This week, I am so delighted to be featuring Jessica Lipowski, an absolute inspiration for travel writers, bloggers and aspiring journalists. Her passion for all things travel is exactly why I love travelling and talking to other travellers myself. We both share the desire to get involved and learn about local cultures and traditions, and to listen and want to share real stories with the world. Travel is not just a holiday so somewhere warm and exotic, it can be a true learning experience, and Jessica understands this completely. Her new book, Flavors of Life can be bought via her website, and I for one cannot wait to get a copy! Check out some of her articles: What We All Share, The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Amsterdam and Fairytale Bruges on Holiday Magazine.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
Hi! My name is Jessica Lipowski, and I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan. I completed a Bachelor’s in Journalism at Michigan State University (USA), where I specialized in multimedia journalism. Upon graduation, I worked for a web development company as a project manager, performing the lead and secondary role in managing several clients and projects.
I then decided to move abroad to Europe in February 2011, fulfilling a long-time dream of mine. I chose Amsterdam – what I deemed to be the most “English speaking” – and became a key lead in the sales and marketing team at a Dutch IT company that developed a platform for planning group travel, meetings, and events. In my spare time, I also covered Amsterdam as the 10Best local expert, a website now part of USA Today.
My first book, Flavors of Life, was released in May 2016. It is a non-fiction book detailing the life stories of 62 entrepreneurs from 41 different countries. Regardless of origin or background, one thing unites these people: all own a restaurant in Amsterdam. It is an honor and a privilege to share their inspiring stories.
Travel and experiencing different cultures is important to me, having visited 32 countries and 43 of the 50 United States. I am also a permanent host of two travel-related Twitter chats, #TRLT (The Road Less Travelled) and #CultureTrav. In my free time, I enjoy reading, doing pilates, and spending quality time with my partner, Matthijs, family, and friends. The book, in combination with my past work experience, hobbies, travels, and life as an expat, has enabled me to view food, travel, and culture through a different lens.
What inspired you to travel?
I’ve been traveling my whole life. It all started when I was a baby, so I don’t know anything different. My parents sparked my wanderlust. Why do I love to travel? Travel opens our eyes to the world, introducing us to new cultures, local customs, delicious food, and different perspectives. It is an activity that enables us to witness history, interact with locals, and teach us a lesson every step of the way. I travel not only to explore but also to learn about life and people around the world, experiencing what a destination has to offer. I’ve always had this curiosity to see the world.
What’s on your bucket list?
Oh my! My wander list (thanks to Erik Scalavino for that name suggestion) keeps growing, but a few of the highlights include Machu Picchu, going on a Sound of Music tour in Austria, witnessing the Northern Lights (although I’ve already seen them from an airplane once), dogsledding in Lapland, seeing penguins in Antarctica, soaking in an Icelandic geothermal pool, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, hiking in a tropical rainforest, eating fresh sushi in Japan, discovering my heritage in Poland, riding a camel, visiting all 50 U.S. states (I’ve been to 43), and walking a part of the Great Wall of China.
Favourite country so far, and why?
Of the 32 countries I’ve visited, I’d have to say United States of America and the Netherlands. The United States is incredibly diverse, especially in terms of landscape and cultural activities. From the beautiful west coast and Pacific Highway 1 to Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. offers so much to explore. The Netherlands, on the other hand, is my new adopted home. I love Amsterdam on a sunny day, the biking culture, and the Dutch people. I would like to give a special mention, though, to Prague. It’s probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Best experience, and why?
Traveling to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana for just over two weeks with my mom, aunt, and cousin. From incredible safaris, seeing the “Big Five” and wild dogs, wine tasting in Stellenbosch, and visiting the home of Nelson Mandela to the apartheid museum and experiencing the power and beauty of Victoria Falls, the tour was truly a trip of a lifetime. It was on this trip I learned about the horrors of the apartheid, educating myself on what really happened in that time period. I also witnessed an African sunset firsthand, reflecting on the day’s events as the sun dropped over the horizon and beautiful colors flooded the sky. Combined with the all-female family trip aspect, the memories we created will stay with us forever.
Worst experience, and why?
I can’t say I’ve really had a bad experience, but Roatán, an island about 30 miles north of Honduras, boasts beautiful scenery, perfect for relaxing among the sand and surf, yet the poverty and number of shacks shocked us.
What’s on your travel playlist?
My top 10 songs on my travel playlist:
- Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver
- Cruise by Florida Georgia Line
- I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
- Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
- Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder
- Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen
- Mamma Mia by ABBA
- Take It Easy by the Eagles
- Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
Plus, I always have a book with me! I never go anywhere without a book. On long distance flights, I always pick a movie that Matthijs may not otherwise watch with me, or it can be related to the destination I’m about to visit, for instance watching Midnight in Paris just before visiting Paris or Mamma Mia before going to Greece.
Tell us about some of your favourite dishes/restaurants from places you’ve visited?
Wow, what a loaded question! This is tough to answer, especially for a foodie. We’ve enjoyed some incredible meals all over the world. A few of the ones that come to mind include: the catch of the day we tried at this hole-in-the-wall in Malta; fresh fish covered and baked in salt in Dubrovnik, Croatia; and our meal at Claire’s in Portimão, Portugal. That meal was memorable because the owner chatted with us all evening long and the food was super savory. One of the things we always love to do on a cruise is order an escargot appetizer for the table. I usually get one for myself, too. Plus, I cannot forget all the amazing restaurants included in my book, Flavors of Life.
Are there any things you miss when you’re not at home?
My family… and my bed! I sometimes crave Reese’s peanut butter cups every once in a while and maybe a Detroit-style Coney dog (a hot dog with chili, mustard, and onions), but other than that, not much.
Did you overcome any fears before beginning your journey?
I wouldn’t call them fears, but I am working on letting go, letting go of the things that I cannot control. When I moved abroad, and even now, I struggle with having two homes and missing family whenever and wherever I go.
Have you got any tips for people who want to travel but are perhaps scared or unsure where to start?
My philosophy is, take the plunge and enjoy; the rewards outweigh the risks! Worried about not having enough money? If you want it bad enough, you will find a way. Life is all about priorities. Some choose to buy big houses or fancy cars, while others spend their money on travel. Plus, travel doesn’t have to be expensive. You can stay in hostels, couch surf, or eat with locals. Lacking time? Embark on weekend trips! Maximize your escapes. You don’t need to travel for six months to experience a culture. Fear you don’t have enough experience? That’s okay! There’s a first time for everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Approach the planning with your own style, with what makes you comfortable. For instance, map out a route and make a Plan B, so you’ll feel more comfortable, but be open to kindness! People are so warm and welcoming. I think you’ll be surprised. It’s all about keeping an open mind. Consider even booking a trip to a country that speaks the same language as you, or one that is fluent in one you feel comfortable communicating in.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did, go follow her and if you love her writing as much as I do, go and purchase a copy of her book!
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