In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Australian travel blogger and linguistics enthusiast Michele Frolla of The Intrepid Guide. We chat with Michele about the importance of learning languages when traveling, where her love of learning different languages came from, her favorite destinations around the globe, and much more. Find out where she met the friendliest people in her travels and find out where she’s off to next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
My interest in travel has always been there but I didn’t take my first trip overseas until I was 22 years old. Since I have Italian heritage and an interest in Italian artists and Roman history, I decided to go to Italy for 11 days before heading over to Paris.
That trip left a lasting impression on me and really changed the course of my life. That’s when I finally got serious about learning languages. Over the next three years I studied Italian and eventually moved to Italy. It was a real dream come true.
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
One of my favourite travel quotes – which I feel sums up my thoughts on this perfectly – is by Mark Twain. He said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
While it’s a gift to be able to travel the world and see incredible places, it’s also important because it helps break down the walls between us all.
Meeting people from other cultures and countries helps you realise that, at the end of the day, we are all the same. We all want the same things. We want to be loved, be happy, healthy, and look after our family and friends. If we remember that, there’s no reason to hate or fight each other.
That’s why I feel so passionately about learning languages and I want to help others to do the same.
You run a travel blog called The Intrepid Guide. Can you please tell us a bit about it? How did it come about and what makes it different from other travel content out there?
I created my language and travel blog, The Intrepid Guide, as a way to spend more time on my two passions in life outside of my day job..
We all love to travel, but no one talks about the importance of learning and speaking languages when it comes to travelling to foreign countries.
This is surprisingly since it’s such a big part of travel. We go abroad to see beautiful places, try new cuisines, but there’s nothing communicating with the locals and learning from them.
Even learning to use just a few keywords and phrases can do wonders for enhancing your travel experiences. It’s a great way to show respect and make a good first impression when meeting the locals.
This is why I not only write detailed destinations guides and produce videos, I also create free travel phrase guides to help travellers get the most out of their experiences.
You don’t need to be fluent to make a difference, knowing a little can go a long way. Just by showing that you’ve made an effort to learn some of the local language brings out the best in people.
I believe it’s important to show respect when travelling to any foreign country. Even if locals can speak a bit of English, it’s still a good idea to greet them in their native language.
By learning another language, you gain so much insight into the culture of the people who speak it. For example, before travelling to Egypt, I studied Arabic. I learned that when you say ‘See you soon’’ to someone, the other person will respond with ‘In shāʾ Allāh’, which literally translates to, God willing, or if God wills it. This means that, yes, I hope to see you again, but it’s up to God if we will. Just by learning this simple phrase you gain a lot of insight into how significant of a role religion plays in the Arabic speaking culture.
In addition to travel, The Intrepid Guide also focuses on learning languages. Where did your passion for learning languages come from? What tips can you share for people who want to learn a new language?
My interest in languages started when I was very young. I was named after my nonno (Italian for grandfather) so I was always fascinated by his home country and the language he spoke. As an immigrant, he never learned English so I struggled to speak with him on a deeper level. When he passed away, I was determined to learn his language as a way to learn more about him and carry on his legacy.
For those starting out in language learning or for anyone whose been burned by previous failed attempts, I would say that you yourself aren’t incapable of learning another language. You’re never too old, too busy, or lack the ‘language gene’ (something that doesn’t exist, by the way). You just haven’t figured out a system that works for you, yet. You need to try different methods and language learning resources to see which one works best for you. Once you’ve found that it’s just a matter of being dedicated and passionate.
You’re a native of Melbourne, Australia. What do you suggest people do there when they visit?
Melbourne is an awesome city but I recommend you drive an hour south to the Mornington Peninsula, where I’m actually from. I feel very lucky to have grown up in such an incredibly beautiful place. There are tonnes of pristine beaches, a lot of history at Point Nepean National Park, lots of Australian wildlife, including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, kookaburras, rosellas…the list goes on.
I also highly recommend heading over to Phillip Island to see the Little Penguins. Every night just after sunset, these little guys come ashore to head back to their burrows. Also known as Fairy Penguins, Blue Penguins or Little Blue Penguins, they are the smallest penguins in the world and the only ones which are blue! It’s a wonderful experience to be able to sit at a safe distance and watch them come ashore with their buddies and socialise with each other. The best part is that all the money from your ticket goes back into protecting their environment and creating new habitats.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year? What types of places do you like to visit?
I’ve only recently gone full-time with my blog, so I’ve had to choose wisely how I spent my 30 days of holiday leave.
I’m always drawn back to Italy. I like to visit new regions as they are so different from each other in history, dialect, and cuisine.
More recently, I’ve been drawn to Norway a lot because I’m learning Norwegian. This summer I spent two weeks in Oslo for a language holiday, which is my favourite way to travel as it gives you plenty of time to get to know a place really well.
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
At the very least, I want travellers to incorporate language learning into their travel planning. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. If you can learn and use five phrases then you’re off to a flying start.
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
Rome is my favourite place in the whole world. I lived there for three years and still didn’t get to see all its wonders. There’s so much more to it than the Vatican and the Colosseum, which is why I wrote a guide to truly unique things to do in Rome.
Visiting Egypt was a childhood dream. Again, it’s it’s history is what fascinates me the most. I loved learning all about the Ancient Egyptians, how they lived, and their beliefs.
Tromsø in Northern Norway blew away for both it’s natural beauty and winter activities. It’s also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights.
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.
If you’re visiting Tromsø, definitely go on a Northern Lights tour. Head to the top of Fjellheisen for panoramic views of the city. Learn about the indigenous Samí people on a Samí experience trip and go on an arctic fjord road trip to see the gorgeous landscapes in the surrounding area.
If you’re lucky and the whales are around, join a whale watching tour for your chance to see both orcas and humpback whales feeding on herring.
How many countries have you visited so far?
24. Compared to others, my country count is fairly low as I tend to focus on slow travel. I like to visit multiple places in a country to get a real feel for what it’s like.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
I love Italian for its hearty dishes and Indian and Vietnamese for their variety of vegetarian dishes.
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
It has to be “da Michele” in Naples. They make the best and most mouth-watering Margherita pizza you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating.
What is your favorite travel movie?
It’s a bit corny, but I love Under the Tuscan Sun. I watched it countless times with my mum before I moved to Italy. I loved seeing the different landscapes from different regions in Italy, especially when she visits Rome.
What is your favorite international airport?
I don’t really have a favourite but I like Terminal 5 at Heathrow. It’s always quiet and super easy to get to from my house.
Which city had the friendliest people?
I remember my trip to Costa Brava being particularly memorable because the people were so friendly. They were interested in getting to know me and share their tales about their beautiful home.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
Someone who likes to see and do it all. I like to do and experience a variety of activities in my travels. I enjoy everything from visiting museums to hiking the 22 km round trip to Trolltunga.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
I like reading up on the places I’m visiting, watching travel documentaries, especially from the BBC and using my languages learning apps to brush up on the local lingo.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
For my 30th birthday, I celebrated by going to Outback Australia. It wasn’t like anything I had done before. I slept under the Milky Way, hiked around Uluru, and took a helicopter ride over Kakadu National Park. I’d jump at the chance to do it all over again.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Learn basic greetings and travel with an open mind. Be open to new ideas and new ways of living. There is so much you can learn from others that will change the way you see the world.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
My camera, a list of go-to phrases in the local language, my phone full of music, and a water bottle.
What is your ultimate dream destination?
I have a big soft spot for whales, so I’d love to go swimming with them in either Hawaii, Tonga, or Lofoten.
What is your favorite travel quote?
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. – Maya Angelou
Where are you headed next?
Bristol! I’ve heard so many great things. I’m particularly looking forward to going on a street art tour to learn more about its most famous local, Banksy.
Michele is an Australian language and travel blogger and ‘guide’ behind The Intrepid Guide. She is also the author of the 5-star rated book on Amazon How to Learn Italian FAST and has spoken twice at the Language Show in London. Michele shares her passion for languages and travel by bringing them together in detailed destinations guides and free travel phrase guides available on her blog. Michele inspires and helps travellers include language learning in their travel preparation as a way of enhancing their travels. Follow Michele on social media as she shares fascinating and little-known linguistic and cultural facts. Follow her on Instagram, and Twitter @intrepidguide and Facebook and YouTube at ‘The Intrepid Guide’.