Welcome to the third post for the International Women’s Day series! Today’s post goes to Barbara from Hole In The Donut Cultural Travel!
I like Barbara because she’s honest – sometimes brutally so (in travel blogging terms where people are trying to sell the dream of perfect travelling). She’s smart and her frankness is seriously refreshing. You know something is good when Barbara says it is worth the visit because she takes a good, long, look.
Unlike many travellers she didn’t leave behind a reasonably perfect life. Barbara’s collection of mix-match jobs weren’t interesting her and she had just fought off chronic Lyme disease. So she asked herself, what makes me happy? And she dropped everything to fulfill those desires. Within two years she was travelling, writing and photographing as a full-time career.
All of those dreams – fulfilled, altered or broken – are gathered on her website. Trust me, you’ll appreciate what she has to say.
All photos attributed to Barbara.
1) How would you describe yourself right. now.?
I guess I’d say I’m an ecstatically happy full-time traveler who is living her dream.
2) What is your earliest travel memory?
Probably Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, on a family vacation as a child.
3) What has changed about travel since the day you first set out (especially for traveling women)?
Oh my gosh, so much has changed! I hardly know where to begin. In my early 20s I packed my car with a tent and sleeping-bag and headed west. I spent two weeks exploring New Mexico and Arizona. In those days I carried a lot of printed materials: Lonely Planet, KOA Campground guides and maps of every state between Chicago and Arizona, etc. Travel required more research and it was necessary to make reservations ahead of time. There was no Internet (computers hadn’t yet been invented) or mobile phones – so it was much harder to stay in touch with family and friends – but there was also not much fear about solo travel in those days. Flying was an experience that everyone looked forward to as passengers were pampered and there were no onerous security requirements like there are today.
Today travel is infinitely easier because we have a wealth of information at our fingertips, but getting from one place to another can be tiring and frustrating. I also think it is getting harder to have an “authentic” experience, as there are few – if any – undiscovered places, and in many cases tourism has irreparably changed many popular destinations.
4) What was the most memorable moment you’ve experienced abroad?
Being adopted by my family in Pokhara, Nepal!
5) What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Travel has taught me to stay in the present moment and to cherish every moment.
6) Why should women travel?
Why shouldn’t they? Why are women any different than men in this regard? Now, if you take the element of gender out of the question I would say that travel is extremely educational and that getting to know people who are seen as somehow different from you is an exercise in understanding and acceptance. If everyone in the world spent six months traveling in third-world-countries – meeting people who have different languages, customs, clothing, food, and religions – our fear of others would disappear and we would have a much better world.
7) Do you have any tips for women on the road? What’s the biggest myth about women & traveling?
The biggest myth about women and traveling is that they shouldn’t travel solo. Every time something bad happens to a woman who was traveling alone I read statements (by men) who imply that the woman was somehow responsible. Yet none of these ridiculous statements are ever made when something bad happens to a man who is traveling alone. The plain truth is that bad things can happen anywhere in the world, to anyone. You could step out the front door of your home and be mugged. But in my nine years of solo travel the only problems I experienced were in Quito, Ecuador and Barcelona, Spain where pickpockets targeted me. In both cases, because I had educated myself about the scams and methods used by pickpockets, I knew what was happening and not only was I not in any danger – they also were not successful in their attempts.
In fact, the only real problem I ever had while traveling was in Hawaii, many years ago, when my tent was slashed and I was robbed while I slept. That experience taught me many things. Never keep all your money in one place. Always have backup copies of your important documents stored in a separate place (nowadays, just email them to yourself). But my most important tip is to always pay attention to your gut. I knew when I set up my tent in that campground that something just wasn’t right. My gut told me not to stay there, but I made a conscious decision to ignore it because I wanted to wake up to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. From that day forward, I never again ignored what my gut was telling me. So my most important advice is to always be aware of what is going on around you and always listen to your inner voice.
8) What does it take to sustainably travel?
I do everything I can to be eco-aware. I minimize my use of water, carry a reusable shopping bag and always refuse plastic bags. I use a towel for a week, or more, and refuse daily linen changes. I try to buy as few things as possible in plastic containers and only buy bottled water when absolutely necessary. I never purchase anything that might be made from ivory or rare woods. I take buses, trains, boats and shared cars most of the time and only fly when there is no other option. But the most important thing we can all do is research the destinations we choose to visit and the accommodations we select to make sure they are eco-conscious and have truly adopted green practices.
9) Many bloggers maintain an image of effortless production for a blog which generates enough money to be their only source of income. What is it like behind the scenes of Hole In The Donut Cultural Travel?
People think we live a life of luxury, flitting from one place to another without a care in the world. The truth is that travel blogging is hard work. After a day of touring, seeing the sights and interviewing people for potential stories – I return to my room with 200-300 photos that must be downloaded to my laptop, sorted, named, uploaded to an external hard drive and uploaded to the cloud. On average I get 100 emails a day that must be answered. I have to post photos and mini-articles to all my social media accounts. And all this is before I do one moment of research, edit a single photo or write a single word for the blog. If I’m on a press trip, the rest of the guests are enjoying dinner and drinks at the bar, but I’m in a corner struggling to get a decent wifi signal so I can meet my daily social media obligations. I’m lucky if I get five hours per night of sleep. Considering the number of hours I work, I earn less than minimum wage.
But… and this is the key… I love what I do. So it’s worth all the work and exhaustion.
10) Do you have anything else to say to the women of the world?
Yes! Get out there and travel. It’s a wonderful world out there and there’s absolutely no reason we shouldn’t experience it fully.