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 Karen Lynn, travel consultant and blogger at Solo World Wanderer.
Karen Lynn’s passion for travel was sparked from a very young age. Even as a child, she would tear apart the Sunday newspaper, searching for the travel section, which she would then gleefully devour. At 15 (and without the internet), Karen researched, planned and booked her first overseas trip to Paris and Madrid for herself and her family to enjoy. The following summer, having truly cemented her love of travel, Karen backpacked across Europe on her own.
Today, Karen is an avid photographer, wildlife/animal lover and urban wanderer, based between California and Spain. When Karen is not travelling and maintaining her awesome blog, Solo World Wanderer, she enjoys reconnecting with friends and family and visiting her cat, who now lives with his uncles in Los Angeles.
With almost twenty years professional travel industry experience and over 50 countries under her travel belt, Karen (who has worked for notable companies, like STA Travel and Airbnb) is one of the best people imaginable to give travel advice – and she can happily assist you in making your travel dreams come true!
1) Who or what inspired you to go into travel blogging?
Not only have I been a travel addict all my life, but I have also been in the travel industry for my entire professional career. I started my blog a few years ago simply to share my experiences and stories.
But now that I have gone out on my own as a full-time digital nomad – with my own travel consulting business – my blog is also a way for me to connect with potential clients.
2) What kind of traveller are you: thrill seeker, culture vulture, adrenaline junkie, nature lover or something of everything?
Generally (with a few exceptions), I am a solo traveller. My trips tend to be more centered around nature and wildlife – but I also love wandering around a city for a few days… or a few months.
And as a digital nomad, constantly working and on the go, sometimes it is nice
to stay on a beautiful beach or island for a bit to relax and get some work done in front of the sea.
3) Which are your top three most memorable travel experiences and why? Please list each one with a brief explanation.
1. Going to Jaffna, Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka is on my list of top five countries ever, but getting to visit Jaffna, which is still somewhat torn up as a result of the civil war, and seeing such a different side of Sri Lanka (much more off the beaten path), was truly an amazing experience.
2. The hot air ballon ride I took over the Serengeti in Tanzania:
By far my biggest splurge ($500 USD), but you just cannot put a price on ballooning over the Serengeti at sunrise and flying directly over the amazing animals that call this part of the world home.
3. Visiting Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands:
There is nowhere else on Earth where you can see the wildlife of the Galapagos. And the fact that you can get so close to the animals there, is one of those ‘awe moments’.
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 have two ‘home bases’ at the moment. California (US) and Spain. Since it has been a while since I have travelled domestically in the US, my story is about Andalucia in the south of Spain. Recently, Spain has been hard hit by the economic crisis – and Andalucia, the country’s southernmost autonomous region, has been hit the hardest.
A few days after the 2016 presidential election in the US, I was feeling miserable. To help find some balance, I went out for a walk in Granada, where (as usual) I encountered several people hit hard by the crisis. Outside of El Corte Ingles, the big department store, was a man, down on his luck, with a dog. I had some shopping to do at the supermercado in the basement of the store, and, on a whim, decided to buy a bag of dog food for the man’s dog.
When I left the store and gave him the bag of food for the dog, from his reaction, you would have thought that I gave him one million Euros. He was so happy that he was moved to tears and gave me a hug. It was at that moment, that, despite the situation in my country of birth, I felt a genuine human connection again.
5) Worst local travel experience (and if you are comfortable enough to, please explain why)?
As much as I dislike saying, “I didn’t love XXXXX country,” I have to go with Guatemala for this one. On the whole, my experience in Guatemala was incredibly disappointing.
Bad weather on Lake Atitlan, not being thrilled with any of the destinations (Antigua for a month, where I took an intensive course to brush up my Spanish, Rio Dulce, Tikal, Livingston…), coupled with several transportation nightmares and a lot of harassment from the men there made it not my favourite destination… Travel chemistry is a thing, and I felt next to none with Guatemala.
6) Your top three travel destinations across the globe – either that you have personally experienced or would love to visit?
1. Spain (this may not count, as I live there part of the year, so I am
listing my top 4)
2. Sri Lanka: the entire country
3. Myanmar: Lake Inle
4. Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater
*(Visited all of them)
7) Any useful travel sites/blogs that you can recommend for following?
I am currently in love with Instagram, and that is how I find most of my inspiration. I generally start by following the main travel accounts for countries that I love or want to visit, and then see whose photos they are sharing. That is how I tend to find accounts to follow for inspiration.
Other than that, I am old-fashioned in that I still actively use Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree message board. And the Girls Love Travel group on Facebook is always fun (though I tend to give a lot of free advice out there).
8) If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
India and Nepal: I have had many plans to visit these countries, but I always seem to postpone it. These are two countries that travellers either love or hate, and I want to see them for myself.
Although I have no desire (or skills) to climb it, I want to see Mt Everest. And riding the trains through India is top of my bucket list at the moment.
9) Do you have any handy tips for planning a trip/day out in your city (and please state which city it is)?
San Francisco, California: Get away from where the tourists congregate (Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, for example) and explore the neighborhoods of the city. Some of my favorites are the Haight (Lower and Upper), Cole Valley, the Castro, and the Richmond. And make sure to eat a proper burrito (I recommend Casa Mexicana on Church Street or Pancho Villa on 16th Street) while you are in town.
Madrid, Spain: Take a day trip to Segovia to see the famous aqueduct, as well as to explore the town. Or, if you really want to do a day trip more off the beaten path, rent a car and head out to see the famous windmills in Consuegra and Campo de Criptana. Most of the tourists go to Toledo for a day trip, but I think the real charm of Toledo is Toledo at night – and that Toldeo should be more than just a day trip.
10) Best travel advice for locals and tourists?
Always, always, always buy reliable travel insurance… You really never know when you might need it! Embrace the differences and the local culture; things won’t be the same as “home,” but that is why you are travelling. Make an effort to learn a few words in the local language – that gesture of kindness goes a long way.
If you are travelling solo, don’t be scared to dine out alone and/or to treat yourself to a nice
meal at a good restaurant. Many find this awkward, but, just because you are travelling alone, does not mean that you should not experience the best food that your destination has to offer!
To read about and see all of Karen’s amazing travel stories and advice, you can visit her blog.
Thank you very much, Karen, for appearing in this international guest travel segment. Until the next one… happy writing and reading, everyone!
Author: Tamlyn 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.