Today’s interview is with Dutch blogger Stefania van Lieshout. Stefania has traveled and lived in a variety of places around the world and today she calls Malaga, Spain her home. I met Stefania in India and saw first hand just how passionate she is about travel.
In addition to running an expat relocation service, Stefania blogs at In & Uit Malaga. While her blog is in Dutch, I find her photos tell a story and Google Translate helps me fill in the rest! Now on to the interview!
1. How long have you been writing/blogging about travel and why did you start? How has your writing changed since you began?
After travelling the world for the last twenty years as a serial expat, I wanted to create a record of my journeys. I started writing on a collaborative Dutch travel blog three years ago. The platform was owned by a national Dutch newspaper and because of their affiliation with the newspaper they had a lot of visitors. Unfortunately they stopped publishing the blog as they felt that this was not their core business. Thus, two years ago I created my own blog.
In the beginning the blog was more a recount of what happened and what I saw, but now I have found my own voice which makes it more personal and unique.
2. What was your first memorable travel experience/trip? What made it so memorable?
My first trip outside Europe was to South-America. It was a first in many ways: a six week journey with my then relatively new partner (now my husband), first encounter with poverty, crime, bribing, the favelas and amazing beauty like the Iguaçu falls and Machu Picchu.
3. What was the most disastrous day you spent on the road? How do you cope when everything seemingly goes wrong while travelling?
Some 15 years ago we (my partner, a friend and myself) traveled by plane from Almaty Kazakhstan to Urumqi (China) as backpackers. At the Kazakhstan airport ready to board the airplane the customs officers took my travel companions and put them in a back room. He then started interrogating and demanding money from them. It was really intimidating. I was five months pregnant and stood outside not knowing what was happening. My partner had his money hidden in a money belt and did not give in to their demands, but our friend did and had to give them $200 USD.
When we finally arrived in Urumqi, it was in the middle of the night. The airport was deserted, there was no cash machine, and nobody spoke English or any other language that was not Chinese. We found a bus, which was clearly not a public bus but we jumped on it anyway. The bus left and went to the outskirts of a town, finally it stopped at some sort of hotel. We could not pay the bus driver with local money as we did not have any. In the end he accepted our dollars, but was of course not happy.
The hotel did not want us there, we did not have a reservation, they did not speak the language, there were no rooms available and outside it was pitch dark. We made ourselves ‘understood’ by pointing out the relevant sentences in the language section of the Lonely Planet. In the end they gave us two beds to share between three people. I can’t recall how we paid, but this was the start of a six week journey through China and it was great (but not easy).
Nowadays I won’t say I like it when something goes wrong, but I always think that it makes a good story (blog) which helps me see the fun of it. For me travelling is about the experience on the way.
4. Can you tell me what makes your blog unique? What is a great blog post that showcases this uniqueness?
My blog is in Dutch, so think that it is bit difficult for your readers to understand. But as I mentioned in the first question, I think it is my own voice that makes it unique. I always give an opinion and have to feel a certain passion for a subject. I have learned that when I feel indifferent I can’t write well. Either I hate it, love it or think something is special and that is went I write my best stories.
5. What is your absolute favorite place in the world and why? What is your least favorite?
I lived one year in Oman and loved it; it is a beautiful country with very friendly people and lots of ‘empty quarters’, sea, canyons and desert. There is diving, 1000 kilometers of sandy beaches with huge turtles, whales and most people speak English which makes life easy.
I have not met my least favorite country yet.
6. Can you share a useful travel tip with my readers? Something that you have learned through your own travel experiences.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Explore, be a traveller not a tourist. I have done many stupid and probably dangerous things that I probably should not have done. Luckily I survived and learned a lot from it.
7. What people, place & things inspire you?
I love meeting different cultures and learning about different values and different customs and food, but for me nature is one of the most important things in any country. I find nature to be peaceful and I think our world is vulnerable and we are destroying it at an unprecedented pace. I am afraid for my children who will inherit a polluted earth. After all it is all one big Easter Island. Who is going to burn that last tree?
Whenever I can, I try to show the beauty of our planet on my blog. I hope people will start to realize that we should try to do more to conserve this place for future generations.
8. What is your overall favorite travel experience and why? Can you describe it for us?
I love the outdoors, water, mountains, actively doing something and at the same time seeing things. Keep moving: this can be on a horseback, a canoe, walking, skiing or parasailing.
9. Why do you continue to travel? What do you get out of it?
After my family, friends and health, travelling is the most important thing for me. It makes me happy to see new things, meet different people. Saying that I am always happy to return back to my own bed.
10. Backpack or suitcase and why? What is one essential thing that you pack on every trip?
Travel light is my advice. I try to travel with a small case on wheels and a small rucksack. This makes it a lot easier to move from one place to another. Ear plugs are always good as well.
11. Do you have anything else to share with my readers?
Travelling is my passion and I have been very fortunate that because of my life as an expat I have already seen 62 countries and still counting. We have now settled in the South of Spain (Malaga) where I have started my own relocation company Tulipán Relocations, assisting people to move to the area.
I want to thank Stefania for being the latest in an amazing line of bloggers to participate in this interview series. Next week I will finally be able to bring you the interview with Filipino blogger Ivan Henares. Thanks and have a great weekend!