Whether in person, on social media, or email, I’m often asked the same series of questions. Thus, I’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions, at least the ones I’m willing to answer. Some things are just nobody’s business.
When did your travels begin?
I traveled throughout the USA since I was a little girl, mostly to Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I left the country for the first time—Acapulco, Mexico with my girlfriends for spring break. This was before passports were needed to travel between the United States and Mexico. I still can’t believe my parents let me go without an adult. My interest in foreign countries burgeoned while studying Spanish in Costa Rica during my senior year at Texas Tech University. In 1997, Costa Rica wasn’t the tourist destination it is today. I’ve returned since, and I’m a bit sad at the commercialism that’s invaded the country.
How did you start your travel blog?
Working as a technical writer for a Fortune 200 company, I was producing software controls manuals for offshore oil rigs. Between interviewing engineers, sitting in a cube, and the monotony of writing the manuals, I was bored out of my mind. I needed something creative in my life, so I decided to combine my love of writing with travel. I studied blogs and established a social media presence over the course of three months before I actually published my first post. That’s the long answer. The short answer is that I was bored.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a travel blog?
Do not start a blog to make money or travel for free. It reads as disingenuous and will show on your site. Create a blog for your own pleasure and assume that nobody but your family and friends will read it. Becoming a well-established blogger isn’t as easy as pressing ‘publish’ on WordPress. It’s a full-time job without the pay and no guaranteed results.
What's your biggest pet peeve about blogging?
I actually have two things that drive me nutso. The first is being labeled as a blogger alone. I am a writer who has a blog, but also a journalist who writes for media outlets. Not all people who have blogs are writers, just like not everyone who takes pictures are photographers.
The second are the daily emails and messages requesting my services without compensation. My brand and set of skills are my livelihood. In no other profession have I experienced such disregard for decorum.
Do you travel when you're not working?
Actually, I don’t travel much when I’m not working, except to visit family and friends in Texas. Now that I live in Paris, I am very happy just to be home. I did take a road trip around Italy in July of 2015 that was incredible! It was strictly for fun. I didn’t take my DSLR, only posted to social media when I felt like it, and there were no articles to write once I got home. It’s been several years since I traveled for my pleasure alone.
What's your favorite place in the world?
Paris…there is no other place that compares Here are 150 reasons why I love Paris.
I first visited Paris in December 2012. Honestly, it seemed cliché. Surely Paris couldn’t live up to the hype, but it did. After my ten-day trip, I was smitten. As strange as it sounds, Paris felt like home. I couldn’t understand a damn word anyone was saying, but the feeling I had was one of comfort. It’s difficult to describe. Check here for my perfect day in Paris.
How did you get your French visa?
Ahhhh…if I had a euro for every time I was asked this question, I could have dinner with wine at an Alain Ducasse restaurant. In autumn 2014, I decided to get an apartment in Paris just to see if I truly wanted to live in the city. By week two, I was researching how I could legally live in France. I learned of the Compétences & Talents visa, which is sort of obscure, but was perfect for me.
When I returned to Texas in December, I made an appointment with the French Consulate in Houston and began compiling my massive mound of paperwork. After an hour-long interview, with a lot of spirited discussion, I was awarded the Compétences & Talents visa. It wasn’t until I began socializing with other Paris expats that I realized how rare this three-year, renewable working visa is. Apparently, I got the golden ticket.
How did you have the courage to move to a foreign country?
I don’t particularly think I am courageous for voluntarily moving to another country. It’s just what I wanted to do, so I did it. I can see how this prospect could be terrifying for others, but for me, I figure the worst that can happen is that I move back to Texas.
Do you speak French?
No, I don’t speak French! I want and need to learn if I’m truly going to be part of the country. There are two types of French people: those that say it’s very difficult and not to bother because ‘so many people speak English’ and those that say I ‘must learn French’ if I’m going to live in Paris. I can read pretty well and understand OK, but speaking is a disaster. I still try to Anglicize most words.
How long do you plan on living in France?
Until I don’t like it or can’t afford it.
What do you miss most when not in Texas?
Other than my friends, family, and dog, I really miss Tex-Mex and hot sauce. The first meal I eat when returning to Texas are tacos. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I can’t get enough of them. I always have Tabasco in my purse and bring back a couple of jars of hot sauce with me back to France. The varieties in Europe taste like ketchup with chopped up onions mixed in. YUCK!
What made you go public with your preventive double mastectomy and reconstruction?
My very first post entitled, ‘Why I Travel: A Dedication,’ describes how my mother, who died of ovarian cancer, tragically showed me that tomorrow is not guaranteed. In that post, I also reveal that I have the BRCA2 gene, which significantly increases my risk for breast and ovarian cancers. I feel it’s important to tell my story because I want other women and men to be aware of the gene, as well as the fact that preventative measures can be taken to help reduce the risk of these cancers. Had my mother chosen to take the BRCA blood test then she might be alive today. Read more here
Do you ever get lonely traveling by yourself?
I love traveling by myself. Meeting locals is important to me, and it’s much easier when traveling alone. As a result, I’ve gotten great travel tips and now have friends all over the world. If you’re with other people then you’re normally just interacting with them. And in reality, I’m never alone too much when I’m on a work trip. Between guides and PR people, I have plenty of company. A dinner alone is often a welcomed treat.
Are you wealthy?
Yes, I am rich in family, friends, love, health, and unbelievable memories. Wealthy is a relative term and certainly my bank account balance is nobody’s business.
What's the most beautiful place you've ever seen?
There is no place I’ve ever been that compares with the beauty of New Zealand. Sure, Southeast Asia has gorgeous beaches and Switzerland has majestic mountains. Bordeaux is a wonderful wine country and Arizona’s dessert is awfully pretty. However, I can’t name a place that takes the most beautiful landscapes from around the world and puts them into one country. It’s truly a microcosm. I literally was moved to tears on numerous occasions during my three-week trip to New Zealand. This place must be seen to be believed.
What place will you never return?
I spent a month in China. That was plenty for my lifetime.
What's your favorite hotel in the world?
That is a terribly difficult question to answer. I’ve stayed in hundreds of stunning hotels. Let’s say that my favorite resort is the Shangri-La Boracay. The private airport lounge and speedboat to the resort sets the tone for what’s to come, which is complete luxury in a picturesque setting. Also, Four Seasons Resort Lanai is my favorite resort in the USA. It’s been recently remodeled, with such attention to detail. Oh, and my latest find is the Royal Palm in Mauritius, which is just incredible. The suites, restaurants, beach, and amenities are second-to-none, but it’s the attention to detail by the staff that makes this place tucked away in the Indian Ocean worth the trip.
Two of my favorite mountain hotels are the Carlton in St. Moritz, Switzerland and Les Chalets de Philippe in Chamonix, France. Philippe moved several mountain chalets and filled them with centuries old antiques to create his unique Alps village in the shadows of Mont Blanc. Surprisingly, my favorite city hotels are not in Paris. Besides, that would be like choosing a favorite child—not possible. Instead, I pick the Kempinski in Vienna, Four Seasons Buenos Aires, and Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest.
What's the most overrated travel destination?
I will probably lose all credibility, but I find Venice, Italy overrated. The first impression is remarkable and like a dream. I’m so happy that I saw the city with my own eyes. However, I spent seven nights in Venice and felt the experience was complete after day two. I think my issue was not so much with Venice itself, but rather the massive tour groups and the commercialism that caters to them that soured me on the city. I had a wonderful private guide who knows Venice like the back of his hand, but still, Venice just didn’t float my boat.
What are your best travel moments?
This might be the most difficult question I get, because I’ve had so many unbelievable travel experiences. The ones that were unexpected, like dinner with Lionel Richie in Paris and my evening in Cognac at Chateau de Chanteloup, the former home of the Martell family, leave me shaking my head. Memories of nature, such as my first glimpse of the snow-covered Swiss Alps in Verbier, the azure waters and white sands of Boracay; and New Zealand’s Lake Tekapo and Milford Sound, are burned into my mind. But traveling to the UK with my mom is the most special. Not only was the time together precious, but this was the first time either of us had been to Europe. This trip laid the groundwork for my love affair with the continent.