This is a woman who has truly mastered the art of travel and forgive us, but we just want to know how!
Hey, Natalie. You must have been born with the travel bug, what was it that made you get hooked on travel?
I think I’ve always dreamt about traveling and becoming a storied traveler. I actually started traveling when I was 6 years old. The places I visited were close to home, in the Caribbean and of course, I visited the States, everyone’s go-to destination back then. Thinking about it, even at that age I was a nomad in the making. Every destination I visited I imagined living there and I would try to convince my mother why it was always a good idea to stay: the hotel and pool were usually at the top of my list.
Some people say they hate flying but they like getting to the destination? Does that describe you?
I’m a: “Are we there yet?” kind of travel blogger. Whether I am seated in economy or first class, flights are what I have to endure to get to where I’m going. That being said, I fly really well; I am usually organised and I have developed a high-ish tolerance for whatever the airlines and airports throw my way.
"Honestly, if Judette (the founder of Forward Forty) had not planted the thought of becoming a travel blogger I don’t know if I would have done it."
When did find out travel blogging was a thing and what drew you to it?
When I started my travel blog, I can’t say I was aware at the time of how developed and sophisticated travel blogging was. Today, you can be a professional traveler blogger and an industry influencer. Honestly, if Judette (the founder of Forward Forty) had not planted the thought of becoming a travel blogger I don’t know if I would have done it. Now my approach to travel has changed, it is about sharing my experiences, passion, and information. It has become not only about my travels but how do I inspire others to get packing.
How do you use social media to document your travels?
Like many others, my first introduction to social media was on Facebook. I remember at first being so hesitant about sharing my stories and images. Back then, I didn’t spend as much time and energy as I do now when I documented my travel experiences. As I evolved as a traveler so did my quality and quantity of content. Nowadays, my challenge is oversharing and moderating my posts, which isn’t easy when I am excited about a destination and just want everyone to experience it the way I have. I added Instagram as another social communication platform which I love because there it is all about travel.
Neither you or your family feature heavily on your Instagram feed; you have more destination shots. Any reason for that?
When it comes to social media it’s a balance for me to maintain my privacy and still share my amazing experiences. For instance, when I share photos of my family, which I often do on Facebook, it is to connect with my close friends and family members. Truth be told I only started using Instagram when I became a travel blogger and I felt it was the perfect place to exhibit my passion for photography. While they say a picture paints a thousand words, there are so many places I visit where the beauty, ambiance, the grandeur even the intricacies can’t be captured by the lens, then sometimes magic happens and you are able to snap that one shot that really captures your experience – and those are the images I post on Instagram. They are the best of my travels.
You’re pretty low keyed about posting on IG? Why?
I think I am a perfectionist when it comes to IG. As a traveler/ blogger, I find the quality and beauty of other bloggers content to be sometimes intimidating. They make it look so effortless, but if you’ve ever tried to capture that perfect shot you know its painstaking work. I don’t have a dedicated photographer nor do I cart around loads of equipment when I travel. I am traveling with my family and to spend half an hour to set up and shot, is going to ruin everyone’s vacation. So I keep it simple and what I post on IG are extraordinary imagines that best tell my story. As I keep evolving as a blogger I am certain so would my story and how I choose to share it. It’s all really exciting.
You have a young daughter who always travels with you and Michele, some people would say “how does she do that?”
Martina is now 6 years old, but she has been traveling since she was 2 months old. I know other parents don’t always travel with their children, but we always do. I can’t imagine not having her there. She is an amazing traveler and I am always blown away by the experiences she captures and creates on her own when she travels – they are usually so different from my own. I am interested in experiencing “the place,” you know – things like the colours, architecture, and stories. She is more interested in people and she seeks out connections, which she draws in like a magnet. She is very strategic and uses the fact that she speaks three languages to moderate and organise international playgroups where all are welcomed. Most of the friends I have made traveling or living in a new country are because of her. Wherever we go, she makes the experience her own, it usually involves playing, dancing and meeting new friends. She was born for this.
"The key is to make a travel itinerary, stick to it as much as possible and plan the trip around them."
What's the key to traveling with a young child?
It helps that she is a travel trooper. But even if she wasn’t; you could still travel with young kids. The key is to make a travel itinerary, stick to it as much as possible and plan the trip around them. All planning has to be done to make them as comfortable as possible. I know some parents may not agree and feel that children should fit into their plan. The way I see it is that my daughter didn’t ask to go to Machu Picchu or spend a night in the desert in a tent or hike up Colca Canyon to see the condors fly. These are things I wanted to do, so my job is to ensure she is comfortable and safe at all times- first and foremost.
What's a standout travel memory?
There are two types of memories that stand out. The first is when I get a glimpse of human experiences and situations that are contrasting to my own. Like having tea with a Bedouin woman in her desert tent, or stepping inside a floating river house in Belem in the Amazon or the faces of street children in India. These are images that stick with me and fill me with both gratitude and compassion. Then there are memories of walking into magical places, like Sagrada Familia, the Gaza pyramids, Machu Picchu that literally makes your jaws drop and makes my spirit soar.
As a blogger, what are some of the biggest lessons you've learned through your travels?
Travel is a great teacher of both the world around us and the world inside us. But by far the biggest lesson I have learned from my travels is how connected and entwined we all are. While we each have a list of our differences and the things that make us so unique. The truth is, the list of our similarities and the things that link us together are and will be always greater and more powerful.
"...the one thing I can’t travel without is my camera."
Besides your passport, what's your 'desert island' item you take on your adventures?
It really won’t be super helpful if I really was on a desert island but the one thing I can’t travel without is my camera. A few years ago I was in Dubai heading to the Maldives and I stopped to take a last photo by the pool before leaving the hotel. Needless to say, it really was my last picture- at least with that camera and I don’t know cameras could sink that fast. Thank goodness I was able to buy a replacement at the airport. I can’t not travel without a camera.
How do you advise that most of us get over the intimidation we feel when we are in a place where we don't know the language?
Language has turned out to be a bigger deal in my life than I ever would have imagined. Currently, I live in Milan where Italian is spoken, my daughter goes to a French school and my house helper speaks Spanish. I am trying to keep up with it all, but so much gets lost in translation. Years ago when I first started exploring the world, I would not have gone out of my way to travel to a destination where English was not spoken. Now, I am packing and just doing it. Of course, I still feel vulnerable and sometimes downright silly, but who cares. The spoken word is just one way to communicate. As the sea witch said to the little mermaid, “don’t underestimate the power of body language.” You may surprise yourself as to how creative communication can become. If you are having sleepless nights over this, when you travel I recommend you get a guide. If all else fails, smile and wave.
Should women travel alone?
The real question is always or sometimes? Solo female travelers have taken the world by storm. As a result, the travel industry is finally sitting up and taking notice and catering to us. Technology and increased purchasing power of women have been the real game changers in the world of travel when it comes to solo female travel trends. Traveling alone stretches your capabilities and self-reliance. The space you give yourself when you travel alone enriches you, liberates you physically and spiritually. It thrills me when no one knows where in the world I am. I have travelled alone many times, my only regret is that I didn’t do it more.
What destination is on your travel bucket list?