Seth Freedman: Thank you for tuning into The Best Travel Podcast, brought to you by Driftr, hosted by me, Seth Friedman. We will be interviewing some of your favorite travel bloggers and influencers, getting you real dirt and all the things you really want to know. True stories told by the storytellers themselves, for the traveler, by the traveler. Let’s get into it. We have Tara Donaldson with us today, coming from Brooklyn, New York. Tara, I really appreciate you coming on the show today.
Tara Donaldson: Thanks for having me.
SF: So Tara, What got you interested in travel? What was it that really got you interested?
TD: You know, I have to say I was born with the bug because my parents met when they were both traveling. My dad was in the Air Force and we lived all over.
SF: And so what was the first big trip that you remember and how did you feel before you went on that trip?
TD: The first big trip I remember is one that I took without my parents. It was a school trip. I was living in England at the time and we were fundraising to take clothes and toys and food to children in Romania. So besides Romania, we also went to Austria and Czechoslovakia on that trip, and it was just really cool. So I guess I just felt excited to be going out on my own adventure and doing something good while being there.
SF: Your first trip was a philanthropy trip. Amazing. That’s a good start right there. Everybody is a different type of traveler. What type of traveler would you say you are?
TD: I’d say I’m a curious traveler. I just get really, really excited about the way other people live. So even in instances where some people might not find beauty in something, I will go just because there is beauty in the way everyone lives, what they do, and how they eat. I think I really appreciate that. I’m a big fan of experiencing different cultures and their foods.
SF: Where is the last place you went?
TD: The last place I went to was Bryce Canyon, Utah.
SF: Can you tell us a little bit about Bryce Canyon?
TD: Yeah. I usually go anywhere that has a beach or to an island, so I just decided that I wanted to see a completely different landscape. I called my road trip friend and said, “Where can we go?” I wanted to go to Antelope Canyon but that was booked, so we went to Bryce and it was beautiful. It’s just a landscape I had never seen before.
SF: Do you have specific people you travel with when you travel in the United States?
TD: Yes. This friend that I went with, he’s my road trip friend. We went on a 33-day road trip all the way around the country and all the way up to Canada. I do travel with my parents a lot too, which is still fun for me.
SF: 33 days on the road…that must have been quite an experience.
TD: Yeah, it was crazy. At one point, I wanted to kill him and I called my mom and I said, “I need to fly home from wherever we are.” But we’re really good friends now, so it’s fine.
SF: That’s great. And then what’s the next trip that you have planned?
TD: I’m leaving for Grenada on Friday, so that’s really exciting.
SF: More beaches and islands.
TD: Yeah, definitely.
SF: Okay, so I’m going to just kind of go into the best and the worst types of travel. Let’s start with the best. What’s the most exciting experience you’ve had? Where did you go, what did you do, and why was it so special?
TD: I have to say…and it’s going to sound like a cliche to say this…but visiting the pyramids in Egypt is probably the most exciting thing I’ve done. There are a lot of landmarks that you see over the course of your life and dream about visiting, and sometimes you’re let down when you get there. But this wasn’t like that at all. It was just so incredible to see it and feel how ancient it is. You go right inside and see the tomb. And when you get up close to the pyramids, they feel like these really uneven rocks, but then when you step back, it’s this perfect triangle. You wonder, “Way back then, how did they even figure that out?” So it really was kind of mind-blowing. I went there with friends that I had just made because I was there for a trade show. We had the best time and now those are really good friends. So it was just an all around really amazing experience.
SF: That’s definitely a place on my bucket list to see.
TD: You know, you just can’t get that in a lot of other places, to wonder how they were built. Even nowadays, people truly don’t fully understand, which is pretty amazing.
SF: Let’s flip it to the other side. Tell us about an experience that was a bad experience. Not when you felt like your life was at stake, but something that was just an experience that you wouldn’t want to do again.
TD: That would definitely be my trip to Morocco. I went with two friends and we tried to see three cities in three days which, in itself, is crazy. We were just getting ripped off left and right. Every single thing we did, we got ripped off. We went to a restaurant and they brought us menus in French. I can speak a little bit of French, so I knew what everyone was going to order and how to say it in French and the waiter came back and he said, “Oh I’m sorry. I gave you the wrong menu.” He comes back with an identical menu that had double the prices.
So it’s like, “Oh, okay.” And then there was a lady in the square next to us where they had snake charmers and stuff and she wanted to give me henna. I wanted to have her do it and was asking her what the price was and she said, “Don’t worry. Don’t worry about it.” That was my mistake. So she just started doing it and then tried to charge me 60 American dollars for henna. Then I was fighting with her but she didn’t speak any English. It was just a mess. And they tell you that in Morocco, you should always make sure that the cab drivers use the meter, so we asked them all to use the meter. You would not believe how many just drove away.
One time we got into a cab and the guy drove away. He drove for a while before finally letting us out. So it was rough and tiring. People say good things about Morocco as well. You know, you hear a lot of good things about it, but we didn’t have the best experience. I know a lot of people have had good experiences there, so I think it might have been some naivete on our part in doing shit the way we did it. So I definitely think there are good experiences to have there.
SF: Have you ever felt scared for your life anywhere that you’ve been?
TD: I feel more scared for my life in New York than in most other countries.
SF: Yeah, I know. New York’s a great city, but I’ve got to be honest. I live in Los Angeles and I think visiting New York is great but I could never live in the city.
TD: It’s different. I used to live in L.A. and New York is an adjustment, but I love it.
SF: Yeah a lot of people that live there say that. Changing gears, can you tell us about some romances you’ve had around the world or people you keep in contact with? Do you have somebody, a significant other, or do you have more than one significant other? You know, tell us a little bit about romance on the road.
TD: I’m going to do a throwback here because everything is always more romantic when you’re a teenager. So I was 16 and I was in Tobago, which is where my parents are from. I was on the beach where my parents met, actually, and I saw what I thought was the most beautiful man ever. He rescued me from an unwelcome suitor and we started chatting. We spent the whole day together. We were swimming on the beach and eating local food. It was just all kinds of romantic until my grandpa was like, “Hey, it’s time to go home.” So I just quickly scribbled my number on a dollar bill and gave it to him. He didn’t call me and I was really surprised. All the rest of the days that I knew he was going to be there, I would look for him all over the island but didn’t see him. No call, nothing. Then on the last day before I left, the lifeguards were like, “Hey, this boy has been looking for you every day.” So it was like a missed romance, but it’s still a fun memory. I never saw him again. I don’t have a significant other at the moment but I do believe when that time comes, I’ll probably meet him on a beach or on an island while traveling. I definitely feel that will be the case, like my parents.
SF: That is a good throwback right there. When it comes to travel, people save money and people spend money. Do you have any big money saving tips that you would give to people that are listening into this?
TD: Yeah. I’m a big fan of going where your friends are. It’s good to have international friends if there are places that you want to visit. I think it’s always a good opportunity to try to see them while they’re in that place. Apart from that, I’d say Airbnb. I haven’t used it a lot myself, though, because a lot of my travel is for work or for writing. I have a lot of friends who have used it and stayed in amazing places for really great prices. Beyond that, I would really say to take public transportation. Sometimes it’s a little daunting, but it saves you so much money on cabs and it really gives you more of a local feeling of the place. You get to kind of see the place in a different light and you might discover things that you may not otherwise have seen.
SF: I’d say public transportation is a good tip for saving money, as I’m sure you know. You live in a city that has some of the best.
TD: Yes. So maybe it’s easier for me than it might be for some, but it’s good to try it.
SF: Okay, so you know people talk about a lot of different internet travel resources. What are some big internet resources that you would recommend using when you’re traveling around the world?
TD: Well, I always use Trip Advisor. It’s just a good one-stop source to see what people think of a place. So that’s a big one. But other than that, Lonely Planet. It’s like a modern-day Atlas to me. I have the hard copy of the travel book by Lonely Planet which is so great because anytime I’m learning about a new country or planning a trip, I’ll just quickly turn the page to that place and find out about it.
SF: I love how you use two of our competitors, but you know, I fully support travel as a whole.
TD: This was in the past before you guys came around.
SF: I know, I know. I’m just messing with you. Okay, so if you had to give some advice to somebody that’s trying to do what you’re doing, what would you tell them?
TD: You know, honestly, I’d say just do it. People get caught up thinking that travel is for rich people, or the elite, or someone who is more privileged than they are. But I think if you really want to travel, there are ways to make it happen. You know, maybe you skip that Starbucks or skip that dinner with friends and put money aside for the whole year. I think if it’s really something that you’re passionate about, just figure out a way to make it happen.
SF: When you travel, is there a must-have that you take everywhere with you? Is there something that you can’t leave home without?
TD: My camera. But I also have this big floppy beach hat that’s totally ridiculous. It says “Miss Travel Bug.” It’s kind of become like my staple for photos and whatnot.
SF: So you know, I would say one of my biggest successes ever is my child. What is your biggest success? What is the success that you really hold true to yourself?
TD: I would say becoming a travel writer because it’s one of those things that you don’t think you could ever make happen. It seemed like a dream job, and now I’m going to do it full-time. The fact that I get to do it at all and that people invite me to come to places just to write about it is a dream come true. So that is for sure my biggest success in life.
SF: That’s great. I hope for more people to be able to do that. That’s what we’re about here at Driftr. Writing about it and telling your stories. So this is might be a tab morbid but I’m going to go with it because it’s my show. Imagine you woke up tomorrow and you knew you only had two months left to live. After spending time with your loved ones, what would you do and where would you go?
TD: I would go to Santorini because it’s really high on my list. I’d go to Bronto in Italy because I’m really into color and I think it looks like the most colorful place in the world. I’d spend at least a week in India doing yoga since I’ve begun doing yoga. And then I’d end up in Tobago because that’s home for me. That’s where my family is from, and that’s where I’m happy. It’s the one place that no matter where I live or where I travel to, that’s always home. It’s great.
SF: Okay, so we’re going to end this with a little piece of guidance. Why don’t you tell everybody something that nobody knows about you? Not something that’s embarrassing, but why don’t you give them a little piece of something that they don’t know about you, something you’d like to tell them?
TD: I guess I’d say that I’m really silly. It may not come across that way on social media because I look like this traveler living this, you know, this grand lifestyle, but I’m such a regular person. I’m just silly. I feel completely absurd taking some of the pictures I take on Instagram and the looks that I get from people. I kind of agree with them and I want to laugh at myself too for doing some of it. But I just think that I have a lot of fun with life and travel. I’m really good at laughing at myself because I’m kind of goofy sometimes.