Every Thursday, A Dangerous Business will be shining the spotlight on a world nomad, travel blogger, armchair adventurer, or just someone really cool in the travel world. This week, the traveler is Alison Kemp of Travelin' the Globe. Alison has traveled locally ever since she was a child. Learning German in high school instilled the desire to travel overseas, and she first traveled to Europe to take a German-language class in Salzburg, Austria. Since then, she's studied in Salzburg for a year and traveled across Europe from Ireland to Greece. Her next trip in the works is to drive the U.S. West Coast from San Francisco to Portland.
1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?
I would consider a traveler anyone who makes a journey of any length and style and also learns something. So really, just movement and gaining knowledge and appreciation makes someone a traveler. I love learning about people and places and why they do what they do, and to find these people, some sort of journey is required, whether it is to the county fairgrounds to learn about a tractor puller or to Romania to learn what a Romanian Christmas is like.
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
My time in Athens, Greece, is my most awe-inspiring trip, but I think my week in The Netherlands was my favorite. It was all art (Vermeer paintings in The Hague, Amsterdam and Delft) and flowers (tulips, hyacinths and daffodils in Lisse and Keukenhof) with some fun in Amsterdam for good measure. I truly allowed myself to enjoy each and every moment on this trip without rushing myself.
3. How about your proudest travel moment?
I was quite pleased with myself after showing my parents around Austria and Germany for a week in April 2009, but only after they said how impressed they were with what we did and all the German I spoke.
I am also pretty proud of the fact that I took a fencing class my second semester in Salzburg. I didn't know anything about fencing in English, let alone German (and it was really taught in Austrian, not German), but I took it as a challenge and ended up not only learning how to fence, but also a lot about Austrian culture, and I made some truly wonderful friends.
4. Have you had any travel mishaps or bad experiences? If so, have these influenced how you view the place where they happened? Would you go back?
I had a bad experience in Dublin, Ireland, and never plan on returning there when there is the possibility of snow. This is partially my fault for booking things so close together, but I will just keep that in mind for the future.
First, I was in London for the February 2009 snow storm. The snow traveled west from there, delaying my flight to Dublin. Then when I was leaving Dublin for Salzburg, it snowed so much (only about an inch, but that's a lot for Dublin), that all flights were canceled. This was a problem because I needed to be in Salzburg that night so that I could take a train to Vienna in the morning to catch my flight to Athens. Instead of spending the night in my own bed, I slept in a chair in the airport and bought a ridiculously expensive flight to Athens for the next morning. That flight was delayed a couple of hours because of ice on the plane and runway, but we finally left — only because we'd been de-iced. We were one of a handful of flights to leave that day; everything else after us was canceled.
I've never been so happy to leave somewhere as I was that day.
5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.
I always need a good pair of walking shoes. Everything else after that is just a bonus. Does that mean I pack lightly? It all depends.
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
I wish I could be more willing to travel without such a detailed plan, even if I end up throwing most of the plan out the window.
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
One of the most important things I have learned is that when it comes down to it, each traveler should do what she wants to do, no matter what anyone else says about it. I may not be interested in a five-star rated sight in a guidebook, but something that doesn't even have a rating could be my favorite part of a trip.
When I went to Rome a couple of months ago, the Vatican and Sistine Chapel were barely on my list. Those sights have such a good reputation, but there were so many other things I wanted to do in Rome, that I saved them for another trip, which is the second-most important thing I have learned: There will always be more opportunities (one hopes) to see more, so I would much rather spend my time enjoying my travels than running around trying to cram too many things into a day.
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
My first choice would be Austria, preferably somewhere where I can see mountains. Austria, and particularly Salzburg, is my first love. While trying to decide how to describe this, I came across two quotes. The first is from the historical romance novelist Rosemary Rogers: “First romance, first love, is something so special to all of us, both emotionally and physically, that it touches our lives and enriches them forever.” The second is from Scottish poet Alexander Smith: “Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition.”
In Salzburg, I fell in love with the city, the people, and the language and met many wonderful friends who will always have a place in my heart. And due to studying abroad for a second time in Salzburg, I learned so many things about myself and experienced so many things there that I would not have done otherwise. I found myself there and I lost myself at the same time because so many more possibilities are now a part of my life.
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
Definitely Egypt. The Great Pyramids in Giza, King Tut, mummies and hieroglyphics were part of one of my childhood obsessions, mostly due to an old Macintosh computer game I loved about Giza.
10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?
That traveling and travel writing and travel planning could so easily take over my life. I wouldn't change anything, but travel can so easily be lurking everywhere in everything.
Are you a travel blogger who has something to say on these topics? Do you know of somebody really interesting in the travel universe that you’d like to see interviewed? Speak up! The Thursday Traveler needs some interview subjects.