This week we meet Belgian travel blogger, Sofie Couwenbergh who blogs at Wonderful Wanderings.
When, why and how did you start Wonderful Wanderings?
I started Wonderful Wanderings in the summer of 2012. I had been thinking about starting a travel blog for a while. A city trip to Dusseldorf finally convinced me to take action. There are so many wonderful things in the world and I wanted everyone to be able to experience them with me.
How did you get that name and what does it mean to you?
I love alliteration and assonance. At the same time I didn’t want a name that was too precise as I was only beginning my blogging adventure and didn’t yet know where it would take me. Wonderful wanderings can be part of a well-planned trip or they can occur when you least expect them. I believe that there’s something worthwhile experiencing every day, you just have to be open to it.
What is the thing that keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?
I love the social factor. I still get excited every time someone comments on one of my posts or someone tells me they read my blog. When I’m not traveling I feel like my blog is a gateway to people all over the world, whether we’re interacting on the blog, through email or via social media.
Where are you originally from and did you grow up there?
I was born and raised in Belgium and still live there. Sorry, no exciting story here. It’s a pretty good place to live (except for the weather), but at the same time it’s small which makes me feel like the possibilities, whatever the area of interest, are limited.
Where do you live?
I live in Heverlee, which is a borough of the university city, Leuven. I like it there because it’s only a short bike ride to the city center (although I still take the car way too often) and just a five-minute walk to the forest.
Do you blog about it at all?
I blog about it occasionally but I could write about it a lot more. There really is quite a lot to see and do in Leuven. I always have to remind myself not to take it for granted and to look at it through a stranger’s eyes. I’ve been wanting to do a series on Leuven for some time now, I just need to get to it.
How often do you travel?
As I have a full time job I can’t travel for extended periods of time. I usually do about two or three ‘larger’ trips a year and a whole bunch of city trips and day trips. People I work with are often surprised when I tell them I’m going on another trip, when they have the same amount of vacation days – and sometimes even more – than I do. It’s just a matter of priorities, I guess. I use up practically all of my vacation days to travel.
What’s your day-job?
I’m a marketing coordinator for an editorial company. I plan promotional actions (direct mailing and emailing), make sure a lot of the preparatory work for those actions is done, design the first draft on paper and then oversee that each department does his job to get everything to print on time.
Do you travel solo or with other people?
It depends. We always do one big trip together each year and usually some short ones as well. I also travel with friends and once a year I do a city trip with my father. I haven’t really traveled solo so far. The few times I took a plane by myself was to visit someone I knew abroad.
What excites you most about travel?
That there are always new things to discover and new people to meet.
What kind of traveler are you?
I think I can best be described as a light budget traveler. I don’t have heaps of money to spend while I travel so I do try to get the best bang for my buck, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll never spend money on things I don’t really need. For example, I love food and I’ll buy a cupcake when I see one. I also know that when I go to Los Angeles, there’s no way I won’t go shopping.
I don’t mind paying a bit more for a better hostel, but I’ll always spend hours researching accommodation before I decide if a place really is worth that extra €15. I will also always book a private room. I love the social aspect of hostels, but I also cherish my own little private space at certain times of the day. A private room always costs more, but for me it’s balancing out my needs against the costs.
On the road, do you seek out some experiences more than others?
What I like to do most is just wander around and see what happens. That might be a bit contradictory to the fact that I’m a real planner, but I always try to keep my eyes open for opportunities. I’m also always open to meeting new people, whether they’re travelers or locals.
Are you an adventurous traveler?
I guess that depends on what you call ‘adventurous’. I’m not much of a thrill seeker so you won’t find me looking for bungee jump or sky dive action, but I’m not afraid to put my trust in someone I’ve met five minutes ago, to eat something that looks disgusting or to try something I’ve never done before.
I must admit that I seem to ‘dare’ more when I’m traveling than when I’m at home. Maybe it’s that sense of ‘obligationlessness’ or the idea that if anything goes wrong, that experience won’t haunt you like it would when you’re home, amongst people you know?
Last year in Los Angeles a complete stranger booked my friend and me a night at the Sheraton, took us out for dinner and drinks (we took a ride with him in his car) and… dropped us off safely at the hotel afterwards. So many things could have gone wrong, but we had a great night and when I returned to Los Angeles this year, we met up for dinner again.
Those are the experiences that stick with me way more than the museums I’ve visited or the buildings I’ve seen.
What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever
Can I only pick one? Darn… Well, maybe it’s because it’s still so fresh but on my trip to Los Angeles this summer I went to a party in North Hollywood. There wasn’t really anything special about the party. The bar it was held in wasn’t special; there were DJ’s playing good music, but no special performances; it wasn’t super crowded. But at that party everyone was talking to everyone, and everyone started dancing with everyone. The vibe was amazing.
What’s your favorite place on earth?
That one place I would spend the rest of my life. I still have to discover it, though.
Where are you off to next?
Cambridge! I’m going to visit someone I met in Los Angeles last year. We stayed at the same hostel and since I’ve never been to Cambridge before…
What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list?
I would love love love love love to see whales in the wild. I just find them such amazing creatures. The idea alone that they’re so huge and that they could be swimming right next to your boat…
Up until now I’ve only made ‘smaller’ trips. I could say that’s because I’ve got a full time job, but every excuse is just that – an excuse. I’d love to make a longer trip, not so that I’d be able to see more, but so that I’d be able to travel more slowly; be able to stay in one place for a longer time and really get the feel of that place. Not ‘having’ to go sightseeing because there’s plenty of time… Yup, I’d like that.
Sofie Couwenbergh is a Belgian chocolate lover and dance aficionada who combines a full-time marketing job with a never-ending wanderlust. She uses her weekends, vacation days and public holidays to travel the world and share her experiences with you on Wonderful Wanderings , Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.