Today’s interview guest barely needs an introduction, at least to those who have briefly dipped their toes into the Twitter pond, where you’ll always find Zoe Dawe’s smiling face. She’s known as the quirky traveller – an offputting name to some, intriguing to others. But read on to find out more – guaranteed you’ll be surprised at what lurks behind such an innocent word. Quirky…
Could you introduce yourself to us?
I live and work in the UK and have recently set up The Quirky Traveller. This came out of the recession as my Leadership Coaching business was hit by the recession but I also realised I wasn’t following my own passion at work ie travel. I’ve always loved travel, in mind body & spirit and have lived & worked in lots of different places. Last year I started a Travel Blog and got asked to contribute some articles to travel websites. After attending a Travel Writing course in London I realised I was not going to make my living from that, so looked at other options for a business. Friends & colleagues in travel & tourism biz helped and in October I came up with the idea for QT Days Out. It launched in April and I am loving it! I have a 13yr old son and two cats, love sailing & walking, the arts, good food & wine, run Chartwell Coaching alongside & have lots of plans to expand QT over the next 5 years!
What’s with quirky? Some people might find the term off-putting, others will be intrigued. What led you to that term, and what did you find when you got there?
Great question! The name Quirky Traveller came from Twitter. I joined in Feb 2009 for fun & wanted a name that had nothing to do with my job ie Biz Coach which reflected me and what I love in life. Wanted Happy Traveller but that had gone. Many people call me ‘quirky’ ie different, unusual, looking at life from diff angles so Quirky it was. I think that is what intrigues people. Yes it may put off some people off – quirky is not about run-of-the-mill experiences and the emphasis is on looking at things differently, exploring surroundings, finding new ways of experiencing travel in Mind Body & Spirit. What I have found is that the name has opened doors to a whole new way of looking at my own life & work – and it is SOOOOO much fun. It has already led to TV progs, a US radio series as guest presenter on mind Body Spirit Travel, Travel Editor for Wandering Eds plus a couple of other internet businesses, local media coverage & loads of other things! Feedback from people experiencing my tours has been really positive – everyone seems to enjoy looking at the Lake District at leisure, with a knowledgeable guide who doesn’t bombard them with facts & figures but tries to help them appreciate their surroundings and enrich their time spent in a lovely area.
You’re also a fan of the slow movement. Do you want to share your reasons why slow travel is your mode of exploration?
I read Carl Honore’s book ‘In Praise of Slow’ some years ago and it really resonated with me. I had spent 4 years in the Hong Kong & Singapore where life is very hectic, full on & stressful at times. Prior to that I lived in Greece for 4 years where (in the 80s) life was more relaxed and there was time to stop, reflect & enjoy the simple things in life. I know which I prefer. There are plenty of people out there who will give the ‘traditional’ tour experience I just think that most people esp in this hectic ‘do it now’ world appreciate taking time out to enjoy and relax. It’s been proved that being outdoors in nature is very good for our physical & mental well-being, plus it aids creativity and positive thinking – so it’s beneficial in so many ways.
Andy: Ooh, sounds like a great read. I myself don’t feel like I’m “part” of the slow movement in any way, but every time I hear about it, it sounds like the way I travel and live. So perhaps I need to apply for my badge and uniform. 🙂
You are based in Cumbria, one of the most beautiful parts of England (in my opinion). Care to share a local’s secret for the perfect Cumbrian holiday?
Oh now that’s a tough one – cos everyone likes such different things – but then Cumbria has got something to suit every taste! For a first time visitor, to get a flavour of the area, I would suggest choosing one of the larger lakes ie Windermere, Ullswater, Derwentwater and basing yourself there. Take time just to explore that area – don’t try to see or do too much at once. If you’re staying more than one day choose one of the lovely B&Bs, Quality hotels, luxury self-catering or a hidden campsites – I know lots but everyone has their favourites. Eat out at a pub and try Cumberland Sausage, Sticky Toffee pudding & Lakeland Lamb, chat to the locals and walk, cycle, sail … Cumbria has more places to do this than most. Use the car to travel around – maybe do North OR South Lakes but if you want less known & equally special places go West towards Wast Water or East to Eden Valley. Loads of historic houses, art galleries, Roman ruins, pretty villages – and of course mountains, lakes, rivers and picturesque valleys. Take time, do your research if that’s your thing & do what you love. Don’t feel you have to see it all … come back another time!
Andy: Agreed. Cumbria is a world if simple pleasures.
Besides Cumbria, you’ve lived all over the world. What’s the good and bad that you’ve learned from all of those experiences? Anything that really stands out at you as something perhaps the casual tourist might miss?
The good – it’s the people that make it for me every time … our customs and culture are fascinating and experiencing those with others is so interesting and inspiring. Oh – and some of the best travel experiences happen on a budget! The bad – it can be lonely being a foreigner at times – I found that in Hong Kong especially – it helps to be able to share that feeling with others. Travel definitely can broaden the mind but it can also expose you to narrow-mindedness & bigotry – all part of life’s rich tapestry!
Andy: Indeed. I think that is one of travel’s most wonderful gifts: the lessons learned that not everyone is like you, not everyplace is like home, and you can appreciate both the good (inspires you) and the bad (makes you appreciate).
What stands out about living in a place rather than being a casual tourist is that the ‘reality’ of a place is seldom experienced on a holiday – it’s like a brief and often enticing sample; when you live somewhere for a while you get to see the place – good & bad, and it’s a richer, deeper and more inspiring experience
What’s been your most inspirational travel experience?
Definitely a trip I made to into Sarawak (Borneo) from Brunei. It was a five day journey into the unknown J I ended up staying with two lovely German Botanists from Heidelberg University in tiny village, exploring the jungle, visiting a huge bat cave, chatting with local tribes people in their longhouse – a generation before they were head-hunters … fascinating & all totally new to me; truly memorable.
Do you think you’ll stay in Cumbria, or do you have your eyes set on foreign lands sometime in the future?
I ALWAYS have my eyes on foreign lands! I have already lived in this area longer than anywhere else (ie 13yrs) and will definitely stay here till my son leaves school but then … who knows? The Quirky Traveller has to travel – but I honestly don’t know if I will move abroad again. What I do know is that I think this is the most beautiful place in the world and, even if I leave it, it will never leave me …