Jenny is the author of the travel blog ‘A Thing for Wor(l)ds‘. Each week, she shares stories that give people a peek into culture through a more lively and dynamic outlet than museums and church tours.
Hometown: San Anselmo, California, just outside San Francisco
Current Occupation: English teacher in Spain
Number of years Traveling: 8
Countries Lived In: Spain, 2 years; Nicaragua, 1 month.
Jenny on Blogging
How did you get into travel blogging?
I used to actively make fun of bloggers, the only ones I knew being my mom and dad. I associated it with losers who were addicted to the internet (yikes!). But then I started one of my own—total hypocrite, I know—to keep friends and family up to date during my year studying abroad in Granada, Spain. I’ve always loved to write, so instantaneously blogging became a creative outlet for me. After my study abroad year, I formed a new one, the baby that eventually became A Thing For Wor(l)ds, and I am now the loser who is addicted to the internet (and I love love love it).
What 3 articles should everyone check out on your blog?
To mock me or share in my pain, WanderLust: Dating in Spain (a.k.a. Using Tinder Abroad).
For Round-the-World Travel in one U.S. city, check out the post on my recent visit to Chicago.
For pure laughs, nothing language or travel related, but possibly something all young college graduates can relate to: My Future Looks Dim.
Advice for travel bloggers:
If you’re serious about wanting to make your blog into more than just your diary, do some prior research. Figure out WordPress, SEO, niche, photo techniques, and read up on HOW TO WRITE before you dive in head-first. I wish I had done all these things right when I started, and now I’m only beginning to correct my mistakes, nearly two years later.
My single most important piece of advice is to write something that is entertaining. If I care so much about the five best places to stay in Thailand, I can look at Lonely Planet. The only way I stick with a blog is if I can hear the author’s voice—my favorite blog isn’t about travel at all; it’s actually primarily about motherhood, no joke, and I’m far from that stage in my life. But her writing captivates me and I feel like I’m friends with her (is that sad?). I’m referring to the blog A Cup of Jo.
When I write, my biggest goal is to make it sound like I’m talking to you in a big arm chair as we both sip Earl Grey. The greatest compliment I could ever receive is that someone loves my blog because they feel like we’re virtual besties. (That being said, as a linguistics freak, I also implore you to maintain good spelling and grammar! Apostrophes matter, people!)
Jenny on Traveling
What is your first travel memory/How did you begin traveling?
My first memory of travel was to Alaska when I was 7—it was in the dead of summer but my sister and I rode sled dogs. The poor pups lugged us around on a cart on wheels.
But traveling really took off for me when I was 16. My high school track coach leads a small group of runners overseas every other year, on a trip he founded called Arete (which means “Excellence” in Greek). He started it in the 70’s primarily to bring runners over to some big European meets, and have them see all four ancient tracks in Greece. He continues the trip to this day, though now it’s much more focused on history and culture, and less on running (otherwise I would have never been invited; I placed dead last ever meet.) For 9 months the small group of us (7 in my trip) studied up on ancient history, philosophy, religion and culture of the countries we were to visit, and then in the summer we took a life-changing 6-week journey through 7 countries in Europe and the Middle East. It was my first time overseas, my first time feeling so independent, and the first time I knew that I wouldn’t stop traveling.
How do you plan the destinations you are going to travel to?
Lately, as I’m based in Europe, I like to look up cheap flights and let that carry my decision! I also take weather into account—there was a great deal to Berlin in January, and then I realized I just don’t super want to be in Berlin in January. (I’m a California girl—we have a handicap when it comes to cold.) I’d love to explore South East Asia, New Zealand and Australia, and certain countries in South America, but as of right now Europe pretty much dictates my travels since I live in Spain.
What places have you traveled to that surprised you?
Portugal blew me out of the water. You just don’t hear enough about that country! We went there because it was an easy jump from Spain, and I literally knew nothing about it. But both Porto and Lisbon are now two of my favorite cities. Portugal is cheap, regal, full of history, and—oh, that’s right—has both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. Makes for a bit of a break-taking backdrop. Also, its Port wine is 20% (hello, free tastings). Lisbon is basically a European San Francisco: same bridge (practically), cable cars, hills, friendly people, set on the sea—and yet its much cheaper and thousands of years older. A European version of my favorite American city—frankly, I can’t think of much better.
I was expecting more out of Berlin. I may be the only person in the entire universe who didn’t fall in love with that city, and I think I need to give it another chance. But I couldn’t see what all the hype was about. (I think a lack of cobblestones upset me.)
What are three things that traveling has taught you?
- The U.S. is much more dangerous than many places abroad.
- Travel didn’t teach me, but it confirmed for me, that language is mind-blowing. Every new place I go, I listen and think to myself, “. . . . but how is that guy making those sounds, and how does that other guy understand what they mean?”
- I need a home base. Traveling is amazing and I love it, but I could never be a nomad. After two weeks on the road, I look forward to coming home (wherever home is at the time.)
Favorite travel quote:
I’ll go with my site’s banner on this one: “I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list,” by Susan Sontag.
People who inspire you to travel?
My high school track coach, Mr. Taylor, who first brought me overseas when I was 16.
My parents, who planned (often disastrous) family vacations growing up, and then let me go off on my own to travel once we realized the four of us were just absolutely incompatible on the road.
And every other traveler I meet during my adventures. They confirm for me how addicting it can be—once you start traveling and discovering the world, you can’t stop.
How do your friends/family feel about you traveling alone?
I was actually going to do a whole interview with my parents on this very subject! Thanks for reminding me to get on that 😉 If my parents are ever apprehensive that I travel alone or head off to live in Spain by myself, they don’t show it. I’m lucky that they are so supportive, and whenever I call them to say I’m planning on taking a trip to XYZ, they always express such envy. When I told them I was thinking about going to Morocco alone because I couldn’t find a travel buddy, I expected them to freak out and all but forbid me. Instead my dad was so rational, and suggested that while he championed my solo travel, he just thought I might enjoy it more if I had a companion. A solo blonde in Marrakech isn’t as dangerous as everyone makes it out to be; I’d just stand out more than I’d like to, and being with someone else could deflect that a bit. He was so right, in this particular instance (and basically every other advice-giving instance ever.)
Upcoming Travel Plans:
I’ll be moving back to Spain, this time to Barcelona, and I’m excited to be based next to one of Europe’s biggest airports. I can’t wait to get back to Poland, this time to the north (Gdansk, especially). A friend will be studying in Norway so I’ll try to go there. Also I can’t leave the continent this time without exploring Croatia and Slovenia, two places I was meaning to get to this year, but just weren’t in the cards.
Longer term: Argentina, Peru, Cuba, Vietnam, and New Zealand. Anyone wanna foot the bill?