Today’s interview features someone who’s been travel blogging for 3 years, had some amazing experiences and really benefitted from the TBEX Conference. Please meet Sharon Mendelaoui.
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?
No, I’m a travel enthusiast, not nomadic. I travel mostly for pleasure either close to home or abroad.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
I work full time as a graphic designer, I also have a part-time graphic design business www.desktopanddesign.com and my online travel blog www.dreamtravelmagazine.com.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
The first trip I have memories from, was a trip to Israel when I was 2. My Mom brought me back to her home to meet my grandparents. I have flashes of memories of them setting up a birthday party for me, this large hanging ornament and tulips – which my grandfather used to grow on the family Tulip farm. I also remember the fields, and the family dog which I used to play with in the hot sun.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
No I haven’t really had this experience. I do have surprises on my trips like a great dining experience, or finding an amazing local that shared something with me, or a Hotel not living up to its reviews, but I think because I do a lot of research before going on a trip, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m getting myself into.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I think the worst experience I had was in Munich. I was wandering around alone and went to the main park to sit and relax by a pond with some ducks. I was writing in my travel journal, when this French guy came over and started talking with me. I spoke to him with my broken French and he took that as invitation to try and kiss me and lay on top of me. I yelled pretty loudly grabbed my knapsack and was able to walk away from him. It shook me up, made me more aware of my surroundings and I spent the rest of the day in the city around people and other backpackers. I remember sitting in the middle of Munich listening to these two American guys who were playing their guitars trying to score some change. They played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds and when they got the “Everything’sgonnabe alright part” I took a deep breathe and said Sharon “Everything is going to be ok. Keep going!”
Do you have any funny travel stories?
I will totally embarrass myself with this one, but on a recent trip to Dominican Republic I tried this alcoholic beverage they claim is “Dominican Viagra” It is called Mamma Juana and from this one shot I was flying! I have never been so drunk in my entire life, I was dancing on the stage (and I don’t dance), we laughed and laughed, and we were so drunk we couldn’t even take pictures to document it.
Another funny story was in Salzburg, I was told by all the travelers at the hostel that I had to go to the Palace. I was like OK why not, so I jumped on a bus and headed over there. I paid for the tour and really didn’t know what it was going to be about. They started talking about the prince that owned the palace and how he was a bit of a prankster. I was wearing a skirt on this particular day, and I was walking around when water started squirting out from the sidewalk. It turns out this prince loved asking his guests to check out amazing pieces of art and then when they got real close he would surprise them by squirting them with water. The tour guide seemed to think (as did the rest of the tour group) that squirting me under my skirt was pretty funny!
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I really like being on the beach. I don’t really care where really, just hearing the sounds of the waves and sitting on a beach with sand between my toes is a real happy place for me.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
I started Dream Travel Magazine because of all the places I wanted to visit, Fuji, Maldives, Australia and other locations that just seemed impossible to me. Now I realize my “I’ve always wanted to do that list” is quite vast and includes experiences close to home – dog sledding, ice fishing, seeing Bay of Fundy…
Can you imagine life without travel?
Today I can’t imagine it. Now that I look back at my past and all the family trips we took when I was growing up, then when I took off to Europe during university I realize I had the travel bug all along. It just took me awhile after trying to be a grown up with a job, to realize I should just be doing the things I’m most passionate about, travel, graphics and writing.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I would probably be working on my novel. I started writing my first novel last year, it is completely outlined, I just need time to sit and hammer it out, but with the travel writing and the full time job it gets forgotten.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
My blog is called Dream Travel Magazine www.dreamtravelmagazine.com
When did you begin your website?
I started back in May of 2011 – so DTM just had its 3rd birthday.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I’ve always written ever since I was little. I really enjoy telling stories either real ones based on my experience or stuff I make up in fiction writing. I’m really enjoying making connections with my readers but I think it is just one of those things that I love to do and would keep doing even if no one read a single word I wrote.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
We all have a Dream Travel list of our own and it is filled with many different places we want to see or things we want to do, I want Dream Travel Magazine to be a place where people will find information on a dream hotel or dream location on their list and be inspired to go have their own experience. I hope that people will be inspired to believe that they too can live the life of their dreams. If I can show them that these dreams might by outside their front door or that they can change their circumstances and see things they’ve always wanted to if they just believe… if a story, picture or travel tip on my site helps them achieve that then I will be super happy!
Do you have any products or services to offer?
At this time no, but I’m working on it. I don’t want to just offer things to trick people into signing up for my blog. If I do offer something it will be something worthwhile – that much I know.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
It always makes me laugh which posts get the most reads, but my most read post of all-time is called Cross Border Shopping Tips for Canadians. It has received the most comments, emails and is always the number 1 post on the site no matter what time of the year. Canadians in Ontario looooove to cross border shop.
Another popular one for a long time was The Best Disney Apps for your iPhone. It creeps in and out of my top five (which you can see on my sidebar under the POPULAR POSTS tab.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
I just wrote a guest blog post for TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange Conference) about how attending their conference in Toronto last year changed my life. (http://tbexcon.com/us/2014/06/02/5-lessons-i-learned-at-tbex-toronto-and-how-it-changed-my-life/)
I had a pretty incredible year since the conference as I met a great network of bloggers to work with, I lost 70+ pounds and I realized how much I love writing about my travels. I’m realistic about my expectations, I mean we all want to be on vacation all the time, but somehow we have to pay the bills. But I feel like I’m more confident in myself and my blog now and I’m super excited about my future as a travel writer.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
I love them all! I’ve had some amazing road trips, Ontario is a great province to drive around in, and so many times I’ve stopped the car in the middle of the road to sneak a photo. Train rides are also pretty amazing, I remember an awesome trip from Oslo to Bergen in Norway that just blew my mind. All I had was a cheap camera (with a film roll – remember those) and I was snapping shot after shot of the amazing landscape praying they would turn out. I still have some of those on my wall at home they were amazing landscapes. Man I’d love to do that trip again with my current camera and photography skills! Planes are always fun because it usually means I’m going somewhere special. I love that anxious but excited feeling when the plane takes off! Boat excursions are something I love too.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Don’t be afraid to go out there and see the world. I can’t afford to get on a plane every week, but I will get in my car and drive for an hour and experience something great just a few kilometers outside my front door. Every week I have pictures to take on Instagram or to post on Facebook and people think I’m on vacation all the time…maybe I am!
What has travel taught you?
An experience at a Tree Top Trekking tour taught me to face my fears and push myself to my limits. It also taught me humility since I had to be rescued out of a tree! No matter where I travel there is a sense of community and family which always amazes me and I love talking with locals and hearing about their lives.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? WestJet – they are just always funny and make you feel like part of their cooky family.
Favourite country? I hate these questions… I love Canada and I’m so proud to be Canadian, Israel is pretty extraordinary and special and I could never pick a Caribbean favourite…did I mention I hate these favourite questions!
Favourite city? Toronto (I know this is probably biased) but I feel like I can take a trip around the world just by getting on the subway and going somewhere in Toronto. Little Italy, Greektown or one of our Chinatowns – there is so much to do and see in Toronto, amazing dining, fun attractions – it’s a new city every time I make my way down from the suburbs!
Favourite beach? Ugh. Antigua was super awesome – Jolly Beach was really beautiful. Aruba also amazing – Renaissance Island had flamingos and Iguanas walking around us all day. Felt like I was on my own private island.
Favourite food? I love international cuisine favourite would be Moroccan, Indian, Thai, Japanese and … I just can’t pick a favourite.
Favourite language? Spanish (even though I can’t speak it) is pretty and sexy at the same time.
Please provide the following:-
Website url? www.dreamtravelmagazine.com
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/DreamTravelMagazine
Google+ profile? google.com/+SharonMendelaoui1