Get to know cozy travel expert Vanessa Chiasson. Learn about what inspired her love of travel, travel mishaps, and her favorite meal!
We’ve known Vanessa Chiasson for many years now. We met through blogging and have spent time together at conferences. She is hilarious and we always look forward to when we’ll be able to hang out with her again.
Vanessa is an award-winning writer specializing in travel, food, drink, social media, and digital marketing, with bylines in Buzzfeed, USA Today, Travel Awaits, and more. Her blog, TurnipseedTravel.com, focuses on cozy, affordable travel experiences and was named one of the world’s 100 most influential travel blogs by the Obama White House in 2014.
With all that being said, let’s get to know a little more about Vanessa…
Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I grew up on Cape Breton Island, part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Travel buffs know it and love it as the home of the Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic drives in the world. However, to me, it was just home. I spent my summers on long stretches of pale, sandy beaches and feasting on freshly caught lobster was a springtime tradition.
What or who inspired you to travel and discover the world?
In my early 20’s, I lived and worked in Malawi for four months as a gender analyst – a challenging experience but one that I ultimately loved. At my house outside Lilongwe, the teenage girls who lived nearby were very curious about me and they loved to chase after me when I jogged, laughing hysterically the whole time.
Did I mention I’m not the most graceful runner to begin with? I’m sure they viewed me as a bit of a curiosity (okay, oddity might be a better phrase!) but their infectious laughter is my fondest travel memory and I hope to encapsulate their joy in my every travel experience.
Where was your first overseas trip and was it everything you expected it to be?
My very first solo overseas trip was to the Netherlands. It was an exhilarating combination of sheer terror and wonder. But in terms of it being what I expected, well………I was staying at an Amsterdam hostel and was curious about the city’s famous Red Light District—only curious in an academic sense, of course.
Despite my best efforts to recruit both the guys and girls at the hostel to come with me, I was turned down flat. In all honestly, they looked horrified. Turns out my clean, affordable hostel was sponsored by a church and it was hosting a large Christian youth group.
Yep, I was trying to convince a bunch of youth worship leaders to go check out the Red Light District. Oops! Aside from that snafu, I felt so proud and independent to be out and about by myself and I’ve always felt sentimental about the city ever since.
What’s one travel tip you can give to anyone about to head off on their first overseas adventure?
Take joy and satisfaction in the little things. Buying guavas by myself for the first time at a market in Malawi stands out as a proud moment where I did something all on my own in what felt like daunting circumstances. Looking back, it seems like such a small thing, but sometimes little tasks can be really intimidating!
Not every trip has to be a wild and crazy adventure in order to be memorable and meaningful. My blog, TurnipseedTravel.com is passionate about cozy moments like this, digging a bit deeper for that authentic travel experience that makes for an unforgettable trip.
Pro Tip: If you’re heading out on your first big adventure, check out these 10 Tips To Help A First Time Traveler.
What’s your biggest source of travel inspiration between trips?
I love watching culinary programs and cooking shows. Learning about new cuisine and cooking techniques makes me so excited about how much there is to discover around the world. It definitely sparks my wanderlust.
Right now, an awesome food tour company I love, Culinary Backstreets, is offering online cooking classes from chefs based all around the world. I just signed up for a virtual lesson in making traditional Turkish market and tavern snacks and I can’t wait.
Best travel experience so far?
There’s no competition: Taking a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over the ancient temples of Bagan, Myanmar. It was one of those travel moments that you have to pinch yourself to believe it’s really happening.
Pro Tip: Want to take a hot air balloon ride yourself? Check out the Best Hot Air Balloon Experiences Around The World!
Vanessa’s Quick 5
I never leave home without…… a full stomach and an empty bladder!
My favourite place is……. I love Hawaii: fresh coffee, shave ice, snorkelling, beaches, scenic drives, and relaxing with local music.
Solo, couple, family or group travel…… All of the above. I have an even split of solo trips, couple’s adventures, and group excursions.
The best food I’ve eaten was in……It’s been 20 years but I still dream about a bread pudding with bits of peaches, covered in crème fresh, at a place called Café Concerto in York, England.
Did you have a favorite stuffed animal when you were a kid?
I was the queen of stuffed friends! Shout out to Charity Bear, my classic fluffy white teddy bear with a jaunty red scarf, Kelly, a large handmade doll who wore a lilac flowered dress and was my unofficial sister, and Sweet Baby, an unfortunate-named plush cat whose fur was loved away over years of snuggles.
They all still hang out together in my office, keeping me company as I write. However, my official travel companion is a nameless tiny purple teddy bear who hangs out on my keychain.
Thank you Vanessa for sharing these wonderful stories with us. Although we’ve known each other for years, it’s always fun to learn even more about you. We can’t wait to hang out with you again and continue to get to know each other.