Meet the Travel Bloggers: Traveling with Sweeney

This week Santa Fe Travelers “talks” to travel blogger Catherine Sweeney of Traveling with Sweeney and the new Boomer Women Travelers.

When, why and how did you start your travel blog, Traveling with Sweeney?
If only travel blogging had been an option at the beginning of my adult life! I’ve had an interest in travel since I was very young and I’ve always loved being able to talk about my experiences to others who also appreciate that we’ve got a big, wonderful world full of interesting cultures and sights to see. So I was really happy to discover the current high interest in travel in the blogosphere. Relying on much of my diverse background in sales, marketing, technology, training and entrepreneurship, I jumped into blogging to figure it out and see where it would lead.

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Sweeney at the Grand Canyon with her and dad. She’s the hat, photo/courtesy Traveling with Sweeney.

On Father’s Day 2010 I had an inclination to see what was involved to create a blog so I wrote a very short post with a few photos about traveling with my dad. My sister read it and left a comment, and I was on my way! I proceeded very slowly for the first several months. My posts were all very personal and I didn’t promote them on social media. It was in the fall of that year, after I ended another travel-related website that I was publishing, that I decided to focus my energies on Traveling with Sweeney and got serious with social media and networking.

How did you get that name and what does the name mean to you?
I wanted to keep it simple and to reflect my goals for the blog — to share my travel experiences with an audience that would want to travel with me vicariously. Sweeney is my maiden name. I strongly identify with it and think that it is a well-known name that resonates with a lot of people – a name that people remember.

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With fellow travel blogger at St. Gregory’s Castle in Girona, Spain, courtesy Traveling with Sweeney

What is the thing that keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?|
I love meeting so many people in cyberspace and in person who, like me, love to travel and share their experiences. Many of them have become friends and are very supportive. I like telling stories with photos from my travels and sharing my enthusiasm. I think that the blog has helped me to expand my tendency to get the most out of travel by challenging me to find things that are the most fun, interesting and unique. Blogging and the social media aspects of the blog require a significant time investment. When someone tells me how much they like the blog or a particular post, especially if they say that it inspired them in some way, I’m totally jazzed.

Your husband sometimes writes for you. Do you mostly travel together? What is his role with the blog?
A lot of my travel has been in conjunction with his business travel over the past few years. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to spend much time seeing the sights, so I was often out exploring independently. But sometimes we’d extend a visit so that he could get more of a feel for the place. Recently, he’s had some flexibility so that we can enjoy more travel together and he can be a more visible presence on Traveling with Sweeney as “Mr. TWS”. After all, he is the person who is literally traveling with Sweeney. By the way, he’s been doing a great job on the posts and it’s been a big help to me!

He calls you Sweeney when he writes for the blog. Is that just for writing or is that what he calls you?
Great question and he will really like this one. Yes, he does call me Sweeney (although with personal things, he spells it “Sweenie”). He’s actually got quite a few nicknames for me that have stuck through the years. I’ve also been called Sweeney by many people in my life including classmates. As I mentioned, I identify strongly with my family name and I’m completely comfortable being called by my last name. Catherine, Cathy, Sweeney — whatever someone likes to call me is fine.

How often do you travel and for how long?
Whenever I get the chance, I go somewhere. Most of my travel doesn’t involve a lot of advance planning. I see a window of opportunity and I take it. I’m most happy coming home from a trip when I know that another trip is coming up. The length of time varies depending on the situation. We’ve done some quickly planned, very short trips. For example, we flew from San Francisco to London where we spent two days that sandwiched a two-day stay in Paris (via the Eurostar), but that was on the extreme end. We really see a lot during these short stays. We go till we drop and the days often include lots of walking.

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Happy to be a Paris’ at a Latin Quarter wine bar, photo/courtesy Traveling with Sweeney

I haven’t been able to do any really slow-paced travel with the exception of a three-month stay in New York City that was an awesome experience living like a local in Midtown. We talk about being able to take to the road for long periods of time or even move to facilitate traveling in a region like Europe. In the meantime, I’m content maximizing whatever time I’ve got for visiting a destination.

What excites you about travel?
The anticipation of seeing and doing new things – being in worlds different from mine with different languages and customs, exploring places that I dreamt of as a kid, walking in the footsteps of history. I also love just being on the move; for me the journey itself (not just the destination), being on the plane or train or behind the wheel, is part of the fun. My parents were people who loved to be in motion, getting behind the wheel of the car and heading off on a long-distance road trip or a Sunday drive. They were my travel inspiration even though they never got on a commercial airliner; they traveled everywhere and as often as they could throughout North America (including places they revisited often).

What kind of traveler are you?
I don’t think I have one particular style. It’s a mix, although I haven’t backpacked I might still do that someday — you never know. I like to experience luxury when I can and have been fortunate to have done quite a bit of that, but usually I’m looking for the best I can afford. I don’t like to spend the time to bargain hunt, but appreciate deals when I find them. I can enjoy a five-star hotel in a world-class city or resort as well as roadside motels on cross country road trips. I haven’t camped in a while – but I want to do that again.

You’re starting a new blog, Boomer Women Travelers. Do you travel differently as a boomer than you did before?
One of the main objectives of the new blog, which just launched mid-February, is to celebrate boomer women travelers and to help eliminate stereotypes about women of my generation, including how they want to travel. I travel pretty much the same way I always have — I just do more of it since I’m self-employed and in a travel blogging business. My interests keep growing and I keep adding more places to the must-visit list as I learn about them. I think my travel patterns will probably stay the same as they are now – travel with Mr. TWS, some solo travel, and perhaps some women-only travel – wherever interesting opportunities arise.

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Enjoying a bratwurst sandwich at a Christmas market in Munich photo/courtesy Traveling with Sweeney

On the road, do you seek out some experiences more than others?
In cities, my first priority is to walk, walk, walk – sometimes with a specific plan, sometimes not. It’s a great way to get the feel of a location whether I’ve been there before or not. I’ve managed to get lost more than once because I like roaming which presents a host of challenges and opportunities (such as meeting nice people who help me find my way) as well as a few challenges.

Many trips are still first visits with limited time, so I like to prioritize activities that are unique or special about a certain location. Some of these are traditional sites I have associated with a place since youth – like the Eiffel Tower on our first visit to Paris. I also like to experience the under-the-radar places.

I like to find interesting art (including the main museums/galleries) but smaller venues and street art are big favorites of mine. I’m often attracted more by the unusual and unique aspects than the big attractions. The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto and the Museum of Sex in New York are a couple of examples. Although I couldn’t say that my tastes are exotic or that I make a point to immerse myself in local cuisine, I do like trying new things. But a big thing for me is just enjoying a meal or coffee in a local restaurant or café, absorbing some of the ambiance of a special place.

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For research purposes only, the Museum of Sex in New York City, photo/courtesy Traveling with Sweeney

Is being in your comfort zone important to you?
I wouldn’t call myself an adventurer, but do step out of my comfort zone from time to time – most recently with zip-lining in Mazatlan. As usual, I was glad that I did.

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Jumping out of the comfort zone by zip-lining in Mazatlan, Mexico, photo/courtesy Traveling with Sweeney

Although I have a pretty sizeable collection of maps, I don’t always have one when I step out to explore on foot. That can get me in a little trouble sometimes, but I learn a lot along the way. Although I don’t usually go looking for uncomfortable situations, I’ve found myself in them from time to time and it can be thrilling and a little scary. I was in Madrid during the anti-austerity protests in September. Although earlier in the day I had deliberately gone to the place where the protests were taking place, I didn’t expect to be in the middle of police in full riot gear chasing protestors at Madrid’s Atocha railway station later that night.

What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever?
I was afraid you were going to ask this question! They’re all memorable for one reason or another and many have been fantastic – Europe during the holidays, first tropical vacations, all of the firsts for that matter. But I’ll narrow it down to an experience that I already mentioned since it’s on my mind. It was the three month stay in New York City in 2006.

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Bundled up in Central Park after a record-breaking snowfall, photo/courtesy Traveling with Sweeney

It was incredible to actually live like a local in a city that I already loved to visit. The apartment in Midtown put us in a great location for experiencing the excitement of the city every day and getting around to many different neighborhoods and venues. While we were there, a heavy snowstorm dumped a record amount of snow on Central Park. I saw Broadway plays, visited the museums and sites — basically did the same things as both locals and tourists, then I went back to our Midtown apartment at the end of the day. Of course, being in New York you see it all — the quirky, the outrageous, & the awe-inspiring.

What’s your favorite place on earth? That would be the wine country of Northern California, particularly Sonoma County. Of course, it’s gorgeous and I do enjoy wine, but it’s been very special to me on a personal level since I first visited at the age of nine. My brother was stationed in the army there and we came from Chicago to visit him in Santa Rosa (Sonoma County) during many summers. These were among the most wonderful times of my childhood. The weather, the ocean, the beautiful vineyards, the aromas, feeling like a “California girl” – it was all special. Also, my parents later moved to Santa Rosa and spent the last 30 years of their lives there and I got to enjoy a lot of time with them after I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Not insignificant is the fact that Mr. TWS and I were married on my parents’ deck surrounded by vineyards.

Where are you off to next?
I was in Berlin for ITB, the world’s largest travel trade show, this past week and we went to Budapest, a place we’d never been. We fly home tomorrow morning. Next, we’ll be heading to Maui for 10 days in April!

What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list?
I would like to spend 3 months living like a local in as many different cities, regions, countries in the world as possible can. That list of places is quite long, so I’d better get started!

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you feel you’d like to share about your travels or your blog?
On Traveling with Sweeney, I like to tell stories using a lot of photos that I think capture the essence of a location at a particular time and hope they inspire others to go somewhere new or look at a place in a different way. I’d like to continue in that vein, but evolve it even more as a team with my husband. Now with Boomer Women Travelers, it’s wonderful to have many women telling their stories and sharing ideas showing what a powerful, influential generation of women we are – traveling the world in our individual and diverse manners and styles. I hope that it will have a positive impact on the representation of boomer women in the media.

Catherine’s passion for travel goes back to her childhood in the Chicago area when her family crisscrossed North America on road trips. Today, as a boomer woman traveler she still approaches new destinations as well as familiar favorites with eager anticipation and youthful enthusiasm. Catherine is founder and editor of Traveling With Sweeney where she and Mr. TWS aim to entertain and inspire and Boomer Women Travelers, just launched mid-February 2013 for women of the baby boomer generation who love to travel. You can follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook and see her fabulous photos on Pinterest.

 

 

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9 Responses to “Meet the Travel Bloggers: Traveling with Sweeney”

  1. Leigh
    March 13, 2019 at 4:47 pm #

    I always enjoy reading about Cathy and am looking forward to meeting her again in person at the Toronto #TBEX.

  2. Just One Boomer (Suzanne)
    March 14, 2019 at 3:16 am #

    It sounds like I have some things in common with Carherine. My father loved to travel and in addition to roadtrips in the U.S., we lived in Mexico for a year and in England. We even did a 7 week camping trip in France, Italy and Spain. I’ve traveled every chance I get since then, starting with a college semester in Bogota, Colombia. Then, somehow I morphed into a lawyer married to a doctor with two boys. Fortunately, my husband is in academic medicine which has provided some wonderful “trailing spouse” travel opportunities. I’ve only been trying to be a serious blogger for about a year. It’s a lot more fun than being a lawyer. One difference from Catherine is that I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to cajole a guest post out of my husband although he has been a stalwart commenter. :-). Write on, Ladies!
    Just One Boomer (Suzanne) recently posted..Philadelphia Phriday* – Rittenhouse SquareMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      March 15, 2019 at 7:39 am #

      My father was a big fan of road trips. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on Sunday road trips inspired by memories of Sundays spent on the road with him.

  3. Anita
    March 17, 2019 at 9:26 am #

    Great interview,I enjoyed “traveling with Sweeney” through her photos, as well as answers to your questions. And I’m delighted, through Cathy, to discover your blog, too!
    Anita recently posted..Beat the chill with Baeckeoffe, an Alsatian classicMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      March 17, 2019 at 10:43 am #

      Glad you enjoyed the interview and discovered Traveling with Sweeney!

  4. Linda
    March 17, 2019 at 12:52 pm #

    Loved this. I’ve been following Cathy for a while now, and love her blog, and as a first-generation boomer I’m seriously excited by the new blog. Even though I’ve been reading her for quite a while, it was nice to learn new things about her through this interview!

  5. Cathy Sweeney
    March 18, 2019 at 7:07 pm #

    Billie, thanks so much for the interview. It’s really nice to read the comments above as well. Leigh, Suzanne, Anita & Linda — glad you enjoyed learning a few new things about me. It’s great to know you all in the travel blogosphere. As Suzanne said above — “Write On, Ladies”!

    • Billie Frank
      March 19, 2019 at 8:06 am #

      We were thrilled to have you. I love Meet the Travel Bloggers as it allows me to get to know travel bloggers better and share it with out readers.

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