Our Traveler this week is Nic, founder of See Nic Wander. Hi, Nic!
This post is part of our YouPaca The Bag Traveler Series. This series looks at how people from all walks of life travel. We analyze what works for them and what doesn’t, their travel planning strategies, obstacles they’ve encountered, destinations they enjoy, their future travel goals, and more. We hope you enjoy reading this series as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together!
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Nic and I travel full-time while house sitting and teaching English online. For three years, I taught science in rural South Carolina. I loved my students and the challenges of teaching, but I knew I wanted to see more of the world. A self-proclaimed travel enthusiast, I started a travel blog of my weekend adventures with friends. For a year, my blog stuck around as a reminder of the life I wanted to be living.
Given my background, teaching English in a foreign country seemed like a logical step. My aunt and uncle taught in South Korea and loved it. I poured over blogs of people teaching English in Thailand, Costa Rica, and Taiwan. I completed my TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification through International TEFL Academy and wistfully scribbled packing lists in the margins of all my notebooks.
The summer before leaving, I searched for a part-time job to save money for my big move. I began teaching English online and quickly realized I loved it. What’s better than a job that you enjoy? A job you enjoy that you can take with you anywhere in the world! Of course, figuring out where in the world to go is no small task. Especially for a person with major travel fever who wants to go everywhere.
Back to the travel blogs! I read until my eyes were about to fall out of my head, then a site about house sitting caught my attention. As a house sitter, you live in someone’s home while they are away. You keep an eye on the house and usually care for their pets in exchange for free accommodation.
Not one to turn down free anything, I made an account with a popular house sitting site and applied to everything from Panama to Pinatubo. Cast a wide net, right? In twenty minutes, I had my first reply. Two days later I booked a ticket on a bargain airline to London.
I arrived in Europe in October 2017 and I’ve been house sitting ever since. I’ve only paid for accommodation six nights in almost five months. As a competitively thrifty person and bargain enthusiast, this is something I am very proud of. House sitting has taken me to cities I never thought I’d see and introduced me to some of the most generous families imaginable. It has allowed me to travel slowly and authentically while also maintaining my teaching job online. So far, I’ve spent time in England, Scotland, Belgium, and Germany. Southeast Asia is next on my list.
Did you grow up traveling? If no, when did you start to travel?
In middle school, my class did a summer trip to Italy and France. My parents always encouraged me to be independent and have adventures, so in the summer after 8th grade, I found myself in a pair of cargo travel capris on an international flight with fifteen nervous classmates. Now that I am a teacher, I see how much stress goes into planning even a field trip to the zoo. I have major respect for the teachers that pulled that trip together. Since then, I’ve had opportunities to travel every few years, but this is my first time being abroad long-term. I began traveling full-time in October 2017.
What is your favorite trip you have taken? Why?
Last September, my dad and I spent eight days in Costa Rica. Armed with a rental car, and nowhere to be, we spent our days baking in the sun, getting drenched in the rain forest, and watching football matches with local sodas. The vibrant green mountains, exotic animals, and pristine beaches were all memorable, but the best part of that trip was that I got to take it with my dad.
I have always been close to my family. For the three years before this trip, I lived a state away. Soon, I would be leaving again. But for eight days, we flew down highways lined with banana trees; and stared in amazement at a pack of three ruby red parrots that flew right over our car. We got the wind knocked out of us by a waterfall that had a skull and crossbones sign at its base. We tried to learn Spanish from a surfer girl Airbnb host, who always had a tiny dog zipped up in her jacket. Accidentally, we streamed Spotify for six hours with no international data plan. At night, we sat on a rooftop porch overlooking the active volcano of La Fortuna and drank screwdrivers and talked about everything and nothing. It’s my favorite trip I’ve taken.
How do you normally plan your trips? (Do you plan them, join a group tour, hire an agent, etc.)
I usually plan my own trips. In my experience, organized tours are more expensive than doing the exact same activities on your own. With the internet, it is easy to independently book the same experiences that a tour offers for a fraction of the cost.
However, I’ve had great experiences with organized groups for travel in more remote locations. I did a three week Himalayan trek with the Himalayan Health Exchange in 2013. We went places I would have never seen on my own. In that situation, traveling with insiders who intimately understood the landscape, language, and culture was invaluable.
Best travel tip you have ever received?
My grandmother tells me to always travel with “Thank you” cards. She is an avid traveler herself and fondly reminisces of times strangers helped her out along the way. A simple “Thank you” card, she says, can mean the world. I follow her advice and use “Thank you” cards regularly. Especially as a house sitter, it is nice to take that extra step to show gratitude.
What is a travel essential that you must travel with and why?
The practical answer: Seabands. They are acupressure anti-nausea bands for unlucky people like me who get crippling motion sickness in cars and buses. If I’m not wearing them, even for a quick bus ride into the city, my trip will probably end in disaster. Luckily, they are just simple little bracelets with a pressure point on the wrist so it isn’t too much of a hassle.
The fun answer: My Kindle! One of my favorite pastimes during cold European winters is finding a cozy cafe, ordering a coffee, and reading. I’ve been reading travel and adventure books lately to get ideas for my next destination. My favorite travel author right now is Anthony Bourdain.
Where do you want to visit in the future, why?
I’m so excited to visit Thailand! It has always appealed to me – color, heat, beaches, food, and iced coffee – what’s not to love? I’m planning to visit in July of 2018 and I can’t wait!
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