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Welcome to the first post in my new travel blogger interview series! The goal of this weekly series is to help spread the blogging love and introduce you to some other awesome travel bloggers! Any travel blogger, whether new or experienced, can sign up to be featured in this new series.
This week I’m happy to share that I’m featuring Melissa from Navigation Junkie!
My name is Melissa, or Missy for short and I’m the creator of Navigation Junkie. I am from a small town in upstate New York, USA. I entered into nursing as a career shortly after high school graduation, but my passion for travel never left me. As I began to travel more I decided I wanted to find a way to share my experiences and knowledge with others, so I created the blog. The travel blog offers accounts of travel experiences, travel tips, and travel guides with a special focus on family travel and solo female. I spend about half my time traveling with my daughter and half on my own.
How long have you been blogging for? Why’d you decide to start a travel blog?
I have been blogging for about two years now, but really started to take it more seriously and put much more effort into it over the last six months. I decided to start a travel blog after years of traveling and realizing how much I loved it and how much of an impact it had on my life. I was always reading about travel, oftentimes on other travel blogs.
I also had a love for writing growing up as well, but could not quite place what I wanted to write about. Travel blogging quickly became the place where I could combine my passion of writing with my passion for travel and share all of my great experiences around the globe.
Do you have any tips for new travel bloggers/aspiring travel bloggers?
It is a lot of work! If you are an avid traveler, love exploring and adventures, and love sharing your stories, travel blogging is well worth it and enjoyable. Depending on how far you want to go with your blog, it can be very time consuming and is definitely not an easy feat. But if you truly love travel and writing about it, it will not seem like work. It will take up your time, but it will be time well spent.
My tip is to know what you are getting into. Know that it will be no walk in the park and expect to put a lot of effort into it and you will be rewarded and your dreams just may come true!
What’s one thing you wish you knew before you started traveling?
One thing I wish I knew before starting to travel more often was travel does not have to be expensive. To many, travel is a luxury that only those with a lot of money get to enjoy. However, this is simply not true.
Traveling can be done on any budget. It may take a little research, but once you master budget traveling skills you will be able to visit any destination within your means. Find the cheaper hotels, stay in hostels, skip the costly attractions, there are so many ways to make travel cheap.
Budget reasons held me back from traveling for many years and looking back I wish that I had known many of the money-saving travel tips earlier and had started traveling much earlier.
Why do you love to travel?
Travel is something that I find truly enjoyable, no matter where I am going or what I am doing. There is just something about visiting a new destination, visiting the top sights as well as the off-the-grid sites, that stirs up a passion in me. I grew up in a very small town with not much to see and do and growing up my family really never travelled.
Travel has exposed me to so much. I love stepping into other cultures and other ways of life and learning all that I can about just how big and diverse this world is.
What’s your best and worst travel experience?
The best travel experience I have had would have to be the first multi-state road trip that I took. Prior to venturing out on this adventure it was my tendency to visit one destination at a time. With the road trip I visited five states and multiple cities.
It was such a unique experience for me as a fairly new traveler and allowed me to experience so many different cities at once. I also enjoy fast-paced travel so being able to jump from city to city was really enjoyable for me.
Bad experiences while traveling have been limited for me, but my worst travel experience was running into a very run down hotel. It was during a road trip and at the end of the night we were ready to just hit the pillow and be out. We arrived at the hotel, which we had reserved before starting the trip. It was an inexpensive hotel as we were trying to stay on budget, and we very quickly found out why.
The hotel was very run down. As soon as we entered the room a musky smell overwhelmed us and not long after my allergies began to kick in. There was evidence of mice and the ceiling was full of black mold. The bathroom sink looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months.
The room was equipped with an air conditioner, but the hotel staff had not turned it on prior to our arrival, so the room had to be pushing 90 degrees. We decided that there was no way we could stay there, especially with my five-year-old daughter. It was very clear that the hotel was not going to offer us a refund and short on cash, we decided to spend the night in the car.
This led to limited, poor quality sleep and we were up early the next morning to explore a major US city. It was quite the adventure, but it certainly taught me to be much more cautious when choosing accommodations.
Do you prefer solo travel or traveling with other people? Why?
If I had to choose one or the other, I would have to say that I prefer solo travel. I tend to be a little OCD when traveling and like to stick to my schedule. I always have a plan of what I want to see and when and like to be able to just go when I want to go. Not to say that I don’t enjoy traveling with others, but when I travel solo I feel like I have more control over the trip.
What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been to? Why?
My favorite destination thus far in my travels was Puerto Rico. The idea of it being so close to home and being able to offer a tropical vacation intrigued me. Puerto Rico has the perfect combination of turquoise water and white sand beaches, hiking opportunities, culture, and mouthwatering food. The colorful streets and historic buildings in Old San Juan stole my heart the moment I saw them.
Another reason that I loved Puerto Rico was that it was quite similar to what I was used to in my hometown, but also had many differences that made me feel like I was in a completely different country. It allowed me to be more comfortable while still experiencing a new culture.
What’s your biggest travel tip?
My number one tip for traveling for anyone is to find the perfect balance between planning and spontaneity. From my travels I have found that when I arrive at a destination and have done zero planning the trip tends to be very chaotic and I am not able to make the most of the trip.
Likewise I have found when everything is planned out and set on such a tight time schedule the adventure level of the trip seems to be diminished. What I have found to work well for me is planning out the trip, sometimes with time slots for certain activities or simply planning everything I want to do and see and making a list, but still allowing time for unplanned exploring or changes. I have tried to limit the number of timed tours and try to just go with the flow while knowing where I was going.
Is there one specific thing you like to do, see, or buy in every place that you visit?
There are two things that I like to do at every destination if able. One is visiting a museum of some sort, whether it be historic, art, or something quirky. The second is visiting a nature area of some sort, whether it be going for a hike, visiting a beach or lake, or gardens.
One thing that I purchase at every destination I visit is a fridge magnet. I love to be able to display all the places I have visited in one place and love the combination of images whenever I walk into my kitchen.
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?
When it comes to food, I am pretty simple and quite the picky eater. When I travel I tend to be drawn toward any Italian restaurant. I grew up on mostly Italian food, mainly pasta, and it has just stuck with me. There have been a few different Italian restaurants that have really stood out to me when traveling, but in general anything with sauce catches my attention.
Another dish that I found that I loved much more than I thought I would was fried plantain. I had this dish multiple times during my visit to Puerto Rico after being very resistant to trying it in the first place.
Plane or train? Train
Hotel or hostel? Hotel
City or nature? This is a tough one, I love both. But if I had to choose just one, I would have to say nature.
Popular site or off the beaten path? Again, a tough one, but I think I would have to say off the beaten path. There is so much to discover!
Suitcase or backpack? Backpack
Fast travel or slow travel? Fast travel, I always try to cram in as much as I can when visiting a destination because there is so much to experience and so little time.
Professional camera or iPhone photography? iPhone photography. While I love using a professional camera, using an iPhone tends to be so much more convenient and nowadays you can get some pretty spectacular images with a phone.
Warm or cold weather? Warm weather.
All photos used throughout this post are from Melissa of Navigation Junkie.