This week on The Traveler Series, meet Doni Belau of Girls Guide to Paris. For over three decades, Doni has fallen in love with Paris–that city of endless style and beauty–where she believes women can be whoever they want to be.
Spending time in Paris multiple times throughout the year, Doni combs through every guidebook, scours nearly every blog and travel magazine and spends countless hours hunting down the newest restaurants and shops in the City of Light. Doni’s travel blog now focuses on introducing her favorite parts of Paris to friends, acquaintances and anyone on the street who will listen. Here I interview Doni on how she started her website and what inspires her to travel.
What inspires you to travel?
The sense of discovery and adventure that was instilled in me as a child by both of my parents and the sense that I feel free when away to become a slightly different person for a time while in the midst of learning and discovering a place, a different culture and myself.
For those who don’t yet know you, can you explain your travel style?
Disorganized, frenetic, alive, well-researched, ready to veer off-plan and giggly when I feel I’ve discovered something off the beaten track. I adore traveling and am on the road nearly every month but its astounds me that I still never seem to pack the right things!
How do you afford your travels?
Good question. When I was young I remember selling nearly everything we owned (my sister and I) to finance my first trip to Europe. Ever after we’ve maxed out credit cards, and worked 24/7 at times (hubby and myself) to pay the bills and spend a little bit too much of our money on travel – or at least more than the average person. Juggling is the word.
Where has been your favorite destination?
Paris of course, Bordeaux and Amsterdam in Europe, as well as Africa (South Africa, Zambia, Kenya) plus Bali and Japan in Asia.
If you had to settle down in one location forever, where would you choose and why?
What’s the funniest or weirdest cultural idiosyncrasy you’ve either witnessed or experienced?
Under charming: the habit of always saying Bonjour Madame upon entering a store in France Under weird: Dogs are allowed every where in Paris (café’s & stores) except the parks!
Not a keepsake per se but my US passport with global entry (skip the lines at the airports) and with its extra pages that needed to be added for a trip last year to South Africa. It is literally the only way to remember all the various trips I’ve taken. I also love collecting something small from a particular country, old masks from South Africa, a piece of Delftware from Holland and a great bottle of first growth Bordeaux from the 80’s that we’ve managed to hold on to since a trip to the region back before kids.
How about the one thing you cannot travel without?
A large cashmere scarf for the plane and my no transaction fee Barclays card.
What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve picked up over the years?
If someone invites you somewhere that you’ve never been, as long as its not in a war zone, GO.
Why did you begin your website? And how did you come up with your website name?
The name came from a conversation I had with a friend in book publishing named Amy Shields. The idea behind Girls’ Guide to Paris was to capture in one space all the places I loved in Paris and to provide an on-line guide for fellow francophile women. How to monetize it came a lot later!
What is your one piece of advice to budding travel writers looking to start a blog or website?
Be sure you can operate the site yourself and social media a lot. As your site grows you can begin to farm stuff out. SEO is key!
What’s next for 2014? (Trips planned, etc.)
I’ve already been to India for several weeks this year, Paris twice, Bordeaux and then Holland for the tulip season. For sanity sake I need to stay put in NYC for a while with weekend trips to our sailboat in Connecticut. This fall I plan to walk part of the Santiago del Compostela trail (a pilgrimage that is 1000 years old) in Southwestern France leading to Spain which begins near our place in the Bordeaux region. For Christmas I’d love to get the whole family over to Vienna, Budapest and Prague – we’ll see if I can convince everyone!
Follow Dodi and her Parisian adventures here:
Blog/Website/On-line Guide: http://www.girlsguidetoparis.com