This week on The Traveler Series, meet Katie Cook of Hope Engaged! Katie and her husband, Kevin, travel the world and give back to the global community through volunteer work. From working with rescued girls of sex trafficking in Nepal to teaching English in Thailand to working for a non-profit in Kenya, this inspiring duo dedicate their life and marriage to making a difference. Hope Engaged shares gorgeous photography, honest writing and captures the up and downs of Katie and Kevin’s travels around the world. Here, I interview Katie on the inspiration behind Hope Engaged, her favorite destinations and her best piece of travel advice.
What inspires you to travel?
There is something so magnificent and surreal about experiencing a culture and land that is not your own. My inspiration comes from the beautiful friendships and memories we make as we adventure around the world.
For those who don’t yet know you, can you explain your travel style?
Kevin and I love to plan trips, with both scheduled itineraries as well as room to be spontaneous! Every time we travel somewhere, we try to get in touch with friends who may know someone living in that country and then we make a new friend and have a local tour guide! It’s the best!
How do you afford your travels?
Kevin and I have miles credit cards that we hook up to our family business! Every ten months or so we earn a free flight somewhere around the world! Check out my 7 part series on “How to Pay for Travel” here and specifically a post on “Miles Credit Cards” here.
Where has been your favorite destination and why?
Ohhhh….this is so hard! I have too many favorite locations! But if I had to pick a destination just for leisure it would be Railay Beach, Thailand.
If you had to settle down in one location forever, where would you choose and why?
I absolutely LOVED Delft, Holland and the entire week we visited I told Kevin a million times, “I could live here!”. I also could live in Hoi An, Vietnam.
What’s the funniest or weirdest cultural idiosyncrasy you’ve either witnessed or experienced?
When Kevin and I lived in Nepal, everyone burps out loud to signify that they enjoyed the meal. I could never get used to grown grandmothers burping and spitting as a sign that they liked the meal! I always got the giggles!
What keepsake do you have to get at all your destinations? (Whether it’s something free like ticket stubs or brochures, or something you have to buy)
Kevin and I always pick up a postcard from every town we visit and have them all stored in a photo album. We also collect mugs from major places we travel.
Earplugs! I’ve visited a lot of noisy places and earplugs always ensure I get a good nights sleep.
Have you ever traveled solo? If yes, what was the experience like?
Yes, I actually moved to Thailand when I was single and lived there as an English teacher. Before moving there, I worried I may be lonely or afraid. But once I got to know my neighbors, I always felt safe and covered in love!
What are your go-to travel apps?
To be honest, Kevin and I don’t use our phones too much when traveling! We use Google maps if we need to figure out how to get somewhere, but other than that we usually refer to a guidebook or our previous research!
What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve picked up over the years?
2 thoughts: First, there is no one “right” way to travel…find what works best for you and stick to it! Second, prioritize your spending at home, so that it gives you more extra cash to travel with (more on that here).
Why did you begin your website? How did you come up with your website name?
I initially began my blog as a way to keep in touch with friends and family and share my travel photos! My faith is important to me and I felt like I had to continually put my “hope” in action, especially during hard times in my life. Thus, “Hope Engaged” came about!
What is your best piece of advice to budding travel writers looking to start a blog or website?
I’m not sure if I’m the most qualified person to ask on this question, but I would say focus on quality over quantity. Learn to take beautiful pictures to compliment the write-up of your trip. Sharing about an experience doesn’t have to be lengthy, so stick to the core content and then let the images tell more of the story!
What’s next for you in 2014? (Trips planned, etc.)
If all goes according to plan we are hoping to go to South America in January and then to Sweden and Norway in the summer to visit my family!
Follow Katie & her travels here: