Travelling lets us see the world through our own eyes and challenges the perceptions portrayed by others. Today’s interviewee discovered a different side to the French people compared to the one portrayed by a stereotype. Please meet Elena Prokopets of Elena’s Travelgram.
What is your name?
I’m Elena Prokopets.
Which country do you come from/call home?
I grew up and lived most of my life in Kiev, Ukraine. Currently, I’m spending most of my time in Besancon, Western France.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
I like to define myself as a part-time expat as I have to travel back to Ukraine pretty often due to visa limitations. For the last year my life has been set between two cities with a few side travels to other places.
And an adventurer on the budget – I like seeing new places on stopovers, taking day/weekend trips around France on a minimum budget and know pretty lot of free, yet awesome ways of how to spend time even in expensive cities like Paris, Venice or Zurich.
What it’s like to be an expat in France?
Kind of fun actually! Though, of course, there are a lot of difficulties.
There are a lot of things about France that I don’t understand or find amusing like why is everything closed on Sunday?! Where do all people go then? How can a Tax Inspector go on strike? Or why people stare at me when I don’t buy baguettes at the supermarket? J
The web’s full of stories about “The Rude French”, but that’s the biggest hoax ever!
I don’t speak French well…okay I hardly speak any French and prefer to gesture, smile and refer to Google Translator for help, but still the locals were really friendly to me.
When my TGV broke in a tiny little town of Lure, a French woman treated me with French pastry she bought cause I looked sad or whatever.
A woman at the post office spent an hour helping me to mail a package back to Ukraine and explained in gestures what exactly I have to write in each line.
And there were many other cases when people on the street gave me directions, showed me around the place or just took my hand and brought me where I’ve needed.
People on the Internet, who created the rude French myth, are you sure you’ve been to France?
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
I have a freelance contract with a company from Ukraine and they don’t mind me being wherever I work till I can be reached via email or Skype.
When I’m done with a certain project, I love taking long vacation for around a month to travel more extensively.
And I’m really good at being frugal, yet not cheap 🙂
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
My first trip was to Japan when I was just two years old. My dad had a 4 year work contract there and Mom and me moved to Tsukuba (Tokyo suburb) for almost 3 years.
I don’t remember much from those days, but got plenty of photos to remind me some bits.
Japan’s on my bucket list and I hope to make there in a few years!
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
I usually try not to set any high expectations on any destination. All the pictures you usually see online are well-photoshoped, taken from a good angle and at the right time when there’s no one around.
I knew Venice is touristy and all the shots from there are so beautiful. However, I kind of didn’t expect everything will look pretty same awesome in real life too!
As for the crowds – you can always escape them, by just turning to a few side streets 🙂
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Nothing extremely bad in particular. I encounter random acts of kindness way more often than any sort of misfortunes. Probably, I’m lucky 🙂
Do you have any funny travel stories?
I don’t know which exactly should I talk about…
I had two stalkers following my friend and me around Kolkata. One was pretending he’s sort of James Bond and followed us for around 5 blocks, hiding around the corners, near rickshaws and behind stalls and secretly snapping pictures. It was kind of hilarious ‘cause the guy was absolutely sure we Do Not notice him.
The other one didn’t seem odd when we talked over a beer at the bar. He asked where are we heading next and said he has no specific plans. We didn’t invite him joining us and left home, saying good-bye for like ever.
However, to our great surprise we saw him the next day boarding the same train to Rajgir (don’t know how he bought tickets overnight!). Though, he was a bit of upset when he saw us with our male travel buddies.
Once I got lost in the jungles at the Togean Islands, Indonesia. Now I know how to make a bedding from palm leaves and kindle fire with coir. A team of locals found us in about 5 hours late at night.
And I think Paris has cursed me: the last two times I was trying to leave the city I was desperately getting late for my flights and nearly missing it.
Getting lost in the jungles, whoa? How did that happen?
It’s one of those reckless things that sometimes happen in your life… It was the three of us (two guys and me) who’ve decided to take a hike through the jungles at Kadidiri Islet, Indonesia.
Someone from the locals told us about an awesome beach on the other side of the isle, so we got there one afternoon. It was amazing indeed.
However, on our way back through the rainforest thicket, we lost the path. It was getting dark and we had no torch – just a cell phone with no signal. After wandering for hours and getting all dirty and cut with lianas, we made it to a large clearing where we settled for the night.
As mentioned already, we’ve been found by the locals.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
A hostel in Kolkata. (I liked the city a lot, but it did something wrong to my karma)
There were no windows in the first room and the 2nd one had a great view on the dump yard.
There was tons of litter under the bed and the sheets hadn’t been changed and had dirty foot prints of the previous guest.
The bath had some creepy mold all over the walls and I didn’t feel like I wanted to touch anything there.
I’m not that obsessed with cleanliness, but that place was simply disgusting! And I forgot my Kindle E-book there. When I came on the next day, they said they didn’t see it. Sure…
Where is your favorite place in the world?
Home. It’s next to the person I love and has a migrating geographical location 🙂
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Yes, I do have an extremely long bucket list of all the places I’d like to visit one day and things I’d like to do. In case I’m gonna name it all, you’d probably won’t read till the end by tomorrow 🙂
Here’s my top 7.
- Visit Namibia and get invited to the new local tribes.
- Ride along the dried part of the Aral sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
- Camp for a few days at the relict Socotra Isles near Yemen
- See the sunrise over Bagan, Myanmar
- Travel the Trans-Siberian railroad
- Hitchhike through four countries
- Hike mount Fuji in Spring
How do you make your travels cheap?
I’m good at finding awesome flight deals and usually fly from Kiev to Paris for less than 200 eu two ways.
There are certain tricks and hacks on how you can overcome extra added value by booking websites J Planning to share that on my blog soon.
Besides, I’m a planning freak and just love squeezing max destinations in a short time frame. For example, this July I’m planning to hit on Spain for 3 weeks and see around 8 cities.
Total budget for the trip 300 eu per person excluding flight cost. So it’s just around 16 euro a day.
Can you imagine life without travel?
Yes, but I don’t like that picture at all L It’s gonna be boring to stay at one place for way too long. Not feeling like ready for a settle down yet…
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
Writing about my past travels? Frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine this right now.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
Elena’s Travelgram at http://www.elenastravelgram.com/
When did you begin your website?
I’ve started it at the end of February this year.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
A) Because I love writing down things
B) I need a place to store my travel memories and I don’t like spamming on Facebook.
C) I’ve learnt so many cool things online from other travel bloggers! All those tips, guides and hacks made my travels easier, cheaper and safer. I believe I could now add a few of my own experiences to help out other travelers out there.
D) I like talking and meeting new people online!
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
Being a Ukrainian passport holder I need visas to 98% of the countries in the world, so I’m pretty aware of how to get a visa anywhere! Besides, I currently live in France and you can get loads of fun insights into the local life.
And of course, I have loads of city guides, travel tips and awesome photos from Europe and Asia to inspire you for traveling more!
Do you have any products or services to offer?
Nope. But if you’d like me to help you out with your travel itinerary – drop a message!
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My recent post “Top 20 Secret Spots To Visit in France” had gone viral the other day. You should check it out! Bet you knew only one or two from the list?
What has been your favorite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
That’s tough. I do like what I’m writing a lot (otherwise I would have never done it or published) Let it be “What NOT to do when you are getting late for your flight” post. A story behind “the plane curse” that the City of Lights casted on me 🙂
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
I love flying and I love airports – I even wrote a post why I think they are awesome a while ago.
Traveling by train’s fun too. And you can often get a decent nap.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
There will never be the right time to travel! Stop finding excuses and do it!
The world is a way safer place then you may think. You can’t imagine how many times random people may help you out on the road.
What has travel taught you?
Traveling made me a bit more mature and made me re-think a lot of things about myself and my life.
I’d realized I’m way happier with lesser things I own and more travels scheduled.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Emirates. Those guys rock! And Lufthansa for travels around Europe.
Favourite country? India. It’s has a very special place inside my heart.
Favourite city? Lviv, Ukraine.
Favourite beach? Karina Beach, Togean archipelago, Indonesia.
Favourite food? Can’t say no to yummy pizza and sweet lassi.
Favourite language? Italian. It sounds so gorgeous!
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://www.elenastravelgram.com/
Twitter handle? @elenatravelgram
Google+ profile/page? https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ElenaTravelgram