(Me on Koh Phi Phi Island in Thailand)
Welcome to our intrepid traveler interview series, A Rendezvous with Rovers! This month, we were able to catch up with Erika in between flights.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Erika Bisbocci. I’m originally from Eugene, Oregon, but I have lived and studied in Italy, Minnesota, Jordan, Tunisia and Namibia throughout my life. Now I live in Seattle, where I work for a major US airline.
As a flight attendant, how much time do you get to spend in the places you visit?
It all depends on the layover. Generally, domestic layovers are anywhere between nine and 30 hours and international layovers are somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. If flights to certain destinations aren’t scheduled daily, it is possible to have international layovers that last a few days or more. Being a flight attendant revolves around seniority, so the types of trips that I get awarded are generally much less desirable than the types of trips awarded to people who have 20 to 30 years in the industry. I’ve seen trips pop up with six day layovers in Ireland or eight day layovers in Hong Kong, but I’m way too junior to hold such trips on my schedule.
(Visiting the Red Square on a 24 Hour Moscow Layover)
What inspires you to travel? What types of places call to you? How often do you travel?
I suppose I became addicted to travel in my teens, during one of the summer trips to Europe that I took with my parents. Now, hardly a day goes by in which I do not think about the next place I would like to visit. Though the frequency of my travels over the last few years has depended heavily on my work schedule, I’ve tried to travel abroad at least once every few months. In between larger vacations, I enjoy taking smaller weekend trips around the Pacific Northwest. I am drawn to a wide variety of places–from mountains to deserts and from historical sites to the underwater world. In reality, there are very few places that I cannot imagine visiting.
(Jellyfish Lake, Palau)
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?
Though I often stay in nice hotels while traveling for work, I’ve always considered myself to be a backpacker at heart. I’d much prefer to spend my money on experiences rather than nice hotels or fancy restaurants. I like to make my own plans and keep a relatively open-ended itinerary.
What types of things are you interested in while you are traveling?
I love getting to know a bit about the culture and history of the places I visit. I love hiking and photographing and immersing myself fully in my surroundings.
Everyone always asks the impossible question of what is your favorite, but just tell us a couple of places that you just love or have surprised you.
There are so many destinations I could put on this list. The Canadian Rockies, Lake Malawi, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and the Southern Coast of Iceland are all places that either took my breath away or surprised me with their beauty.
(Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies)
Other than travel blogging, what do you do to remember your travels? Do you buy souvenirs?
I used to collect magnets of the places I visited, but that tradition died long ago. Now, my souvenirs generally come in the form of photographs.
What is one funny, embarrassing, cute, or even frustrating anecdote from your travels?
An anecdote that comes to mind is from a long time ago, when I was twelve years old and traveled to Mexico with my parents. It was the first trip I’d ever taken outside of Europe and I was still a bit too shy to practice the Spanish I’d learned in school. While we were in the town of Coba to visit the famous Maya ruins, my mom tried to coerce me into a Spanish conversation with a shopkeeper’s daughter who was about my age. I was too embarrassed to open my mouth, which caused my dad to proclaim “es embarazada!” Both my parents speak Italian, which is quite similar to Spanish. And since the word “imbarazzata” means embarrassed in Italian, it was quite easy to see why my dad might assume “embarazada” to be the word’s Spanish equivalent. But it is important to note that, while Italian and Spanish share similarities, some words that sound like cognates can mean drastically different things. You see, when my dad proclaimed to a group of people that I was “embarazada,” what he really told them unknowingly is that I was pregnant. My twelve year old self was absolutely mortified.
(Village in the Mountains of Lesotho)
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?
When deciding where to go, first time travelers should consider their interests and comfort levels. Do they prefer history or nature? Are they used to roughing it, or do they require fine dining and fluffy pillows? Are they set on following a particular routine, or are they willing to see where the adventure takes them? For some people, an overland backpacking expedition across Africa might be too difficult a place to start, whereas others might delve into the experience head-first and enjoy the ride. I think Europe is generally a good launching pad due to the fact that the cities are generally orderly, modern and easy to get around. Visiting places like Iceland, Italy or the UK can allow first-time travelers to get their feet wet with planning and navigating, while offering a plethora of natural and historical attractions.
Thanks to Erika for rendezousing with us this month! I’m sure you can see from her words and photos that she has plenty of fantastic stories to share, and so please visit her on social media and find out what she’s up to.