Ask Nicole ?s

I love it when y’all send me questions here via comments or email, or through Instagram Stories (@yalewanders).

Often, I get the same travel q’s time after time (which I never tire of answering), and thought it’d be fun to share what they are, as well as my responses.

What inspired you to start a travel blog? 

I’ve always loved writing and travel- even as a kid, I remember checking books out of the library about places I’d only seen on a globe- India, Egypt, Russia, Japan, Brazil. I was fascinated by reading about other cultures, traditions and lifestyles. When I started traveling on my own, I had the idea of documenting and sharing my tips and experiences for years before I actually put it into action.

In 2014, I started working for VaynerMedia. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a digital agency led by serial entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk. Long story short: Gary produces a lot of content that discusses business advice, all of which is inspirational in nature. In one Q&A that was recorded on a podcast several years ago, someone asked him what motivates him, and he responded with four simple words: “You’re going to die.”

Those words really sunk in, and a few weeks later, I finally started writing my first posts. Even though this blog has only been in operation for a little over two years, I already can’t believe how gratifying it’s been- I love looking back at my adventures now and can’t wait to do so years from now.

And, of course, every time a friend or follower tells me how much they enjoy what I’m doing, or how helpful a particular post was for them, it’s the ultimate feeling.

At first, this blog started as a way for me to document my travels. As I kept writing and traveling though, I realized a gap in the travel blog market- the vast majority of bloggers aim to inspire through sharing beautifully edited photos and videos, or pithy captions. Very few provide the details, tools and advice needed to actually empower others to travel, or help plan a trip.

Here, you’ll find destination guides, weekend getaways, can’t-miss-experiences in cities around the world, and inspiration to explore the beautiful world we live in.

And, most importantly, comprehensive content to help you plan a trip too.

When do you find time to blog? 

Prioritisation is critical.

Every week I’m working, I list out what I want to accomplish and then divide things up by days- writing days, post editing/photo finishing days, promo days, etc. Having days dedicated to focusing on certain elements of my blog makes it easier for me to get in the right mindset and get to work.

The question of ‘how I’m able to travel so much with a full time job’ is the one I get the most often- you can see my answer here.

What’s your goal for the blog?

First and foremost, it’ll always be to inspire others to explore the world, wherever they are and with whatever means.

Second, it’s to enable you to travel, too. That’s why I spend a lot of time writing posts with details- recommended times to visit attractions, cost of things for budget transparency, tips for how to get from point a to point b, and so on.

Are all of your photos really iPhone only?

Yep! I’ve circled the notion of buying a DLSR many times, but never gone through with it for several reasons. In December of 2017, I upgraded to the X, and mid-way 2020, I started using an iPhone 11.  I also work with two lenses from Moment- the 58 mm tele and wide angle. 

If you’re shooting with an iPhone, these are my top tips for taking better travel pics.

However, I am interested in a GoPro, and almost bought one for my 2019 travels. Love the idea of using it for video, as well as a greater variety of shots (underwater, adventure).

Do you have a favorite airline or hotel chain?

Nope!

I fly some United States distance carriers (Southwest, Delta) for points but will always book on another airline if the cost difference is significant enough. Instead, I have two travel reward based credit cards that help make me feel less guilty about flying different carriers if I need to.

Hotel wise, I love a few chains when I’m in the mood to splurge- notably Scandic properties (Haymarket in Stockholm is gorgeous), The Hoxton in London/Paris/Amsterdam/NYC/Chicago, the Ace Hotel in NYC, and Citizen M properties worldwide. In Asia, I love visiting Anantara and Banyan Tree properties, but would consider a stay there to be a splurge.

Lub ‘d is my favourite design hostel (aka poshtel) brand, with locations in Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia. Also a fan of Selina properties in Central and South America, although they’re usually a bit more than I’m comfortable paying for a hostel.

9 times out of 10,  you’ll find me at an Airbnb. Great deals are to be found all over the world, and I love experiencing life like locals. To help make my stays more ethical, I try to only choose properties where hosts either also live, or it’s a second home for them. While Airbnb changed the solo travel game for me, making it more affordable and accessible, I recognize the threat Airbnb development poses to communities around the world. 

What’s the one travel app you couldn’t live without? 

Just one?!

My top five are below, but Custom Google Maps are a game changer in terms of finding your way around a city, and making the most out of a holiday.

  • Custom Google Maps (read more about how to make one here, but these are essential- I make one for every trip)
  • XE Currency (quick currency exchanges)
  • Google Translate (type text or scan a photo to easily translate, you can also download languages ahead of time so they’re available if you don’t have wifi)
  • WhatsApp (essential for international check-ins with family and friends)
  • Foursquare/Yelp (the best for finding quick restaurant/coffee/drink recos on the go)

It seems like you’re always on the go, where do you find the energy?

The basics to self-care are important. What do I consider to be ‘basic’?

Drinking enough water, working out 5-6 days each week, getting 7-8 hours of sleep every day, eating as clean as possible whenever able, allocating enough ‘me’ time, and starting every day with meditation and from a place of gratitude. And, the other thing I try to always remember- tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. That in and of itself is all the motivation I need most days.

 How do you stay inspired?

Inspiration is all around us. Sometimes just walking down the street inspires me to write a post or plan a trip somewhere.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Until recently, living in London was a dream of mine I’d pursued for nine years. Forever grateful I was able to live in the city for nearly three years while working abroad.

In 2019, I spent a lot of time in Ubud and fell hard for the community and way of life there. Amsterdam, Austin, New York, Tel Aviv, Melbourne, and Hong Kong are all places that left a lasting impression on me, and cities where it’s easy for me to envision living for extended stints.

Really, I’m open to just about anywhere. Two years ago, I would have never thought I’d enjoy living in a smaller city like Dublin so much, but here we are and I’m loving it. 

Favorite trip you’ve ever taken?

Hard to choose, but, for many years, Japan was the first place that always came to mind. Visiting in 2017, it exceeded any expectations I could have dreamed. In 2019, Vietnam has become my favourite country in SE Asia, and New Zealand stole my heart with its rugged landscapes, friendly people and enchanting beauty. 

But, I also love adventuring around Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Mexico, Indonesia, Laos, Taiwan, Scandinavia, Turkey and southern Spain. 

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PS. My must-haves for travel, including luggage and packing picks, apps I use to edit photos, and tools I rely on to plan trips.

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