How do you travel like a local? For Valerie Wilson, founder of Trusted Travel Girl, she immerses herself fully in another culture. She’s not one to wait for her friends to join her, either. She almost always travel solo, taking on amazing adventures and finding herself along the way. Valerie took the time out to talk to me to about how she got her start in travel blogging and all the adventures she’s had since.
I just wanted to thank you so much for talking to me about your travels and your journey with travel blogging. It is so appreciated! For anyone not aware, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where are you from, where are you currently living, and where has your latest travels brought you?
Thank you, too! I know it took a long time to get this together, I have been non-stop this year. I am from a small town called Saratoga Springs in upstate New York that is famed for horse racing. It’s a travel destination for 6 weeks during the summer. Currently, I live in West Hollywood, California. My most recent travels have taken me to Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Qatar!
Can you tell me 3 fun-facts not everyone may know about you just from reading your blog?
I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I often work 12 hours or more a day (more than what everyone thinks), and… oh, if you follow me closely you know this, but I am a really good skier! It’s one of my favorite things in the world.
Can you tell me a little bit about your personal evolution into travel blogging? How long after starting your blog did you see it begin to take off? At what point did you realize you could take it on full-time?
I was working a really thankless staffing job in LA and I hated every minute. The people were awful and everything felt so meaningless. I knew I wanted to commit my life to travel, but I wasn’t sure how. I started a blog and then my Instagram and eventually one thing led to another and I had an audience that was engaged and listening to what I had to say.
Photography is of course a big part of travel blogging. What tips do you have for capturing amazing travel moments- especially if you are often solo! How often do you rely on your smartphone to be your travel camera, or do you always travel with a professional camera?
Photography is a huge part of what I do. My iPhone is the best tool I own for asking strangers to take my photo because I have them hold the shutter button down and then I have 100 images to choose from. I almost always travel with my Nikon and my 2 GoPro’s, however!
I loved your blog post on traveling alone and learning to be comfortable enough in your own skin as a woman to travel solo. I completely agree with your point that if you’re always waiting for someone else or trying to figure out scheduling you could be missing out on real opportunities. What was your first solo travel trip? Were you intimidated that first time?
Thank you so much!! Solo travel had been so important for me.
You know, what’s so funny, I preach about solo travel and not waiting around and now I have a boyfriend that wants to travel with me! He’s always trying to plan a trip and I’m like “okay, but i’m still going to want to travel alone too.” and he’s completely okay with that. I have the best of both worlds now!
My first solo trip was to London and Paris for a Britney Spears concert. I had met someone who played bass for her during that tour and he was like “You should come! I can get you tickets” and I figured it was a good excuse to visit London last minute. I hopped online and tickets were only $650 roundtrip and this was high season… in June. I figured that was a great deal. So I booked it and I never even hung out with that guy. I traveled the city, took a day trip to Paris, and someone else snuck me into the front row of that show both nights. It was a pretty incredible experience to get on that big plane all by myself with no real plan for the first time! I don’t think I was intimidated, but I was definitely excited.
What general advice would you have for women travelers?
Solo travel is the best thing you can do for yourself. It will give you a sense of confidence and self-awareness that you could never receive without it.
From a safety aspect, never tell anyone you are traveling alone. Let others assume you have someone waiting for you, walk with confidence even if you are lost, and always trust your gut!
What is always in your travel bag?
Bose noise cancelling headphones, they block out the sound of crying babies, loud talkers and the hum of the plane! Hand sanitizer, a GoPro, and a granola bar!
What advice would you give to someone looking to travel more like a local and less like a tourist?
Sit at the bars alone during lunch or dinner instead of a table to talk to locals and bartenders. Ask them where they go, what they like to do. Just walk. Walk outside of the tourist zone. Meet any locals you can and find out where they spend there time. If you go to those places, you will start to stumble on an authentic experience.
What would you say to someone who says they can’t afford to travel?
Yes, you can. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Give me $1,000 and I can send you almost anywhere in the world for at least 2 weeks if you are willing to be flexible with when you go and accommodations and transportation. Being on a budget means taxis are usually out of a question and you take the bus. It means where you go may be dictated by flight costs. It means eating street food, walking instead of taking the metro, and staying in hostels or no-frills hotels. All of those things are worth it and make it fun! Just save a little bit each week. Skip going out to eat, stop buying starbucks, eat leftovers, pick up a weekend job… those things add up and you can eventually have a pretty decent travel fund if you are willing to do what it takes.
Also, Travel doesn’t have to mean traveling the world. Get in the car and take a road trip. Discover a new city, that’s traveling too!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I work hard everyday in hopes of my own travel show on Travel Channel or another network. Sharing my adventures as the girl version of Anthony Bourdain would be my end goal right now!
Maybe married and thinking about a family. I want to keep traveling, but I want a husband and kids to share the whole world and some of my adventures with someday. I think as we grow, travel means different things.
In your 20s it’s a way to find yourself and learn about the world you occupy. In your 30s it’s a place to make memories with yourself and with loved ones and share all your knowledge from the world.
Chances are if you travel, you are a more tolerant, caring, understanding individual. In 5 years, I hope that I am sharing all of my knowledge in a way to make the world and my own country a better, more tolerant, caring place. I want to share all of my knowledge and experiences with the world. Look at Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. Thats what they are doing, they are making the world a smaller place, and bringing a human face to a lot of places many people are too terrified to visit. They are replacing ignorance with knowledge and that is a pretty cool thing. I hope to be doing something equally rewarding someday!