We begin our 2013 blog year with Meet the Travel Bloggers. This week’s interview is with travel blogger Zoë Dawes of The Quirky Traveller. Love starting the year on a quirkilicious foot!
When, why and how did you start your travel blog?
My very first blog post was on August 19, 2009 and I wrote “I’ll be sharing some of my adventures, suggestions for quirky places to stay and visit, plus recommendations for great resources that will make your own journeys even more enjoyable.” It was purely for the pleasure of writing and love of travel. I’d been blogging for a few years as a leadership coach, but hardly anyone ever read the posts – it was pre the Social Media boom. The coaching business was affected by the recession so I decided to put more energy into this grand passion.
How did you get that name and what does the name mean to you?
I wanted the word ‘Traveller’ as it has a geographic and ‘life’ meaning to it. ‘Quirky’ was a real fluke – I wanted @HappyTraveller on Twitter but it had gone, a friend said I was rather quirky so I chose that. Thank goodness I did! QUIRKY TRAVEL is travelling with your eyes wide open, using all your senses to experience your surroundings in an inspiring, unique way. It means taking your time to explore what’s around you, enjoying the moment and appreciating things fully. It’s about the culture, heritage, customs, sights, sounds and feelings that a place evokes …
What is the thing that keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?
Good question. I absolutely love sharing the sheer joy of travel, trying to take the reader on their own journey to a particular place. I try not to put too many restrictions on myself so that blogging is a pleasure not a chore. I really do believe you have to enjoy writing to be a good blogger – at least if you are writing more creatively. I recently found I’d lost my mojo a bit as I was writing a lot of articles ‘to order’ ie as a result of some wonderful blog trips I’ve been on and sometimes my creativity was slightly cramped. So I’ve just started a little project – going to write about objects connected to my travels – just for the sheer pleasure of writing. You can read about it here.
What excites you about travel?
Variety is important to me. I love going somewhere new, discovering things I didn’t know about, seeing a monument I’ve only previously read about, meeting people from different cultures and trying new food. I also enjoy travel for relaxation and to simply escape from the day-to-day routine into another world.
What kind of traveler are you?
I used to do quite a bit of backpacking when I lived abroad, not bothered about where I stayed and fairly unfussy about everything except the place and company I was with. Now I like a bit of luxury and am always on the lookout for a bargain. I hate faceless bit hotels and much prefer to stay in smaller, personal places. I don’t travel ‘light’ either – seem to take loads of stuff “just in case”. May be an age thing!
When not on a group trip, are you a solo traveler or do you prefer company?
I sometimes travel alone if there’s on-one free to go with me. I’m happy to do so, though I much prefer the company of a ‘significant other’, friend or family. I might go off on my own to visit a museum or just for a walk if my companion doesn’t want to come along. If I am travelling solo, the time I miss company the most is in the evening – hate having a meal by myself and love sharing the day’s events.
On the road, do you seek out some experiences more than others?
I’m always drawn to the history and culture of the places I visit so love wandering round the older parts of a town or village, talking to locals, having a glass of wine at the bar and trying out local food. Although I love company, I also like to get away from it all so am very happy to wander off the beaten track.
Is being in your comfort zone important to you?
My comfort zone is probably more important now than it used to be, but I suppose I still do some things that many others would consider quite adventurous. The trade-off is the excitement it brings, the new perspective, the shaking up of thinking. Having a teenage son I’m often dragged in to adventure activities which I would probably not normally try – and invariably love. The scariest trip I set off on was on my own into the Borneo rainforest to visit a cave I’d read about – but then I met 2 lovely guys along the way and had a great time. Driving a team of husky dogs in Lapland was quite nerve-wracking and going up in glider was the thing I was most scared of and turned out to be the most thrilling. Oh, and eating some of the food in China was definitely out of my culinary comfort zone!
What’s your most quirkilicious travel experience or trip ever?
It’s difficult to pick one as some many have been really memorable so I will choose one from a fairly recent trip. I was in Australia with a group of journalists and bloggers to find out about indigenous food and culture. We were staying near Uluru (Ayers Rock) and were invited to a concert in an Aboriginal village in the shadow of the rock. It turned out this was a really important event by a famous Aussie singer called Shane Howard and he’d brought together famous Aboriginal musicians and others to perform at Uluru. It was the first time this had every happened and was incredibly moving. To watch the sun go down behind one of the most iconic natural wonders of the world whilst listening to such powerful and emotional music is something that will stay with me forever …
What’s your favorite place on earth?
The Lake District, Cumbria in North West England. It has a perfect combination of landscape and cultural treasures. There are so many lakes, mountains, rivers, villages and places of historic interest to suit all tastes, all in a relatively small area and on a manageable scale. It’s also a very spiritual place and great for recharging the batteries.
Where are you off to next?
I’ve not got any plans for overseas travel for the next couple of months as I want to concentrate on a book I keep threatening to write and running more blogging and Social Media workshops. I’m going to Scotland in January and then to Portugal in March to speak at a Travel Blogging rally. However, in the blogging world you never know what tasty trip might be around the corner.
What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list and why?
Machu Picchu, Peru. I’ve wanted to visit it since I was a little girl, reading about it in a book on mythology. It just looks so incredibly beautiful – plus I have never been to South America. My other dream would be some sort of road trip across America, visiting places of historic and cultural interest – like Santa Fe.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you feel you’d like to share about your travels or your blog?
This quote by Proust sums up my philosophy “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Thank you so much for inviting me to share my passion for travel with your readers.
Zoë Dawes writes about her travels in the UK and around the world, searching out places, people and experiences that reflect her love of fascinating culture, food, art and history. Named Britain’s Best Travel Blogger 2011, her popular blog site The Quirky Traveller takes readers on an exploration of our beautiful planet from a personal, quirky viewpoint. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.