In today’s edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Kelly Borglum, the self-described “millennial gal from California” and world traveler behind The Wandering Blonde! We speak with Kelly about why travel is important to her, how you can travel the world without becoming a digital nomad, the top things to do in one of her favorite destinations around the world, and much more. Check out her advice to others who want to travel and find out where she’s off to next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
I’ve been obsessed with learning about other cultures and world history from a very young age – as long as I can remember, really. I grew up hearing travel stories from my dad and my uncles about their travels, and I always knew I would create my own stories one day. I didn’t start traveling much until after college, but it’s been a big part of my life ever since then.
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
I believe that we get one shot at this life, and travel is one of the best ways to make our time on Earth count. There are so many beautiful and awe-inspiring sights to see, and rich cultures to learn about. I want to try all the foods, meet as many people from different backgrounds as possible, and learn as much as I can about human history. Travel is such a fulfilling way to make all of that happen.
You run a travel blog called The Wandering Blonde. Can you please tell us a bit about it? How did it come about? What makes it unique?
I launched The Wandering Blonde in February 2015, when I was fresh out of college and busy putting in the hours at my first “real” job. Originally, I started my blog as a promise to myself – a promise to go on all the adventures I had always dreamed of, even if it meant squeezing in trips here and there with my limited vacation days.
Over time, The Wandering Blonde has turned into 1) a creative outlet for storytelling and writing about my travels and 2) a place where fellow travelers can come to find in-depth travel guides and itineraries. I LOVE creating itineraries!
I also write from the perspective of someone who is not a professional travel blogger or full-time traveler, which I think makes my blog very relatable for many of my readers.
You’ve managed to travel the world while holding down a “normal” job and life. What tips can you share for others who want to travel without being a full-time digital nomad?
Yes! I did try the whole “quit my job and travel the world” thing for a few months in 2015. It was an incredible experience and I’m so happy I did it, but I realized it wasn’t the most fulfilling path for me. I love having a home base, I love being married, and I love having my dog. I wouldn’t trade those aspects of my life for anything, but travel is still one of my greatest passions. So, finding the right balance is important.
My best advice for other part-time travel addicts like me is to seek out adventure wherever you can, as often as you can. Go on weekend trips, day trips, and road trips to nearby cities and regions. Plan your bigger international trips strategically around holidays; instead of staying home for the 4th of July, book a trip that leaves Friday evening and returns the following Sunday – that’s 8 days of travel, and only 3 or 4 vacation days used (assuming time off for the 4th).
I also choose my destinations based on what’s most accessible and convenient for me. Being in California, that means Mexico, the South Pacific, and Asia – places I can usually find nonstop flights to. I don’t want to burn away my limited time off in transit!
Also, don’t be afraid to travel independently even if you’re in a relationship. My husband has a more restrictive vacation allowance than I do, so I’ll squeeze in more travel by booking solo trips. I LOVE solo travel!
You’re from California. What makes California such a great travel destination? What do you suggest travelers do there when they visit?
Oh man, so much! California has it all – scenic coastal drives, redwoods, mountains, beaches, deserts, big cities…
California is a great road trip destination, but many travelers make the mistake of trying to pack in too much. You don’t want to spend all your time in the car! Be sure to include a few days with no driving so you can really enjoy the destination.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year? What types of places do you like to visit?
I would say I spend around 2 months in total traveling each year, spread out over the whole year. I do a ton of weekend getaways (like 1 or 2 per month), and typically do anywhere from 1-3 “bigger” trips during the year.
My favorite destinations tend to have very green, lush, mountainous landscapes and quiet, small-to-medium towns with lots of charm. Think Motovun (Croatia), Salento (Colombia), or Lake Atitlan (Guatemala).
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
I’m not a digital nomad, I’m not a full-time traveler, and I’m not a luxury traveler – I’m just a regular American woman who is obsessed with travel and doing my best to make it all work.
My hope is that my content will inspire others to see more of the world, without feeling required to give up their “normal” lifestyle at home. If I can do it, they can too!
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
Gah, the hardest question to answer! At the moment I would say Mexico, French Polynesia, and Croatia are my top three countries I’ve visited.
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, the best place to have lunch, the best sightseeing, etc.
These are my Top 5 Must-Do’s in Mexico:
- Visit the colorful city of Guanajuato, which was once the richest city in Mexico. See the impressive Baroque architecture in El Jardin, and check out the views from El Pipila.
- Taste tequila in Tequila. Did you know that just as true champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France, true tequila only comes from Tequila and the surrounding area?
- Hike to El Tepozteco, an ancient Aztec pyramid that overlooks the quiet Pueblo Magico (Magical Town) of Tepoztlan.
- Explore Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. This sprawling park is home to nine museums and countless sculptures, fountains, and gardens. You can even visit a castle that was designed by some of the same architects who worked on Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany!
- Discover the vibrant city of Guadalajara, the birthplace of mariachi music, sombreros, rodeos, and The Mexican Hat Dance. Guadalajara also has incredible food!
How many countries have you visited so far?
17 countries and counting! I definitely prefer “traveling deep” versus “traveling wide.” If I have two weeks or less for trip, I’ll always opt to stick with one country rather than multiple.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
Mexican, Japanese, Croatian. If you haven’t had Croatian cevapcici or black risotto, you’re missing out!
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
Okay SO if you’re ever in Croatia, you have to visit this quiet little region about an hour north of Dubrovnik called the Peljesac Peninsula. Go to the teeny-tiny town of Mali Ston (population: 139) and stop at a waterfront restaurant called Bota Sare.
Order the red risotto with mussels and shellfish, the black risotto with cuttlefish, and fresh oysters with lemon. You’re welcome!
What is your favorite travel movie?
Such a cliché, but definitely The Beach. It totally captures the spirit of travel for me.
What is your favorite international airport?
I was really impressed by Incheon International Airport (Seoul, South Korea). It was clean, calm and the architecture was very modern.
Which city had the friendliest people?
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I met so many locals and expats while I was there, and people genuinely went out of their way to offer advice and make me feel welcome. For example, I ended up chatting with this artist in his gallery, who proceeded to hand me his business card with his cell number and told me to call him if I ever needed help during my stay in the city.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
My husband! We travel really well together because I love to research and plan, and he’s down for anything. So essentially, I plan my dream trip and he just comes along for the ride haha.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
Audiobooks! Download them on your phone or iPad, and you have hours of entertainment for those times when you don’t have WiFi.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
Well, travel blogging isn’t my career so I don’t really travel for work. But I did do a brief stint as a travel agent where I got to spend a week in Paris staying at various five-star hotels…definitely different from how I typically travel!
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
There is no such thing as a “must-see.” Seriously, there isn’t! If you’re planning a trip, you’re spending YOUR time, money and energy. Try to listen to your inner voice to determine what YOU want to see on your travels – not just what everyone else is seeing, or what every guidebook recommends.
If you want to spend a month in France and skip Paris altogether, hey, that’s your prerogative! Someone else might think you’re nuts, but it’s all about what feels most fulfilling to you. This is your life, not a competition to check off all the “must-sees” of the world.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
iPhone (which doubles as my camera), comfortable shoes, my Kindle, and Pepto Bismol (LOL).
What is your ultimate dream destination?
Tanzania. I’ve never been to Africa, and Tanzania seems to have so much to offer. I think it would be really different from anywhere else I’ve been so far. One day!
What is your favorite travel quote?
It may not be a travel quote per se, but this quote always reminds me of traveling with my husband. Authentic local food, cheap beer or wine, a cozy Airbnb, and we’re set!
“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Where are you headed next?
New Zealand!! Such a dream trip for me, I absolutely can’t wait. Seeing Hobbiton, hiking in Mt. Cook, all the activities in Queenstown…ahhh!
Kelly Borglum is the founder and writer behind The Wandering Blonde travel blog, where she shares travel tales, guides, itineraries, inspiration, and musings. Special areas of interest covered on The Wandering Blonde include solo female travel, part-time travel, unique accommodations, and under-the-radar travel destinations. Kelly lives in California with her husband and dog, where she works from home as a freelance copywriter.