Welcome to another installment of my travel blogger interview series! Today, I’m happy to introduce you to Amber from Run With Amber!
I am the creator of RunwithAmber.com where I write about being a running traveler that has Celiac Disease. I’m from the USA – born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Now living right outside NYC. My travel adventures started when I achieved my goal of studying abroad in college, and I’ve tried to make sure to travel inside my own country and around the world ever since. Living with Celias is another layer on top of being a traveler and a runner. I want to give advice to make the lives of people like me easier.
How long have you been blogging for? Why’d you decide to start a travel blog?
I Started Run With Amber in April of 2019. So, I’m soooo new when it comes to travel blogging in terms of what that mean today, but I always liked to have something to log my traveling. I had an entire blog dedicated to my cruise ship job ten years ago. I never thought about monetizing that or anything. Looking back I should have! I never even heard of SEO back then! I never thought about buying a domain, or thinking “Yes, I can make money just writing about what it felt like working on a cruise ship.” I started that blog because when I was embarking on that journey there was NOTHING online about what to expect as far as the lifestyle on the ship. So I thought ‘Hey this can be there for anyone looking for that in the future.” An it turned out helping a lot of people looking to do what I did.
The same idea went into Run With Amber. I wanted to make life easier for people with Celiac who travel and run. I love running in new cities when I travel too. That’s another layer. I wanted to combine all 3. I love going to a new city and going on the hunt for a great Gluten free meal!
Do you have any tips for new travel bloggers/aspiring travel bloggers?
My number 1 tip to aspiring travel bloggers is to not get bogged down with EVERYTHING you’re told you have to learn, or have to do to be a successful blogger.. There’s a line, ya know, you have to stay true to what you want while also following the trends. But make sure you stay true to you and what you want your blog to be.
Remember that yes, the market wants people to be one thing, and an expert in one thing, but people are way more complex than that and have many sides to them. If you want to write about more than just your single “niche” that’s ok.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before you started traveling?
Oh man, I wish I knew how much politics comes into a conversation when you travel! I studied abroad in 2007 in Australia and that was the Bush years. People straight away knew I was either Canadian or American. And once they asked I wasn’t going to lie to them like some Americans I knew who hid behind the accent and pretended to be Canadian. I was too proud to lie about who I was. A true American right?! Haha. But I was not prepared to defend all the decisions my country made as a whole to everyone who had a grievance with how Bush was running the country. As a traveler I had to learn not to be offended, and have an open dialogue with folks. Like “hey guys I didn’t vote for the guy.” Now with Trump in office people approach Americans like – “Ok, first things first, what side are you on?” Once that’s established things flow great! I definitely know how to navigate political conversations better now.
Why do you love to travel?
I grew up pretty poor. My dad was blue-collar, and we didn’t have a lot. Growing up I reached for every opportunity I could. Any activity, or club I wanted to participate in – I did it! My neighborhood didn’t have affordable club teams, my family couldn’t afford any private lessons for anything like a piano, or dancing. I craved learning all I could and being active in all kinds of things. So, anything I did was through public school. Then my goal to get to college as a first-generation college student was this door to the next level of doing all I could. When I applied to do the exchange program while in college that was like the final level to unlock everything. Traveling is something that keeps pushing me to the next level. Taking me out of my comfort zone, opening my eyes to something new every single trip. I learn about myself and the world when I travel. I look at travel as endless learning, experiences, and opportunity.
What’s your best and worst travel experience?
I think my worst travel experience was when I was studying abroad and I was taking some time after my semester was done to travel up the coast from Newcastle (2 hours north of Sydney.) I went on my own. I remember that I HAD to get to Airlie Beach. It’s the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. I was running out of money, but I didn’t think I would ever make it to this part of the world again so I said to myself I have to visit the Great Barrier Reef! So, there I was in Airlie Beach. And this is a veeeeery touristy little town. Everyone goes there to get to the White Sundays and the Reef. That usually equates to a lot of bars and other Americans getting obnoxiously drunk. Which was the case for Airlie Beach. Lots of partying. I was just not into that scene at all. I was much more introverted then. I was not very good at jumping into a situation and just fitting in. I can be very aloof. Not welcoming anyone to come up to me either. So, I felt very alone, and very much like an outcast. I struggled with thinking something was wrong with me. Why didn’t I fit in? Why didn’t I like getting drunk all the time while traveling? These moments hit hardest when I wasn’t doing something. The downtime was tough. Little did I know then, but this is what solo travelers can go through. This is the not so glamorous side of travel. But I got to that amazing Great Barrier Reef and will never forget it.
My best travel experience was my 11 day trip last year in Feb-March 2019. I planned out a multi city trip all on my own. Booked and planned this out for months. I started out solo traveling in Lisbon for a stop over. Headed to Brussels for a couple days to see one of my favorite bands in concert. Headed to Cardiff, Wales to meet a dear friend I haven’t seen since I worked on the cruise ship. I ended with a couple friends from Chicago that met me in London for a few days. This trip was everything I needed! Time alone to explore, moments to get me out of my comfort zone being in cities that don’t speak English, and the joy of doing things with friends. I ran in every city too! I absolutely love running in a new place. I get to see so much that way.
I did exactly what I planned. I mean I did get glutened while in London which made for a tough day there, but that was nothing compared to all the good that I absorbed on this trip. I left extremely fulfilled, and overjoyed!
I remember on my way to Cardiff I was so proud of myself because I told my driver that drove me to the airport “Merci” I am so self conscious when it comes to other languages and I was able to pipe up to at least say thank you! That was a huge milestone for me! I think it was a small step I needed to take.
Do you prefer solo travel or traveling with other people? Why?
If I had to choose I would pick Solo travel. With groups there is so much time wasted trying to decide something. I HATE THAT! I love being able to look at something, crave something, or be curious about something and be able to say “Yep, that’s the thing I’m going to do.”
There’s also another layer to that – getting lost along the way. If I get lost I’m totally okay with it. I welcome it actually. It tests my skill on how to get back on track, you may find a place that you never expected that ends up being such a delight. When you get lost with a group or even with another person it can be seen as wasted time. And people start to feel anxious, and may even panic. I am somewhat of a leader and a lot of the time people look to me to lead the way for them. So, in times where we might get lost I have to get the group out of the “mess.”
I will be the first to admit that I’m selfish and I want to do what I want. I recently went on a road trip to Minneapololis (there were 4 of us visiting a friend) and my one friend while we were driving around the city saw a giant Basilica. He went on and on about it (a whole day) until we stopped to visit it. I didn’t care to stop at a Basilica. I’m a student tour guide in the Spring so, I’ve seen soooo many great churches. I didn’t want to waste time on that. But that’s the compromise you have to make when you travel with people – do some of the things they want to do even if you don’t. But I like to utilize my time the way I want.
I think that’s why my last international trip was so successful because I controlled the ratio of alone time to time with friends. For example when I went to Cardiff I went into that city thinking I’ll do whatever comes to mind in the moment. I just wanted to catch up with my friend. The goal was different than just visiting a new city. And to my surprise he planned a bunch for us! I trusted that because he’s a local. Nothing better than having a friend that’s a local willing to show you around. In Cardiff I let my friend control the itinerary. Then when I got to London there was deciding as a group of what we wanted to do. I have a taste of 3 different ways to travel on that trip. There was a good balance.
What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been to? Why?
I think my favorite place I’ve been to was Tasmania, Australia. I will never forget that place. I was able to see so many native animals to Tasmina in the wild. Seeing a Duckbill Platypus in its natural habitat was mind blowing for me. I’ve only seen them in zoos! And don’t get me started on Tasmanian Devils! I loved Hobart – the Capital of Tasmania. I loved the waterfront. There is enough city life there to stay busy, go shopping, but enough nature to be able to find that peacefulness you need when traveling. Australia in itself is like another world, but then you go to Tasmina and it takes that to a whole other level. I wish I was able to stay longer.
What’s your biggest travel tip?
It’s funny when it comes to this question because I feel like I can’t give a tip because I feel as though I haven’t traveled like some others. Is this the imposters syndrome that people talk about? But the one thing that comes to mind is expectations and managing your expectations when going on a trip. I think when a lot of people travel they expect everything to be so pretty, and perfect. I go into taking my trip knowing that ANYTHING can happen. Things can go wrong. The one thing I was so excited for could end up sucking so bad! I take things for what they are. I look at the culture and the people and try to understand why something is the way it is. Keeping an open mind is key to a great experience while traveling.
Is there one specific thing you like to do, see, or buy in every place that you visit?
I always buy a magnet! And it’s not just any magnet it has to encompass the things I did while there. In Brussels I remember the fries and the whole ordeal it was getting them. How ordering more on the fries was somehow cheaper than just wanting one topping. I remember saying to the person taking my order “So, it’s cheaper for me to get more?” The magnet I got was a carton of fries. Hahaha. I look to those moments to find the magnet that reminds me of those moments.
Is there one particular food that you’ve tried while traveling that you loved? What food was it and why do you love it so much?
The first food that comes to mind is Chicken Mon Chow soup from India! I looooved that when I was there. We would get it from the street vendors around Goa. I loved eating that mixed with a lot of rice. I haven’t had it since. It was just the right amount of spice, complex enough to know it was something I couldn’t get from home. I could have eaten that everyday!
Plane or train? If I can take a train I would every time! I hate flying.
Hotel or hostel? Hotel. I did my time at hostels. I’m too much of a loner to feel like I belong in a hostel. Although I prefer airbnbs.
City or nature? Again I’m somewhere in the middle. But if forced to choose I’d choose nature… but close to a city. Lol
Popular site or off the beaten path? Off the beaten path for sure!
Suitcase or backpack? Only a carryon!
Fast travel or slow travel? I’m not sure I understand this. Slow? I would love more time (like months and months) to explore a place but sometimes I don’t have the luxury.
Professional camera or iPhone photography? Neither. I love my Google pixel.
Warm or cold weather? Spring and Fall travel! So again I’m in the middle lol
All photos used throughout this post are courtesy of Amber from Run With Amber!