The Global Travellers Interview Series | Thea and Phil | Zen Travellers
An Interview with the Zen Travellers
#1 Who are you and How would you describe yourself?
Hello fellow travellers, my name is Thea and I am a co-founder of Zen Travellers. My husband and I travel the world and document our adventures over at Zen Travellers with a focus on adventure travel and photography. Hiking, cycling, and SCUBA diving are among my favourite ways to explore a new place.
I’m also not ashamed to admit that I’m a millennial traveller who loves birdwatching and can list like the veterans! When I’m not travelling, I call Calgary, Canada home and can usually be found on a mountain somewhere.
#2 What got you into travelling?
My father loved the great outdoors and we spent a lot of time in the woods together while I was growing up. I think all those hours exploring natural places inspired some wanderlust in me. I also loved reading and always dreamed of visiting the places that I read about in books.
#3 What is your favourite destination in the world and why ?
I always struggle to answer this question since so many places are great and memorable for different reasons, but if I absolutely had to pick I would say Antarctica. I went recently and it’s such an otherworldly place that’s tough to reach but immensely rewarding once you get there.
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Icebergs in Antarctica. ♥️ . . . . #antarctica #antarctic #antarcticambassadors #icebergs #iceberg #glaciers #glacier #wideangle #amazingearth #amazingphotohunter #travelmemories #travelgrams #travelphoto #travel_photography #nature_photography #nature_photo #earth_shotz #earthpix #earthfocus #earth_reflect #sonyphotography #sonyimages #ourplanet #ourplanetdaily #photographersofinstagram #photography_top #natgeowild #natgeohub
#4 What sort of a traveller are you ?
I tend to focus on being outside and adventurous activities like hiking and walking around a new place so that makes me more of an adventure traveller. I do however also love good food, wine, and craft beer so trying local fare is another travel pastime of mine.
#5 What’s your most memorable experience during your travels ?
One of my most memorable experiences was when I did an internship in Mali in West Africa where I lived with a local family. It was an incredible experience to live alongside locals and stay in one place long enough to truly get to know it which is something that is not always possible when simply visiting somewhere. I miss my host family a lot and will hopefully get to see them again one day when Mali’s security situation improves.
#6 Your take on responsible travel ?
It’s every traveller’s responsibility to try to leave a place better than they found it. Responsible travel to me means leaving no trace in nature, respecting local culture, and spreading tourism dollars around so that it brings benefits to the locals.
It also means aiming to reduce my environmental impact wherever possible by creating less waste by using reusable bags, water bottles, and cutlery, as well as by walking, cycling, and taking public transit once on location. I also try to buy offsets whenever I fly.
#7 How do you sustain your travels ?
My husband Phil and I are currently on a 14-month trip around the world and a whole lot of savings is what is sustaining us right now. We made the plan to take the trip about 4 years ago and began saving wherever we could until we had enough money to travel long term. We also use travel hacking to save money on flights and cook lots of meals ourselves.
We DIY some of our tours or book with a local agency once on location to save money on activities. As for saving on accommodation, we don’t worry too much since it’s not actually our biggest expense and aside from Europe, we can usually find decent budget accommodation that allows for exploring a place on foot, as well as self-catering through Booking.com.
#8 How do you manage your budget during your travels ?
Phil is a whiz with spreadsheets and made a very detailed ideal budget before we left for our trip. Halfway through, we realized that we way underestimated how much our activities would cost but in general we don’t mind taking from other budgets to pad that one. We want to be able to actually experience what a place has to offer so we don’t mind spending less on accommodation and restaurants if it enables us to do so. We keep track of expenses in the Travel Spend app which allows us to share a budget so we both know where the money goes.
#9 What’s the best thing you have eaten and where ?
One of the most amazing meals that we’ve had on this trip was at a small family-owned restaurant in Porto, Portugal called La Maison Rouge. There the server/chef/sommelier served us a fabulous feast that included a tasting of local wines and ports, a too delicious for words charcuterie plate, a gourmet take on the local specialty the “francesinha” sandwich, and a scrumptious pavlova for dessert. All of this was at a price point that is unheard of in other parts of Europe. Take me back!
#10 Best and worst airport story…
I’ve been racking my brain for a best airport story but nothing really jumps to mind. I guess I just find airports generally stressful and soulless places. That said, any time that I get to use my lounge access before flying is pure bliss. By signing up for a credit card, I was gifted a Priority Pass membership as a bonus and it has provided some relaxing and refreshing spaces to recharge before a flight. Any time I get to use it at an airport is the best!
As for my worst airport story, well it actually just happened. Prior to this, I would have said an airline losing my bag in post-earthquake Haiti which is not a place you want to be without the things you packed, or the time we almost missed our flight to Yellowknife because security was convinced there was something fishy with his bag and made him take the whole thing apart and scanned every corner of it only to find nothing, but this one trumps all that. We thought we had booked a flight on Iberia Airlines from Orly in Paris to Dakar, Senegal by way of a long layover in Madrid.
We had our hotels booked in both Madrid and Dakar. After booking the flight online, we received a confirmation email and the charge immediately showed as pending on the credit card so we assumed that everything was in order. We tried but were not able to check-in online so we figured we would do it at Orly. Once at the airport, the airline only had one person operating the check-in counter so we waited for an hour in the slow-moving line to talk to someone who said that the airline had cancelled our reservation without even so much as an email to us saying that they did. Even though there were seats on the upcoming flight to Madrid, as well as a later flight to Dakar, they refused to honour our reservation and instead tried to sell us tickets that were 500 euros a piece more than the original booking. So barring us purchasing a newer more expensive set of tickets, we were not getting to Senegal anytime soon with the help of this airline anyway.Feeling duped and frustrated, we sat down at an airport café and checked a bunch of flights and itineraries to try to find the best option to get us to Dakar.
In the meantime, we were able to cancel our Dakar hotel booking without penalty but not our Madrid one. We eventually settled on a new itinerary with a new airline (it’s safe to say we don’t recommend flying with Iberia Airlines) that took us through Cabo Verde. Seeing an opportunity to turn this crappy day around, we booked our tickets to Dakar in stages so we now had a week-long stay in Cape Verde to look forward to. Unfortunately, this flight did not leave until the next day and from a different airport.
So now after paying for a completely pointless cab ride to Orly, we had to get ourselves to the Charles De Gaulle airport and pay for a night at an airport hotel. The whole fiasco was expensive and infuriating and it didn’t even end once we went to take off to Cabo Verde. The airline didn’t have our tickets so we were afraid that we would have to go through the same thing all over again! Thankfully, it was just a paperwork error and we were ticketed in due time. The drama wasn’t yet over as the plane ended up being delayed from taking off by an hour, but eventually it did and we made it to the beautiful Sal Island where we able to not think about planes for a week while soaking up the sunshine. The island’s slogan is “No Stress” which is just what we needed.
#11 What tip would you like to give to fellow travellers?
Just do it! Don’t overthink it and get out there. Travel is one of the most character-building and enlightening experiences that you can have, it can be accomplished on any budget, and you don’t even have to go far to reap its rewards. Some of my greatest adventures have happened very close to home!
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We had the option to go Kayaking in Antarctica so naturally we said "Shut up and take my money". It was was oh sooooo worth it. 😁 It's so peaceful and quiet, and you are on the same level as the icebergs, which gives you a new perspective. It was seriously awesome. It's hard to get pictures of yourself while kayaking….so here's a pic I snapped of our new American friends while we were all on the water! #antarctica #kayak #kayaking #kayakingadventures #paddling #antarcticambassadors #glaciers #globewanderer #globetrotter #telephoto #travelphotos #whitecontinent #wanderlusting #onthewater #shutupandtakemymoney #takemymoney #moneydoesntbuyhappiness #sonyphotography #mirrorlesscamera #ig_travelerworld #icebergs #iceberg #bucketlist #bucketlist✅ #landscape_photo #landscapephotography #ushuaia #amazingearth #natgeowild