Welcome to the latest installment of our interview series with some of our favorite travel writers and bloggers. Today we’re chatting with Jessica Festa, a prolific travel writer whose work can be found all over the world in a variety of publication, including our very own RoamRight travel blog. Jessica is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey.
Q1. How did you get into travel blogging/writing?
Jessica - My original "life plan" was to get into nonprofit PR and marketing; however, when I graduated with my Masters Degree I realized working a traditional job would mean I'd need to give up the copious amounts of travel I'd always done. Four-month backpacking trips through Europe and Latin America would now be replaced with rushed weekly jaunts. The thought made me sick. I was online one day and saw an ad for a travel writing class. It promised I would "Get paid to travel the world!" and "See the world for free!" While I've learned over the years that it's far from as easy as the class made it sound, it did open my eyes to the possibility that I could make a living out of travel writing even if I wasn't Rick Steves. I pursued my blog, Jessie on a Journey, aggressively, and in about two years was able to quit the waitressing job I had in order to focus on travel blogging and writing full time.
Q2. What has been your most rewarding travel moment?
Jessica - Summiting the active Concepcion Volcano on Nicaragua's Ometepe Island. I'm very into outdoor adventures and hiking, and have never felt like there was something I couldn't complete. Until this hike. I hired a great local guide who helped me complete this 10-hour uber steep volcano climb, which also has carbon monoxide and other toxic gases swirling about at the top to the point where I had to tie a sweaty shirt around my face to use as a filter. I've never done something so physically challenging, but it was incredibly worth it for the views and the self-satisfaction.
Q3. Have any mishaps happened to you on the road? What was most notable?
Jessica - Tons! One that comes to mind was when I was hiking in Banos, Ecuador alone. A very angry and large dog came out of nowhere on the trail and started barking and running at me. I was terrified, grabbing a giant rock, holding it high, showing my teeth and growling, trying to make myself seem large and scary. In reality I wanted to cry. In the end the dog eventually went away, but it made me realize the importance of safety first, especially when traveling solo. I now always carry a safety whistle (and sometimes pepper spray or a pocket knife, depending where I am) and always let people know exactly where I'm going. I also try to find other people to hike with through sites like Couchsurfing and Meetup just in case something happens. If I can't find someone, I'll choose more popular trails so at least if I'm hurt someone will hear me.
Q4. Has travel insurance ever helped you out during your travels?
Jessica - I once had my luggage lost on a flight from Germany to France. The airline was awful, didn't reimburse me for anything I purchased the five days it was missing and made me take a multi-hour journey to retrieve it myself from another random airport. I was glad I had travel insurance, though, as I kept the receipts for my purchases and was reimbursed.
Q5. What’s your best travel tip you always give people?
Jessica - Travel solo, at least once. Yes, it can be terrifying the first time you hit the road on your own, but once you get your momentum you'll feel empowered, will grow your relationship with yourself and will learn what you're truly capable of. It's amazing how much your problem solving skills and creativity kick in when you only have yourself to rely on. Moreover, having ultimate control over your itinerary without compromise is a great way to experience a destination.
Q6. If you could only ever visit one more place in your life, where would it be and why?
Jessica - Argentina. The country is so diverse - city life in Buenos Aires, outdoor adventures in Patagonia, amazing wine in Mendoza, rich culture in Salta. I could spend the rest of my life there and be truly happy. The people are also wonderful. There was a birthday when I was traveling solo but didn't want to spend the evening alone. I had 10 locals I met through Couchsurfing take me out for a delicious asado dinner and dancing. It was one of my most memorable birthdays to date!
Q7. Please share a photo during a recent trip and give us the short backstory.
Jessica - Here I am with some friends on Roatan Island exploring the Caribbean side of Honduras. It's fascinating because Honduras is touted as one of the world's most dangerous countries, but on Roatan Island it's relatively safe and seriously paradise on a budget. Here we are on free beach cabanas on West Bay Beach at the Mayan Princess Beach Resort. I highly recommend this destination!
Thank you Jessica for participating in our interview series, and be sure to read all of her RoamRight blog posts here!
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