Today’s interviewee is a globe trotter who makes the most of travel hacking and using all available vacation time to see the world. Please meet Tamara Elliott.
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?
Sadly I’m currently a slave to the clock, and can only travel when I get vacation time from work. My dream is to be self-employed, so I can take advantage of last-minute deals or do things like rent a villa in Tuscany for a month.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
I try to use travel rewards points from credit cards to pay for hotels and airline tickets (hello, travel hacking!), and the rest of my costs come from savings. My favourite kind of travel funding is when my trip is paid for by someone else!
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
Being the oldest of four kids, the furthest we ever went growing up was about a 10 hour drive to Penticton, British Columbia, Canada every summer. It’s a beautiful area, with hot weather, lakes and vineyards. My first big trip, however, was to Cuba with my dad for my 18th birthday. That’s when the travel bug bit!
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
When I was backpacking through Europe, my friends and I decided on a last-minute trip over to Turkey. A few people had safety concerns as there had been travel warnings issued, we didn’t know the language, and we expected it to be vastly different from the castle/church/wine scene in the rest of Europe. Boy was it ever—in the best ways possible! Istanbul is a textbook case of east meets west, and the city is absolutely incredible thanks to its beautiful mosques, colourful bazaars and welcoming people. I loved everything about Turkey and our trip through the country was fun, memorable and problem free.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
Fortunately I haven’t had any major catastrophes like missing an important flight or getting robbed. However, I have had some misadventures! I actually wrote a fun article about the top five incidents, which includes anecdotes about getting locked in a shower and being interrogated/searched at the U.S. border (funny story now, NOT funny at the time!).
Do you have any funny travel stories?
See above 🙂
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
It would have to be a tossup between Copacabana, Bolivia, and Manila, Philippines. I didn’t like Copa because our accommodation was terrible, and there was absolutely nothing to do in the town. Fortunately we were only there for one night. As for Manila, I also didn’t feel like there was much worth seeing, we ended up wandering into some pretty dodgy areas, and the city is dirty, poor and congested. If you head to the Philippines, go to the islands instead—they are absolutely amazing!
Where is your favourite place in the world?
It’s a draw between Italy and Maldives (as if I could pick ONE country). I got engaged in Italy and honeymooned in the Maldives, but that has nothing to do with it, I swear! Italy is phenomenal, thanks to its stunning landscapes, incredible food, friendly people and historic landmarks. I think you could spend five years there and never see everything. Maldives, on the other hand, is absolutely the definition of paradise, and everywhere you look is like a postcard. It holds a special place in my heart and I hope to go back someday—before it sinks.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
The very top of my bucket list is an African safari. Hands down. I don’t care which country it’s in, I just want to see those incredible wild animals! Number two is a trip to Egypt to see the pyramids and do a Nile cruise. I’ve actually tried to book that trip twice, but it has been cancelled both times due to unrest in the country. Sigh.
Can you imagine life without travel?
That is a thing?!
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
When I’m not travelling, I’m thinking about travelling. Seriously. It’s an addiction. But hey, it always gives me something to look forward to!
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
When did you begin your website?
Globe Guide was founded in June 2013
In around 6 months you’ve written over 100 articles featuring destination guides for over 30 countries. How do you manage to be such a prolific writer?
I have a journalism degree and am closing in on a decade in the business, so writing is my bread and butter. By the time I finally went about putting my travel experiences into print I’d visited nearly three dozen countries—meaning I had a lot of catching up to do! I’ve worked tirelessly to get up to date, and fortunately I really enjoy it. It’s much more interesting to write about things you love (exciting destinations) than things you don’t (city council meetings).
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I believe the single most important thing about starting a blog is that you should never do it with the goal of making money. I love travelling, I love writing, and I love sharing my experiences with other people, which is why I finally founded Globe Guide after all these years of exploring the world. If my website leads to opportunities or financing, fantastic, but my focus is simply to share quality content that has value to readers, and hopefully help some people plan their own fantastic itineraries along the way!
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
Content is king, and that’s where Globe Guide really excels. There are a lot of people posting their random musings online, but I work to provide real, useful information through my articles, that travellers can refer to. My background as a journalist helps me research them thoroughly, and I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. I also like champagne travel on a beer budget, so readers will also find money-saving tips sprinkled throughout the site.
You’ve written a great article on the Top 10 most ridiculous travel accessories. How did you even stumble across this bizarre array of items?
I was shopping at an outdoor gear store, and came across something called ‘Whiz Freedom’ which helps ladies do their business in the great outdoors. Ridiculous, right?! I couldn’t get over how hilarious it was and mentioned it to a co-worker, which is when we started poking around online to see what other crazy travel accessories we could find. Frankly, it didn’t take too long to come up with a Top 10 list—it turns out SkyMall has some pretty unique offerings!
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My all-time most viewed post was a somewhat emotional story I wrote, called ‘My love letter to Calgary.’
My hometown of Calgary, Alberta suffered devastating flooding in June 2013, and I was evacuated from my home for over a week and working crazy hours keeping the city informed through my job as a reporter. While the devastation I saw was mind-blowing, what really struck me was the incredible spirit of our city. Instead of the looting and violence that you hear in so many other disaster zones, Calgarians came together immediately. Perfect strangers waded into waist-deep sludge to help clean out people’s basements, kids set up lemonade stands to raise money for the Red Cross, and restaurants sent their staff out to donate food to the thousands of volunteers. It was absolutely incredible to see so many people come together, and a true honour to be able to share the story.
You say that you are not really into buying souvenirs any more, but giving it some thought which is your favourite souvenir that you have actually either bought or been given?
I was given an engagement ring while on a gondola in Venice—does that count?! If not, I’d have to say my shot glass collection. I get one in every country I visit—which is actually harder than you might think, especially in Muslim countries—and I love looking at my growing set and dreaming about which one I’ll get to add next.
What was the highlight of your seven week trip around Europe?
One that really sticks out was seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Heading to Europe was pretty much my first big trip outside of North America, so seeing the iconic statue in person that I’d seen in photos my entire life was exhilarating. As far as experiences go, I spent a week on board a yacht sailing through the Greek islands, which was as amazing as it sounds.
How did you manage to lose a pair of trainers in Japan?
I know losing a pair of shoes doesn’t sound like a big deal, since you can just buy new ones, right? WRONG if you have size 10 feet like yours truly, and are in south-east Asia. I had to wash my runners, so they were wet when I got on a train bound for Kyoto, Japan, and I strapped them to the outside of my bag. They fell off without me noticing, and to my horror I realized hours later that they were somewhere back in Tokyo.
I tried to buy new shoes in both Japan and Singapore, but when I told the salesgirls my shoe size they giggled, thinking I was joking! When they realized my 5’3” frame was serious, they said ‘oh no sorry, we no have that size!’ then giggled some more. I finally left a store with Crocs (fashion fail) and was forced to climb a mountain in them since I had nothing else, thus badly injuring my knee.
Travel tip #62: Do not climb a mountain in sandals.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
I usually get around by flying as it’s so much faster, but trains are great if you have the time since you get to take in all the scenery.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Before you head off to any destination, read up on it. Grab a Lonely Planet, browse travel websites, talk to other people who’ve been there. You don’t have to book anything in advance, but knowing which sites are a must-do and which you can skip could save you a lot of time during your travels. Besides, no one wants to get back home and find out they were just a quick drive away from a world-famous beach, or would have seen the Pope had they visited St. Peter’s Square just one day later!
What has travel taught you?
Travel has taught my Type-A personality that sometimes, you just have to go with it. There are so many variables you can’t control while on the road (the bus that’s late, rain during your beach vacation, that the Italians are on strike—again!) and it’s important to take a step back, realize everything will eventually be OK, and at the very least it will be a funny story someday.
What can you not travel without?
An eye mask and travel pillow—I value my sleep, especially on long-haul flights. #DivaAlert
What is your best money saving tip for travellers?
Travel in shoulder season. Not only are prices much lower, but the weather is usually fantastic and there aren’t as many other tourists.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Singapore Airlines
Favourite country? The Maldives
Favourite city? Rome, Italy
Favourite beach? Any patch of sand I can find in the Maldives
Favourite food? Anything chocolate
Favourite language? English because I speak it, but I’m working on my Spanish—I’d love to be fluent as it’s spoken in so many countries.
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://www.globeguide.ca
Twitter handle? @Globe_Guide
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/GlobeGuide.ca
Google+ profile/page? Tamara Elliott