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Barbara Weibal Barbara Weibel stayed in the corporate world for a long time. She sold real estate, worked in a retail store, owned a public relations firm, and sold snow cones in a water park in Puerto Rico! In 2007, she decided to call it quits to pursue her passion for travel, writing, and photography. Today, Barbara Weibel is a well known independent traveller and has a highly successful travel blog, HoleInTheDonut. She is a full-time traveller and has been to countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand, China, India, Thailand, Nepal and Turkey.

Barbara's travel blog features stories about destinations she has been to. She writes about her crazy adventures and about interesting people she meets along the way. Her works have been featured in Lonely Planet, Huffington Post, Keys Life Magazine, and Wild Junket Magazine.

Read on to know more about Barbara and her passion for travelling.

What is your travel style?

My preferred style is independent travel, which means I travel solo and generally with no fixed plans. I buy a one-way ticket to my continent of choice and stay in one place until I've seen as much as I want to, then move on to the next place, using bus, train, boats/ferries, or car shares as much as possible. Once or twice a year I accept hosted trips that are tours. Though it is not my preference, I find that tours can be a good way to sample a country or region, in order to decide where I want to return for a longer visit.

You described yourself as a "donut - a wonderful outer shell with an empty, hollow inside", how would you describe yourself now after years of travel?

I'm stll a donut, but now that empty center is filled wth delicious jelly.

Lao Cooking

You spent years in different jobs but found true joy only after you started travelling. In what ways has travel brought you joy?

I spent the better part of 36 years in corporate, working 70-80 hours a week at jobs I detested, for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be successful. I wanted to earn lots of money in order to buy "things" that I thought would bring me happiness. During a long and frightening illness (chronic Lyme disease), I took a hard look at my life and realized that money had never brought me joy, so I promised myself that if I could regain my health, I would pursue my true passions of travel, writing, and photography. A year later I did just that. I left the crporate life behind and hit the road, and have never looked back. These days, I earn precious little money, but for the first time in my life I'm truly happy. Interacting with locals around the world, learning about their cultures, and being able to bring these expriences to my readers is pure joy for me.

You often mention Nepal as one of your favourite travel destinations. Tell us about your special bond with the country.

My bout with Lyme disease left me with residual joint problems that sometimes cause debilitating pain. During one of these time, I went to Nepal in search of a Yogi who could provide one-on-one Yoga instruction with poses that would relieve some of my pain. I found that help in the form of Narayan Dhakal, a Yogi who lives in Pokhara, Nepal. Though I had originally intended to spend three weeks in Nepal, five months later I was still there, and during that time I formed a strong bond with Narayan, his wife Sara, and their three children. When the high holy holiday of Tihar rolled around, they invited me to attend the brother-sister tika ceremony in their home. I gratefully accepted, and at the end of the day thanked them for allowing me to be a part of their family for the day. Narayan replied, "No Didi (older sister), you don't understand. Now that you have shared our brother-sister tika ceremony, you are a part of our family forever." I have since returned to Nepal many times, where I live with the Dhakals, whom I a blessed to call family.

Barbara Weibal Nepal

Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake in April. Do you think this will have a long term impact on the country's tourism industry?

There is no doubt that the earthquake has had a devastating effect on tourism in Nepal.My family, which operates a home-stay program for tourists, has bot had a single guest since the earthquake. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. The same thing happened in New Zealand after their big earthquake. Media coverage during the disaster is overwhelming, but afer the dust settles, the media does nothing to get the word out that it is safe to travel there again. Those of us who have strong ties to Nepal are working to do just this. A social media campaign is in the works to encourage people to come back to Nepal, and a travel blogger press trip is being planned. Tourism will return to Nepal, but it will take time, and anything we can do to speed up the process is welcome.

You found Australia to be an expensive destination. Please let us know about some of the more affordable travel destinations.

Any place in Southeast Asia is eminently affordable, as are Mexico, Turkey, and Ecuador. For the past two years I've been spending quite a lot of time in Europe. While most of Western Europe is pricey, to my delight I have discovered that the Balkans are stunningly beautiful; full of friendly, welcoming people; AND are incredibly affordable. For the last month I've been in Hungary, where I spent less than $700 for accomodations (short term rental apartments and houses). Next on my list are Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro, all of which promise to be equally intriguing and affordable.

You had a difficult time finding vegetarian meals in China. Where else did you face this problem?

Being a vegetarian used to be extremely difficult. Not only was the concept not widely accepted, there were often misunderstandings about what being a vegetarian meant. For instance, I would often be told a dish was vegetarian when in reality it contained chicken or pork. Over the past several years, however, this has changed. Two years ago in Hungary, it was almost impossible to find a vegetarian option on a menu. This year, there are restaurants devoted to vegetarian, vegan, and even gluten free lifestyles. People the world over seem to be paying more attention to what they are eating and how it is packaged/repared, which has made my life as a full-time traveler much easier.

China Jinshanling

Your blog has some remarkable pictures of places you have been to. So far, which destinations have been your favourite for photography?

There are places in the world where the quality of light is so rich that it is hard to take a bad photograph, while others have such flat light that it's hard to ever get a really good shot. Nepal has always been magical for me, and I find that same quality of light in Italy, the Caribbean side of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and along the south coast of England, to name a few places.

You've been to many cities around the world. If you have to live in one of these places forever, which one would that be and why?

Ah, the £24 million dollar question. I honestly don't think I could ever stay in one place year round, ever again. To begin with, I don't want to be too cold or too hot, and I don't want to deal with monssons and flooding. I have been thinking about this question for the last couple of years, as at some point I'm bound to want to settle down again, at least part of the year. At the moment, my best scenario would probably be Budapest (Hungary) in the summer, Hua Hin (Thailand) in the winter, and travel spring and fall.

 

This interview with Barbara Weibal is a part of Travel Trolley's ongoing 'Best of the Travel Bloggers' series. We are interviewing popular travel bloggers who encourage and inspire people to travel. Check out all the bloggers we have interviewed and learn about their interesting experiences, adventures, travel stories as well as useful holiday tips

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