Each week, The Pin The Map Project turns towards the travel community to highlight the stories of travelers, writers and photographers. To kick off The Traveler Series, I would like to introduce Audrey Bergner of ThatBackpacker, a travel blog (that is one of my favorites!) where she chronicles her adventures, life abroad and shares tips with other travelers. Audrey has spent time teaching English in Korea, living the ex-pat life in Thailand and backpacking around Europe; here I interview Audrey on her favorite destinations, how she began blogging and her best piece of travel advice.
What inspires you to travel?
I’m inspired by new places and different cultures – the language, customs, food, architecture, traditions. One of the things I really enjoy about travel is seeing the contrast and similarities between the places I’ve traveled to.
For those who don’t yet know you, can you explain your travel style?
My travel style has really evolved over the past couple of years. When I first started travelling I was all about cheap hostel dorms, do-it-yourself picnic lunches and visiting free attractions; I was your average backpacker going at it on a shoe-string budget because university was eating up most of my money. In the past couple of years, however, I’ve become more of a flash-packer. I’m happy to spend more money for comfort and quality.
How do you afford your travels?
This is probably the question I get asked the most and the answer is that I’ve prioritized travel and worked a lot of random jobs in order to be able to afford my trips. Over the years my jobs have included tutoring elementary school students, serving coffee at a cafe, painting houses in the summer, doing data entry and even teaching English in South Korea. With all of these jobs, I made a conscious decision to put money aside to travel!
Where has been your favorite destination?
That’s a really tough question because each destination is so unique! But if I have to choose only one destination from the past year, I would say Jordan. During my time there I got to walk through the ancient ruins of Jerash, visit the Lost City of Petra, and camp with Bedouins in Wadi Rum – sitting in the middle of the desert was one of those surreal moment where I had to pinch myself and ask, “Am I really here?!”
If you had to settle down in one location forever, where would you choose and why?
I still haven’t found that place! I’m very fond of Argentina seeing as that’s where I grew up and I also love Germany, but it still remains to be seen where I end up.
What’s the funniest or weirdest cultural idiosyncrasy you have either witnessed or experienced?
Living in South Korea, one of the things I immediately noticed were the matching couple outfits! Young couples love to wear matching t-shirts, matching sneakers, and in some extreme cases I even saw couples that had dyed their hair the exact same shade of fire engine red.
What keepsake do you have to get at all your destinations?
I like to collect art for my future home wherever that may be. I buy lots of pottery, hand-woven textiles, wooden sculptures, glass lamps, and whatever else captures my eye in a market. Because these are all fragile and heavy items that I can’t carry around in my backpack, I often end up shipping stuff home in bulk.
How about the one thing you cannot travel without?
My Kindle! I need to have something to read on all those long train rides and overnight buses.
What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve picked up over the years?
Don’t over plan your trip! When you’re first starting out it’s easy to want to book everything ahead of time and have a set schedule, but this can be quite restricting. What happens if you don’t like a certain city but you’re booked there for a full 5 nights? What happens if you meet a cool group of travelers and they invite you to come along? What happens if you love a city and you don’t want to leave except you’ve already bought an outbound flight? A little planning is good, but leave some room for serendipity.
Why did you begin blogging? And how did you come up with your blog name?
I began blogging as my own personal outlet. I had all these photos and stories from my travels and I wanted to do something with all these memories, so I started a blog not really knowing if any one would ever read it. At the time I didn’t even know a travel blogging community existed! As for the name “That Backpacker”, it really reflected my travel style at the time so I went with it.
What is your one piece of advice to budding travel writers looking to start a blog?
Experiment. It takes a while to find your groove when you’re first starting out and it’s easy to feel like you have to copy what the more “experienced bloggers” are doing, however, you need to find a style that works for you.
What’s next for 2014?
After spending the majority of 2013 in Southeast Asia, 2014 is going to be spent traveling in Europe. All I know is that I’ll be flying into Germany and spending about a month there. I eventually want to work my way over to Central Europe and the Balkans, but I have no plans set in stone so we’ll see what happens!
Follow Audrey and her travels here: