Today I am delighted to interview the creator of a self named blog, Megan Starr. I’ve been following Megan’s blog for close to 2 years and really enjoy reading of her life in Northern Europe and travels off the beaten track to some unlikely places.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
USA, but I currently live in Norway.
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
I live abroad and just travel at my own will as much as I can. I get restless and bored very easily and luckily Europe is at my fingertips, so it’s a match made in heaven. Or hell, if you ask my bank account.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
I work full-time as a travel editor for a travel app. I’m obsessed with my job. Fortunately, I can work remotely when I travel if need-be.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
I lived abroad as a young kid so I was in and out of airports before I could even spell my own name.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Probably Abkhazia. I was told people would be walking around with guns in their back pockets and that it was so dangerous. I experienced nothing of the sort. In fact, I felt safer there than most places I’ve been. I was in Kyrgyzstan recently and ended up around Lake Issyk-Kul in a resort town called Cholpon-Ata. I tend to stay away from overly touristy places because I get overwhelmed easily, but this place was spectacular. I was staying with a local there and the views left me speechless.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Just last week I had a cab driver try to rip me off in Belgrade, Serbia and it resulted in me having to punch him in the face (after he was getting violent with me) and run out of the cab. I lost my Pittsburgh Pirates hat in the process and was pretty distraught about that.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
Every trip I end up in some entertaining mess. It would be hard to pick just one. I guess just two weeks ago when I was on my way from Mostar to Sarajevo I had to use the restroom so bad on the bus (the door I thought was a restroom was, in fact, not) that I told the bus driver to pull over and I’d just hitchhike the rest of the way. He didn’t understand English and kept going. Yea…you can basically predict what ended up happening. Not one of my classier moments.
I’m pretty silly and immature when I travel, so it is no surprise I end up with entertaining stories upon returning.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Astana, Kazakhstan. Hands down. It was fake, lacked soul, rude people, etc. I saw police officers kicking homeless people, people were knocking me over in line for train tickets, and I just really don’t have much positive to report from the police. I hope if anyone ends up there that they end up with a different experience.
Don’t let the sun fool you- it was around -25C outside.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Probably Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US. My family originates from the area (although a little bit outside of it) and I have always felt a comfort in returning there. I never lived there though. But it feels like my American home (as does my actual hometown of Richmond, Virginia). I witnessed Pittsburgh transform from a gritty, depressed steel-mill city into the green and artsy mecca as it is today. There is something so humbling about witnessing a transformation like that. And I’m a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Something so comforting about going into the bars there knowing I have that in common with every single patron!
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Not particularly. But before I travel to certain places, I make a list of the beers I want to try if the country is into that sort of scene. I’m a huge craft beer fan.
Which country has had the best beers/drinking culture and which country has had the worst?
Best beers are easily found in the US (and Canada). The craft beer scene there is unmatched, in my opinion. But around Europe I really love what Helsinki is doing at the moment and Belgium’s offerings never cease to amaze me. I also think beer in the Baltics is HIGHLY underrated. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have something going on over there and I promise it will be common knowledge soon! As for the worst? I think Kyrgyz beer is pretty bad. As was Armenia’s. But who needs beer when you have world class cognac and vodka? Also, everywhere in Central America needs help in the beer department.
Hanging in Yerevan, Armenia, one of my favorite places in the world.
Can you imagine life without travel?
I’ve never known such a life. I have traveled since birth. When I was young, it was for my dad’s job, and as I got older it was for sports. And now I just do it because I get bored too easily otherwise.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I’d brew my own beer.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
Very boringly my name! http://www.meganstarr.com
When did you begin your website?
I began it in 2011 I believe? Or 2010. It started as a lifestyle site and I eventually just focused my site on my life abroad and on my travels.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
Not money. I’m sure I could make something from the site but that does not interest me. I actually write for my own therapy, but mostly to help others out there looking to do the same thing. You’d be surprised at how many emails I receive daily for people looking to move to Norway or looking to travel to Abkhazia!
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
I’m the same person in real life as I am on my blog. From what I understand, that is rare in the travel blogging community. I also don’t travel a certain way. Sometimes I’m a lazy traveler and sometimes I am a good traveler who sees all. But mostly I’m a lazy traveler. I like going somewhere and just relaxing and sitting in parks or bars with others. It makes for the best stories- I promise! And I don’t get blisters on my feet from walking.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
I don’t really read or measure stats (whoops…) but I would think it is a toss up between two. The first is “30 Things to Know Before You Move to Norway”. I wrote this as a collaboration post with Andrea at Inspiring Travellers. The hate comments are pretty priceless on this one. I also wrote one about my time in Kostanay, Kazakhstan earlier this year called “Kostanay: Winter in Almost Siberia”. While this may not look like it did well based on stats, it went viral on VKontakte, I was featured in newspapers in Kazakhstan (and using my pictures without permission, naturally), on websites all over the country, etc. The post was one of the worst I’ve written in terms of having any plot or purpose. I stated that I just hung out and ate vegan borscht. Apparently, this was major news and it was also something that could be misconstrued into other nonsense…making this post end up in forums all over the internet in the country for negative things. It was strange actually.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
My favorite article to write was called “Witnessing a Renaissance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” and it was just about my frequent travels there as a kid and how I thought it was a gross city as a kid and as I’ve gotten older it has, as mentioned above, become my favorite place in the world.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
Plane as I’m the most impatient person on the planet!
Which country that you’ve traveled to had the best food?
I really love the food in the Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia). Their usage of local ingredients is flawless. But I must say that the street murtabek I had in Singapore was probably the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Malaysia knows what’s up in the food department, too.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
There is no proper way to travel. Whatever suits you is fine. Don’t listen to these people who say you’re less of a traveler because you pack a suitcase instead of a backpack, or because you like to lie on the beach most of your trip instead of walking around seeing everything. It’s okay to stay in a hotel rather than a hostel if you feel more comfortable. And it’s okay to eat or go to a bar by yourself. That is how I’ve met some of my closest friends!
What has travel taught you?
It’s taught me that we are all the same. We may have different ways of doing things, different ways of speaking, and different income levels…but on the grand scheme of things, we are all the same and just want to be happy.
Where to next?
I have confirmed trips at this point to Belarus (again), Svalbard in the Arctic, Riga, Kaliningrad, USA for my sister’s wedding, and then Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan this fall. I’m always booking random weekend jaunts in between so where I could end up is for the future to know. I really need to venture out of Europe more…so that will be a priority later this year or in 2015.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Norwegian. Although their booking website can be a pain.
Favourite country? USA
Favourite city? Pittsburgh, PA. In Europe it is Belgrade, Serbia.
Favourite beach? Cayo Zapatillo, Panama or Bamboo Island, Thailand
Favourite food? Anything Mexican or with copious amounts of avocados. Or my mom’s pasta salad or spaghetti.
Favourite language? Any form of English where people understand my sarcasm and don’t get offended. But I think Russian sounds beautiful when it doesn’t sound like they are yelling at you.
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://www.meganstarr.com
Twitter handle? @megancstarr
Facebook page? http://www.facebook.com/meganstarrblog