My latest world traveller is Sofie, who comes from Belgium and loves to move around as well as running the website Wonderful Wanderings.
Who are you?
Hi! I’m Sofie, originally from Belgium and still living there. That might not sound very adventurous, but I have always loved to travel and am currently using Belgium as a home base. I’ve worked for the Belgian press agency and as a marketing coordinator for a publishing house before I quit my job to focus full-time on blogging and freelance writing. With my blog Wonderful Wanderings I want to encourage Belgians to travel more… and people to come to Belgium! When I’m not behind the laptop or traveling, you can often find me in a dance studio.
Where are you from?
I’ve lived in a tiny town between Brussels and Leuven until I went to study in Antwerp for a year. After that I got a job and moved in with my boyfriend in Heverlee, just outside the city center of Leuven. Leuven is not the most famous Belgian city and it’s definitely smaller than Brussels or Ghent, but it’s charming and has quite a bit to offer.
Where have you been?
So far I’ve mostly traveled around Europe: the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece … I’m a big fan of the States though, especially of California (that climate!), and my trip to Sri Lanka last year has made me crave for more of Asia.
Where are you now?
I’m writing this from my desk at home. Well, actually it’s our dinner table. Boyfriend always complains as there are so many travel brochures and work notes on this table that we barely have enough room to eat at it.
What are the top 3 places you’ve visited?
This might sounds strange to a lot of people, but Los Angeles is really a top destination for me. I’m a huge fan of hip hop dance and LA has some of the best teacher and dance studios in the world. I also love how you can get to the beach, the middle of the city and into the mountains in just an hour’s drive. Plus, the weather of course.
Portugal was also a highlight for me. Unlike most people, who first go to Lisbon, we did a road trip from the center of the country to the beautiful Douro Valley in the north and back. Everything about that trip was great: the food, the people we met and the amazing nature we drove through.
Lastly, I have to say Belgium. How else will I convince people to visit?:) We have such a rich history, amazing museums and the food here is the best. Yes, there’s chocolate and beer, but also so much more.
What is the best travel experience you’ve had?
On my first trip to LA, some guy we’d randomly met took me and my friend out to dinner and for drinks, gave us his iPod charger, let us drive his SUV and booked us a night at the Sheraton… wanting nothing in return. It was then that I realized good things only come to you if you believe in people and open yourself up to new experiences. It has changed the way I traveled from then on.
What is the worst travel experience you’ve had?
It was when I was still a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old. I was on holiday in France with my parents and little brother when one night we drove from our hotel to a town for dinner and an evening walk. Everything went well until we wanted to drive back to the hotel. Suddenly, this big group of people came running towards our car. Nobody at home watched football, so we didn’t even know that France had just won the World Cup. This group lifted up our car and started rocking it from side to side while people tried to open the doors and even tried to climb through the little window in the rooftop. I still remember what I wore that day and what the town looked like. I was so scared. Finally, my dad hit the gas without really driving forward and they let us go.
What is the funniest travel experience you’ve had?
I was visiting a friend in Milan during the only 5 days that summer that it rained. Maybe that had something to do with it, because the people of Milan – all of them!- seemed so incredible grumpy that we started making jokes about it. We completely cracked up and laughed all through a 20-minute subway ride. You would guess some other people started laughing as well simply because we were. But no.
What is the scariest travel experience you’ve had?
Besides my worst experiences, which I talked about above, anything to do with heights. I’m terrified of heights and it’s something that really bothers me while traveling as it means I won’t dare to climb certain things. My first memory if this is when I was visiting the Citadel of Dinant in Belgium with my parents. Again, I was still small, maybe 7 or so, and we had to take a funicular up to get to the Citadel, but the funicular was entirely made out of glass so that you could see through the bottom. I screamed all the way up. Since then I get dizzy just standing on a table.
What is the most random job you have had on your travels? + How do you fund your travels?
Besides blogging I’ve actually never worked during my travels. I started working summer jobs when I was 16 and have always been good at saving up. By the time I left university, I had a decent enough amount to go places. Plus, I immediately found a job after graduating so from then on that paid the bills. I started blogging while I was still working for the past three years most of my travels have somehow been linked to my job as a blogger, although I’m trying to find more of a balance in that now and travel more for myself again as well.
What 3 tips would you give a new traveller before they set off on their adventure?
1. Plan. I know a lot of people like to go with the flow, but I always plan and then ditch my plans when I’m there. To me, the research I do acts as a back-up plan for when things go wrong or for when I don’t know what to do next. You’ll feel safer and more certain when you know about opening times, entrance fees, ways of getting around and you have a place to stay.
2. Ditch the plan. It’s great to have a plan, but you don’t need to stick to it. Be open to the possibilities that come your way when you’re traveling and – especially – to new people you meet. The things you hadn’t planned are often the best parts of a trip.
3. Bring sunscreen. Honestly, it’s not fun to get burned.
What are your future travel plans?
My summer is filling up nicely. I’m going to Germany for a week, Berlin for a week, London for four days, Luxembourg for three days and Wales for five days. After that I’m heading to Sardinia on a real vacation before traveling to Bulgaria and London again. I might try to fit Marrakech in somewhere. My biggest plan, however, is to spend some time in South East Asia this winter.
Sofie is a freelance writer, translator and travel blogger who takes people with her on her travels in Belgium and beyond. Her blog Wonderful Wanderings focuses both on the must-sees and daily life, on the big attractions and the places you’d never find by yourself.
Thanks to Sofie for being the latest in my series of World Travellers! If you travel the world and run a travel blog or are a travel writer, please get in touch, you can be featured, either e-mail jonny (at) dontstopliving (dot) net or head to my contacts page and get connected! You can also subscribe to Don’t Stop Living by filling in the form below! Safe travels!