I’m Nellie, a full-time travel writer and blogger specializing in adventure travel. My husband Alberto and I have been traveling around the world hand-in-hand since 2003, experiencing 83 countries on seven continents together. Along the way, we’ve lived and worked in London, Madrid, Granada, Tanzania and Singapore. Through the years, we have also spent months traveling through South America, volunteering in Tanzania and exploring Southeast Asia. Some of our most memorable adventures include expedition cruising in Antarctica, climbing an active volcano in Iceland, skydiving in Spain, wildlife watching on the Galapagos Islands and paragliding in South Africa.
WildJunket was first created in 2008 to share our travel stories with friends and family but it has since grown tremendously, becoming one of the top travel websites in the world. Besides writing for several travel magazines and guidebooks, I’m also the author of The Adventure Traveler’s Handbook, a book that provides a mixture of practical tips as well as inspirational stories for both first-time and experienced traveler.
When did you first catch the travel bug and what made you decide to become a travel writer?
I’ve been passionate about travel ever since I was a teenager but the one trip that triggered this lifelong travel addiction was when I went to study abroad in Miami. It opened my mind to a whole new world and I knew I didn’t want a 9-to-5 job or a conventional life. After graduation, I headed off to London on a work/holiday-maker visa and spent two years working and living there with Alberto. We made use of every weekend and vacation day we had to explore Europe – from a road trip around Greece to an adventure jaunt in Morocco. Soon after, these short trips evolved into longer adventures — a six-month journey in South America, a volunteering stint in East Africa and a backpacking trip through Asia.
In 2008, we returned home after spending a few months volunteering in East Africa. The experience undoubtedly changed our lives and urged us to create a lifestyle that revolved around travel. I started the blog www.wildjunket.com then to relive my memories in Africa, and somehow I stumbled upon many other travel blogs and eventually connected with many other bloggers online. Inspired by them, I decided to plunge into the world of travel writing and read and learned as much I could online to make it a possible income stream. A few months later, I took a guidebook writing course in Guatemala and landed a writing gig with the guidebook company. From there, I eventually transitioned to become a full-time writer and blogger. I’m extremely thankful to be able to have this dream job. It’s taken me across continents, to places I’d never dreamt of visiting.
As a travel writer, what is your biggest challenge whilst on the road?
The biggest challenge is juggling work and travel. While on the road, I usually have a hectic travel schedule and it’s hard to meet deadlines with such time constraints. When time is tight, I also find it different to get the inspiration and motivation to write. As grateful as I am to be able to travel for a living, it does get physically tiring to be constantly on the road. That’s why I’m happy to have a home base in Spain to return to. It gives me time to work on projects that are close to my heart.
How many countries have you been to and where is the one place that you dream of going to?
I’ve traveled to 83 countries across seven continents, including both Antarctica and the Arctic. There are still many places I dream of going such as Mongolia, the ‘Stans’ and Iran. I’m heading there this summer so I’m really excited!
What’s your favorite place/country that you have visited in Latin America?
That’s a tough question, I love all of Latin America! I guess my favorite place was the Galapagos Islands. My husband Alberto and I are wildlife buffs and we were just blown away by how freely animals roam in the Galapagos and how fearless they are of us humans. The natural landscapes there were also ridiculously beautiful and out of this world.
What was your most memorable moment when traveling in Latin America?
Perhaps the moment when we arrived to the top of Machu Picchu just as the sun rose above our heads. We had woken up at 3am to do the hike up to the ruins and the view there at dawn was just mind blowing. I felt moved by the beauty and history of Machu Picchu, it’s no wonder the Incans chose to build the magnificent site at that exact spot.
Which place in Latin America would you say every traveler needs to see or experience?
Once again, there are so many! I would say the Salar de Uyuni is an incredibly beautiful natural site that many visitors to Latin America miss out on. It’s definitely one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve ever seen and surprisingly many people don’t include it in their itinerary.
What would be your one piece of travel advice for those traveling to Latin America?
It’ll be good to learn some Spanish phrases before you go, but you can also sign up for a Spanish course when you’re there. Latin America is a great region for language immersion experiences where you can stay with locals and learn their cultures. I recommend taking Spanish classes in Guatemala or Peru as those have the most choices.
Which travel books or authors would you recommend?
Latin America is a special place for me because it was there that I first took a guidebook writing course and landed a writing gig with the company. I ended up staying for a few months in Guatemala and co-authored Viva Travel Guide’s Guatemala Guidebook. So I might be biased but I highly recommend this book.
If you had to choose only one place in the world to live, where would that be?
We’ve lived in many places around the world, including Miami, Tanzania, London, Singapore and Madrid, but at the moment, we are quite happy living in Granada, southern Spain. It’s been the best place for us so far thanks to its small size and proximity to the mountains.
What is the one essential item you always take traveling with you?
I used to travel for months without going online or talking to my family, but technology has really changed the way we travel. These days I never travel without my iPhone; I use it for everything from taking notes to blogging, chatting with my family and listening to music.
What is your favorite travel quote?
“The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who talks alone, will likely find himself in places no one has ever been.” – Albert Einstein