Blogging is about finding that right balance of personality, photography, fun and words to make others want to read and comment.
One of my favorite blogs which has found this harmonious mix is Tahira’s Shenanigans, which I accidentally came across while searching out travel blogs to inspire me and it is a real treasure.
Tahira is a cardiovascular critical care nurse from the States who is currently working in Saudi Arabia and writes about her travels around the world in amazing places like: Thailand, Italy, France, England, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan.
I was excited when she agreed to do an interview with me and she happily answered my questions about traveling and blogging:
You are a very well travelled person, tell us about the most fascinating place you have visited and why was it so fascinating?
I have two parts to answering this question.
While I have been fortunate to travel to a lot of different places, I must admit, the place where I have been living as an expat these last two years, without a doubt, is the most fascinating. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is by far the most different and the most removed from anything I, as a Westerner from a free & democratic society, have ever experienced. For me to put into words, at this time, why it is so fascinating would take up way too much of our blog time and use up all of my word count as your Guest Blogger. So I will leave that for a different forum.
In the meantime the most fascinating place I visited, outside of The Kingdom, has to be Sri Lanka. Where the people were so friendly it almost tears one up, but at the same time they live with so little. It’s where my eyes truly opened up to the fact that one does not need much to be happy. That the material things in life were not the most important. Repeatedly I was overwhelmed by the Sri Lankans generosity. It was a solo trip I made and throughout the week or so I was there I came across countless people who opened up their homes to me, invited me to their dinner table, gave me their help and time in getting from one place to the next, all without asking for anything in return except my friendship and company. How amazing a feeling.
How do you plan and fund your trips?
I get lots of inquiries to this so I’m glad you addressed it here. I work full time as a cardiac critical care nurse in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. Not only do I get 52 vacations days right off the bat but I can also manipulate my work schedule where I have time off without using vacation time. Meaning I work, work, work, and save up my scheduled days off and then use them all at once and in turn not be dipping into my vacations days.
And as far as funding, I keep a little “travel fund” where I put a small portion from each salary into. Being in the Middle East is a perfect spot to be in because I feel I’ve been centrally located to be able to get to a lot of places that under normal circumstances would not only be very timeconsuming and tiring but very expensive to get to were I traveling to them from the States, lets say.
And as for planning, there is not really a set pattern to my “planning”. Some of the places have been spontaneous and some have been planned way in advance. There are a lot of like minded individuals here in Saudi Arabia who I’ve gotten a lot of suggestions and tips from and I follow a lot of travel blogs where I’ve also gotten several ideas. So I’ll pull a little from here, a little from there, and somehow it all always just seems to work out perfectly.
You often travel alone, any advice for people who like to travel solo?
I get asked this a lot too. My biggest advice is to be open. Open to change, to new ideas, to cultures, to different ways of doing things. Change is going to happen no matter what and I’ve learned that that is magnified especially when one is traveling. Something is going to happen to throw a wrench into your plans. It’s inevitable. And when traveling solo things are magnified because you’ve only got yourself to rely on. Things that one thinks is a ‘big deal’ almost always turns out that it’s not really all that big of a deal. I have learned the true meaning of acceptance. Acceptance of change. Acceptance that just because you have an idea of what something should be like, does not mean that is how it will be. And let me also say that for the most part, these changes, these problems, these wrenches that have popped up in my travels have usually steered me to something even better. My second piece of advice is to get lost and this kind of ties in with being open to change and acceptance part. Get lost out there, it’s when I’ve been lost that I have come upon the most beauty.
You have built up quite a following on your blog, do you have any advice for new bloggers?
Unless you are really serious. Then don’t be so serious.
I think it is really important to not take oneself so seriously all the time. Or take their blog so seriously all the time. Leave some room for some fun.
Do you think the world is becoming a smaller place? Why or why not?
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we are so connected nowadays via the internet. Through blogging alone I have friends in all corners of the world that I’ve met and we actually have true friendships. And I have countless stories of bumping into folks I know in the most remote or random of places The Irish Bar in Dubai. The TGV train from Paris to Toulon. The coffee shop in the Istanbul Airport. Hiking in the Saudi Arabian desert. And the list goes on.
But I’m going to say no as well. This world is so vast and big. I’ve only covered a very small portion of what is out there. It’s endless. Which makes all the possibilities endless.
What do you think about the expat life? Why do you think so many people choose to be expats?
Because it feels like you are on one long vacation. Even though I’ve been working (a lot) these last two years, I still feel as if I’ve been on a two year vacation.
What led you into the world of blogging?
I wanted a centralized way of keeping my friends and family updated of my status. Some of my friends/family were on Facebook, some on Twitter, some on neither. So I sent out the link to the blog to all of them and they had a choice to come and checkin and see what I was up to. Little did I know I would be introduced to an entire new world, the world of blogging and bloggers, and have an entirely new network of friendships from all over the world. And it’s been the absolute most positive experience. Once I realized just how supportive and encouraging and helpful the blogging community is I was hooked.
Do you have any culture shock related stories to share?
Well. Yes, most definitely. As I mentioned early Saudi Arabia is not exactly what Westerners are use to. It is the most conservative country in the world. They live and operate under a whole different set of rules. Outside of the Diplomatic Quarters women and men do not mingle, there is no alcohol, no bars, no cafe’s, men wear these long white robes and women are covered from head to toe in all black. And that is just the tip of the iceberg….
Tell us about your blog …
Well. It’s a cornucopia of stuff. It’s about my adventures, the traveling I’ve done, my evolving photography, it’s about where I’ve been and where I’m going. At last look I had just about 700 followers of the blog and I am so extremely grateful, but at the same time a bit perplexed, that people are actually interested in what I have to say. There are some moody posts, I share things I’ve learned, things that inspire me, things that make me happy, but in the end it’s mostly about the changes and the growth that I’ve gone through since moving to Saudi Arabia. As I looked back over the blog I saw how the blog has evolved and I realized I’ve evolved right alongside the blog. And I think that’s what keeps folks coming back for more and brings the new followers around as well.
Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favourite travel book which you think best describes a particular place or the art of travel in a particular way for those who are unable to travel.
I love this question. It got me to remember a book I read some years back that I simply adored. I just pulled it up and I think I’m actually going to reread it now. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Women by Alice Steinbach. A remarkable book written by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with the back drop being Paris, Oxford, and Milan. It’s almost like a book of postcards depicting her journey physically and metaphysically.
What would be your ultimate dream trip?
Ah. Tough question. I don’t really have a “dream” trip. It’s what I’m in the mood for at the moment. What calls to my soul. Being a beachbum at one moment. Hiking mountains the next. I could be craving a hidden cabin deep in the Alaskan wilderness. And sometimes I need the pulse of a major metropolitan city, the feel of the underground and elbow to elbow with all the city dwellers. If I’m living and experiencing what my heart desires, I suppose at that moment that is my dream trip.
Complete this phrase: I travel because …
not only to understand other people and cultures but more so to understand myself. Travel far enough, you meet yourself.
What are the five things you would definitely never leave home without …
Camera, iPod, Kindle, travel size baby wipes, and a hat(s)
You always have the best shots on your blog, so tell us what camera do you use and perhaps a little advice on how to get a decent photo.
I have a Nikon 5100. Honestly, everything I know about taking a decent photo has been by trial and error. My advice, take a lot of shots, one is bound to turn out good.
So what’s coming up on Tahira’s Shenanigans that we can look forward to …
Perfect timing of this question. And it’s the perfect forum to announce that I will be leaving The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within the next few months. While it’s been an amazing two years, it’s time to head on out and conquer other parts of the world. I am craving The America’s and everything American. I’m returning to North America and that’s all I’m prepared to announce at this time. But I promise there will definitely be more shenanigan’s and there is so much I am looking forward to. The options are wide open and endless….
Have you discovered any other wonderful travel or expat blogs that we should be reading?
There are so many wonderful expat & travel blogs out there. One of the combined travel/ex-pat blogs I simply love following is Journey Around The Globe.
It’s a blog by a mom of two, from the United States living in Belgium with her family and traveling across Europe (and Asia, and Africa.) I am all about Europe so following along on blog has been pure joy. The photography is spectacular and the writing is a class act.
Thanks so much to Tahira’s Shenanigans a totally inspiring travel blog. I must recommend taking a look at some gobsmacking fantastic photos as Tahira is sharing some images from her adventures every week, there are new photos with a pinch of wisdom to reflect on too!