Today ladies and gentlemen I would like you to meet the star behind Wonderful Wanderings. Please meet Sofie Couwenbergh.
What is your name?
I’m Sofie, nice to meet you all.
Which country do you come from/call home?
I’m from Belgium and am still living there at the moment. Although I can picture myself living somewhere else, I do think I’ll always call Belgium ‘home’. There are some things so typical to Belgium that I always miss when I’m abroad: simple, decent bread, our ‘frietkoten’ (special houses that sell fries – Belgian fries), the fact that you can get everywhere pretty quickly, the omnipresence of good food, …
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
Nope, nope, nope and nope.
Djeez, now you make me sound boring!
I rent an apartment with my boyfriend and have a full time job as a marketing coordinator for an editorial company. I practically use all the vacation days I have to travel and a lot of my weekends are dedicated to city tripping as well.
Whenever I’m not on the road I combine blogging with my passion for dance.
Oh and I also still have a social life. Kind of.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
This is going to sound so cliché but for me it’s all about prioritizing. Each time I get my pay check I put away €200. We try to budget our food bills by not always buying the most expensive brands and by only buying food and drinks that we know we will finish. I hate to throw away food and often take leftovers to work.
Besides the basic costs of life (apartment, food, …) most of my money – when I’m at home – goes to dance classes and gas to drive to those dance classes. I practically don’t drink when I go out and we almost never eat out either.
If there’s something I’d like to buy, I always compare how much it costs with something travel related, like: “That pair of shoes could get me a room for two nights”.
Whatever’s left of my salary at the end of the month usually goes into my savings account as well.
Because I work full time, I don’t feel the need to work while I travel. I’ve never been away for a long period of time, so my savings and salary have always gotten me through my trips.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
The very first trip was somewhere with my parents. I see myself on a beach somewhere, playing with other kids and singing “Sur le pont, d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse…’.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
I expected Los Angeles to be big, loud, impersonal, full of barbies and way too hectic. Instead everyone was so open and friendly, traffic was busy but much more ‘relax’ than in Belgium and everyone was wearing sneakers. I loved it.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
When I was about 10 years old my family and I spent a vacation in the south of France. One night we went to town for dinner and walked around a bit. Little did we know that it was the World Soccer Championships and France was playing for the title that night. France won and we when drove back to our hotel, after the game had finished, we were suddenly confronted with a celebrating crowd. They picked up our car and started ‘wiggling’ with it, pulling on the doors and the little rooftop window. I was SO scared. My dad hit the gas and luckily they let us go.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
I was having dinner with a friend at Farmers Market in Los Angeles when all of a sudden a guy came up to me. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in participating in a music video a month from them. I told him that I wouldn’t be in the country then and asked him what kind of music video he was talking about.
Apparently I had the perfect looks to play in a Christian music video.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Any place where I got hassled like people only hassle a tourist.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
The one I haven’t explored yet.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
I actually made one a while ago and posted it on my blog. Now I just have to start checking of boxes.
Can you imagine life without travel?
No. I think travel is in everything. It’s in the different kinds of food you eat, in every place you visit that you haven’t visited before. It’s in each new thing you discover and every landscape that makes you go silent. Travel is what keeps us from going numb.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
Planning a trip.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
It’s Wonderful Wanderings at http://wonderfulwanderings.com
When did you begin your website?
In August 2012, after months of doubting whether I should or shouldn’t. I’m glad I found some balls and went for it.
You have a full time job and yet are so keen on travel. How do you balance the two?
Living in Belgium I’m lucky enough to have 20 official vacation days and on top of that 10 other vacation days because I work more hours a week than is standard. I mostly use my vacation days to travel, combined with weekends and public holidays. My time at home is spent blogging or preparing my next trip.
You went to a dance studio in LA, please tell us about that.
Dancing is my second passion. It took me some time to realize how much I love it and how much time I wanted to put in it, but I feel like I’m finally getting there; I’ll never be a pro, but I want to keep learning and Los Angeles is famous for it’s dance (and especially hip hop dance) scene. I just recently took some classes at Debbie Reynolds Dance Studios and last year I went to Millennium Dance Complex as well.
When I tell people who don’t dance that I’ve taken classes in LA they all go “wooow”, but it really isn’t a big deal. Half of the students at those schools aren’t from the States. People from all over the world come to Los Angeles to take classes, participate in auditions and get connected.
You have a regular trip with your father every year. How did you start that tradition?
We first went to London together for a 2-day trip when I was 12. We did all the typical touristy things like the Tower and Madam Tussaud’s. After that we did a little day trip at least once a year together. As I was that kind of teenager, those trips usually consisted of me doing a lot of shopping. We went to Antwerp, Amsterdam, Cologne, …
I don’t exactly remember what lead us to head to London again. It could have been that trip my dad made to London with my brother. Anyhow, we decided to go back there for two days and we’ve been going back for – I think – five years now.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I always loved writing and anything involving the written word. That’s also why I studied Literature and Linguistics at university. On top of that I wanted to share my passion for travel with others and meet like minded people.
I’m trying to slowly monetize my blog to gain some extra funding for my trips, but I have to admit that at the moment I simply don’t find the time to do all the things I could and would like to do with Wonderful Wanderings. I have so many ideas, but I don’t want to get started on them when I know that I won’t be able to complete them as they should be completed.
I’m taking baby steps.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
A lot of travel blogs are written by people who travel full time, blog full time or both. I do neither. Just like so many people out there I’m someone with a ‘regular’ life who just loves to travel and I want to help others to plan their own wonderful wanderings by sharing my experiences.
On top of that, I’m not Australian, Canadian or American. I’m from this small country in Europe and I think that gives me another perspective at the rest of the world.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
I’m always open to any travel related partnerships. I do reviews, go on blog trips and can be hired for campaigns. Those interested can always take a look on my website.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
In terms of pageviews, my most successful post was about how to plan your trip so that you can efficiently use the London underground.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
It all depends on where I’m going. To explore a city I prefer to go on foot, to get across the Atlantic, I prefer flying, but wherever I’m going, a bus will never be my favourite mode of transport.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
To me, it’s always better to be over organized and to over plan your trip than finding yourself not knowing what to do or where to go in a strange country. So, definitely if it’s your first trip: think it through. Do all the planning you can beforehand, so that you can relax when you’ve arrived at your destination.
It can be scary, it can be stressful and it can be confronting, but mostly it’s wonderful and at the end of a trip, you’ll always be a richer person.
What has travel taught you?
That it’s more rewarding to dare than to be afraid.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Brussels Airlines
Favourite country? Oh darn…
Belgium for the food
Portugal for nature
California (not a country, I know) for the weather.
Favourite city? Los Angeles
Favourite beach? Ooh, that’s a hard one. I love those small beaches on some of the Greek Isles where you can be the only one on there… and where you can go snorkeling!
Favourite food? Chocolate!!!!!!!
Favourite language? Spanish, but it’s getting heavy competition from French
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://wonderfulwanderings.com
Twitter handle? @wondwand
Facebook page? http://www.facebook.com/WondWanderings
Google+ profile/page? Sofie Couwenbergh