Hi! I’m Natalie, and I blog over at Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown. Although I’ve been blogging on different platforms for many years, I didn’t get serious about my blogging and freelance writing until right before I had my daughter back in 2013. I wanted to find a career that allowed me to work from home—as my then-current job as a college literature professor wouldn’t—and I decided to give the blogging and freelancing thing a go. Three years later, and my travel blog has grown beyond my wildest imagination! I am a deeply nerdy person, so I love all things artsy, cultural, and literature-based, and that’s where I focus my travel blogging. You’ll find posts about museums and historical sights, but I do my best to make them fun (and sometimes a little funny) so learning isn’t all boring and dry. When I’m not writing, photographing, or researching something for the blog, you can find me reading (post-World War II British fiction is my jam), hanging out with my husband and two kids (a 3.5 year old daughter and a newborn son), or sewing (you’ll have to rip my embroidery machine out of my cold, dead hands).
Where are you based/located?
I live in Charleston, South Carolina. I was born here, moved around during my younger years thanks to my dad’s job, then came back here in middle school. After leaving again for college and grad school, I did my best to live anywhere but Charleston since I wanted a fresh start, but, 400 job applications later, I managed to find one teaching job here. It was 2010 and deep into the recession, and people were firing liberal arts teachers instead of hiring them, so I took what I could get. Almost 7 years later, and I am glad I was brought back to Charleston; it’s a very different place than where I grew up, but mostly, it’s changed for the better. My husband works a very location based job, so that’s always a consideration, but we’d eventually like to move somewhere else when our kids get a bit older. We’ve even tossed around the idea of doing a year-long trip when they’re in elementary or middle school, which would be SO much fun.
What first sparked your love for travel?
My mom and dad were always taking my younger sister and I somewhere as kids. We were a regular middle class family, but my mom and dad always made sure that the budget included everything from small weekend long trips to different parts of the Appalachian mountains to a massive road trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada. Their emphasis on travel made me so excited to pack up my suitcase and experience different parts of the world, which is something that still hasn’t changed.
What are some of your favorite countries to visit?
I am a complete and utter Angophile—I’ve been to England half a dozen times in 12 years, I studied abroad in London during college, and I focused my thesis on London literature. England will always be my first love in travel, and I will never, ever get tired of it. However, variety is the spice of life, so I do adore other places including Ireland (so green! so friendly! so pretty!), the Bahamas (particularly the Out Islands), and Scotland (so many kilts, so little time).
Are there any places you’d tell people to avoid?
I’m one of those people who can find the silver lining in just about anything, so there aren’t too many places that I’ve flat out hated. We had a terrible experience in Paris where we were mugged on the Metro; on the same trip, people were very rude to us all over the city, which really put a damper on the entire experience. I’m not sure that would stop me from going back—or telling people to never go to Paris—because I absolutely loved the Louvre, Versailles, and Sacre Couer. In my home state of South Carolina, I personally would never vacation in either Columbia or Myrtle Beach when Charleston is so much more historical and flat-out prettier, but people love both of those places; different strokes for different folks, I guess.
What is your favourite memory that comes to mind when you think about your travels?
It’s a toss up between two times: one in the Bahamas and one in Germany. My sister and I (who both went to the same university) signed up for a Bahamas-themed class my last semester at Clemson; as a part of the class, we got to visit Andros Island for 2 weeks in the middle of the semester. When we got on the island, my teacher took the class to this desolate road, parked the van, and said, “Let’s go!” He took us three miles across the boggiest terrain imaginable and we all thought he was crazy. But on the other end of the massive field of itchy grass and mud was a completely pristine beach. There wasn’t anyone between us and the eastern coast of Florida! We had the best time on that beach, and it made me realize how a little bit of trouble could introduce you to some incredible places. My other favorite memory was on my daughter’s first international trip: as a part of it, we went to Schloss Linderhof in Germany. The docent gave her a pamphlet on King Ludwig, and she fell in love. She talked about King Ludwig for the rest of the trip, and fell even more in love with him after she visited Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. Seeing her get excited about learning and travel made me so happy!
Any advice for new and aspiring travellers?
Don’t get overwhelmed—there are so many trips out there that it can easy make your head spin! If you’ve never traveled before, try out a few longer trips in your region or country; if you manage that, then go further afield and start to deal with customs, passports, and the like.
What destinations are on your bucket list?
The short list includes the Northern Lights (so maybe Iceland, Canada, or Alaska), the Alhambra in Spain, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Volcano National Park in Hawaii.
Do you have any upcoming travel plans for 2017?
Yes! We’re starting out with a very kid-friendly trip to Walt Disney World: it will be a birthday trip for my mom, and my sister, my two kids, and I will be going with her. My son was just born in November 2016, so I figured this would be a good way to ease back into travel now that I have two little ones. We’re also going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina so my husband can run a half-marathon there in the spring. Then, in May, the four of us are going on a Western U.S. road trip through Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. We’re hoping to also do a trip to Spain later this year (maybe late October or early November).
Do you research for your upcoming trips before visiting them?
Absolutely. I’m a huge planner: not only do I enjoy the planning and researching portion, but I want to know that I’m saving and then spending all of my travel budget on the things that interest us the most.
What is your most favourite photograph that you have taken during your travels?
My daughter and I at Schloss Linderhof
Which airline do you prefer to fly with?
I’m all about the bottom line, so I’m not loyal to airlines at all: it’s all about who’ve getting me to my destination for the best price. In my experience, I have enjoyed my time on Are Lingus, Delta, and JetBlue the most, and would be happy to fly with them again.
Tell me your top travel quotes to inspire yourself or other travellers
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
The older I get, the more I realize just how little time we all have on this planet. I look at my daughter and think, “We’ve got less than 14 years left with her before she goes off to college.” My son is brand new, but we’ve got just 17 years with him before he flies the nest. 14 years ago, I was getting ready to go to college myself, and that seems like a blink of an eye. My husband and I could drive better cars, have a more updated house, and wear nicer clothes, but we funnel the majority of our extra money towards travel since we want to see as much of the world as possible with our kids.
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