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!
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.
Embracing Kurdistan: one of my favourite places in the world
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.
Here I am posing on Antiparos: one of the lesser known Greek islands
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?
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.
Posing at Kjerag, Norway: the country I love visiting regularly
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.
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.
Do you ever work?
This is by far the most frequent question I receive. And I understand why: most of my posts on social media cover my spells on the road, not the relatively monotonous days in the office, so it may indeed look like I am never publicly seen working.
The answer to this questions though is yes: I do work full-time in London’s financial sector. My average working week is about 45 hours long these days, which varies on the time of year and project cycle. I have been working full-time for 11.5 years (no less!), with a short 9-month career break in-between, which I spent almost entirely in Greece.
Where do you work?
For obvious reasons, I prefer not to answer this question directly. That said, I do not make a huge secret of it either, and anyone with a decent understanding of London’s financial sector could probably guess where I work without much effort. Let’s just say it is a large international bank.
What happens if you lose your job?
That is a very good question. For many years, my bank was, arguably, the most secure place of employment in the City of London: staff turnover was low and people would rarely leave. The times have changed dramatically since I joined in 2009. My job security remains very strong, but possibly somewhat less so than before. Losing my job is at least a distant possibility – and me being widely known as less-than-a-workaholic definitely doesn’t help.
If I were to find myself jobless (which would not be at short notice, unless I were to commit a terrible crime of sorts!), I would most likely take a long break to travel. I would specifically hit destinations which require a substantial time investment to explore (South Pacific and Trans-Siberian spring to mind). I would also spend quality time in Riga, where my husband and I have our own place, and enjoy every minute with my parents. I would use the break to pull my thoughts together on the next steps. Past that, I would rather not speculate anything in the public domain; however, me losing or leaving my job would certainly not be the end of the world.
How are you able to take so much holiday?
Another popular question! I have absolutely nothing to hide here: I do have an amazing holiday allowance. Currently I get 29 paid days off a year. I also have an option to take up to 5 unpaid days a year, which I always use (life is too short not to). Then we all usually get “gifted” an extra 2 days around Christmas. Add to that the UK’s 8 public holidays per year, and we really are talking (read here about my holiday planning in detail).
Having a fabulous time in Turkmenistan, one of the best places I ever visited
Do you spend all your income on holidays?
Surprisingly, I do not! I save quite a bit of my income and have a generous pension plan at work. Obviously, my savings would be substantially higher if I wasn’t travelling but I can’t complain.
Rather than give up travel, I control my expenses by limiting unnecessary expenditure at home. London is an expensive city, and simple things like drinks and dinners out can add up quickly. I very rarely eat out (unless invited by my dear husband), always bring my breakfast and lunch to work, never order expensive takeaway coffees (unless meeting a very special someone) and go out for drinks only on special occasions. I know it would be a big deal for many people to give any of this up, but I honestly never felt strongly about these things.
What does “ANJCI ALL OVER” mean?
Anjci (pronounced “Uhn-chee”) is my nickname! Basically, the “-či” is a Serbo-Croatian diminutive ending, turning the name “Anja” into “Anjči”, and “Anja” is a Russian diminutive for my proper name, Anna. So “Anjci” is a double diminutive of my name, sans the unusual tick above the “č”. I don’t even remember how I started using this nickname anymore, but it did stick – even my own husband now calls me Anjci.
As for the “all over” bit, I often hear how I am all over the place with my travels, so “ANJCI ALL OVER” sounded perfect.
What interests you besides travel?
I know it is unbelievable, but I do have interests in life besides travel! Admittedly, such interests are connected to travel though. For one thing, I love learning foreign languages and have invested a considerable time (and money) into furthering my language skills through formal lessons and self-study. I have previously written about my language pursuits (read here), and I am in a dire need to update that post! The languages I have studied (or, more accurately, tried to learn) to date are (in chronological order) Latvian, German, English, Spanish, Irish Gaelic (I know – I was one melancholic teenager), Swedish, Finnish, Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Norwegian, Arabic, Japanese and – most recently – Farsi. Of the above, I would consider myself fairly fluent in Latvian, English and Greek. Oh, and my mother tongue is Russian.
Other interests? Though I wouldn’t win any awards, I absolutely love photography, take numerous photos on the road and upload my favourite ones to my Flickr page (I am old-fashioned like that). I am obsessive about exercising, swim (almost) every morning and cycle everywhere in London. I love taking care of indoor plants to distraction and have filled my rented flat in London with too many plants to fit. I have even had to start slowly transporting the plants to my other flat, all the way in Riga, where there is still space available!
Are you in a long-term relationship?
One step ahead – I am actually married! My husband is the most wonderful man I have ever met, and we were friends for 10 years before getting together. We got married in the Falkland Islands in 2016 (read about the day here). I promise, I promise – one day I will tell our story on this site.
No, this is not the Falkland Islands! We had our wedding photos taken on Paros, Greece
Does your husband object to you travelling so much?
A contentious subject for sure! Many people think nothing of throwing judgemental comments about what a “proper” relationship looks like – and you can be fairly sure my travel preferences wouldn’t be ticking those boxes! I have described some of the generic “myths” surrounding marriage that one’s friends are always trying to project onto everyone around them (read the post here). Let’s just say I do not believe that a given relationship should follow some sort of predetermined pattern or convention to please a maximum number of (distant) acquaintances.
But, to answer the actual question, no – my husband has never objected to me travelling. In fact, he has stated, on a number of occasions, how much he loves that travel is such a big part of me. I mean, seriously – would we still be together after five years if one person’s major life choice was such a big problem for the other? I don’t think so.
What are your favourite travel blogs?
I most enjoy to read bloggers whose primary source of income isn’t travel. I guess these are the people I most associate with as I am only a part-time traveller writer myself! However, I do enjoy reading the blogs of some full-time travellers. If I had to pick a couple, it would be Alex at Lost With Purpose and Nick at concrete and kitsch. I used to follow Katie Aune at www.katieaune.com quite enthusiastically before she quit blogging for good – the good news is that she is blogging again. You get the idea – I love following real people who have something useful to share in the world of travel yet lead real, well-balanced lives – not uber-sponsored “influencers” selling an impossible dream.