Welcome to our latest interview with intrepid travelers on our Weekend Travel Inpiration series! Today we’d like to introduce you to Anabel of Anabel’s Travel Blog. Anabel and I first started talking while we were in the midst of the A to Z Challenge held each April. Anabel has completed it a few times, and me…well, I don’t have the blogging stamina. I’ve just done it once. I did make some great friends, so if you are up for the challenge…go for it.
In July, Jim and I were in Scotland, and our first stop was Glasgow which we’d never really visited before. We were so happy to meet up with Anabel and John. Of course it was raining; how could it be otherwise? So right off we went for a pint, then off to enjoy some true Scottish fare. I had an appetizer of haggis and then black pudding for a main. We talked and ate, ate and laughed, a perfect way to start our Scottish adventure. I couldn’t believe all the exotic and out of the way places Anabel and John have been. I hope you check out her blog and read about all of their adventures! You can start right here; let’s get on with it!
It was great meeting up with you and John in Glasgow, your home town city. Would you give us a little background on you two and your home? It was great for us too! That’s the first time I’ve met someone in person with whom I originally connected via blogging. We loved showing you and Jim a bit of Glasgow – we’re both very proud of it and think it is a wonderful place: we’ve lived here since 1986, which speaks for itself. We’ve been travelling together even longer – since 1980 – and I’ve been blogging our journeys since 2011. Although I write the posts, the photos are usually by John (though I’m a wonderful director!)
Our discussion was all travel, travel, travel – three of my favorite things! Can you tell me what inspires you to travel? What types of places call to you? How often do you get to travel? I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to travel. It’s always been our way of recharging the batteries, and we usually manage one major vacation and a couple of shorter ones each year. For some reason, we seem to choose the same type of travel a few years in a row – for example, from 2007 until last year we always went on an American or Canadian road-trip. Before that, we had several trips to SE Asia.
You told me you had an ambitious travel goal of visiting every U.S. state. I’m not sure there are too many Americans with that goal. Why the U.S.? How much traveling have you done there, and what is your favorite state or city? Why? What I love about North America is the varied landscape – you can go back every year and have a totally different experience. My current tally is 21 U.S. states, and so far my favourite area is Southern Utah. You drive from one National or State Park straight into another, each one more amazing than the last. I like it even better than the Grand Canyon. I still have some way to go to visit all the States and I’m not sure I’ll make it – there are some on my “must-do” list, but others I look at and wonder if there would be enough to occupy us. Having said that, no-one seems to think of West Virginia as a major tourist destination (in fact one young man said to me with incredulity “You came all the way from Scotland to here? When I get out of West Virginia I’m never coming back”), but we found it beautiful and enjoyed hiking its State Parks.
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? I am way past roughing it! I’m not sure if that makes me a luxury traveller – I’m not a fan of 5* hotels and would rather stay in small, family-run hotels or B&Bs. We’ve met some lovely people that way. We haven’t used a travel agent for maybe a decade – planning is part of the fun. We usually decide where we are going early in the year, then I spend time researching online, working out a route and booking accommodation. By about March I can forget all about it, then it comes as a lovely surprise in July when I get the itinerary out again. Once we get to our destination we try to pack in as much as we can. We may never travel that road again so we need to do it now!
I know you’ve taken some group tours. Can you give us an idea of your thoughts about getting the most out of group tours and maybe anything that stands out? Group tours are another thing we have grown out of, like travel agents. It’s so much easier to do it yourself these days and you don’t have to put up with poor time-keeping and people who moan. I’ll never forget the man who came out of the Terracotta Warriors in Xian and said “Well, that was underwhelming.” Really!? Travel was definitely wasted on him.
What types of things are you interested in while you are traveling? Is it adventure/adrenalin or history/culture? Do you want to relax on the beach or hike around ruins? I have been on precisely one beach holiday in my entire life and I was so bored! It doesn’t agree with my pale, Scottish skin anyway – I’d be the person sitting in the shade with long sleeves and a big hat in case I burned. What I like is a combination of history/culture and walking, so a few days in a city followed by time in a great hiking area is perfect. For example, we visited Washington DC and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia on the same trip.
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. I don’t think we will ever top going to the Galapagos Islands. That’s a once in a lifetime experience – growth in tourism is one of the contributory factors to Galapagos being placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger, so we shan’t go back. Somewhere we are drawn back to time and again is Amsterdam. We went there on our honeymoon and have returned many times since. It’s such a beautiful city – we can spend hours just wandering along the canals. As for disappointments, those are usually self-inflicted. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t enjoy the rainforest at Daintree (Queensland) to the full because I stupidly tripped over a rope barrier and broke two bones in my foot. I’m disappointed that I found climbing Mount Kinabalu in Borneo more difficult than it needed to be because I didn’t keep to the fitness regime I planned before we went. Someday, I will give myself another chance at Daintree but I’m never going to attempt a mountain that size again!
What is one funny, embarrassing, cute, or even frustrating anecdote from your travels? Our trip to Tibet ticked the boxes for funny, embarrassing and just plain frustrating. Who on earth has travel photographs dominated by earth movers and diggers? That would be us after our overland journey from Lhasa to Kathmandu where we got stuck between landslides on a road that consisted mainly of hairpin bends and mud. It’s the first piece of travel writing I ever did. When we finally got to Kathmandu, I wrote on whatever I could get my hands on – menus, the back of tickets, anything – to get the experience down on paper before I forgot it. It’s all there, waiting to be edited and added to the blog in all its gory details.
Other than travel blogging, what do you do to remember your travels? Do you buy souvenirs? I like shopping about as much as I like lazing on the beach! My travel blog is my souvenir. It’s a lovely bonus that other people read it and make comments, but I started it as my travel diary and that’s still its main purpose. My plan is to work backwards to 1999 (Galapagos), but that’s not going very well: I’ve only reached 2008. I want to have something to reminisce over when I’m 90 – I hope it doesn’t take me till then to write it.
What is your next destination and what are you looking forward to doing there? I don’t know! Normally, we take a break in September but John’s work commitments this year have put it back to November. So far, I haven’t been abroad at all in 2015, which is very unusual. We’ve been making an effort to explore more of the UK, and had a wonderful time this summer in Orkney and Shetland, but maybe a visit to a European city is on the cards. Suggestions welcome!
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? One of my other travel-blogger friends recently told me about her parents-in-law who had never travelled much but took the plunge this year – and came to Scotland. They loved it. We have beautiful scenery, vibrant cities, centuries of heritage and friendly people – but our roads can be a challenge the further north you go (single track with passing places) so I wouldn’t advise driving the first time. Where not to start your travels? You can guess some destinations from my previous answers: Tibet and Kinabalu – oh, and try not to break any bones!