Rendezvous with the Intrepid Margherita and Nick
If we can’t get together face to face…let’s do it virtually!
This edition of Rendezvous with Rovers highlights one of my favorite traveling couples. Margherita and Nick are adventurous and quirky and the creators of TheCrowdedPlanet website. I’ve followed them as they’ve visited and written about out-of-the-way spots like Madagascar and Finland. Whether they are hiking, photographing, or dog-sledding, they seem to have a fantastic time. As many of you know TheCrowdedPlanet is partnering with us on Weekend Travel Inspiration as well. Let’s find out more about them!
Margherita and Nick, I’ve always been a little confused if you are a long-term traveler or if you have a home base? I know you did at RTW for 15 months, but where are you emptying your suitcase these days?
Hi Corinne! You’re right, it’s odd to figure out. We’re actually part-time travellers at the moment. After our 15 month RTW trip in 2009-2010 we’ve been based in Milan, my (Margherita) hometown. We travel for 3-4 months each year during the summer, and then take shorter trips throughout the year – one week here, one there, a long weekend when we can’t get extra time off.
I know you guys love adventure and sustainable tourism? Is that your passion?
Definitely. We are passionate of anything involving nature, adventure and the outdoors, like camping, hiking, wildlife-viewing, and even more active stuff like rock-climbing and back country skiing! The sustainable aspect is something that started out as a necessity. As budget travellers, we always tried to avoid flying or travelling by private car unnecessarily, preferring public transport. Once we were fairly experienced travellers, we realised how important it was to travel in a way that is not only environmentally-friendly, but also benefits the local economy. This is why we always try to stay with locals and hire locals as local guides, and hardly ever resort to package holidays.
What else inspires your travels?
I know that it might sound clichéd, but the world is our inspiration. We always yearn to see more, do more, experience more – we can’t sit still. This doesn’t mean ticking boxes, we actually hate that ‘I’ve done 50 countries’ attitude. I still get a fuzzy feeling in my belly every time we land at an airport, regardless of how many times I’ve already been there. It’s the thrill of exploring new places, and you can always find something new, even in your hometown. At the moment, we’re exploring Milan for the #MondaysinMilan series we’re doing all the way till May 2015, when the Milan Expo will start. We’re publishing a series of posts about the city, a mix of practical info, where to eat, along with some pieces on Milan’s alternative and offbeat sights.
What types of places call to you?
We like both mainstream sights like big cities and places like Greece, France and Spain, and more unusual countries like Madagascar, Iran and Georgia. We’re kind of eclectic, our preference lies in nature and adventure, but we do believe you can find nature and adventure even in cities!
How often do you get to travel?
About once a month for a short trip, and then we take a long trip each summer. In 2015 we may be on the road for longer – but I can’t reveal anything until we’ve finalised the plan. I’m superstitious!
Describe your travel philosophy. What is your style? Are you more of a luxury traveler or is backpacking more your style? Do you like to be in control and do all your own planning, or do you like to let go and go on tours or go to a travel agent to help out? Do you like to pack a lot into a day or take it easy and follow your whims?
We’re definitely budget travellers. Nick would like to move towards something more upmarket, the so-called ‘flashpacker’ niche, but I’m happy being a backpacker and as we know, women always win! Not to mention that sometimes when you’re on the road, a hotel is just the place where you go to sleep, so as long as there’s a bed, it’s fine by me. We do splurge on adventure activities every now and then – like treks, national park visits or stuff like that. For example, this summer in Madagascar, we’ve spent most of our budget on treks and guided tours of national parks.
When you are on the road what kind of schedule do you keep? Are you the go, go, go kind or do you take it slow? Are you after those adrenalin rushes?
I guess that’s debatable. I would say we take it easy, but it depends on the trip. When we’re on the road for months, we tend to spend between 5 and 7 days in the same location. Sometimes just 3, and other times we may crash somewhere for 2 weeks. We do hate those trips where you change hotel each night, it’s so tiring!
Everyone always asks the impossible question of what is your favorite, but just tell us a couple of places that you just love or surprised you, or a place you find yourself going back to, and maybe a place that was a little disappointing and didn’t live up to its reputation.
Good question. In terms of landscape and nature, we usually pick two; Patagonia and Ladakh. They’re both nature and adventure tourism havens, places where we would return time and time again. And, I know it’s odd, but we’ve never been disappointed by a destination. We know some places take some time to warm up to – but we like to give them a chance, and I must say, we have very few bad memories from our travels.
What is one funny, embarrassing, cute, or even frustrating anecdote from your travels?
During our recent Madagascar trip, we travelled a lot by taxi-brousse – shared minibuses that were usually super full. One day, I was sitting next to a cute little girl, about 9, who fell asleep onto my lap and refused to budge for the rest of the trip! At first, I was annoyed, and it was incredibly uncomfortable because she was about 9 or so, so not that young. But then I kind of went along with it, and when she finally woke up, we became friends, and I got to practice my French with her.
I love your blog, how did you start and how do you keep it going?
Thank you! We actually started a few years ago, when we were on our RTW. Out first blog was on blogspot – and it was also called The Crowded Planet. Then we stopped after we moved back to Italy, but as we never stopped travelling, we still had many stories to share. The Crowded Planet 2.0 was born about a year ago, totally out of the blue. I remember Nick saying that I would get sick of it in about 2 weeks, but we’re still here!
I also love Nick’s photography. Is it difficult to blog/photograph while traveling? Do you have any good advice for fellow bloggers you’d like to impart?
Nick is primarily a nature photographer. His best shots are of wildlife and landscape, because being very shy, he finds it hard to relate to people. He does take some wonderful portraits though, but it makes sense that he focuses on what makes him happy. That is the advice I would give to my fellow bloggers. There have been a lot of talks about niche, but I don’t let my niche define my travels. We travel wherever we want and blog about what makes us happy, of course, giving it a personal spin, which is usually nature/adventure related. Do what makes you happy, this is my advice. At the end of the day, your readers follow your blog because of you. And if you’re covering a story or an angle you’re not 100% happy with, it will show, and your readers will be disappointed.
What is your next destination and what are you looking forward to doing there?
We’re going to Iran for a 2 weeks holiday, leaving in about 4 days. We’re so excited and first of all we’re hoping to get in, as we couldn’t get a visa upfront, we have to get one on arrival, which can be difficult sometimes. We’re looking forward to experiencing the amazing Iranian hospitality, food and sights. It’s a country that got a lot of bad press, but we’ve only ever heard good things about it.
Finally, if you could inspire someone to start traveling, which place would you recommend to him or her as a good starting destination and why? Are there any places that you wouldn’t travel to your first time out and why?
I think Europe and South East Asia are perfect for a first-time traveller. I would probably recommend South East Asia for younger people, because of the great backpacking scene and the ease of getting around. Not to mention, it’s cheap! Europe would be a good idea for someone older or afraid of culture shock, but still a great choice as it allows you to experience different cultures and places without travelling too far. I don’t think India would be a good place to go on your first trip. It is wonderful, in fact it’s probably my favourite country, but dealing with touts, poverty and culture shock can be difficult if you’re not an experienced traveller.
Thanks for having us Corinne!
Like me, I’m sure you’ll want to keep up with what’s new with The Crowded Planet! Here are a number of ways for you to do just that!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview and would like to be a guest on the Rendezvous with Rovers series, please contact me.