Jan and her husband Marty are independent travellers and road trip enthusiasts. They travel the world, sourcing local experiences and unique places to stay. In Australia they explore with their 4WD and caravan -- all without spending a fortune. Jan believes that a travel budget, like most things in life, is about priorities, being flexible, and thinking a little outside the box.
You can read all about Jan's experiences at her blog, Budget Travel Talk.
She was kind enough to answer a few of our questions below!
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Jan: I cut my solo travel teeth in Australia as a 17-year-old and by the time I was 21 had explored Bali, Java, Singapore, the U.K., and Europe. It was after my first solo trip to Europe that I became hooked on travel. When I met my husband at age 24, we decided to leave Australia to spend 8 months in the U.K. and Europe with a month in Bali on the way home. The scene was set for a future of together travel.
We were lucky to live most of our home lives in North Queensland where we always kept a boat. Together with our kids, we've waterski'd, snorkelled over coral reefs, explored tropical islands, and even holidayed in the snow at Perisher in Australia's Snowy Mountains. After kids, our first couples trip out of the Country was a campervan trip around the south island of New Zealand which I thoroughly recommend for travellers of any age.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Jan: Independent, affordable travel with a focus on experiences.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Jan: Four weeks in Turkey was our best vacation. Istanbul is an intoxicating mix of Asia and Europe. We love water, and Istanbul is surrounded by waterways vibrant with ferries, fishermen, and gulls, with views of palaces, towers, and minarets. The whole country is affordable, with friendly locals, heartwarming experiences, and spectacular scenery. From the stunning blue Mediterranean Coast to Cappadocia's other-worldly land formations and from the biblical desert landscapes and snowy mountains of Eastern Turkey to the lush green of the Black Sea Coast, Turkey is always diverse and interesting.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Jan: Be confident in your own abilities. Know that you can handle whatever challenges come your way and remember to ask for help when required.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
Jan: 50 Shades of Age and Tray Tables Away (great blog titles by the way), Contented Traveller, 2 Aussie Travellers, Kami and the Rest of the World and Yomadic -- check them out. And so many more!
TA: What are the top 3 websites you use for research/inspiration when planning a trip?
Jan: Rome to Rio is great planning tool for how to get from A to B. I check Webjet for comparisons but go direct to my favourite airlines (like Singapore Airlines) for their specials direct. Sometimes they have even better prices. I like to plan trips around housesits so I would check Trusted Housesitters for possible housesits first.
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Jan: On long-haul flights, wear a hoodie or a wrap that you can pull down over your face a little to make it easier to relax and sleep.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Jan: Fear of the unknown! I say go there and you will find that most people are the same the world over. The stranger the place, the more attracted I am to it. Having said that, I've not been to China as I think communication there would be difficult for independent travellers. We might need to take a tour or go with a local.
TA: What's a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Jan: Gosh, we fell for the well known Bangkok Scam outside the palace where a lovely nicely-dressed man approaches to say it is not open because of some religious festival that morning, but offers to negotiate a sweet (cheap) deal with a tuk tuk driver to take us to another temple and bring us back when the palace is open. Then they divert to their gold shop where pressure is applied to buy. We then had a similar thing happen to us in Marrakech but didn't fall for it twice.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Jan: It may not be a surprise, but I think Vietnam has the tastiest, freshest and cheapest food I've tasted. Humble Spring Rolls become gastronomic delights in Vietnam. The wrappers vary from crunchy to light and the fillings are always delightfully fresh. We went on a snorkelling trip from Nha Trang with about 20 others. The timber boat had no galley and the food was prepared in the wheelhouse on a gas cooker on the floor. The boat seats converted to a huge table and multiple dishes of at least 10 different dishes were laid out smorgasbord style. They were all amazing and no we didn't get sick. We had this experience again on another small boat trip from Cat Ba Island in Lan Ha Bay Vietnam.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you've ever visited?
Jan: Istanbul fits both these criteria. I love the views from Topkapi Palace over the meeting of the waters of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus Straight and the Sea of Marmara. Standing in a portico supported by huge columns, it seems like the whole of Istanbul spreads out before you. Ferries chug back and forth from Eminönü and passenger liners moor across at Karaköy and the exotic tiled palace including harem are waiting to be explored.
There are more not-to-be-missed sights like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, but I love the everyday experiences of walking across Galata Bridge, admiring Galata Tower, walking down Istanbul's favourite shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi, relaxing in Cinaralti -- a tea garden at Cengelkoy -- a suburb on the Bosphorus, or climbing the city walls behind the Chora Church in the Fatih district for even more fabulous views.
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Jan: Dubrovnik in the evening when the cruise ships have gone and the smooth limestone/marble stones underfoot shine in the lamp light. Live sax music floats on the air and an al fresco table for two is the most romantic thing in the world.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Jan: My number one rule whether travelling solo or not is to dress respectfully in cultures that require this. Personal safety is a matter of always being aware whether at home or when travelling. I have travelled through Asia and Europe solo and did not feel afraid, but that was a long time ago. Travelling solo today, I would stay in small family run establishments who really care about your welfare and safety. Vietnam and Turkey are full of such places but they can be found most places.
TA: What's something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Jan: I can't stand travellers who complain about the culture they are in and constantly compare it in an unfavourable light to their home country.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Jan: I think the Balkan countries of Bosnia and Montenegro should be more famous. Bosnia is mostly known for the recent war, the bridge at Mostar and Sarajevo, but there are beautiful country towns like Trebinje near the border with Montenegro that are so interesting and beautiful. Across the mountain border from Trebinje is one of the most spectacular harbours in the world at the Bay of Kotor. It is so close to the super popular Croatian destination of Dubrovnik, but is far less visited and much more affordable. We've visited Budva in Montengro also, but I know this country has far more to offer.