Have you wondered what’s the best way to turn your (travel) dreams into reality? Marie-France Roy from Big Travel Nut blog has a pretty simple answer: just believe they are possible.
This and more optimistic life inspiration from our special interview with Marie:
Who am I and what do I dream of: I’m a 54-year-old freelance writer, travel blogger and big travel nut, based in Toronto, Canada. During my working life, I was in turn a software developer, web application developer, and technical writer. I’m a very independent person who tends to mostly ignore trends, fashions, and peer pressure, to do what is best for my life at any given time. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve worked for everything I have, and never had anything handed out to me. My main guiding value has always been freedom, and I’m also a free thinker who loves to have deep conversations about life, the universe, and everything.
My dream right now is to become fully self-employed, that is, be able to live and travel without drawing a salary from a company or using up my savings. I’m making progress with freelance writing. And I still have hope that my blog may bring in real income someday. Another goal I have is to visit 100 countries in my lifetime. By the end of this year, I will have seen 60.
My latest adventure was… travelling to the Canary Islands. I spent almost a month in Spain last winter, including 2+ weeks on Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. These islands are known for beaches and resorts that attract North Europeans, but I made a point of avoiding those entirely by staying in the main city on each island and using buses to visit surrounding villages and attractions. I speak reasonable Spanish and I was more interested in the culture, nature, and food than lying around on a beach.
A common misconception about travelling solo is… that you’ll spend your entire trip alone and feel lonely. Despite being an introvert, I meet a lot more people when travelling alone than with a friend. Opportunities to meet people are endless when you’re out and about all day in a foreign country. It’s a very different dynamic than one’s routine at home.
The first thing I do when I arrive at a new destination is… drop my bag in my room and look for coffee, food, and WiFi in that order!
The strangest thing that ever happened to me on the road was… being bitten by a dog in Argentina (completely unprovoked) and spending the next four weeks of my trip carrying rabies vaccines in a cold box.
I never travel without… a camera.
Before setting off I always… clean my apartment. When I come back tired and jet-lagged, it’s great to walk into a neat and good smelling home.
The trip that has changed me the most… That is probably my round-the-world backpacking trip (see answer to question #12). I believe this is when I developed several of a traveller’s essential traits: patience, self-confidence, resourcefulness, adaptability, and trusting your instincts.
The most helpful thing I’ve learned on the road that could be used in everyday life… focusing on solutions rather than culprits. People in developing countries do this naturally. Plans often get derailed and things go awry, but instead of assigning blame and complaining, they immediately spring into action and move into Plan B mode.
The place that surprised me the most… Antarctica. Like most people, I used to think of Antarctica as a snowy frozen desert. But as soon as I saw early digital photos from people who had cruised there, I knew I had to go. Travelling on water, you visit islands as well as the coast of the Antarctic peninsula. You see glaciers, blue ice floes, gigantic icebergs, and tons of wildlife, especially penguins and seals (but also birds and whales). During the austral summer, the weather is not really that cold either.
The place I would come back again and again is… Greece! I used to list 10+ countries every time somebody asked me which was my favourite. (I truly couldn’t decide.) Finally, this year I asked myself the question: “If you could only go back to one country for the rest of your life, which one would it be?” And the answer was “Greece”. So I guess that makes it my favourite country.
The most challenging trip I’ve been on… In 1997, I left my job, gave up my rental apartment, put my stuff in storage and jumped on a plane to Saigon to start my round-the-world trip. It was supposed to last at least 6 months. My longest trip so far had been 6 weeks. I was travelling solo and my plan was to explore parts of Southeast Asia, South Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and Europe. I came back home exhausted 4.5 months later, after Egypt completely finished me off. It felt a bit like a failure at the time, but I learned so much on this trip, both about myself and the fascinating cultures I encountered. These 20 weeks transformed me into a “real” traveller. One of the main takeaways from the trip was the importance of pacing oneself and being able to slow down and rest when needed.
The other challenging trip was hiking the Inca trail in Peru in 2004. I had never done a multi-day hike at altitude before, so the physical aspect was hard. Upon arrival in Cuzco, the company we had booked with told us that they had secured a permit for me, but not for my friend, so I had to deal with that too. (Got it resolved in the end.)
My recipe for turning dreams into reality is… believing that they are possible.
If I have to share something inspiring with you, it would be… Anybody can travel, no matter your background, personality, or finances. You just have to want it badly enough. I came from a family of very modest means, who didn’t travel at all, and I was the shyest kid ever. But from the moment I realized that there was a big world out there, I made up my mind to see it.
One travel challenge for everyone reading this… In a country where you don’t speak the language, have a meal in a restaurant where you can’t read the menu.