I’m a history buff! I don’t have to visit a country for a long time to get lots of enjoyment out of visiting – lots of my trips are weekends away, crammed in around my work as a Marketing Manager. After visiting a destination, I look up the history of all of the interesting places I have seen. I have learnt so much by doing this – and it’s one of my favourite things about travelling.
An interview with travel blogger Belinda Birchall. By Sygic Travel. Enjoy!
Do you remember the moment when you decided to start a blog (The 58th Floor)?
When I moved to Dubai, I was so bored. While I was still doing some contract work based back in New Zealand, I’d never gone so long without working. I knew my family and friends were interested in my travels around the world, so I decided I would start to write about my adventures. I also wanted to share some of the knowledge I had picked up as a new ex-pat living in the Middle East, as I found it really hard to find information myself!
You’ve recently moved to Dubai because your husband got a job there. Is it easy to start a new life in Dubai?
It is a strange mixture of easy and hard. We have company housing, which is great, and eased a lot of the stress of moving. We’ve also made lots of fantastic new friends in Dubai, and used it a base for some amazing travel. However, breaking into the job market in a new country is always hard. The Dubai recruitment scene seems to work by word of mouth – and it can be really hard to catch the eye of hiring staff.
Would you recommend Dubai to other travelers?
I’d definitely recommend Dubai for a stop-off. Dubai in the winter is an amazing spot. You can visit five-star hotels, eat at amazing restaurants, sail or swim at the beach, shop till you drop or learn about Islamic and Emirati culture. In the summer though, I’d give it a miss. Unless you like 50 degree heat, it’s pretty unbearable.
What are the top destinations on your bucket list right now?
I’ve got a few places lined up in the next year that I am very keen on. Baku in Azerbaijan is apparently amazing for a weekend getaway, along with Tbilisi in Georgia. I’d love to go skiing in Almaty in Kazakhstan, and my husband and I are keen to go sailing in the Seychelles. I’m hoping to visit Hanoi for the weekend later this month, and we are also off to Sofia in Bulgaria in April.
What is it you don’t like about traveling?
I think it can be difficult to support local people when travelling, because you aren’t always sure who is profiting from your visit. I feel like this is less of a problem in countries that don’t have lots of tourism infrastructure, as you are more likely to be able to deal directly with locals. Obviously, the environmental impact of travel is important too – if there was a way to travel in a more eco-friendly way, I’d be sure to do it!
What apps or websites do you use for traveling?
Obviously, Sygic Travel is top of my list! It is a fantastic way to get all the information you need about a particular destination at once. Best yet, it includes information on a whole bunch of smaller, more obscure destinations that many other similar apps don’t include. The offline maps are also a massive help, particularly as I don’t always have internet access when I travel. Luckily, I also have lots of friends that are keen on travelling too – and are always ready to recommend lots of new destination ideas.
If you had an unlimited travel budget for 24 hours, what would your itinerary look like?
I would probably head back to Iceland in the summer, hiring a helicopter to shuttle me around the country and to do a guided glacier trek. I’d spend the afternoon doing an Icelandic horse trek, and then head back to Reykjavik for some amazing five star cuisine.
If you should decide today, which country would you pick for retirement?
I’d actually pick two! I’d spend my summers in Oslo, Norway, because I love the city life, the fjords and the outdoors. I’d spend my winters somewhere nice and warm – probably Mauritius.
What are the five things you can't travel without?
My phone, laptop, earplugs, eye mask and my TravelBug adaptor.
What is the most overrated country or location you've been to?
Croatia. I’m sure it’s very beautiful, but when we visited, it was overrun with tourists, dirty, crowded and run down. When we visit again, we will be sure to get off the beaten track in an attempt to see the beauty of the country.
What is the most underestimated country or location you've been to?
Poland. I visited Warsaw last year, and it was amazing. While it isn’t the prettiest city (although the reconstructed Old Town was pretty cool!), it has amazing food and culture, it’s cheap to visit, the history is very interesting and it’s safe to wander around. I would highly recommend a weekend away in the city!
Thank you Belinda!
Simona from Sygic Travel
Sygic Travel has been helping people plan travel itineraries since 2011. Millions of people all over the world use their web planner as well as their iOS and Android apps.