Rappelling to the depths of a cavern in Costa Rica, feeding stingrays in Caribbean, getting her hair pulled by monkeys in Honduras and swimming with whale sharks in Mexico, travel blogger, Annette, has undertaken some spine chilling adventure activities, and returned with a smile and plentiful stories. Her blog, Bucket List Journey, has won numerous awards including the Independent Travel Blog Gold Medal Award by the North American Travel Journalists Association. It is Annette’s fearlessness that makes her blog a must read for any travel enthusiast.
In this candid chat, Tripoto explores her larger than life persona, the promise she made herself many years ago and how she intends to keeps it.
1: How did you catch the travel bug?
When I was a child my father would take me on day trips throughout Northern California. We would hike through the redwood forest or drive the winding roads to the beach. He would make sure to stop along the way to look at unique plants or eat at a tiny hole in the wall. These are some of my best memories with my father and I believe the beginning itchy throat before catching the full-on travel bug.
2: Why did you name your blog Bucket List Journey?
When I started my blog I was simply looking for a place to record my ever-growing bucket list and its progress. The name Bucket List Journey fit even in the sites infancy.
Now, the blog has really grown into its name, as it is not only a place to record my personal bucket list journey, but also a journey around the world in search of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for other peoples lists.
3: What’s the most dangerous activity you have done till date?
Though skydiving, swimming with sharks in the Galapagos and spelunking in a cave ranked pretty high on my fear scale. The most dangerous thing I have ever done was rappelling down a 100 foot waterfall in the Costa Rican forest of the Osa Peninsula. The two hour steep and rocky horse ride, along with the slippery hike that bordered a fenceless embankment added to the danger.
4: The adventures you undertake are full of challenges and surprises. How do you cope with them?
When I first started to travel I would get frustrated and full of anxiety when something challenging popped up. It would put a damper on my strict itinerary! It took a few trips to realize that these surprises were part of the journey. Now, I make my itineraries loose, leaving room for mishaps like flat tires, language barriers and being disoriented.
Also, I have learned to take a five minute breather and allow myself extra time to find my way around a city or am having a hard time figuring out the subway. When I feel myself get anxious while being lost in a busy airport or on a foreign street I take five minutes to regroup myself. I will just take a seat somewhere out of the way, pull out my map and make a plan.
I now know that that the unexpected is a large part of traveling, as well as in life in general.
5: You often travel with your husband, Peter. Does having a travel companion facilitate things or becomes an impediment.
It does a little bit of both depending on the occasion and who my companion is. With Peter, he has a pretty severe case of motion sickness, so that is something that I have to work around when making plans. With that said, he is a trooper and wants to try to participate in every amazing adventure. It’s more my issue of not wanting to subject him to being sick for an entire tour.
For the most part, he is the perfect travel companion because he will do just about anything, with the exception of drinking snake whisky in Laos, and we enjoy the same things. Also, when I have a travel companion I am more likely to spend more time exploring a city rather than sitting in an internet cafe working on my laptop.
6: How do you divide time between travel, family and your restaurant, Sugo Trattoria?
Perfecting my time management skills is an ongoing process and I am sure that my mother would say that I need to schedule her more time with me.
With the restaurant, I have spent several years systemizing procedures so I can spend less time physically working and more time traveling. Creating systems and delegating my duties to key employees has been essential.
This structure has not only allowed me to travel more, but has also taught me how to run my blog like a business as well. Even with traveling there are time saving systems that I have in place, like itinerary templates, email travel folders and an editorial calendar.
My family and friends have been so understanding about the life I lead. They know that I will not be around for every occasion, but they also know that when I am home they can stop by the restaurant anytime to share a glass of wine.
I am also lucky because my mother also owns a restaurant a block away from mine so it is really easy to pop over there for a cup of coffee in the morning and spend time with her.
7: Many of us succumb to fears and insecurities. How did you overcome them?
When it comes to anxiety and fear, there really is no guarantee, so I not so much have overcome as much as I have learned to manage it. After much research, I realized that my fear was created by my negative thoughts regarding a situation. I have worked hard over the years to understand, challenge and change my thoughts. I now know that I have the tools to keep it under control, I just have to put them to use.
I also made a promise to myself to not let fear make my decisions for me. When opportunities present themselves and I want to say no, I always ask myself if that answer is fear speaking. If it is, I vowed to say yes instead. Having a bucket list, along with this promise, has pushed me out of my comfort zone being the support system I needed to step out of the box. It has also made me realize that most things aren’t as scary as you have imagined, that failing can be fun, that it is perfectly normal for not everyone to like you and that perfection is a myth.
What else I learned is that 99.9% of the time your fears do not become a reality and then you wasted all the precious time worrying.
8: Some people are of the opinion that women can’t rough it out on the road. Do you have any message for them?
Woman can push an eight pound baby out of their body. That is all.
9: How do you decide on a travel itinerary? Is it based on the potential of adventure or some other yardstick?
There are many factors that assist in deciding where I will be traveling to next. Sometimes it is a discount flight that decides for me and sometimes it’s a special event that is happening in a certain part of the world during the time I want to travel. But mostly, my decision is made by partnerships I build with certain cities and countries. For instance, if a northern Italy tourism board invites me to their area to write a story it is typically during a certain time frame. So, that makes my decision as to where I will be and when. With that said, if I was flying all the way to Florence I would most likely squeeze in a couple other countries while I am in Europe.
The individual city itineraries are made as soon as I know where I will be and how much time I have there. I spend many hours researching the local attractions, culture and restaurants, then make a master list of all the things I am interested in.
10: What precautionary measures should one take before an adventure expedition?’
The following are things I typically do or have done:
- Make copies of your passport and driver’s license to hide in each of your suitcases.
- Take photographs of you identification to be stored on your laptop or phone.
- Take a picture of your suitcase in case it gets lost,
- Call your credit card companies to let them know where you will be.
- Separate your credit cards/money in two different locations.
- Check Visas needed for each country
- Check vaccination requirements
11: How does one ensure a balance between thrilling activities and cultural exploration?
People should create their itineraries based on their travel passions. If this passion leads you to evenly split thrilling activities vs. cultural exploration, then great. If it is a 80-20 split, that’s great too. Remember that this is your travel experience and nobody else’s. It is all about doing what will be memorable to you personally.
With that said, my preference is usually about 50% adventure and 50% cultural. It is also what my readers have come to expect. During the research stage, there are always a few questions I ask in order to hit both aspects. A couple of these questions are “what dish is this city/country known for” and “is there any adventure that can only be done is this area”.
Inspired enough to create your own bucket list? Go ahead. Pen down the destinations and dreams in your head and share them with us. And the Tripoto community will help make it happen with information, ideas and anecdotes.