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Rendezvous with Sage of Everyday Wanderer

Welcome back to a Weekend Travel Inspiration, where we interview intrepid travelers. This week we are highlighting Sage from Everyday Wanderer. I’ve been following Sage for at least a couple of years and have really enjoyed her storytelling skills. I’m sure you will, too. Have a look-see!

What is your philosophy on travel?
I believe that everyone can benefit from travel, whether it’s a day spent across town or a year traveling around the world. So, my philosophy is to carpe diem the heck out of every travel opportunity that presents itself. Whether it’s:

Sage and Ronald Reagan.
Me and Ronny. Hungarians appreciate the role President Reagan played in lifting the Iron Curtain from their beloved nation. That’s why this statue stands near the Parliament Building in Budapest.
  • a museum in my hometown
  • a week visiting family in another state
  • a business trip in an exotic place (but with little time outside of meetings)

I do everything I can to experience the history, people, culture, and food of any destination.

Cafe Oscar in Copenhagen Everyday Wandererdish.
Cafe Oscar – One of the best things about travel is savoring the local flavors. This delicious dish is a smørrebrød (an open-faced sandwich that is popular in Sweden) that I enjoyed in Copenhagen.

When it comes to personal travel, I tend to plan everything. (I’m a firstborn. We are control freaks.) It’s not easy finding the time to travel with a full-time job and school-aged children, but we do the best we can. My kids and I keep a rolling 12 month calendar with our travel plans and a long wish list of bucket list destinations. My youngest daughter (age 12) is quite skilled at finding the best hotels and car rentals for our travel dollars. I now give her a few parameters and a budget and set her loose.

We begin family adventures by independently creating a list of what we want to do, see, and eat. After that, we put our lists together and each person rates each item on the list as an A (can’t miss), B (like to see), or C (take it or leave it) experience. Starting with the A items, we research important details like hours of operation and the distance between each. There’s nothing worse than wanting to visit Crystal Bridges or eat at A Bite of Belgium and realizing that we didn’t plan ahead for a day when it would be open.

Nelson Atkins at Night by Everyday Wanderer.
Nelson Atkins at Night – Don’t ever overlook the magic that’s just outside your own neighborhood. When the Kansas City Royals baseball team was in the World Series a few years ago, the major buildings were washed with blue to support our team. This is one of the iconic shuttlecocks at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Once we have a loosely-defined (yet always packed) agenda, we take a boulder/pebble/sand approach to planning our adventures. The boulders have to be placed first. These are decisions like:
Are we flying or driving? If we’re flying, what days give us the most bang for our travel budget?

Securing accommodations for each night we’re away
Once the heavy, hard-to-move boulders are set in stone, we layer in the pebbles. Pebbles are our A priority list of things to do, see, and taste. Last, we fill in the empty space with sand, our B and C priorities. While the boulders are large and in charge, there is always flex in everything else (even the pebbles) so we can go with the flow.

How did you get started traveling? Are you a country counter?
I was bitten by the travel bug as a preschooler when my family moved abroad for the first time. The opportunity to spend half of my most formative years living and traveling in Europe was beyond incredible. Someone once said, “A child educated only in the classroom is an uneducated child.” I agree!

Louvre Lovers holding hands by Everyday Wanderer.
Lovers at the Louvre – Now that the world has Instagram, and travelers all take essentially the same shots at the world’s most popular destinations, the only unique shot left is a candid shot of the other people exploring the world around you. That’s what I tried to capture with this shot at the Louvre.

And I often add, “There’s nothing more tragic than learning exclusively from a book.” On the playground in Germany, I used the words I’d learned from my illustrated German word book to communicate with other kids my age. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, my artist mother dragged me to every single art museum in Europe. And, after my 7th grade class read Anne Frank’s diary, my parents took us to Amsterdam so we could tour the home where she hid from the Nazis during World War II. It is difficult to adequately describe the impact my travel has had on my life, but I do feel it’s helped me be a better citizen of the world.

Because I like to sink my teeth into each destination, I hate to count countries. Even after living in Germany and the Netherlands for seven years and traveling extensively throughout Europe, I still feel like there is more to do, see, and experience. So there’s no way that a day in Paris or a long weekend in Cincinnati is enough. But (see above), you do the best you can with what you have to get the most out of every experience.

And, although I don’t personally like to count countries, I am proud of the fact that I’ve been to all 50 states. I recently achieved this milestone by knocking out my last two states, Maine and Oregon.

Blue Swallow Motel by Everyday Wanderer.
Blue Swallow Motel – With family also in New Mexico, we love road tripping between our home in Kansas City and America’s Southwest. Fully restored (and updated), the Blue Swallow Motel is an iconic stop along Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

What types of things are you interested in while you are traveling? 

I definitely pack as much into each day as possible. Although it may seem like I’m uber-structured (from my travel planning comments earlier), I like to leave plenty of room to also wander where the road (and my curiosity take me. History is full of some of the most amazing tales, so uncovering those gems is always fascinating. I am particularly inspired by history’s smart and strong-willed women, because their stories often go untold, taking a back seat to a heck of a lot of white males.

What are some of the places that you just found enchanting during your travels?

When I traveled to Budapest, Hungary, for the first time, it was love at first sight. Unfortunately, I was in Budapest on a business trip, so my days were spent in the office. But I was there in early September, so the sun lingered after the work day was through and the weather still contained streaks of summer. Each night after work, I’d explore as far as my legs would take me, not at all worried about walking around the city by myself after dark.

Budapest Parliament Bldg. by Everyday Wanderer.
Parliament Building – After putting in a full day at our Budapest office, I spent every after-hours moment I could exploring the city. This is the view of the Parliament Building from the Fisherman’s Bastion on the other side of the Danube River.

I’d walk across the Danube River on the Chain Bridge to explore the Fisherman’s Bastion and gaze through its neo-Gothic walls at the Parliament Building. Other nights I’d remain on the “Pest” side of the river, following it past the heartbreaking Shoes on the Danube memorial to a statue honoring Ronald Reagan, the man credited with tearing down the Iron Curtain. And other nights, I’d slowly wander through the large, pedestrian area near Vaci Street, window shopping before grabbing a bite to eat and a delicious glass of Hungarian wine. While there are so many places yet to visit on my travel bucket list, it would be wonderful to have a week (or two) to just linger in Budapest!

What are some travel books or travel movies that have inspired you to visit places? 

When I was in the middle of Dan Brown’s Inferno, I learned that I would be spending one month abroad with my job. I’d be conducting training in seven of our overseas locations, including the office in Istanbul. If you’re not familiar with the book, many thrilling scenes feature the historic Galata Bridge, the massive Hagia Sophia, and the underground Basilica Cistern.

Hagia Sophia Everyday Wanderer.
Hagia Sofia. Describing Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia as simply “big” is like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground. It’s massive! The Hagia Sophia’s dome is so huge that Paris’ Notre Dame could fit inside and the Statue of Liberty has plenty of room to do jumping jacks.

As luck would have it, I ended up getting to spend a weekend in Istanbul, so I seized the opportunity to experience those destinations from the book. Plus I still had time to cover my head and peek inside the Blue Mosque, climb the Galata Tower, and sail between Europe and Asia on the Bosphorus Strait. And, because the best part of travel is savoring the local flavors, I also drank freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice at breakfast, devoured shawarma for lunch, sipped a cup of Turkish tea in the afternoon, and nibbled a Turkish delight as a bedtime treat.

How did you get started travel blogging? Do you think it enhances your travel experiences or makes it a little more stressful? Are there any lessons you can pass on to us about travel blogging?

When my kids were little, I started a password-protected blog as a way to share photos and stories with my family. Since my entire family lives several states away, it was a great way to keep in touch and share the cute (or sometimes cheeky) things that they did or said with grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

At the end of 2011, I read an article about something called a 365 project. A fun twist on a new year’s resolution, a 365 project encourages you to pick one thing to focus on in the coming year and commit to doing it every day. (Or, there are 52 projects for commitment phobes who can only make a weekly commitment.) Comedic genius, Jerry Seinfeld, once shared that writing a joke every day (and then marking a big “x” through that day on his wall calendar) was one of the secrets to his success. I had always wanted to improve my photography skills, so I launched as a 365 photography blog on January 1, 2012. I shot, edited, and posted one photo a day through 2012, and kept going (although not always on a daily basis) for a few more years.

Baby Bison by Everyday Wanderer.
Baby Bison – I love visiting family in Montana every summer. I captured this baby bison at Yellowstone National Park (you know, before the current government shut-down).

Which brings me to the present.

My goal for 2016 was to evolve into Then, while I was traveling, a water supply line burst in my house, causing extensive flood damage. We experienced an 80% loss on our main floor and a 100% loss in the finished basement. The main floor was so saturated that the basement ceiling fell. It was heartbreaking to permanently lose sentimentally priceless items like photographs. And it took more than a year to put the things that could be replaced — like floors, ceiling, drywall, and furniture — back together. As 2017 came to a close, I was finally able to launch Everyday Wanderer. And with 2019 drawing to a close, the travel blog is still going strong!

Have you ever seen the 1990 blockbuster, Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts? If so, you might recall her character, Vivian, saying this about her chosen profession, “I say who, I say when.” And, although I am on a much different career path from Vivian, her statement is a mantra I’ve applied to my travel blog. I will only share destinations, experiences, activities, and restaurants that I believe in. If a brand approaches me to pimp their products and I don’t believe in what they offer, I will decline. When you visit Everyday Wanderer, you get the honest perspective of a real person with firsthand experience. I don’t feel that my travel blog adds stress to my travel experiences. But, it does mean that I take a ton of photos and carry around a notebook into which I am constantly scribbling notes.

Wow! Thanks Sage for sharing your wisdom. When I was traveling with my kids, we definitely took the same approach to planning our trips. My girls are still, to this day, some of the best travel planners I’ve ever met.

Check out our other traveler interviews and inspiring quotes on Weekend Travel Inspiration.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

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Rendezvous with Sage.