As part of the next instalment in my international version of Guests’ Corner (previously a local South African travel interview section on Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust), I chatted to Lies Veldeman, travel blogger at Non Stop Destination.
Lies Veldeman is a Belgian travel blogger and photographer at Non Stop Destination. In a full-time capacity, Lies is a talented visual effects artist – but, in her free time, she is a descriptive travel blogger, who uses her words and gorgeous photos to bring wonderful travel stories to life.
In 2014, during a visit to sunny South Africa, Lies finally kick-started her travel blog, Non Stop Destination, and the rest, as they say, is (travel) history… Lies invites you to join in on her journeys, as she explores more of this beautiful planet, one stop at a time!
1) Who or what inspired you to go into travel blogging?
I’ve always wanted to create a space where I could document all my travels. I tried scrap-booking, but it turned out to be not as satisfying as I had hoped. I ended up with a huge backlog and plenty of junk (entry tickets, travel brochures, different currencies…) lying around. It was all a bit too chaotic, so I abandoned the project.
In 2014, I took a two-month break from work and together, with my boyfriend, Ash, we travelled to South Africa for two months. These two months finally gave me the time and the push I needed to start up my blog. And unlike a scrapbook, I could show my family what I was up to, and hopefully, inspire travellers with my stories and photography.
2) What kind of traveller are you: thrill seeker, culture vulture, adrenaline junkie, nature lover or something of everything?
I’m a little bit of everything, to be honest. Wherever I go, I try to mix things up a bit. I love visiting museums and learning about the history of a place. I can walk around a city for hours, admiring the architecture and people-watch, while sipping a local wine on an outside terrace.
I love the outdoors, I frequently hike on my trips, and try to incorporate a few fun activities, such as kayaking, rafting, horse riding or ziplining. My travels are always pretty jam-packed, so, at the end of the day, you can often find me relaxing at a hot spring.
3) Which are your top three most memorable travel experiences and why? Please list each one with a brief explanation.
1) Volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand:
I love elephants, so when I read about the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I started saving up for a trip to Asia. Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for abused and tortured elephants from the tourism and illegal logging industry. There are no rides or shows, just a place for elephants to live their lives as free as possible. It was a life-changing experience; one that I would love to repeat.
2) Travelling around Cuba:
Planning the trip was challenging but exciting. I couldn’t wait to see the colonial towns, the vintage cars and the countryside. I wanted to visit before too much would change – before WiFi was readily available and more American products would make their way to the country. Cuba turned out to be one of my favourite countries I’ve visited to date.
3) New Zealand, South Island road trip:
We’ve tried to see as much as we can since arriving in our current home country. But the highlight of our time here in New Zealand was our road trip on the South Island.
4) What was your most humbling or eye-opening travel experience in your home country and why? (Please provide your home country’s name too.)
I’m from Belgium, which is a small country in Europe. I usually visit the main sights when I go back, such as the cities Gent, Brussels and Bruges, but earlier this year, I decided to visit a place that’s not as well known to tourists: Doel, a town near Antwerp. Once a picturesque town near the Scheldt River – now, all that is left is a ghost town.
Antwerp is the second largest harbour in Europe and is constantly expanding… at the cost of nearby villages. Plans were made to get rid of several villages around the harbour to make room for more docks, and Doel was one of them. More than 40 years after the first plans were made, Doel is still standing, but most people have left. Walking along the empty streets and the boarded-up houses was a very sobering experience.
5) Worst local travel experience (and if you are comfortable enough to, please explain why)?
I don’t really have any bad travel experience in Belgium, and I have been quite lucky during my travels around the world. However, I did have one bad experience in my previous home country, Canada.
We had planned a long weekend away in Banff, a town in Alberta’s rocky mountains, during the Christmas holidays. Our flight was cancelled, and the next available one took us first to another city before arriving at our final destination. A flight that should have taken one hour, twenty minutes, took us six hours in total.
Thinking we could finally enjoy our trip, I lost our car keys the next day. We had packed all our luggage in the car, and I was taking some final photos of Lake Louise, where we had stayed the night, before noticing that the car keys had fallen out of my pocket. What made matters worse was that there was half a metre of snow everywhere, which made it a lot more difficult to find the keys…
After more than an hour of frantic searching, digging around in the snow and asking the hotel staff if there was another room available for the night, we finally found the keys. They had fallen into a pile of snow on the side of the car park and had left no hole or any sign that anything had fallen in that area. Ash had been clearing the snow in that area for some time; I had never felt so relieved to find keys!
6) Your top three travel destinations across the globe – either that you have personally experienced or would love to visit?
Not one destination, but an experience in three different countries: I would love to travel on the Trans-Mongolian Railway.
Starting in St Petersburg, travelling through Russia, Mongolia and finally arriving in Beijing, China. I’ve always liked train travel, and this is an epic overland adventure that’s been high on my bucket list for some time.
7) Any useful travel sites/blogs that you can recommend for following?
Maptia: Not a travel blog but a collection of travel stories, accompanied by beautiful photography from around the world.
The Wandering Lens: Lisa is a professional travel photographer, and I love her photography style. She has some inspiring photos on her blog, as well as great tutorials to make your photography stand out.
Cookiesound: A mother-daughter travel photography duo, who write compelling travel articles, accompanied by beautiful photography. They love exploring destinations on their own, without a tour guide, just the way we like to travel.
8) If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I’m currently living in a country where I’ve always wanted to travel to. We moved to New Zealand a few months ago, and I’m still busy exploring the two main islands. This will also be my first Christmas in summer, so I’m very excited about that!
If I had to leave New Zealand right now, I would probably travel back to Belgium and spend the holidays with my family.
9) Do you have any handy tips for planning a trip/day out in your city (and please state which city it is)?
After living in several countries in the past nine years, I consider my home city to be Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver has a lot to offer, especially if you love the outdoors. If you only have a day, I would suggest visiting the waterfront, hire a bicycle and cycle around Stanley Park on the Seawall…
You’ll get a glimpse of the Vancouver mountains, the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful beaches. You can cycle or walk around Stanley Park, a quiet oasis bordering the city of Vancouver. You might even come across some raccoons or beavers.
I would also highly recommend going up Grouse Mountain, one of the North Shore Mountains. It is a popular mountain in summer and winter, with tourists and locals alike. You can take the Skyride up the mountain, and enjoy stunning views of Vancouver. On top, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails, ski slopes, ziplines and two resident, orphaned grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola. They’re currently in hibernation, so you can see them sleep on the Den webcam. They don’t always sleep, so you might see them moving around a little.
10) Best travel advice for locals and tourists?
Plan ahead but always leave some free time for unexpected activities. Don’t let the weather ruin your holiday; it’s just another way to experience a destination.
To read about and see all of Lies’s amazing travel stories and adventures, you can visit her blog. Or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Thank you very much, Lies, for appearing in this international guest travel segment. Until the next one… happy writing and reading, everyone!
Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.