Q.Do you travel everywhere alone?
My husband joins me for approximately 30-40% of my trips. As much as I love him, my favourite way to travel is actually alone (the reasons are described in detail here). I may have taken day trips with friends here and there in the past, but I have never travelled long-term with a friend (other than my husband, who is indeed my best friend). When required by the national legislation (like in North Korea, Bhutan or Turkmenistan) or when it just makes the trip much easier (like, say, overlanding in Namibia), I may occasionally book an organised tour – but I am definitely not a big fan and, even on an organised tour, prefer not to have companions. It feels that great to have a destination all to myself!
Q.What are your favourite places to visit?
This is a question many travellers hate, but I find it fair. At different points in time, different countries and territories do become my favourites, and I love recommending them to others. Until recently, I hailed Chile as one of my favourite places to visit – thanks, perhaps, to a perfect combination of its stunning nature, extremely polite people and a great diversity of terrains in a single country. Despite being pricier than its neighbours, Chile is also relatively inexpensive to visit in the grand scheme of things.
I would also put Afghanistan, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Oman, Georgia, Myanmar and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on my current favourites’ list, while Norway and India used to be among my favourites for a very long time in the past and haven’t been forgotten. Oh, and I am obsessed with the Greek Islands – I have visited over 50 in total and speak Greek fluently – and try to add a few islands to my collection every year.
Q.Where would you like to visit in the future?
I have been methodically working through my list of coveted travel destinations for almost a decade. Thankfully, the world is a vast place and I am yet to see some of the places that truly fascinate me. The places I currently most want to visit are Bangladesh (where I have already made plans to visit in winter 2019), Mauritania (where I might be headed to at some point in 2020), the Galapagos in Ecuador (which are looking likely to happen towards the end of 2020), West Africa including Senegal and Ghana (possibly at some point during 2020), Mongolia (no definite plans yet) and the South Pacific (I keep postponing the trip but it will sure happen one day).
Then there are of course the unexplored bits of countries I have already visited. I would love to see the Kamchatka peninsula and the Caucasus region in Russia. It would be great to take a road trip across the entirety of Canada. I am dying to visit Tibet and compare the experience to my short jaunt in Bhutan in 2015. I would absolutely love to see the very north of Japan, especially Sapporo. And the Azores islands of Portugal continue to fascinate me endlessly.
And then there are always the Greek islands. I visited many of them during my 8-month career break in Greece in 2008, and continue to return to Greece yearly to this day (take a look at my Greece series of posts here). I generally try to visit at least two new Greek islands every year and have managed to take my tally to over 50. Yes – Greece has a lot of islands! Currently I am most interested in tiny islands that are difficult to reach and would most like to visit Agathonisi (which is close to Samos yet typically ignored by masses) and Alonissos.
Q.How many holidays do you take in a typical year?
It depends what you call a holiday! An average year would probably see me take 5-6 trips of at least one week and more than a 3-hour flight out of London. In addition to that, I also spend countless weekends away. Every year between 2015 and 2018, I spent around 15-20 weekends away (not including weekends that were part of longer trips). Read here about how I plan my holidays to maximise my free time with a full-time job.
That sounds like a lot, and many people comment on how difficult it is to catch me in London. This is however somewhat exaggerated as I do tend to spend about two thirds of total time in London. I work full-time here, remember?
Q.Do you plan your holidays a long time in advance?
I do, and I am a bit of an extreme case! I know my holiday allowance and the UK public holidays by heart and start planning work absences literally years in advance (read more about my holiday addiction here). I even have a spreadsheet with calendars for years ahead and block out room for holidays as early as I can. This is of course not set in stone: I have often shuffled things around in the past, depending on the political situation in a given country or region, weather seasonality or simply evolving personal preferences (or, let’s be honest, general randomness: read here about the absolutely non-scientific way I ended up going to Nicaragua).
Thanks to the relative predictability of my job, I tend to book my flights very early – sometimes as early as a year in advance. I often book several flights throughout the year at once to take advantage of airline sales. This is especially common for my home city, Riga, as I know for sure that I will be visiting my parents multiple times a year.
Q.Will you ever stop travelling?
I keep hearing all those opinions that I will one day get tired of travelling and take up another “hobby”. For me though, travel is very much a lifestyle, a passion, if you will – not just a convenient way to kill time. Let’s put it this way: if circumstances forced me to scale down my travels or stop altogether, then I would go with them, reluctantly, for as long as necessary. I would sure be trying to get back on the road (or at least in the planning mode) in the meantime though. For now, I could not imagine my life without travel.
Q.Will you ever start travelling full-time?
Travel bloggers, or so-called “digital nomads” (the misnomer that makes me think of Mongols in the desert), have proliferated in the past few years. Many of them do not seem to have an “edge” to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd, and only few make it to a semblance of a professional level. In order to travel full-time permanently, I would most likely have to join the travel bloggers’ ranks to keep myself funded during my travels. But would I really want to do that?
First, I am not sure if I would like to join an industry so saturated, so intensely competitive and so driven by fads. Second, I am quite keen on the idea of having a “base” – a home to return to in-between my travels. And, finally, I fear that my attitude towards travel would be very different if I was travelling constantly. The way things are now, I always have a trip to look forward to, but I know that I will always be able to return to normality: my husband, my gym membership, my little rented flat in southeast London filled with soft toys, plants and travel mementos. I appreciate the balance in my life that constant travelling would most likely shift irreversibly.