This week is a double bonus round as we get to talk to Jess and Dani from The Globetrotter Girls. They write a well-established blog, an excellent travel resource offering practical travel tips, destination guides and advice on housesitting as well as so much more. We’ve been so inspired by Dani and Jess that we’ve recently signed up with a housesitting website and hope to explore this option for stretching our own ‘flashpacking’ travel budget. The duo have an excellent reputation within the blogosphere for supporting travellers, and travel bloggers, giving their precious time by sharing their own travel experiences and offering really useful travel tips and advice (the “girls” probably won’t remember, but ages ago they kindly pointed us in the direction of an LGBT bloggers group when we first started blogging). It’s equally impressive how well they appear to manage the work life balance, and their passion for all things travel is truly infectious. That’s why this week we’re especially proud to be interviewing the Globetrotting Girls. .
We are Dani and Jess, a German-American couple who decided semi-spontaneously to break free to take our work on the road and travel the world in April 2010. We packed up our apartment in London and have been traveling ever since, exploring Central and South America, India and South East Asia, Canada, parts of the U.S. and Europe. We are digital nomads, street food junkies, avid housesitters, vegetarians, street art & photography lovers, and hotel enthusiasts.
GlobetrotterGirls.com is a travel website with detailed destination coverage, hotel reviews, reflections on the impact of travel and a new section, GlobetrotterGirl of the Month, which is devoted to highlighting one woman every month who has incorporated travel into a career built entirely on her own terms.
The site follows our own journey as we criss-cross the planet, too, and details what life on the road is like and how we make being digital nomads work for us.
We are currently in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina and will head to Salta, Argentina tomorrow before heading to the driest desert on Earth, Chile’s Atacama desert.
Dani is from Erfurt, Germany, Jess is from Chicago, USA.
Dani worked as a recruitment consultant for Executive Search Firms in the City of London but was happier before that working in catering and events. Jess worked as an International Press Visits Officer at the national tourist board in London, and was an English teacher for years before that.
Least favorite travel destination
Honduras. We just didn’t ‘click’ with the country and didn’t feel particularly safe there..
What influences you most when deciding which destinations you travel to?
On a larger scale, we attempt to conquer regions at a time: the US Southwest, Central America, South East Asia, Western Europe, South America, etc. When it comes to each individual stop along the way, we get inspiration from layers of research – travel articles in major publications, blogs, guidebooks, maybe locations in film or in books we love. As a photographer, Dani is a visual person, so she gets inspired to visit places based on images, whereas I start dreaming of a place once I’ve read things about it.
What is your worst couples travel experience?
Traveling together for three years straight means we’ve had quite a bit of travel drama. Usually these are small annoyances that build up, need to come out in an argument, and then go away immediately. Other times, well, things get a bit hairy. Let’s just say there were several times were we were tempted to break up in the moment.
Tell us one place you’ve visited that you both want to return to (why)?
There are so many places we talk about returning. We definitely want to return to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cambodia and Portugal. We loved the people in Cambodia, the culture in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and Portugal offered all the things that make us happy: vibrant cities, beautiful beaches, and great Indian food.
You make it look so easy, but how much time do you actually spend on all things blog related? Is it worth it?
Thank you GlobetrotterGirls.com and all of its branches (books, interviews, etc) is our full-time business, so we spend about 40 hours a week, sometimes more and never less, on the site. It is most definitely worth it to focus all of your creative energy on something you love, especially when this something is what now affords us the freedom to live life on our own terms and travel comfortably.
What was your best housesitting experience?
Our two months living on a very remote patch of Caribbean beach in Mexico was one of our absolute best housesits. For almost 8 weeks we played with the sweetest dog in the world, Loba, worked from hammocks overlooking crystal blue water so far away from anywhere there was no cell reception and the house was entirely off grid, using solar energy and a generator. When my sandals broke in week 4, I just went barefoot until we drove into town two weeks later and picked up another pair. The housesit we always want to return to, though, is in the foothills just outside of Tucson, Arizona. The owners are fabulous, the dog is a dream, the house is very nice yet simple, and we spend at least a couple of hours every day in the pool in the backyard. We love the desertscape, the scenery, getting up early to walk the dog while it’s still cool. We have been twice and hope to return again this summer.
Does being a lesbian couple ever influence your decision on whether to visit a specific country?
No, never. If playing down our relationship a bit is safer for us in certain countries, then we’ll do that, but we would never skip a country entirely just because of that country’s official stance on homosexual relationships (otherwise when would I have visited the US in the last few years, ha!). We believe it is very important to have boots-on-the-ground experience in a country in order to understand its people and its politics and think it doesn’t serve anyone to boycott somewhere entirely.
You’ve written an ebook on housesitting, what are your 3 top tips on how to be a successful housesitter?
- Check in with the homeowners on a regular basis, and find out how often they want that to be before they leave on their trip. Emailing pictures of happy pets is always an extra bonus and the owners will appreciate it.
- Make sure you understand the responsibilities before accepting the housesit, and also that you are aware of the location and whether or not you need / will have transportation.
- If you want to be asked back again in the future, welcome the homeowners with a nice, easy meal, a spotless house and happy pets.
Where is particularly good for indulging in street food?
Thailand is easily the best place for street food. Deep in our hearts we want to include Mexico, too, but that lovely tummy rumbling that happens for some in Mexico tends not to be an issue in Thailand, where the food options are also much more varied and tend to be less greasy. By the end of a walking market in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, your tongue will have exploded with spice, which will have been muted by noodles or rice, you’ll have tried something on a stick, and have had something sticky for dessert – and we’d challenge you to spend more than $7, even with a drink, too.
Should I quit my job and travel around the world and make a career out of writing a travel blog?
Great question and one we are super picky about. If you would like to travel full-time or at least give location independence a try, you should find a way to take a passion and convert it into something you can do online. In terms of running a travel blog as a career – in today’s online environment this should only be attempted if you actually have something to say and know how to say it.
Not everyone is meant to be a travel writer and while it’s possible to earn a limited amount of income on any blog with a decent amount of traffic, this is not a career move unless you are a. a skilled writer, b. willing to trade some of the travel fun in to pay attention to small details that are helpful for your audience and c. are willing to dedicate loads of time to the site and social media.
Over the last three years we have watched dozens and dozens of travel blogs rise up right before starting an adventure, only to fall right off a cliff, barely posting and losing an audience once the nitty gritty of travel has begun and keeping up a website is the last thing people want to be doing. Why take such a financial risk and waste all that time in the beginning building an audience and setting up the blog only to struggle to maintain it once you hit the road? Running a travel blog as a business is just like running any other business by yourself – months if not years of extremely long hours and low pay until you really get things up and running.
Where would your perfect honeymoon destination be (and why)?
Such a hard question. We were just having this discussion the other day about how, for nomads, white sand beaches just don’t have that same idyllic, romantic feeling as they do when you are using them as an escape from an office job back home. A long time ago I think we both would have said the Maldives, hands down, but now I think somewhere where we can combine a luxury hotel, art, definitely a concert, strolls in the park (and Dani would definitely want there to be white horses and carriages at some point!), and then maybe also a couple of days at a beach, too.
We’re hearing lots of things about Germany being a great travel destination. Do you have any tips on how to stretch your travel budget there?
Yes, actually we realize that travel in Europe can be actually less expensive than in South America and other places in the world as long as you have some travel tools in your back pocket. In Germany, in order to save money on accommodation you can definitely Couchsurf. The communities around the country are large and welcoming.
For intercity travel, use a car-sharing service like mitfahrtgelegenheit.de. Although you’ll need some German to use the site (or someone to help you who can speak German), this will save you loads on long and short-distance trips. Car owners traveling from, say, Berlin to Munich, post their departure time and date on the site (or the app, which is easy to use!) and you get in touch to ride with them. For usually 20 EUR or less, you can get a ride to either a central point in the city or sometimes right to the door of your hotel. If you prefer the train rather than sharing a car with a stranger, you will save lots of money by booking your tickets well in advance. This year, a couple of long distance bus companies have launched that are offering cheaper fares than the train, similar to Megabus or National Express in the UK.
As for food, döner kebabs are cheap, fast and delicious and beer is cheaper than water, so you can’t go wrong just grabbing a kebab and beer and hanging out in one of Germany’s beautiful (and clean!) green spaces.
Any plans for the rest of this year?
As usual we have two or three sets of plans depending on how various things work out. There are possible housesits happening in the US and Europe and we may spend the summer and early Fall between New York, London, Berlin and Chicago or we might travel through the rest of South America – Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and then spend much shorter stints visiting family only in Germany and the US. We rarely know where we will be two months in advance, and are usually only 100% sure of our plans two weeks in advance or less!
Thanks Dani and Jess. for a really interesting and honest interview, we ….. We look forward to using your South American resources when we get over there later this year.