TRAVEL INTERVIEW: Stephanie Yoder of Twenty Something Travel
This week I’m very excited to talk with fellow American, Stephanie Yoder of Twenty Something Travel. Like me, Stephanie has a very strong wanderlust and grew up traveling around the US with her family. Maybe that’s what spurred both of us to travel the world?
In any event, in this travel interview Stephanie explains how her popular blog got started, what her favorite places are in the world, what it’s like to travel solo vs as a couple, and what’s up next for Twenty Something Travel.
Q1. You’ve been out traveling the world for 2 years as of September. But you started your travel blog over 3 years ago!
So how/why did you end up starting a blog more than 1 year before you actually began traveling? How did that come about, and what was the purpose of your blog?
It took me quite a long time to save up the money I needed to backpack around the world. I was living at my mother’s house, working full time and feeling very much in a slump, so I started my blog primarily to keep myself motivated.
My second motive was to demonstrate to other’s how one would plan and save for a really big trip. I think that in the United States, as opposed to Canada, Australia and much of Europe, there is still a lot of stigma around the idea of long-term travel. It’s not really popular for young people to take a year or even a few months off solely to travel. I think that’s a shame because there is a lot you can learn from traveling in your twenties. I wanted my blog to be a resource and a source of encouragement for other twenty-something travelers.
Q2. Where did you get your wanderlust? Do other people in your family travel a lot, too? Did you grow up traveling? Or is this urge entirely yours (in the realm where you grew up)?
My mom likes to joke that traveling’s in my blood. I have my grandparents’ old passports. They traveled to Yugoslavia, Japan and many other places that were quite exotic for their day.
We didn’t travel abroad much when I was a kid butwe did travel a lot domestically. My parents used to own a motorhome and we spent our summers cruising around the United States. I’m not sure if that triggered my wanderlust or not, but it did put travel on a very real and attainable plane for me.
Q3. In Sept. 2010, you set out on a long world trip. What kind of responses did you get from friends, family, and colleagues? Were they supportive? Or did they think you were nuts? Were they worried? Try to hold you back? Or were they fully behind your adventures?
I have been so exceptionally fortunate in that I’ve had nothing but support for my zany lifestyle. My family has been super great and supportive, my dad actually bought me my first backpack and my mom continues to let me crash with her whenever I’m in town. Even my colleagues threw me a going away party and pooled some money for me. My friends brag about my blog- did I mention I’m lucky?
I know that not everybody gets such a positive reception to their plans, so on my blog I often try to mention strategies for coping with living outside the norm- and the weird reactions that sometimes brings.
Q4. You first set out to SE Asia and Australia. Why those destinations, of all the places in the world?
Actually, my first destinations on my big trip were Japan and China- Japan to visit a friend, and China to see Michael! I’d already spent some time living and backpacking in Europe in the past, so I wanted to head to a completely different part of the world. Asia is so fabulous for it’s many unique cultures and cuisines.
My reason for visiting Australia was simple- I had friends there I could crash with! Notice a pattern? I love taking advantage of my friends around the world.
Q5. Among travel bloggers, at least, it’s well known that you and fellow travel blogger, Michael Tieso from Art of Backpacking, have been dating and traveling the world together for a while. But you also have done a lot of solo traveling. What are the biggest 2-3 differences you’ve noticed between traveling solo and traveling as a couple?
It’s definitely been an adjustment in many ways. I think it’s forced us to think a lot about who we are individually and together- for example I am an introvert and he is an extravert- which means we both have had to learn a lot about the other’s personality and needs.
Compromise has been a huge factor in traveling as a couple. When I travel solo I pretty much do whatever I want to at that moment: sleep in, eat ice cream for lunch, wander aimlessly, whatever. When I’m traveling with Mike though, there are a lot of decisions by committee, which can be frustrating.
It can also be really rewarding though! I try a lot of things I might not otherwise- I meet different people, go out more and try new foods. I think Michael feels the same way, and we feel so lucky we get to share so many amazing experiences with each other.
Q6. Personally, I think it must be pretty dag tough to travel with a partner 24-7, especially long term. Most couples (in the normal world) don’t spend nearly so much time together. They have work, hobbies, friends and other things to do on a daily basis, then perhaps spend some hours/day with their partner. But traveling with a partner is a completely different deal.
How do you guys deal with being together constantly? Do you take solo time? Do some traveling separately? Or?
It’s not always the easiest and it’s been a bit of trial and error over the past two years. It’s constant togetherness and it’s also constant compromise- which yes, can be kind of annoying. It’s particularly hard because I think if we were stationary we wouldn’t choose that much together time. I’d go out with my friends. He’d go out with his. But since we’re alone in a country where neither of us speaks the language, we’re all we’ve got.
For us what works is carving out our own alone time even when we’re together. He’ll put on his headphones and listen to house music, I’ll watch Dexter and make dinner. We can be in the same room and not talk to each other for hours at a time.
We’re also not adverse to traveling apart from time to time. This summer Mike took his little brother on a road trip to Canada, and I recently got back from a trip to Alaska with a girlfriend. It’s all about balance.
Q7. You and Michael recently got engaged! Congratulations! So, is this going to change your travel and blogging plans? Do you suddenly want to settle down? Or are you just going to keep on traveling the world?
Mmm a little of both? We’re not ready to stop traveling yet (not sure we ever will be), but we’re going through a bit of a rest period at the moment. It turns out weddings and things like that are pretty expensive, so we’re going to slow down for the next year or so and really focus on the business end of things. Which isn’t to say we won’t travel. We’re about to leave for a month in Europe and hopefully some more interesting opportunities will come our way in the next few months.
When I’m home I get weirdly excited about doing normal things like grocery shopping, watching tv and driving. I just got a slow-cooker so I’m really psyched about that. Okay that does make me sound awfully domestic… I always have one eye on what I’m doing and one on planning the next big adventure.
Q8. You’ve seen a lot of the world in the past couple years, and especially extensively in SE Asia and South America. What are your favorite 2-3 spots in SE Asia? Why do you love them?
Hanoi, Vietnam- I actually really loved all of Vietnam so it’s hard for me to choose just one spot. The people, the food, the frenetic energy, all just made it one of the most interesting and exciting countries I’ve visited. I particularly loved Hanoi because it’s very beautiful and really vibrant. I also loved the amazing street food. I’m such a sucker for street food.
Koh Lanta, Thailand- A lot of the Thai islands we visited are very touristy and just have this veneer or cheap buckets and pollution. It was very discouraging. That’s why Koh Lanta was such a peaceful breathe of fresh air. It hasn’t been exploited to hell yet and it’s easy to find quiet spots. It also had some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen.
Sihanoukville, Cambodia- I found all of Cambodia to be really interesting and challenging. The people are so kind even though they’ve gone through so much in the past 30 years, it’s really moving. I liked Sihanoukville because it wasn’t quite as chaotic as the bigger cities in the country- everything was more relaxed. Instead of constantly, desperately trying to sell you things, people actually chat with you. Plus, the beach is surprisingly pretty!
Q9. How about South America? What are your fav 2-3 places and why?
Bogota, Colombia- I’m a big city girl at heart. We spent a month house-sitting in Bogota and I really enjoyed it. It’s an absolutely enormous place, but living there helped us to get a foot hold and really get to know certain neighborhoods. We met some terrific local people here.
Banos, Ecuador- After a month of straight backpacking we felt like Banos was a breath of fresh air. It’s such a peaceful green little town nestled up in the Andes. It is popular with tourists but it didn’t feel super touristy. It just felt relaxing and so pretty. I could have spent a couple of months here, and we did consider it briefly.
Punta del Diabla, Uruguay- We did a road trip along the coast of Uruguay that ended in this quaint little hippie town. It has a really relaxed and pleasant vibe where you can just sit on the beach, eat a churro and watch the sun set. I could have spent a lot of time there if I’d had the chance.
Q10. So what’s up next for Twenty Something Travel Blog?
Well, as I mentioned above, Mike and I are headed off for a month long trip to Spain, the south of France and Central Italy. I haven’t been to Europe since 2009 so I’m really looking forward to it! After that I’m not sure- depends on what opportunities come my way. I’m really big on exploring the US at the moment. I think it has so much to offer that is often overlooked (at least by me) in favor of flashier international travel.
Business-wise, Mike and I are constantly working on our latest co-project: Eat The World, which is an iphone app and twitter chat all about international food. Other than that, I’m always bursting with plans- an ebook, a newsletter, maybe a site redesign- the hardest part is finding time to do it all!
Thanks, Stephanie, for telling us all about your blog and world travels. Hope to meet you and Mike sometime soon! cheers, Lash