Meet the Travel Bloggers: Active Backpacker

This week’s interview is with travel blogger Tom Summerfield who travels and blogs with his girlfriend, Trudy, at Active Backbacker.

When, why and how did you start your travel blog?
We started the travel blog, Active Backpacker, in November last year. We had just finished backpacking Europe and my girlfriend Trudy and I had just begun our expat life in The Netherlands. We wanted to create something meaningful and useful so I decided to start up the blog and pour out some of the backpacking knowledge I’ve picked up over the years and see if people could get some use out of it. My girlfriend is the resident photographer and does most of the picture taking and photo editing.

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Tom and Trudy in Delft,photo/courtesy Active Backpacker

How did you get that name and what does the name mean to you?
We did some brainstorming for a good name for the blog, we went through all the classics with things like ‘nomad’ or ‘travel’ in them but nothing resonated with us. We wanted something that got straight to the core of what the site was all about. Then we thought of Active Backpacker. It was simple, clean and to the point. We liked it, and the blog all about our adventures was born.

What is the thing that keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?
Travel blogging can be a lot of hard work, but the rewards are more than worth it. We have a documented look at our own travels (like a public diary) that also helps and inspires other people to go backpacking around the world (specifically Europe at the moment, since I’ve been living there). It’s great to get emails from people saying how helpful and inspiring our content is to their travel aspirations.

You travel with your girlfriend, Trudy. How did you meet?
Trudy also worked at the same bank and that is where we met. We’re coming up on our five year anniversary and both hope to lead lives that are more fulfilling then slaving away at the bank until we’re 60!

You were in The Netherlands for over a year. Did you work there or just use it as a travel base?
We were in the Netherlands for over a year, living in Rotterdam. It was a great central location to help us explore Europe and actually LIVE in Europe. We worked full-time in The Netherlands, travelling wherever possible.

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Tom and Trudy in Paris, photo/courtesy Active Backpacker

How often did you travel while based there?
As much as we could! It’s always a balancing act but we’ve managed to get a fair bit of travel done, from regular trips to Paris to roaming Italy and hanging out in Brussels. Not as much as I would like of course, although isn’t that always the case?

You’re off for the next 5 months. What will your base be after that trip?
We’ve now officially left The Netherlands, we were in Ottawa for Christmas and New Year’s before we proceeding with our current trip which will be about 5 months. We’ll be flying across to Vancouver then visiting Seattle and Portland before whizzing across the sea to Bangkok. Then we will explore the wonders of Myanmar, attend a Dutch wedding in Thailand and island hop around the place. It should be very relaxing, fun and give us a chance to write, work and read!

After this trip we are heading back home to Australia, from there we will decide what to do next. Being travellers nothing is set in stone. We might earn some money back in Australia to keep things going and get some more savings and then head off backpacking again. As much as I would like it too, unfortunately the website doesn’t make enough money to fund all of our travels!

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Trudy and Tom in Monterosso, photo/courtesy Active Backpacker

What excites you about travel?
The same thing that I assume excites everyone about the wonderful thing that is travel - new people and places, quick friends and tasty food, delightful languages and happy grins. Exploring, discovering - you know, all the good stuff.

What kind of accommodations do you generally seek out as backpackers?
We mostly stay in hostels when we travel, but of course nothing is exclusive. We’ve done camping, Airbnb\Wimdu*, hotels (sometimes there are good deals to be found). We’ve even hosted some CouchSurfers in Rotterdam, so keen to do more of that when we’re on the road again.

On the road, do you seek out some experiences more than others?
We often seek out the market and vintage bargain shops, not to buy so much as to browse and take it all in. Of course I’ve always got my eye out for cheap eats as well. Socializing and making new friends in hostels is high on the list as are local cultural events.

Is being in your comfort zone important to you?
I think being inside your comfort zone is important to everyone in the sense that it’s the way we are built genetically. I’m a big fan and truly believe in the fact that you can simply increase the boundaries of what your “comfort zone” is. It doesn’t have to be something static that never changes. Sometimes popping that bubble of familiarity is the best thing you can do, and travel is the perfect solution for it too. I’m not big on heights, for example, but I’ve been hang gliding and sky diving, both of which were scary yet exhilarating experiences for me.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Meeting a neo-Nazi camping in Spain falls into the disastrous, yet memorable, experience. Partying on New Year’s Eve in Koh Phangan and drinking beers at Oktoberfest fall into the outrageous category. For awe inspiring we would need to go with roaming through the countryside of Sicily and ice-skating along the canals of The Netherlands.

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Tom and Trudy enjoying Oktoberfest beers, photo/ourtesy Active backpacker

What’s your favorite place on earth?
Ooh, that’s a tough question with no clear winner. We love the places and people in Laos (and Thailand is a close second), we also enjoy the magic of Paris and the canals lit up at night in Amsterdam.

What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list?
Antarctica and The Northern Lights (I generally prefer the warmth but those two or something I really want to do). I just think it would be amazing to see, glorious even. It’s something to do before we kick the bucket!

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you feel you’d like to share?
Only that everyone should travel. Stop throwing up barriers (they usually come in the form of excuses) and just head out there. It’s the best way to expand your horizons a little and see how insignificant so many of our so-called problems really are.

 Bio: Tom Summerfield completed his first tour of Europe and Asia when he was 18 straight after high school. He met Trudy Florence working at a bank. It turns out the corporate life wasn’t for them, so they quit and headed off to live in The Netherlands and backpack Europe. Tom’s been blogging at Active Backpacker for over a year. Trudy became a member of the team at the end of 2012. You can follow along with their adventures on Twitter and Facebook.

*Editor’s note: In case you don’t know what Airbub and Wimdu are, Tom explains:
Airbnb/Wimdu are websites that allow you to pay for a room or apartment that is owned by a local that lives in the area you’re going. It can mean a great deal compared to a hotel as you often get access to amenities like a kitchen and better prices too. The person gets some extra money and you get a room/space at a reasonable rate. We’ve used them to much success and can be great to mix in with hostel dorms to change things up on the road.


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