Q&A: Interview with Travel Blogger Annette White
Traveling on your own can be exhilarating and can teach you a lot about not only the world, but also yourself. You have the sole freedom to choose your own route and make your own plans with no one holding you back. What could be better? It’s something a lot of people dream of doing, but few ever put in the work to achieve. Curious to learn how one gets into the art of travel I reached out to a woman who not only travels on her own, but documents all her experiences on her own blog Bucket List Journey. Annette White has written her own book, traveled all over the world, and is a master in the culinary arts. In our email correspondence she delves into the fear surrounding solo travel as well as her own experiences abroad, and how she manages to live a balanced and full life.
What’s your name, age, and hometown?
Hi! My name is Annette White, I am 48 years old and live in a little city in Northern California named Petaluma.
What inspired you to face your fears and traveling on your own? Where was your first travel destination?
I had been suffering from anxiety for over twenty years and started to grow tired of the limitations that it was putting on actually living life to the fullest. There was one morning I woke up and decided something needed to change. After tons of research, I realized that my anxiety was created by my thoughts. I worked hard over the years (and still continue to) to understand, challenge and change my thoughts. On that day, I also made two promises to myself. The first was to not let fear make my decisions for me and the second was to start living my bucket list. These two promises have pushed me out of my comfort zone being the support system I needed to step out of the box and travel the world.
The first place I traveled to on a solo trip for my blog was to Africa. It was truly memorable and I’m sure one of the reasons is that I had to conquer what seemed like a thousand fears to make it happen: getting vaccinations, flying two dozen hours alone, being immersed in an unknown culture, etc. But the other part was that every aspect of being on safari was like living a fantasy. It was completely dreamlike to be sleeping in a tent deep in the Serengeti, connecting with a Maasai people and being immersed in a land where the wildlife is second to none.
How much planning (research, budgeting, etc) did you do beforehand?
Typically I spend many hours researching the local attractions, culture and restaurants or a destination and then make a master list of all the things I am interested in. Though it was much easier with Africa because the safari itinerary was all planned out by the company I traveled with.
Was far as budgeting goes, I am always contributing to a travel fund for future adventures, even when one is not planned. Sticking to a savings schedule has made travel possible.
You own an Italian restaurant, “Sugo Trattoria”. How did that come about, and how have your own travels inspired you in the kitchen?
The restaurant business runs rampant in my Italian family, so it was natural for me to follow suit. Me and my husbands restaurant, Sugo Trattoria, is a casual restaurant that marries the traditions of the old world with Wine Country culture. It is our third food business together and we have owned it for almost 11 years.
I can’t imagine traveling anywhere where food is not a huge factor, for me travel and food go hand in hand. When planning for a trip, I spend just as much time researching traditional dishes, cooking techniques and restaurants in the area as I do researching major attractions. It’s a running joke amongst my friends that more than 50% of my travel photos are food related.
Even though my restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine, you’d be surprised by how much I learn from other parts of the world. With a little ingenuity you can turn a Greek moussaka into a version of an Italian eggplant lasagna.
Plus, you will always catch me looking at the bottom of a restaurants dishware to see who the manufacturer is, snapping photos of unique ways guest checks are being presented and collecting paper menus. My passion for food and restaurants is a close second to my passion for new experiences.
You’re also married—How did the two of you meet, and do you travel together a lot?
My husband and I met almost 25 years ago in front of a bar (technically, not in a bar!). If was the day before Thanksgiving when all the college kids come home from school and head out to the local joint to catch up with their friends. We were standing in line and just started chatting. We got married 3 years later and the rest is history.
These days a lot of my travel is for blog work, so he only travels with me about 25% of the time. Typically, he will meet me at the end of a work trip. Next month he’s meeting me in Portugal for our 21st anniversary!
You’ve written a book and have a blog, “Bucket List Journey”. How do you balance owning a restaurant and writing?
Of course there has been challenges to do each one of these things individually, but owning a restaurant, writing a blog and being able to travel at the same time has been a continuous work in progress. 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 at work 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.
Another major contributing factorc to me being able to squeeze everything into my crazy life is that I start each morning with a todo list for the day. Creating it is the first thing I do when I wake up. It helps to keep me motivated and productive.
What’s one place that’s still on your bucket list?
There are so many places and experiences around the world to see and do! But, something that is a high priority at the moment is to hang out with the penguins in Antarctica. I also want to learn Spanish pronto.
What would you say to women who are scared about solo traveling because they’ve been told it’s “too dangerous”?
Every year thousands of people travel on their own without incident. Preconceptions about the dangers of a country can fuel your fear, but the world in general is a hospitable place. Letting fear rule my decision to travel solo would have meant missing out on feeding bananas to the macaque at the Monkey Temple in Thailand and never soaking in the warm thermal baths in Switzerland. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet just because you are afraid of doing something alone, but also don’t travel solo being naïve, unprotected, and without having taken necessary precautions. A good rule of thumb is to follow the same safety guidelines in a different country as you would at home. Wandering desolate streets after midnight, getting sloppy drunk alone at a bar, or accepting rides from complete strangers is not safe at home or on the road. Most importantly, listen to your intuition. We all have different comfort levels, obey yours.
Sometimes the fear isn’t about safety, but rather related to the embarrassment of just going somewhere alone, believing that people will feel sorry for you because you don’t have a companion. In reality, some will question it, but deep inside most don’t feel bad for you, they just wish they had the courage to do the same.
What can be helpful with the fear of traveling solo is to take baby steps. Start with a day trip close to home, then move on to joining a tour group in a destination. Eventually your comfort will grow bigger, and your fear smaller.