“What gives value to travel is fear. It breaks down a kind of inner structure we all have.” – Elizabeth Benedict
Digital Nomad Agness
I follow very few blogs, but recently I stumbled onto one that I think you guys will enjoy. The site is eTramping, which is run by two best friends from Poland, Agness and Cez. They hope to provide inspiration and tips on how to travel cheaply around the world.
Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Agness. OK, let’s get started…
Agness, could please tell everyone a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Howdy! I’m Agness, a 25-year-old Pole, who has been on the road (and on the cheap) since 2011. I’m the co-founder of etramping.com and co-author of “Add Your Brick to the Great Wall.” I call myself an expert on how to travel the world for less than 25 dollars a day. Besides, I’m a photography passionate and a food lover obsessed with traditional Chinese dumplings called baozi.
When did you realize that you had caught the travel bug and that you wanted to make travel a big part of your life?
I was bitten by the travel bug when I was a little girl. I often say that travelling has always been in my blood as I can’t recall the exact date when I started feeling an urge to travel. Although I wanted to explore the world since I was a little kid, I could not afford it. Finally, when I went to the university and got my first part-time job, I was able to save some money and then my proper adventures started. My first real travel journey was in August 2011 when I set off to China for 10 months and made me realize travelling is my real passion.
During the university time, I also convinced Cez to go with me to France, Italy, Spain and Egypt. That’s when he started to think about travelling more. Not a long time later he decided that he had enough of his 9-5 job, steady-Eddie life and he was in a need of real adventure. That’s when the bug matured and there was no way back…and here we are, still travelling!
I know that Prague is one of your favorite places, I used to live there and it still is my favorite city on earth. Why did you enjoy Prague so much?
It was supposed to be a quick little trip to find out what Europe had to offer before my winter trip to Northern and Central Europe in early December 2012. I have been to Prague twice when I was a kid, each time for a summer holiday. I had positive memories, but what I experienced this winter- charmed me, took my breath away and made me feel so special. Prague has turned out to be more beautiful than I thought and remembered it. What attracted me the most is that at every step I found little pieces of historical European cities I have traveled to – the streets of Barcelona, views from the bridge like Paris, narrow streets and pastel from Lisbon and delicious food from Poland. All in one place!
The capital of Czech Republic is extremely diverse, locally very modern, mixed in style, where you can hear the languages of tourists from all over the world. Green delights, architecture and the magnitude theaters, galleries and exhibitions.
Moreover, I love Czech cuisine which is a real wealth of flavors, especially for fans of traditional dishes prepared according to old recipes, like me. My culinary journey in Prague on the cheap was such a fantastic experience. My favorite Czech delicacies are apple strudel (part jablkový strudel) and scones with jam (part cesky kolac).
You know Agnes, most of my family thinks I’m a little crazy for living the way I do, has your family been supportive of your chosen lifestyle? How have you dealt with family issues?
Unfortunately I know what it feels like when your family and friends don’t get your travel spirit and can’t understand why you would choose to go travelling into the wild instead of starting a family and applying for a job of your dreams. What they don’t know is that you are different and once you start travelling, there is no way back. It’s so addictive. You don’t want to get stuck in one place for the rest of your life and do the same things over and over again. Instead, you want to hunt adventures, learn foreign languages, meet locals and speak to strangers, you want to feel the wind in your hair, discover new flavors and smell. You want to get lost, swim in the sea at midnight, dance on the beach, wake up and see the stunning sunrises, fall asleep at the airport and wake up on the top of mountains, you want to smile, you want to cry, take photos, write your blog and spend hours editing your photos which always bring back such amazing memories. Finally, you want to live your life to the fullest!
I often wonder if we, world explorers and adventure hunters, will be ever understood by 9-to-5 job people. Why is it so difficult for them to get us? Because they never felt the way we did. They never left their comfort zones and got lost. Never carried their backpacks, never talked to a stranger…
I am really inspired, because although English is a second language for you, you are a great writer and have managed to create a popular travel blog. What are some of the biggest challenges and lessons that you have learned from blogging these last few years?
Yes, that’s true. Me and Cez have proven that language isn’t a problem when it comes to blogging. It’s all based on who you are, where you travel to and how you approach people. It’s a matter of how hard you work, not what country you come from.
Biggest challenges? Accepting the fact you are at work 24/7. No matter where I am at, what I do, I’m constantly thinking of new projects I’m getting involved into (collaborative posts, e-books, travel movies, etc.) and new ideas for the blog posts. There are no days off work like weekends and bank holidays. I read travel magazines, various blogs and travel websites to improve my writing skills, to learn new things and get some more inspirations from more experienced bloggers and storytellers. I’m not complaining here though. I love what I do, but I don’t want people to think a life of a blogger is all about drinking coconuts and beers on the beach J.
Lessons that I have learned from blogging these last few years? Sharing is caring. I always support fellow travel bloggers by sharing their content and exchanging some ideas with them. Social Media channels are so powerful nowadays so it’s easy to promote each other’s blog posts, thanks to what our stories can be read worldwide. I’ve also learnt that consistency is the key to success. Time flies, but if you never stop doing what you do, you will become more successful and professional each day.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of traveling long-term and starting a travel blog?
I would say “Don’t make the same mistake I did” (laugh). It’s a joke, of course.
It’s easy to say “Quit your job, leave your comfort zone and go backpacking”, but how can you support your travels? How are you going to earn a living when carrying your backpack, taking photos and speaking to locals? Where can you take the money from when you run out of cash? What’s going to happen with your career? So I always advise people to set up their travel and career goals in the first place. Going on a weekend trip or seven day holiday differs a lot from travelling full-time. You need to be 100% sure you want to live a nomadic life, get used to sleeping in different places every night, eat different food on a regular basis, accept different cultures, traditions and rules of the countries you visit, and sometimes be reconciled with the fact you can feel lonely and lost.
Everyone should start thinking of their travel blog before they go travelling. Do some research, think of what design you want, what your blog is going to be about: photography, budget travelling, solo travelling, hiking, cycling the world or maybe food? Try to come up with a catchy name, your own slogan, logo and design. Connect with fellow travel bloggers, start your first interactions and get familiar with social media network. Don’t wait till you get on the road as you might not manage to balance blogging with your travel and believe me it’s a very tough and time-consuming work.
Never rush yourself. Leave their comfort zone for a week or two, put your backpack on and visit places you have never been to find out if it is exactly what you want to do. Stick to local areas and open your heart to locals. Travelling is not that expensive. You can always get a job while being on the road (like us) if you need some money and don’t spend too much on things you don’t need. Where there is a will, there is a way and if the plan A fails, stay cool the alphabet has another 25 letters!
I am aware that you also taught English in China. Could you tell us a little bit about your experience? What did you like most, what did you find most challenging?
The teaching job I’ve got right now suits me perfectly with my blogging and travelling schedule. I usually have up to 5 x 30-minute classes every day. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favourite days as I am off work at 11 am. Moreover, I have 10-minute breaks between my classes and there is an afternoon nap break which lasts 3 hours (12:00-15:00). What I love the most about my job is the fact it’s totally stress free. Nobody puts any pressure on you, there is no competition between teachers, everyone is loving, caring and helpful. I am surrounded by people who truly care about me and they are ready to give me a hand when I need it. The working hours are short and I get a decent salary. The school provides me with free food and accommodation so I can save up to $18.000 a year teaching teaching English in China while travelling!
Being around little kids makes me feel much younger and more energetic. My English classes look like fitness classes. We jump, we scream, we sing songs, we nod our heads, we tap our knees and we can’t stop it! The more fun they have, the more happy I am. This is the only one way to keep them focused and involved into the lesson – through games and exercises. Surprisingly, although they are so little and don’t speak proper Chinese yet, their English is impressive and I don’t struggle much with attracting their attention.
One of the biggest challenges was learning all of their names by heart and recognizing each other’s faces. At first, they all seemed the same to me and I could not pronounce their names correctly. Finally, I came up with an idea of giving them some English names and taking photos of them to make this process less painful and more fun!
What books have had the biggest influence on your life?
It was definitely “The Alchemist”, a very inspiring novel written by one of my favorite writers – Paulo Coelho. Long story short, the Alchemist follows a young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago in his journey to Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding treasure there. I highly recommend this book to everyone who is looking for some travel inspiration.
To me inner freedom along with external freedom is ultimate freedom, because without inner freedom you eventually will take whatever worldly success you attain for granted. Since my site is all about discovering and creating both inner and outer freedom, could you please share with us what “freedom” means to you?
To me, freedom is ignoring the world for as long as I want to and going on a long adventure wherever I want to.
Last question, you have already accomplished many great goals, what do you have in store for the near future?
We wish we could keep up the hard work we have been doing so far, improve our web design and writing skills and inspire more people to leave their comfort zones and explore the beautiful world as we do.
As for our travel plans, we are off to the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore in February and we’re planning some decent travels across China in March and May.
Once again, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. As I get ready to start my travels again and trying to take my blog to the next level I really appreciate all your insights and look forward to seeing how the rest of your journey unfolds.
(about the Author: Agness is a Polish travel blogger who has been travelling and living in different Asian countries since 2011. She is well known for travelling the world for less than $25 per day and she shares her tricks and tips with the readers of her blog called eTramping.com. Moreover, she is a food lover obsessed with Chinese cuisine, yoga passionate, life enthusiast and photography freak. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out our new ebook Add the Brick to the Great Wall: Experience-based Advice for China from Expats which sums up our two-year experience in the Land of Dragons, and serves as a guide for anyone interested in working, teaching, living and / or travelling in China.)
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