ALL POSTS IN [Our Type of Traveler]

All photos courtesy of Sonia Gill

A self-described language geek, entrepreneur and an award-winning travel web series host, Sonia Gil is Our Type of Traveler.

Founder of the digital language learning company Fluenz, and host of “Sonia’s Travels” web series, Sonia shows that you can travel the world and enrich your life without breaking the bank. With a mission to “crack the secret code of cities,” “Sonia’s Travels” uncovers the local flavor of destinations, avoiding the tourist-trodden spots, to dig deeper to find the true soul of a city.

Sharing her love of language, Sonia’s projects include the non-profit Fluenz.org that distributes free English language programs for people in need. Recently, Sonia partnered with Lonely Planet to create FluentRoad.com, a unique online program for travelers interested in learning travel Spanish.

Sonia also has her own video series “Almost Free” on Ulive.com. As winner of the Webby Award for “Web Personality of the Year” in 2012, Sonia continues to “recapture the small moments that add up to the art of travel.”

We caught up with Sonia on the road to find out about all those small, but meaningful moments in her travels:

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NYT's Frugal Traveler, Seth Kugel in Colombia.

NYT’s Frugal Traveler, Seth Kugel (Photos: Courtesy Seth Kugel)

Because Seth Kugel prefers the unexpected find to online travel reviews, he’s Our Type of Traveler. As The New York TimesFrugal Traveler, Kugel shares his insights on how to enjoy a destination without breaking the bank — or being a slave to endless online travel reviews — in mapping out a travel itinerary.

For Kugel, it’s all about the delight of discovery, something travelers could use more of, he says.

“We’ve eliminated discovery in travel because places are so well-documented,” says Kugel, from his home in Queens, NY. “I’m not an evangelist for being dumb about a place but there’s something to be said for leaving a little room for discovering a place on your own.”

Here’s how Kugel finds the charm of the unexpected, on the cheap. READ MORE

Wildlife adventurer Jessica Pociask curls up with a Harp Seal pup on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

With her passion for wildlife adventures, from jungle trekking in Uganda to see mountain gorillas or curling up with lemurs in Madagascar, Jessica Pociask is our type of traveler.

As the owner of WANT Expeditions — Wildlife and Nature Travel, a conservation-oriented, expedition-style adventure travel company — Jessica leads tours to see the most amazing natural phenomena on Earth.  Jessica has been to over 70 countries, leading expeditions all over the world, and has visited all 7 continents. She has studied climate change in Antarctica, and she was one of 50 women chosen from the US and Mexico for the Women’s Leadership and International Sustainable Development award by the National Wildlife Federation.

Jessica “photo bombs” a giant tortoise in the Galapagos.

A biologist by trade, Jessica recently spoke on a panel with distinguished conservationists and biologists regarding the impact of tourism on conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival.

And where is Jessica currently? Oh, just leading a tour in Ecuador to see the first new carnivore species found in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years — the olinguito.

Traveling Type: How did you get your start leading wildlife and nature tours?

Jessica Pociask: It’s a long, convoluted story that probably started when I made my first insect collection somewhere around the age of 7. Over the next 20 years, fueled by stories in my grandfather’s collection of National Geographic magazines, I was inspired with the idea of being an explorer and adventurer. I took my first trip abroad when I was 16, and I once traveled with an orchestra through Europe. From there on, I was smitten with traveling, so I began working for various conservation organizations and outdoor outfitters and started traveling abroad independently. READ MORE

Family on Bikes hits the Andes. (All Photos: Nancy Sathre-Vogel)

Having traveled through 15 countries — on a bike — with her kids, Nancy Sathre-Vogel is Our Type of Traveler. The founder of Family on Bikes, Nancy quit her day job of teaching, for 21years, to hit the road with her husband and twin sons. What followed was an incredible journey, captured in one of Nancy’s 4 books about bike touring, Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World.

Having logged 27,000 miles throughout the Americas, including Alaska and Argentina, Nancy knows all about family travel. Recently, Traveling Type caught up with Nancy, who now she lives in Idaho, where she pursues her passions of writing and beadwork. Here’s what Nancy had to say about traveling with kids — including her top picks for destinations every parent should take their kids, and how to live out your life’s passions. Plus, she lets us in on the time she found a man in her bed … naked … at 3 a.m. … and it wasn’t her husband. Hmm … let’s get going!

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?
Nancy Sathre-Vogel: It was an accident. I actually started an online journal — a place to document our travels for ourselves and where my mother could follow along. I had no idea that people actually read blogs — or that there was such a word as “blog,” for that matter. I was stunned when we started getting messages from random strangers telling me we had inspired them to get out and live a more adventurous life.

What’s your blog about?
My blog started as documentation for our bicycle adventures. Now that we are back home, I’ve morphed it into a site to encourage and inspire others to grab life by the horns and steer it in a direction that is more fulfilling and satisfying.

How many countries, cities, and continents have you and your family traveled to?
As a family, we have ridden our bicycles through 15 countries. Before we had kids, my husband and I cycled probably another 15 or so. And then there are dozens of countries that we’ve traveled in, but not cycled.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Ethiopia is amazing for the sheer beauty of both people and scenery. And Honduras for my basic personal growth.

Sippin’ in style: Family on Bikes’ Nancy Sathre Vogel

Has it ever been a challenge on agreeing on a place to go?
It’s never been an issue. If there is one place that any one of us really feels strongly about, we all respect that. For example, one of my sons said he wanted to go to Yellowstone National Park, so we routed ourselves through Montana and Wyoming rather than along the coast in order to go there. Another desire was to see Chichen Itza, so we planned our route through the Yucatan.

What are the benefits of traveling with young kids — isn’t that tough?
Not at all! Kids are great travelers — even easier than most adults. Kids are so flexible and enthusiastic; they’re willing to do just about anything. And, of course, they have an energy level that allows them to go and go and not get tired.

What’s your family’s favorite place to get away from it all?
Our cottage on the Connecticut shore.

What are the most overrated places to take your kids on vacation?
Pretty much any place that advertises itself as “kid-friendly.” What we’ve found is that the best places are those that are not listed in guidebooks, they are not publicized.

What places should every parent should take their kids?
The 4 destinations I think every child should experience are: 1.) Northern British Columbia — it’s like taking a safari through an African savanna with all the wildlife on the side of the road; 2.) Ica, Peru — seeing conehead skulls in the regional museum, then on to mysteriously carved stones found in the desert, and culminating in a flight over the Nazca Lines, this area will get you questioning some very basic “truths” about our world as well … oh yeah, and the sandboarding in the massive sand dunes is a blast as well; 3.) Chinese New Year — seeing these celebrations should be a must for every child! We lived in Taiwan, so got to be a part of the celebration there; 4.) Ecuadorian New Year — Ecuadorians know how to do New Year right!

What’s your must-have item when traveling — especially with kids?
A Kindle. One for each person.

Tell us your funniest travel story/experience.
Probably the time in Colombia when I found a naked man in my bed! It’s a long story.

Family on Bikes hits northern Alaska’s Dalton Highway

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten while traveling, and where?
If you asked my kids, one of them would say lomo saltado from Peru and Bolivia. The other would say plain ol’ beans and tortillas in Mexico. For me? Pretty much any and all Ethiopian food. Except the raw beef — couldn’t bring myself to do that one.

How do your family healthy while on the road?
I think the trick to staying healthy is being active in the outdoors. There is something about Mother Nature to take care of us. That, and we try to eat semi-healthy food, but we don’t stress over it.

What’s the best hotel you’ve stayed at as a family?
In general, we prefer the small locally owned Ma and Pa places over large chains.

Where’s “home”?
Boise, ID. It’s where I grew up, and now – after many years of living all around the world – where we’re living again.

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?
Do what the locals do. In the summer, take an afternoon to tube down the Boise River. In the winter head up to the ski resort at Bogus Basin. Listen to music at Alive After 5, walk around the farmers’ market on Saturday morning. There is always plenty going on.

Nancy and family on Tierra del Fuego

You say everyone should pursue their passion — what would you say to someone facing challenges?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I know, I know … that’s trite and cliché and all kinds of boring, but it’s also true. You will find a way to do what’s highest on your priority list. The key is to honestly reevaluate your priorities. What do you value more than anything else? Make a list of your top 5 priorities, then take a good solid look at your life. Are you living in a way that is consistent with those priorities? If not, why?

What’s No. 1 on your bucket list?
I’d like to explore Europe someday. We’ve traveled all over the world, but still have managed to explore much of Europe. Need to change that!


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Our Type of Traveler: Johnny Jet

Our Type of Traveler: Nomadic Matt

As an expert in how to travel the world on $50 a day, Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, is definitely our Type of Traveler. Since this Boston native quit his day job in 2006 and started travel blogging at 23, he’s gone on to visit 70 countries, hundreds of cities and 6 continents. On his No. 1-ranking travel site, Nomadic Matt (and in his book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day) Matt dispenses tips on how to travel longer, better and cheaper. We caught up wtih Matt, who’s currently on tour in Europe, to answer your questions. Whether you’re seeking to become a world traveler yourself or start your own successful blog, Matt’s got the insider look at what it takes.

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?
Nomadic Matt: I created my blog in 2008 as an online resume in the hopes of becoming a freelance writer. I wanted to write guidebooks and in a roundabout fashion, that’s what I do.

What’s your blog about?
I teach people how to travel the world on a budget.

How many countries, cities and continents have you traveled to?
I’ve been to 70 countries, countless cities and 6 continents. I’m only missing Antarctica.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Picking a favorite place is a little like picking your favorite child. It just can’t be done, but I would say my top 3 are Thailand, Sweden and France.

What’s your favorite place to get away from it all?
My apartment. I love sitting on my couch, ordering Chinese food and watching movies. That’s my vacation!

What’s one place you would just as well not see again?
Vietnam.

For the budget traveler, what budget-friendly spots should they put on their radar?
Greece, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Ukraine and Nicaragua, to name a few.

What’s your must-have item when traveling?
For me, I never travel without my iPhone. I love music too much. It makes me tremendously calm and happy, so I always like having access to my music while traveling. It’s especially great on long, long bus rides.

What’s your favorite travel app?
I don’t use apps other than ones related to airline loyalty programs, so I can check my miles. I would have to say my app is now my favorite. I’m building an app that will help people track expenses and budget their money on the road.

Tell us your funniest travel story/experience.
I once got lost in a jungle in Costa Rica with a few friends. We took the wrong path, got lost and before we knew it, it was nighttime and we didn’t have a flashlight. In retrospect it was funny. At the time, we were really scared.

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten while traveling, and where was it?
The best thing ever? Tough question. I’ve had so many delicious meals. If I had to pick one meal that stood out, it would definitely be the paella I had while in Valencia, Spain. That was phenomenal.

What’s the best hostel or hotel you’ve ever stayed at?
My favorite hostel in the world is The Flying Pig in Amsterdam, though it’s a bit on the pricey side. For absolute value, I love Aboriginal in Budapest. That place is a great bargain, with great stuff and a big breakfast.

Where’s “home”?
New York City.

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?
My hometown is a little suburb outside of Boston but we do have the Deane Winthrop House, which is one of the oldest historic houses in the area and famous for its slanted walls!

Any recommendations for anyone wanting to start a travel blog?
Be an expert in something. A general blog isn’t good. Focus on a topic, no matter how narrow, and be the best at it.

What’s No. 1 on your bucket list?
Going on safari in East Africa for 3 months.

Meet Matt Long — he’s Our Type of Traveler. An experiential traveler at heart, Matt shares his adventures with thousands of readers every day through his site LandLopers.com. As someone who has a big case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Based in Washington, DC, Matt has been to more than 60 countries and all 7 continents. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?

Matt Long: At the time I was working as a lobbyist for a trade association and just didn’t find my job fulfilling. I started the site as a way to help friends and share my adventures, and now it’s my full-time job and undeniable passion.

What’s your blog about?

Like most blogs, my blog is about me and the way I like to travel. I love adventure and experiential travel, but I also like coming back to a comfortable hotel room. Luxury adventure is usually how I describe it, but with an emphasis on adventure.

How many countries, cities and continents have you traveled to?

I’ve been to around 60 countries, who knows how many hundreds of cities, and 7 continents.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

Hard question and it depends on “favorite” for what. Paris is my favorite city, New Zealand is my favorite place for adventure travel and Jordan is a great place for foodies. But most countries I visit hold a soft spot in my heart.

What’s your favorite place to get away from it all?

The Bahamas, there is just something so peaceful about the islands and with so many Out Islands to explore it’s never the same trip twice.

What’s your must-have item that you never travel without?

Other than my passport and camera? My battery pack to keep my iPhone always charged is a must-have for me.

What’s your favorite travel app?

I swear by TripIt, it keeps all of my travel information stored in one place and is indispensible for trips.

 

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten while traveling, and where was it?

Simple meal of chicken and fried basil at a riverfront restaurant in Bangkok. I go every time I visit and it has some of the best food in the city.

What’s the best hotel/resort/hostel you’ve stayed at?

Yikes, hard question! I’ve stayed at some great ones, but the 2 Four Seasons resorts on the Hawaiian island of Lanai are  hotels I love and never get tired of visiting.

Where’s “home”?

Washington, DC, but it’s also whenever I’m with my loved ones and my 3 furry kids, Siberian huskies that are always hard to leave behind when I travel.

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?

To plan an evening at the beautiful Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. It’s the only national park of its kind in the US and an evening listening to great music under the stars is a quintessential DC moment that we locals usually keep to ourselves.

What’s No. 1 on your bucket list? 

Not usually a fan of bucket lists, but I really want to explore India. I’ve never been, I’ve heard mixed things but I have to admit that it really intrigues me.

 

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Our Type of Traveler: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Our Type of Traveler: Johnny Jet

 

 

Lola Akinmade Akerstrom

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is a Nigerian-American, Stockholm-based writer and photographer who has contributed to digital and print publications such as National Geographic Traveler (both UK & US versions), BBC, CNN, The Guardian, Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, AFAR, San Francisco Chronicle, Fodors.com, several in-flight magazines, and many more. She is featured in a South Africa vignette Through The Lens that airs on National Geographic Channel and her photography is represented by National Geographic. Check out her blog, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?
Lola Akinmade Akerstrom: I’ve always had a travel website of some sort since 2002 when I volunteered as a field journalist with an expedition race in Fiji. I shared dispatches, snippets and photos so my family and friends could follow along, but it wasn’t until late 2006 — when I discovered Matador Network — that I fully began “travel blogging.” At that time, I was still working a full-time job as a GIS system architect developing cool interactive online maps, but by 2009, I officially left that life behind in pursuit of travel writing and travel photography.

What’s your blog about?
I developed my own travel blog to feature highlights from travels along with dispatches because I work primarily as a freelance writer and photographer. So my blog acts more as a showcase for my work — writing and photography — with the occasional service-y “how to” post and product reviews.

How many countries, cities, and continents have you traveled to?
I stopped counting countries after my 40th because travel to me isn’t about some arbitrary list of places that need to be checked off and conquered. That said, I’d probably be well over 50 countries by the end of this year. But who’s keeping count? :)

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
I don’t have a favorite place but I do have favorite experiences, ranging from volunteering in Cambodia and photographing the Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland to learning about Zulu culture in South Africa and soaking up the vibrant markets in Lagos, Nigeria.

What’s your favorite place to get away from it all?
We actually live on one of Stockholm’s islands so we have a favorite cliff by the water where we steal away to just relax and watch sailboats and ships cruise by.

What’s your must-have item that you never travel without?
Camera. I have a hard time traveling without one.

What’s your favorite travel app?
Skyscanner. I’m always searching for cheap tickets.

Tell us your funniest travel story/experience. 
Strong winds plus me in a skirt and you already know what happened. But what made it even more embarrassing was that I was boarding a full double-decker bus in London and was climbing the stairs to the upper deck when a gust of wind rushed in, lifting and wrapping my skirt around my waist in the process. So those seated in the lower deck definitely got a good view of my underwear.

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten while traveling, and where was it?
A tough call, but I can say the best pizza I have ever eaten was in the remote village of Gratteri in Sicily — the type of tiny village where the baker rides a small Vespa through narrow streets delivering bread directly to homes. We had to wait all day until 7 p.m. for the pizza maker to arrive into the village … and it was well worth the wait.

What’s the best hotel/resort/hostel you’ve stayed at?
Right now, it’s Les Jardins de la Medina in Marrakech. I really enjoyed its ambiance and would return in a heartbeat.

Where’s “home”?
Home is anywhere my husband and daughter are. Right now, they’re in Stockholm so Stockholm it is. But I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, and it will always be my “true roots” home.

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?
When visiting Lagos, try to experience one of its open-air markets for a sensory overload and a true glimpse into what makes it such a vibrant city. When visiting Stockholm, take a boat cruise around the harbor. Better yet, take a brunch or lunch cruise so you can dig into local Swedish specialties like pickled herring and cured salmon while soaking up Stockholm’s stunning views.

What’s #1 on your bucket list? 
Mongolia. Oh, and the North Pole.

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Meet Johnny Jet – he’s Our Type of Traveler. Johnny Jet travels around 175,000 miles and visits more than 20 countries each year. He and his website JohnnyJet.com have been featured over 3,000 times in major publications, including USA Today, Time, Fortune and The New York Times. JohnnyJet.com has been named “one of the best money-saving web sites for travel” by Budget Travel Magazine, while the LA Times calls it “one of the top 10 essential travel resources on the internet.” Sign up today for Johnny Jet’s free weekly travel newsletter at JohnnyJet.com and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?
JohnnyJet: I kind of fell into it. I started before the word ‘blogging’ was even created. Back in 1995, I began emailing stories of my travels to my friends, along with useful travel tips. My friends started sharing it with their friends and when my email list grew to over 500 people, I created a website. A few months later, Laura Bly from USA Today featured JohnnyJet.com and it became my full-time job about 4 months later.

What’s your blog about?
My website chronicles my travels and includes useful travel tips and advice to help people travel better and smarter. You’ll also find travel news and great travel deals.

How many countries, cities, and continents have you traveled to?
I’ve been to 6 continents and roughly 100 countries according to the Century Club’s list.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
That’s a tough call. It really depends on the time of year. I love Southeast Asia, Australia and the South Pacific in the winter and I love Europe and Nantucket in the summer.

What’s your favorite place to get away from it all?
A European cruise on Seabourn.

What’s your must-have item that you never travel without?
My passport! And my Acer Aspire S7 laptop, which has the new Windows operating system.

What’s your favorite travel app?
FlightAware

Tell us your funniest travel story/experience. 
I was at Club Med Opio in Provence, France, and had signed up for a massage. When I arrived for my appointment, the receptionists were giggling as they handed me a robe and showed me to the men’s locker room. When my masseuse showed up, she escorted me to the room and said something in French, which I didn’t understand. Then she said, “Voila.” Usually, after being led into the therapy room, the masseuse steps out so you can get your naked body on the table and under a towel so no one has to witness what’s beneath the robe. But when she said, “Voila!” again and motioned for me to get on the table, I gathered she was telling me to drop the towel and hoist my naked self up onto the table. I didn’t want to look like a prude American so I did as I was told and just … well, dropped the towel.

WHOA NELLY! You should have seen this scene. I don’t know who was more surprised — the masseuse or my reaction to her reaction! After I let it all hang out she let out a little scream and quickly turned around. I instantly grabbed the paper covering from the table and covered you-know-who. With her back to me and one hand over her eyes, she handed me some paper underwear. It turned out that the women at the front desk had ‘forgotten’ to give me this important cover-up.

What’s the best hotel/resort/hostel you’re stayed at?
That’s another tough call. But as of right now, I would have to say Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island or Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri Kenya Safari Camp.

Where’s “home”?
Manhattan Beach, California

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?
Rent a bike and ride along the Strand to soak up the views and the sun.

What’s #1 on your bucket list?
Vietnam.

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