Welcome to a Rendezvous with Rovers, our traveler interview series. We’d like to start your weekend off with some amazing travel inspiration. This week we interviewed Chelsea of The Portable Wife. We have a lot in common as she is an expat living in the UK, and I’m here in Japan, a country she loves. Enjoy!
Tell us a little about you.
My name is Chelsea, and I’m a US expat living in London. As a child, I didn’t travel very often. My adventures were quite literally in my own backyard, where I’d explore the fields and forests of my Michigan home after school.
However, I was an avid reader, and frequently told my friends that books were a “free vacation”. I devoured texts set in both real and imaginary places, imagining myself in exotic locales. And when I discovered the Travel Channel, I spent weekends watching Samantha Brown and other hosts explore everything from charming European streets to glaciers in Antarctica.
I grew up with a real thirst to see the world. So when I graduated high school, I took all the money I’d saved from my part time job, plus my graduation gift money, and took a trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I spent a week in Provincetown, trying delicious food and walking through breathtaking coastal landscapes. And ever since then, I’ve made travel a priority in my life.
After moving to London with my husband in 2018, we’ve taken advantage of easy and affordable flights and trains to Europe. We’re trying to travel every single month, whether it be a day trip in the UK or a week on the continent. I’ve always wanted to live in Europe and have the ability to travel often, and my dream has really come true!
What is your travel style?
Growing up in America, where vacation time is limited, I took on a very practical travel style. I create my own itineraries that maximize travel time, but also leave room for some spontaneity and relaxation. My husband and I have never liked tours (with one exception being the Yeoman Warder tour at the Tower of London), so we avoid those. We usually sit down and brainstorm/research a list of things we definitely want to see and do in that destination, and I organize everything into a spreadsheet and Google Maps.
In terms of budget, it really depends on the place. I’ve stayed in everything from a roadside motel to high-end resorts. I’m also not afraid to splurge on a great experience, though I’ll balance out the expense in other ways. For example, staying in a ryokan (traditional inn) in Japan was a bucket list item for my husband and me, so we offset the accommodation cost by eating affordable meals and filling our days with free things to do.
Do you travel alone or with a partner?
I mainly travel with my husband, though I’ve started doing more solo travel since we moved to London. I love traveling with a partner because of the shared experience and the shared memories. We can laugh over coffee about silly travel stories that felt far more serious at the time.
For example, I bought my first tripod right before we went to Paris to celebrate my birthday. On the second day, we woke up at 5am to watch and photograph the sunrise at the Eiffel Tower. Just before we reached the photo spot at the Trocadero, I asked my husband if he could pull my tripod out of the bag and hand it to me.
Being the sweet person he is, he starts trying to set it up for me while I swap camera lenses. After a minute, I look over at him, and he’s somehow managed to break one of the legs on my brand new tripod! We spent 30 minutes trying to fix it to no avail, and I had to strategically use benches and railings to stabilize my camera.
We ended up laughing it off and enjoying a beautiful sunrise, and I did eventually repair it the following day. But for a few minutes, my mind was filled with rage.
For anyone who always travels with a partner, I would encourage them to try a solo trip now and then. I recently spent a week alone in the Japan Alps region (my second time in the country), and it was one of the best trips of my life. Aside from the stunning landscape, it helped me realize how capable I was of conquering challenges by myself.
What types of things are you interested in while you are traveling?
When traveling, I love a good mix of exploration and culture. If there’s an amazing museum or gallery in the area, I will put it on the itinerary. And my husband and I both love cathedrals for their beautiful architecture.
I also make a point of visiting parks and other natural areas in every city. I think they’re a great way of seeing local life, and they provide a break from the hustle and bustle of more touristy areas. After a busy day of sightseeing, I love recharging with a quiet stroll through a forest or a rest on a park bench.
Because we aren’t full time travelers, we tend to pack most days pretty full. However, we always leave at least a half day (or more depending on the trip) unplanned. Sometimes things like delayed trains or upset stomachs can derail an itinerary, so it’s nice to build in some slack. And sometimes you wake up and decide you’d rather hang out in bed for 3 hours, and that’s okay, too.
What are some of the places that you just found enchanting during your travels?
Japan is my all-time favorite destination. As a kid, I’d always been interested in Japanese culture, from anime and manga to food to the language. So when my husband and I finally made the trip over there, I was over the moon. We were blown away by the quality of everything, from the food to the service to the transportation system. And people were so kind in helping us despite our limited Japanese.
I think the best thing about Japan is its beautiful diversity, especially the mix of old and new. It’s amazing to see things like the ancient Imperial Palace in Tokyo sitting across from modern skyscrapers. I also love that there are vending machines literally everywhere. I highly encourage anyone whose thought about going to Japan to go on and book the trip. But please do read up on the culture and learn some basic Japanese phrases before you go!
How did you get started travel blogging?
I started travel blogging at the suggestion of my friends and family. I was an English major and always loved to write, so when we moved to London, it was a great chance to pursue this type of work. Being a travel blogger definitely makes traveling more stressful, because I’m always thinking about getting great photographs or taking notes for future posts. I have to consciously turn off the “work” part of my brain at times so that I can really enjoy the moment. When my husband and I went to Scotland to celebrate our anniversary, I purposefully left my camera at home so that I wouldn’t be tempted to turn it into a work trip!
I’m still fairly new to travel blogging, but one crucial thing that helped me was joining various Facebook groups for bloggers. I’m in a few groups specific to travel blogging and some that are open to all bloggers, and I’ve learned a ton just from reading people’s posts and replies. The blogging community is so supportive, and it feels great when I can give back as I gain new insights.
But blogging is not without its challenges. Between algorithm changes and social media shifts, a lot of what used to work even a year ago is no longer valid. It sometimes feels like an uphill battle to grow traffic and get my content in front of the people I know could use it.
For me, the most rewarding part of blogging is helping others achieve their travel dreams. I think a lot of people get overwhelmed by travel, whether it be the time it takes to plan a trip or the belief that it’s an expensive luxury. My goal is to ease the burden of planning and offer budget-friendly tips so that everyone can live out their life of adventure.
We have some exciting travel plans coming up in 2019, starting with a weekend in Amsterdam. I’m very keen to see the lovely architecture and walk along the canals. There are also tons of great museums in the city, though I’m particularly interested in the Anne Frank House. And we’re going in the winter, so I’m hoping for a bit of snow.
If you could inspire someone to start traveling, which place would you recommend to him or her as a good starting destination and why?
When it comes to travel, I think people overlook the amazing places in their own cities, states, and countries. If you’re just getting started with traveling, I highly recommend finding a few great day trips from your home and going there on weekends. It will give you a taste for adventure and help you figure out your travel style and preferences. I lived in Michigan for 21 years, and sincerely regret not spending more time exploring the state’s beautiful parks and beaches.
Personally, my first international trip was Japan, and I loved it because of how radically different everything was from the US. But if you’re not particularly adventurous, you might want to start with a country that shares your native language.
Do you have any other stories, info, advice, etc. that you would love to tell us?
If I could share one piece of travel advice, it would be to let go of things that aren’t in your control. It’s easy to get frustrated if rain messes up your agenda or your long-awaited meal is lousy. But instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, accept that the situation isn’t what you’d hoped for, and find something else that will put a smile on your face.