Travel is not about the destination but it is about the people and the cultures. Those are the wise words we learn in today’s travel blogger interview with Hanne Hellvik of Places People Stories.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
I am a long term traveller for almost 5 years. I have also lived a lot abroad and for the last 2.5 years I have been living in Bolivia. But I have also been a backpacker, volunteered and worked abroad. So I guess I would say that I fit in almost all these categories.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
Mostly savings. I am lucky to come from a country where the salaries are high. During my bachelor’s degree I had a part-time job at a cinema, and I saved all of that money for travelling. When I am home for visits I try to work a little bit, for at least pay my flight tickets.
In addition, I have volunteered many places around the world where they gave me free accommodation and food. I have also worked as an English teacher and as the director of a foundation that works with street kids here in Bolivia where I got some income.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
The first trip I remember was when I was travelling with my family in a car down Europe. I was 6 years old. We visited Denmark, Germany, Poland, Luxembourg, and Holland. But I was so young that I did not really appreciate the travel.
When we got home my grandma asked me: “What did you like the most about the trip?”
The answer I gave her was: “We went to McDonalds in Berlin.”
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
During my years of travel, I have learned to not have any expectations, because it never is like you imagine.
For example when I went on an internship to Bolivia, I wanted to go to this destination due to that I had read that Bolivia is the least developed country in Latin America. This because my interest is within development. I had just been on an internship in Nigeria, where I lived without electricity and water. I was expecting something like that also in Bolivia. But when I arrived they had everything we have at home. Wi-Fi, washing machines, hot showers, and good international restaurants. So that was how wrong I was.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I have had many bad experiences, however, they usually turn out to be good stories in the end.
After a 12 hour very uncomfortable bus ride, I was crossing the border from Bolivia to Paraguay to visit the Iguazu Falls. I had stayed 3 months overtime in Bolivia without knowing it, as they just had changed the visa rules. In the middle of nowhere, the costumer officer said I had to pay 200 USD to get out of the country. If not I had to go back to Santa Cruz in Bolivia to pay there. That would be 12 hours bus ride back in the same direction I was coming from, and the whole vacation of my husband and I would be ruined. There were no ATMs around (as this was in the desert) and I had no money on me.
Luckily, there was a German girl on the same bus that had cash on her, and she borrowed me the money without even know me. She was really a life saver that day. And with her help we could continue to Paraguay and the Iguazu falls.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
In Senegal we went on a trip where we were supposed to meet a community living on an isolated island. We were told they never had had contact with people from the outside. When we arrived everyone used western clothes, had radios and cable.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
I can actually not say I have been anywhere that I really disliked. I think it has a lot to do with your attitude, and what you look for in a place. Even in slums I find beauty. I even lived in an armed conflict zone (Jos) for 6 months in Nigeria, and though it at times was very scary and uncomfortable, it changed me forever I would not change that experience for anything.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I have to say home with the sea in southern Norway. Though I love to travel and see new places, there is nowhere like home, right? And after visiting over 50 countries, I can say that I have never seen anything as beautiful as the fjords and the nature of Norway. And of course that is where my wonderful family is, which also make it my favorite place on earth.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Actually everywhere I have not been so far is on my bucket-list. However, these are the countries that I think I will be able to see next:
- Central America (Belize and Honduras)
- Cambodia and Vietnam
- Eastern Europe (Romania, Russia)
Can you imagine life without travel?
It would be very hard for me to have a life without any travelling. But I understand that one day I have to settle down, as I would like to have children. But when that day comes I hope that I will be able to at least travel 1 to 2 times per year.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I would have a stable job in Norway within development, with an NGO like Save the Children, Red Cross, or Doctor Without Borders.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
Places People Stories http://www.placespeoplestories.com/
When did you begin your website?
I started to blog around 6 months ago.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I started to blog as a hobby, because I think it is fun, and I like to write and share my travel stories. It is also kind of therapeutic.
Now I have started to earn a few bucks on the blog. But money is still not my motivation.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
My blog is a different kind of travel blog. I do not write the standard: 10 things you should do in Paris. Or 10 things to see in Bangkok. Many write like that, and I wanted to do something different.
That is why I try to focus on what is not so obvious about travelling, and issues related to travel that can be discussed. I try to be a bit more critical to travel than I think most other bloggers are.
In addition, what I love the most about travelling is the people I meet on the way. So I try to also focus a lot on the local people, their stories and their culture in my blog.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
Not yet. But soon my e-book will be out for sale. The book is about that many travelers believe they do good things while travelling, but they actually do bad things that they are unaware of it. With this book I hope travelers will be more aware of what they are doing on their travels and the impacts it can have on the local communities.
I am also working on a t-shirt design that I will selling on my blog soon.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
One post that was very popular and that I got a lot of positive feedback on my post about why I do not read Lonely Planet.
I believe that you get a better travel if you do not relay on guide books. Here you can read why:
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
I am not sure if I have a favorite article to write. But the most challenging was about sexual harassment that I experienced on my trips. It was one of the first articles I wrote and it was a bit hard to be open about this issue, but I decided to be so as I think it is important as few women share their stories related to this topic. After a lot of positive feedback, I am very happy that I that I decided to write it and share my stories on sexual harassment on travel.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
Boat. I love the sea and find being on a boat more comfortable than on a train or bus. If the ship is big it is much more space to walk around. The most comfortable way to travel I know is by taking a cruise ship. However, that does not make too much time on each destination. If I am going very far, I prefer plane, as this is the faster option.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Do not rely on the guidebooks. The locals knows their own country and culture best, so ask them for advice instead. If you do so I guarantee you will have your best travel ever. At least, I have never been disappointed while listening to the tips of the locals, and not to the once in the guidebooks.
What has travel taught you?
To be patient and not to have expectations. To not stress, as everything turns out good at the end. I have also learned to take things as it comes.
In addition, I have learned that around the world we have more in common than differences, despite that we grew up on different sides of the planet.
Why did you chose the name Place People Stories for your blog?
What I find the most interesting about travelling is to meet the local people and get to know them by hearing their stories. This might be because I am a sociologist!? Besides this, I obviously love seeing new places. That is why the name of my website ended up with: Place People Stories
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten on your travels? Where?
I am not proud of it, but the strangest thing I have ever eaten on my travels must be dog in Nigeria. The sad thing was that there were several dogs walking around us when we ate, not knowing they would be next on the menu. It was horrible! It did not even taste good.
Do you have any tips to someone that is new within travel blogging?
I am pretty new within blogging myself. I have just been blogging for 6 months. But so far I have learned to be patient. It takes time to get up your numbers and earn money (if that is your motivation). I think that it is important to not be motivated only by the money, but to write because you love to share your travel stories.
Furthermore, I would advise to try to be different from other travel bloggers. Try to stand out! Also to be open, and not to be afraid to show your feelings I think is important. This is how people can relate to you and build a personal relationship.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? KLM
Favourite country? Home – Norway
Favourite city? New York
Favourite beach? The islands of San Blas, Panama
Favourite food? Salmon
Favourite language? Spanish
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://www.placespeoplestories.com
Twitter handle? https://twitter.com/HellvikHanne
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/pages/Places-People-Stories