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 Nicola Armstrong, travel blogger at WEARENICO.
In 2016, Nicola – a graphic designer who hails from the UK – quit her day job to travel full-time through South America… Spurned on by her love of travel, photography and design, Nicola set off on her next journey. Which involved her relocating to China to teach English.
In addition to her beautifully curated travel, food and lifestyle blog, WEARENICO, since her move to China, Nico has started a series of videos, which she hopes will help inspire people to visit the amazing country she currently calls home.
Whether you catch up on her latest blog post or video, be sure to follow Nico’s adventures and stories online.
1) Who or what inspired you to go into travel blogging?
I started a blog a few years ago as a different creative outlet from my day job. Naturally, when I started exploring the world in 2016, I decided it was time to focus solely on travel and so I started afresh, with a complete re-brand, and WEARENICO was born.
My goal was to create a series of timeless resources that would help others to share in my experiences and cultivate fresh memories of their own. The benefit to documenting everything I do, is that I now have all of my memories written down and it makes it easier to keep up-to-date with my family and friends.
2) What kind of traveller are you: thrill seeker, culture vulture, adrenaline junkie, nature lover or something of everything?
When it comes to travel, I love to strike a balance between the refined and the extreme. You might find me scouring urban markets and backstreets for design inspiration one day, and clomping around in hiking boots the next.
One thing that is for sure is that wherever I am, trying new foods is always a big priority and my favoured way to end any day is sipping on a beer and watching the sunset.
3) Which are your top three most memorable travel experiences and why? Please list each one with a brief explanation.
This is a tough question as all my travel experiences are pretty memorable, but if I had to narrow it down….
1. Rio Carnival, Brazil: For as long as I can remember, this has been on my bucket list. When my boyfriend and I decided to go to South America, I knew we had to make it to Carnival.
We spent a full week soaking up the sights of Rio and partying our way around the city; the pinnacle being a visit to the Sambadrome to watch the parades. The costumes, dancing and floats were incredible, and it is something that I will never forget.
2. Torres Del Paine, Chile: I hiked the ‘O’ circuit in Torres Del Paine, and it was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I have ever visited. However, on the penultimate day, as we were heading towards the end, disaster struck and I fell over and split my eyelid open.
We were still several hours away from the next camp and I had no choice but to grit my teeth and stumble the remaining distance to camp. The next day, I was evacuated by catamaran and whisked away through icy fjords to a waiting ambulance at the edge of the park.
It was certainly one of the hardest treks I have done – but one that is not unmemorable either!
3. Volunteering at CIWY, Bolivia: When I first decided to travel long-term, I really wanted to spend some time volunteering somewhere for a cause that is important to me. I love working with animals and had heard about an organisation in Bolivia, CIWY.
This conservation group operates three parks in Bolivia, which act as an oasis of calm for animals that have been sold or rescued from the black market. There were many different animals in the park, but what they all had in common was an inability to survive in the wild, as a result of having been cruelly snatched from their mothers at an early age.
You work closely with the animals and form special bonds with them. I looked after three howler monkeys in the morning and an ocelot in the afternoon. You feed them, clean them and help them to explore the jungle.
It was hard to leave this special place. If you want to find out more about CIWY’s vital work, I have written a few articles on my blog.
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.)
My home country is the UK, which is a country that is suffering from a well-documented identity crisis at present. The last time I returned home, I visited the northern city of Manchester and was shocked at how many people were sleeping rough in the city centre compared to when I studied there a few years previously.
I had just got back from a long trip and it really drove home the fact that there are people suffering all over the world, including in my home country. It certainly made me more aware of the problem of homelessness in the UK and made me determined to do more to benefit others in the future.
5) Worst local travel experience (and if you are comfortable enough to, please explain why)?
I haven’t really had any bad ‘local’ experiences, but during the year we spent travelling around South America, we ran into a few problems.
One of the worst came after a 16-hour journey by coach from Brazil into Argentina. We had been warned by everyone that we would likely fall victim to Brazilian thieves, but we were super careful and had no problems along the way.
We entered Argentina and let our guard down; I left my bag on the floor with our other bags and went to the toilet while my boyfriend stood around them. Someone asked him for help and when I came back my bag was gone. It contained nearly everything: our passports, money, laptop and phone, and we were only one month into our year-long trip.
I was mostly upset about the sentimental items I had in there that couldn’t be replaced, but looking back, I am glad that we were not hurt and that I only lost material things.
This kind of thing can happen anywhere, so make sure you are always aware of your belongings.
6) Your top three travel destinations across the globe – either that you have personally experienced or would love to visit?
Everywhere I have been so far I have loved, so I am going to pick three that I would love to visit.
1. Tanzania: This country seems to have it all! I would love to go on a safari and visit the Serengeti to see animals in their natural habitat, then explore some of the gorgeous beaches that flank the coast.
There are also many other countries in Africa that I would love to visit and I hope to see the gorillas in Uganda, hike in the great deserts of Namibia, and wander through jungles, filled with lemurs, in Madagascar.
2. Iceland: This country looks to have it all scenery-wise and, in recent years, has become much more accessible. One of the top things on my bucket list is to see the Northern Lights and I can think of no better place to go to see them.
3. Pakistan: I love hiking and Pakistan looks like a hiker’s dream. This country looks truly beautiful and seems so underrated. I’ve heard amazing things about the vistas, people and food, and I would love to experience it myself.
7) Any useful travel sites/blogs that you can recommend for following?
My personal favourite is a beautiful site called Along Dusty Roads. This blog helped me when I was in South America and I continue to look at it now, as the photos and layout are so nice.
The Broke Backpacker is super useful for doing things on the cheap and he shares lots of funny stories too.
I find the Goats On The Road blog to be really helpful and they are so engaged with their fans. You feel like you are their friend, as they are always happy to help.
8) If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
Indonesia or the Philippines: I am currently living and working in a city in China and longing for some beach time and fresh air. A chance to relax, explore and chill out. There are so many places I want to visit all around the world but right now I need to relax.
9) Do you have any handy tips for planning a trip/day out in your city (and please state which city it is)?
I live in a city called Nanjing in China. It is a big city so there is lots to do. If you are after a day outside, then head to the Purple Mountain area and spend the day exploring this idyllic spot, or head for a walk along the city walls.
If it is museums you like, then head to the Massacre Museum and the Nanjing museum, followed by a trip to one of the top ten bookshops in the world.
If you want to experience some local Chinese culture, then head to the area of Fuzimiao, which has a Confucian temple, boat rides along the river and souvenir shops.
Don’t forget to try all the local food there is on offer, and finish your day off with a trip to KTV!
10) Best travel advice for locals and tourists?
Wherever you are going, I think it is good to know a few words in that language so you can say hello, thank you etc. Google Translate is also a great app for helping with this.
I like to do a bit of research before I go somewhere and then head to that area and see what gems I can find along the way. I always speak to locals or people at the hostel to get their inside tips.
I like to try and walk wherever I can this is the best way to see places and also keeps you healthy on the road.
A great app to help you find your way is Maps.me, which allows you to download maps for offline use… This has been a lifesaver for all of our travels!
To read about and see all of all Nico’s travel stories and experiences, you can visit her amazing blog. Or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.
Thank you very much, Nico, 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.