Feature Friday | Valery from Valery-Collins
Feature Friday with Future Friends
I strongly believe that people who love to travel are the best kind of people. This series will introduce you to some of the amazing women travelers with whom I have been fortune enough to connect. Women travelers who are overcoming adversity and crushing societal norms are a huge source of inspiration for me and I believe their stories will inspire you as well.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? Where are you based? When and how did you start traveling?
Hello. My name is Valery and I was born in London and brought up in Surrey. My first travel adventure was when I was fourteen when I joined a church group for a week in the Black Forest. Thereafter I flirted with travel, mostly on my own, through university and then as a lecturer in law. After finally qualifying as a solicitor I decided to have a gap year before taking up my Training Contract – that was 20 years ago and I am still traveling. I have been working as a tour leader throughout that period taking groups of single people to destinations all over the world and organizing my own trips. During that time I have learned to speak Italian and I have taken up photography, writing and blogging. I love activity holidays and often lead skiing and walking holidays. I also love wildlife, city breaks, long haul sightseeing trips – just about everything that involves traveling somewhere and all reported on my own blog www.valery-collins.co.uk.
Describe the moment you fell in love with travel in as much detail as possible. Where were you? Who were you with? What did you see, smell, hear? Transport us to that moment.
I think I fell in love with travel when I was three years old when I discovered you could get on a bus and go anywhere you wanted. We lived in Surrey then and often went to nearby Windsor on the River Thames. I loved the journey there looking out of the window, watching other passengers on the bus and the bustle of tourists when we got there. We would walk past the entrance to Windsor Castle and I would wonder what was going on inside and was the Queen at one of the windows watching me skipping down the street to the clock set in the pavement that never failed to fascinate me. Today I am still entranced by the idea of getting on a bus outside my flat in the suburbs and being transported to the airport and then boarding a plane and visiting some of the most interesting and beautiful places in the world. I exist in different pockets of time and place all over the world and love every minute of it – the different cultures, cuisine and customs.
Where is your favorite place in the world? What stands out about this place that makes it your favorite?
Definitely Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomites of Trentino in Northern Italy. It was on one of the first Italian destinations I worked in as a tour leader and I said I would never go back as I struggled with everything about the trip – the language, finding my way around, organizing ski passes, ski hire and ski lessons. I was sent back that summer to lead a walking holiday there and I received such a warm welcome from the owners of the hotel it was the spur to start learning Italian and I also learned about the culture and history of the region. I go back there regularly both to work and to have a holiday. Over the years I have explored the whole area on foot (with the hotel dog, Tabata) and on skis and I have written books, articles and blog posts about the town and surrounding places. The Dolomites are the most stunning mountains I have ever seen – especially as the sun goes down and they glow pink in the dying rays of the day and golden as the sun rises.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from traveling? How has learning this lesson helped you in your life?
To live for the day. I heard a lovely quote recently that sums it up as follows – yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. I love to look back at where I have been and also to plan and look forward to where I am going, but there are times when I set aside my camera and my notebook and just relax and enjoy the experience – these are the moments you remember for years to come.
Have you ever traveled solo? If so, what was the best part of the experience? If you haven’t, why not?
I love traveling solo and I have been doing if for years and getting more adventurous all the time. I spent 3 weeks traveling round India on my own although I did hire a car and a driver for most of the time I was on the road. It was great being able to stop where I wanted to take photos and to speak to people on the way. My driver was as knowledgeable as most of the guides I have met in India and – he was both entertaining and informative as we traveled around together although I do not remember him being either when we had to get up at 04:30 one morning for a boat ride on a river full of crocodiles. I have also traveled around Sri Lanka on my own and last spring I spent two weeks in Puglia, Italy where the wild flowers were amazing and it was such a pleasure being able to wander at will enjoying them.
If you could give one piece of advice, about anything, to a large group of people, what would it be?
Beware of expectations – they can ruin a holiday. So what if your hotel does not have an iron, just hang your clothes in the bathroom while you a shower. Don’t stress if there are no eggs or bacon for breakfast – go native and dip your croissant in your cappuccino – eat polenta instead of potatoes. I think we miss so much dwelling on what we do not have while we are traveling that we fail to appreciate the essence of the country we are in. Embrace it all, try everything, join in the local festivals, explore every corner and keep a diary so you can re-live your experience and match your photos to your diary.
Be sure to check in every Friday to meet other awesome women travel bloggers and future friends! If you follow a female travel blogger that you love, please send suggestions my way so that I can reach out to her! If you are interested in being featured yourself, please shoot me an email: [email protected]