I found Fiona’s blog, Just Me and a Boarding Pass, one day when I was searching for information about a destination. I loved her spirit and approach to travel so I started reading more of her posts. Soon I asked her to join me on the 30seconds.com travel page as a contributor. Her sense of adventure always shines through and inspires me. I hope my recent interview with Fiona will inspire you too!
How old were you when your family started traveling?
My parents love to travel, ever since I was born, they would pack me up in a car and go for drives, day trips, to just get out of the house and go somewhere different. My first trip on an aeroplane was when I was three years old, and my parents took me to Cairns to visit my grandparents. We lived in Sydney, and Cairns was just so different to that. Tropical weather, country town lifestyle, the smell of burning sugar cane at night, and Mangoes that grew on trees in the street. I made that trip so many times again during the school holidays in the following years, and in the end, Mum & Dad would just put me on the plane in Sydney, and my grandparents would collect me at the other end.
I am a big proponent of traveling with children so they can see and experience the different cultures around the world. Do you think traveling as a child affected who you are as an adult? If so how?
I wholeheartedly agree with that. I treasure all my memories of childhood holidays like jewels. My Mum is always planning and researching her next holiday. Talk of visiting other places and countries was normal to us, I never knew anything different. Every couple of months, we would have a slide night, where we would hang up a white sheet background and view the photos of our holidays – tell the stories, and “remember when’s until it was so late we were yawning and falling asleep. My parents gave me the gift of a love for travel.
Do you travel often with your children?
My children (three boys) are all grown now. We were never able to take the kids overseas when they were young, but we did travel within Australia with them. My husband and I owned a transport company when the kids were young, so there were many interstate family road trips where we all piled in to the truck and took off for a few days! We also took interstate road trips in the car, which was a challenge, because we had three car sick kids! There were also a couple of trips by plane. And of course, I made sure I took them to see Cairns! It is interesting to see that all the boys have an interest for overseas travel as well! My eldest took himself to Canada just after he finished school and lived at Whistler for 2 years –he loved it so much, he wanted the whole family to move over there! He came home eventually, but he’s now fascinated with China and has learnt to speak Mandarin and goes to China for language trips while he sees the sights. My husband and I took our middle son with us to New Zealand a few years ago and since then he’s been to Bali, and Ireland, Venice, Spain, and France! I am so proud of them – I always encouraged them to travel overseas to see what life is like there. I believe that they need to see how things are in other parts of the world to appreciate what they have at home.
What has been your favorite destination? Why?
I would have to say that the Greek Islands is my favourite destination. My parents took me to Greece and the Greek Islands when I was 9 years old. I had such an amazing time that I wanted to go back again ever since. In 2017, my dream came true and I went back with my parents, my uncle and his wife, and my cousin! Everything was just as fabulous as I remembered it from 38 years ago. I would go back tomorrow!
What is your most memorable traveling experience good or bad?
My grandparents (the ones from Cairns) were Dutch. They spoke Dutch with their friends, but I never learned the language as a child (unfortunately) – just words here and there. But they always used to talk to me about how things were done in Holland, and what the customs were. The Dutch do this…., the Dutch say this…. My most memorable experience was when I visited the Netherlands for the first time and walked around hearing the language and being in the country that they came from, and seeing first-hand the customs and traditions that I had heard about my whole life.
What destinations top your travel list right now?
I’m heading to France with my Husband in February. I’m very keen to get back to the Netherlands around April or May. I want to see the Tulips in the Keukenhof Gardens, and I have been learning Dutch so I want to do a language trip! – I’m working on convincing my brother to come with me for this one. I also have a trip to Ireland with my Sister and my Parents in the planning stages at the moment.
How do you find the time to travel while raising a family?
It’s tough when the kids are young. And really difficult financially – the more kids you have, the harder it is to travel. When the kids were small, we just kept it to day trips or weekends – things that were affordable for us at the time. But still broadened their horizons and let them see different things from the every day.
What is the best thing you have learned from traveling?
An appreciation of the differences in cultures between every country. This never fails to fascinate me, and as I learn the cultural idiosyncrasies of each country I feel that I take that knowledge home with me and it becomes part of me, like a living souvenir. (I love this!!!)
What are your top tips for traveling in different countries with language barriers and cultural differences?
I always try to learn important phrases in the relevant language, the numbers, days of the week, that sort of thing. And I take a phrase book, so if I get stuck, I can flick to the phrase and just show it to the person so they can read what I am trying to communicate. I had to do this in Germany – I wanted to try on something that was in the shop window – and that phrase was in my phrase book ( luckily ) and I just showed the lady in the store and she was all smiles! ( I ended up buying it too, so then I was all smiles!) Now days, if you have the internet, you could probably just use google translate. But I love having the confidence of the phrase book – I know it’s going to work even if the internet lets me down. It’s also important to try and learn about, and avoid, any behaviours which could be considered offensive in the country you are visiting.
What is the one thing you can’t travel without?
My travel diary! I must always take an actual book to write in. One time I thought that I would be all digital and take notes of the holiday on my ipad. Biggest mistake I ever made. Took the notes, and then the app crashed and all my holiday memories – Gone! I had to re-construct everything from itinerary and looking things up on google. But I’ll never get back my thoughts and feelings that I had recorded about that trip.
Do you have a favorite tip for surviving long flights and jet lag?
Being from Australia, I could probably be indulged for thinking that I know a thing or two about long haul flights!! Hahah.
Long Flights: Let yourself slip into the mystical land of what I call “Plane Time”. No matter what the time of day when you board, as soon as the aircraft doors are closed, you are in another time zone. Go with it. Each of the different scheduled events in a flight help to pass the time, so make the most of them. Make the most of meal times – don’t rush through. Try to sleep when the crew “put you to bed” – dimming the cabin lights etc. When you are awake, drink a lot of water – this will keep you hydrated, as well asup and walking around periodically to use the bathroom, and stretch your legs at the same time.
Jet Lag: Regardless of the time you touch down in the new time zone, as soon as you arrive, put yourself into that schedule. If you arrive at 8am and you haven’t slept for 16 hours – don’t nap! – instead, go out into the daylight and walk around. Go for a swim, or go to the shops or the supermarket. Anything to keep active and moving. Drink lots of water during the day – this helps signal to your body that this is the “awake” time. Then go to sleep in the evening, after your meal. Do this for the first two days, and by the third day your body should feel like it is in the new time zone with you.
Thank you so much Fiona!!
You can read about Fiona’s travels on her blog, Just Me And A Boarding Pass
or find her sharing her experiences on 30seconds.com travel page.
Check out another one of my world traveller interviews here.