Welcome back to our inspiring interview series, Rendezvous with Rovers on Weekend Travel Inspiration, where we continually get inspired by these intrepid travelers and travel bloggers. This week we’re introducing you to Tamason of Travelling Book Junkie.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Originally from the UK we always knew that travel would be a major part of our lives. When we first met 20 years ago Paul was in the Armed Forces and I was studying to become a Secondary School Teacher but realistically I think even then, we both felt that we wanted to do something different.
Society has always dictated that we should gain a good education, develop a strong career and then purchase a house, have children and grow old gracefully. Well, we gained the education (even now my mother frequently boasts that I completed a post-grad degree at Cambridge), started on the path to good careers and bought a house, but something just didn’t feel right.
Then we were offered an opportunity we just couldn’t turn down – the chance to work abroad.
Now, thanks to that job offer, we spend 10 months each year working on the shores of Lake Garda in Italy and love it. After all, people pay a fortune to visit Northern Italy each year and we are being paid to be there. Don’t get me wrong, there are frustrations – we can no longer travel during the summer months because we are now working in the travel industry ourselves – but realistically we live in Italy and can spend our days exploring the Italian towns and cities close to us, enjoy the amazing food and wonderful wine and then, during the winter months, head off on travels further afield.
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What inspires you to travel?
We are both curious about the lives that others lead. We want to explore different cultures, foods, and ways of life that are unusual to us and therefore are constantly researching and looking for new places to travel to.
We both love to spend time wandering around historical buildings, ancient temples and ornate churches. Paul is the foodie, never afraid to try something new – although I do think we pushed him to the limit when he ate puffin one time in Iceland, whilst I am a lover of literature and therefore if there is a library, bookshop, a bar or restaurant that has an affiliation to a writer I have to go inside. I have also been known to retrace the steps of a famous author or two, getting excited over homes they have lived in, parks they have gained inspiration from or cafes where they have written their prose. We head to Edinburgh next week for example and The Elephant House, a famous haunt of J.K, Rowling is on the list of must visit places.
Describe your travel philosophy.
We don’t like to be defined by budget so would neither class ourselves as backpackers or luxury escapists but we do love the unusual. Given the choice you will find us in a hotel room packed full of quirky features – we once stayed in a hotel where you had to wander through a bookcase to get to the bathroom – or a fabulous glamping site.
Bland is never a style that has suited us and therefore it is rare to find us in accommodation that does not stand out from the crowd. Even if the hotel room itself is quite neutral, there is normally another reason for us visiting – perhaps it is an old monastery, a converted church or has a specific theme running throughout that we just can’t say no to. Because of this we have stayed in quirky Jules Verne type apartments, spent time in old haunted Abbeys and relaxed in some of the most sumptuous bathtubs during our trips around the world.
What types of things are you interested in while you are traveling?
If you have asked us this question 10 years ago, we would have said that a holiday isn’t a holiday unless we can relax on the beach. However, with age our travel style has changed and now any more than an hour or two on the beach and we are getting restless, even with a book in tow.
Now we love to explore the country around us. You will now find us getting up at the crack of dawn to capture the cities we visit waking up. We take in walking tours to gain our bearings, to glean knowledge from locals on what to see and where to go and take in both the well-known and obscure.
I dislike people that say things like ‘you should go to Paris but avoid the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame because it is too touristy’, let’s face it, that is what the city is famous for. However it’s never the only thing we visit. We will then spend time wandering the residential streets, seeking out little sidewalk cafes that only locals know about, ask for advice on where to go for cheap food (not because we refuse to pay higher prices) because we want an authentic experience. We once spent two hours wandering around Barcelona trying to find a tapas bar that had been recommended to us by the hotel receptionist (a favourite of her family’s she said) but trust me, it was well worth it. Of course, this can also lead to some interesting dishes being placed in front of us and there is one place in Lisbon that I think it is fair to say we will never return to. It may have been local but the food was most definitely not to our liking. However, we would have always wondered about it had we not visited.
We want a rounded experience of each place we visit – I want to see why others are also visiting as well as spend time with locals.
What is one funny, embarrassing, cute, or even frustrating anecdote from your travels?
Like I have previously mentioned, Paul loves his food and always wants to try local dishes regardless of how spicy or strange they are.
During our trip to Thailand a few years ago we headed up to Kanachanaburi (known for its death railway) close to the Burmese border. On our first evening we decided to simply enjoy the restaurant in our hotel which was perfectly situated directly on the river, and after a couple of bottles of local Thai beer, Paul decided he was going to go for a curry ‘Thai style’. Now for anyone that has ever visited South East Asia you will understand that asking for a curry in this way is madness. Why? Because they normally calm the spices down to suit the Western palate. Plus, add to this the fact that he opted for a Burmese Red, the hottest curry on the menu, because, as he said, we were so close to the border and who knows if it would appear as a choice again whilst we were travelling.
Three times after ordering people came out of the kitchen just to double check that Paul was 100% sure he wanted to try the Burmese Red with the same level of heat as a local, and three times he confirmed his choice.
Surprised by this, when his dinner finally arrived, we had an audience from the kitchen that wanted to see the Westerner who had ordered such a hot dish. Hence to say, Paul looked like he was going to pass out with the infusion of heat that hit the back of his throat although he hid it well, sipping at his beer constantly to try to calm his inflamed mouth down.
I think it is fair to say the chef was impressed. It was definitely something that was mentioned time and time again during our stay – Paul and his iron stomach had become famous!
What is your next destination and what are you looking forward to doing there?
We have a couple of short trips planned whilst we are still in the UK – Scotland, Sherwood Forest and Dartmouth – but our next big trip will come at the end of the year when we are hoping to go on a long trip back to South East Asia to explore more of the culture, ancient rituals and food. Until then, we are looking forward to heading back to Italy, and whilst we now class this as home, there is still so much for us to see and do there and I can’t wait explore more historical cities close to us – Vicenza, Bergamo and Soave featuring high on that list this year.
What is one travel book or movie that you can recommend to folks?
Just one?! This is hard because I have about ten I would love to recommend. However, probably one of my favourite travel reads to date has to be ‘A House in Fez’ by Suzanna Clarke. It is the one book I read before travelling to Morocco that really stuck with me. I also read Peter Mayne ‘A Year in Marrakesh’, however, whereas Mayne’s narrative highlights a city that has since changed quite considerable, Clarke’s was still very relatable. Plus, I love the fact that they gave up everything in a country they knew and travelled to somewhere that was so completely different and succeeded. Perhaps that is what inspired me to move!
Paul, preferring to do his research by watching films and TV programmes, highly recommends the show ‘Departures’, an adventure Travel series that takes two Canadians to some amazing places, with food, unsurprisingly featuring heavily.
What is one thing you take with you traveling, no matter what?
Paul never leaves home without a camera, normally his Fuji XT10, because as he says ‘you never know what we might see’ whereas I tend to make sure that I have always packed my kindle.
I hate flying and therefore need to keep my mind occupied so if I have forgotten to pack a book I struggle to relax. Plus, on the odd occasion that we do spend time on the beach or unwinding in our hotel I like to escape further into a good book.
How did you get started travel blogging, and what would be one piece of advice you can offer newbie bloggers?
I actually stumbled into travel blogging. I had always said to Paul I wanted to write a novel (still in the planning stages of that one!) but was frightened that no one would want to read what I wrote. It was actually Paul that suggested I started a blog, just to see how it goes, to see whether that would give me confidence to write something and here we are three and a half years later with a blog that is now read by people all over the world. It still amazes me sometimes that we have achieved something that we are both so proud of. Now I just need to start that book!
As for advice – don’t go into travel blogging thinking that you will get loads of ‘free things’, that you will get to travel the world for nothing or that once up and running the blog will make money and you won’t have to lift a finger. Blogging is possibly the hardest thing we have ever done. You need to keep up with technical changes, trends, SEO and social media, plus develop your own writing style.
Research before you start, get some articles together, think about the blogger you want to be and also make sure you choose a name for your blog that can grow with you. I often see blogs entitled something like ’20-something travel’. That’s great you have created a niche, aiming it at 20-somethings and then you hit your 30’s. Are you going to start again? The name of your blog is so important, it tells people more about you then you think and it is something I wish I had realised before starting – we changed our name twice in those earlier days.