"My mission is to encourage women to live their best life through travel. Whether you explore places right in your backyard or halfway across the world, travel can empower, uplift, and create a confidence within ourselves like nothing else. I love nothing more than to share my travels in my home state of Wisconsin, my heart home of Paris, or anywhere else I go. Besides travel, I love to write about my other passions, reading, my little vintage glamper/writing retreat, Beatrice, and my favorite band in the world-U2."
You can read all about Lori Helke's at her website, Lori Loves Paris. She was kind enough to answer a few of our travel-related questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Lori: I guess you could say I've been a traveler my whole life. Beginning with weekly vacations in Northern Wisconsin as a baby. After High School I went on my first solo plane ride to Arizona to visit my best friend and that fueled my thirst for travel. Later my husband and I took many mini vacations in and around Wisconsin. The one place he took me that probably started me thinking I could travel was a weekend trip to Chicago. It hooked me on the city and paved the way to my dream trip to Paris.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Lori: I specialize in travel for the midlife women. Those that want to travel but are not sure how to go about it or have a fear that is holding them back. I also focus on Midwest (particularly Wisconsin) and Paris travel.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Lori: That's an easy one! In 2011 I took my first trip to Paris. On a tour, but by myself. I had dreamed my whole life of going to Paris. Not only did I absolutely love Paris with all it's quirks, that trip changed my life. I felt like for the first time in my life I had found the person I was meant to be. I made life-long friendships on that trip which is something I would have never done if I had been with a travel partner.
TA: What's one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Lori: A small notebook and pens for recording what I do each day and little details about an experience.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Lori: Let discomfort be your friend. Discomfort can be a great motivator and travel can be very uncomfortable. Meaning that travel finds us in the unknown, unknown destinations, unknown situations. If you push yourself to overcome and take on a little discomfort, the rewards can be life-changing.
TA: Where was the most unusual place you've ever stayed?
Lori: I just returned from a trip to Ireland and one of the places I stayed at was a thatched roof cottage in Spiddal near Galway. It was the cutest cottage and so cozy. You can't get more Irish than that.
TA: What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten overseas?
Lori: I'm not very adventurous when it comes to food, but when i was in Ireland I had the traditional Irish breakfast with black pudding. Only to find out later that black pudding is like blood sausage.
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Lori: For long haul flights, I love my noise cancelling headphones. If anyone has any advice about sleeping on long haul flights, I'd love to hear them!
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you've ever been given?
Lori: Visit a destination like you will be back.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Lori: Seeing everything. It's impossible and that's why I always pass on the best piece of advice I've been given and that's to visit a destination like you will be back.
TA: What's a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Lori: In Paris there are so many scams. The ring scam is a big one. You really have to watch out for the people that ask you for money to distract you while another tries to pickpocket you. I have had this one done to me in Paris, but I just kept walking (fast) while clutching my closed bag in front of me.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Lori: Ireland, although the food was on the heavy side, I was surprised by the delicious seafood. I had some delicious fish chowder in Dingle. Plus Murphy's Ice Cream was to die for!!
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Lori: Door County, Wisconsin. Not only a perfect spot for a romantic getaway in summer, but winter as well.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you've ever visited?
Lori: Chicago. While Chicago can be expensive, I watch for hotel deals or stay in an Airbnb in an outer neighborhood. For me, I'm able to drive to Kenosha, Wisconsin, hop on the Metra and be in the center of Chicago for cheap. No driving stress and no parking costs. There are lots of free and cheap things to do in Chicago. A walk to Millennium Park, a visit to a museum, even people watching is free! I absolutely love the vibe of Chicago.
TA: Have you ever met someone while traveling who changed your life? Who were they?
Lori: My two friends Beverly and Erin I met on my first trip to Paris. The moment I met Beverly, we just clicked. She is 80 now and has continued to be an example of how I want to continue to live my life. She has a zest for life and loves the same things I do. Erin has become one of those life long friends who I have shared many adventures with. We have gone to see musicals together and have gone on some weekend getaways together. She's the friend who I can bounce ideas off of and she gives me advice. I typically see each one of them once a month.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Lori: I would say Ireland is the perfect country to travel solo. They speak English, and the Irish people are super friendly and helpful. It would be the perfect country for anyone who has never traveled solo, to try.
TA: What's something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Lori: Have unrealistic expectations of a destination. I think Paris is a big one for this. Everyone has this incredibly romantic notion of Paris that it's perfect. Paris is like any other city. It can be dirty and smelly and gritty. Oftentimes the people are perceived as being "rude", The culture is different from America. People need to do some research before going to Paris or any destination for that matter.
TA: What's one piece of advice you'd give to travelers your age?
Lori: Just go out and explore! You don't necessarily have to travel half way across the world to be a "traveler". Be a tourist in your own town or state. There's so much to see and discover everywhere.