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
That would have to be ‘The Ultimate List of Things to See in Rome’. It was so much fun to look back and relive exploring that city as I enjoyed it so much. I’ve been twice and have seen many of the attractions two or three times, so combining my tips into one article was really rewarding.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
Going by plane always feels like a big adventure but I have to say train is my favourite. You can really relax on a train in a way you can’t when you fly, and you can see the world go by as you get from one place to another. By far the best train journey I’ve been on is the cross country journey from Bergen to Oslo. Absolutely stunning views for seven hours straight, all from the comfort of a spacious carriage.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Plan, plan and plan. Plan your route, plan what you want to do with the money you’ve saved and plan what you want to get out of travel. Remember it’s a privilege to go long term and enjoy every second – all the more easier when you’ve put some thought into it rather than throwing yourself in the deep end.
How has travel changed for you the more you’ve experienced it?
It’s definitely become more essential to me and a bigger part of my life. I like to have my next trip planned or something in the pipeline at least. When I was younger I’d go away with friends or family and be on other people’s schedules but now I feel I have more freedom to see what I want to see and skip what I want to skip.
Being comfortable travelling alone, I feel it’s opened so many doors and looking ahead I always see myself with another trip to make and another mountain to climb as it were. The thing that does stay the same though is the feeling of stepping out into a new street and not knowing what to expect. Even with Google Maps and Street View, it’s always different in real life.
What has travel taught you?
You can always learn something new about yourself and travel can help you self-reflect and grow. Once you’ve travelled, you take that meditation and confidence back with you, which can help in everyday situations.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Norwegian
Favourite country? Italy
Favourite city? Monte Carlo
Favourite beach? Brighton, UK
Favourite food? Burgers
Favourite language? English
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://getjaunty.com
Twitter handle? @GetJaunty
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/getjaunty/
Google+ profile/page? https://plus.google.com/u/1/+FrancesAtkins