In search of experiences noteworthy in her bucket list, Annette White takes us into her adventures around the globe. Follow her on Twitter, visit her on Facebook and connect with her on Google+. Meanwhile, let us know more about Annette and how her travel passion came to be.
1. First, tell us a little bit of yourself…
I’m Annette, the owner of a Michelin recommended restaurant in Northern California, freelance travel writer and creator of the award winning blog Bucket List Journey. As an obsessed new experience collector, my writing centers around exploring the world in search of once-in-a-lifetime adventures.
2. What gave you the inspiration to start your blog?
Initially, I was simply looking for a place to record my ever-growing bucket list and its progress. The pieces of scrap paper and random internet files were getting out of control, so I decided to condense my dozens of notes into a blog.
As time went on, the blog changed from being just a practical list-keeping spot to being a place for readers to get inspiration for their own bucket lists. My endless curiosity motivates me to travel the world in search of the best bucket list worthy experiences to share, and it is my hope that these stories will inspire readers to dream and do.
3. How does being a restaurateur influence you as a traveler?
I can’t imagine traveling anywhere where food is not a huge factor, for me travel and food go hand in hand. When planning for a trip, I spend just as much time researching traditional dishes, cooking techniques and restaurants in the area as I do researching major attractions. It’s a running joke amongst my friends that more than 50% of my travel photos are food related.
Even though my restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine, you’d be surprised by how much I learn from other parts of the world. With a little ingenuity you can turn a Greek moussaka into a version of an Italian eggplant lasagna.
Plus, you will always catch me looking at the bottom of a restaurants dishware to see who the manufacturer is, snapping photos of unique ways guest checks are being presented and collecting paper menus. My passion for food and restaurants is a close second to my passion for new experiences.
4. Have you experienced some challenges to becoming both a restaurateur and traveler?
Of course there has been challenges to becoming each one of these things individually, but owning a restaurant and being able to travel at the same time has been a continuous work in progress.
I spent over four years systemizing my restaurant to run without me and my husband. Things like an online payroll system, time clock and security cameras that could be accessed from anywhere in the world with internet were helpful in the process.
In the beginning our goal was to leave for an hour just to have dinner, this very slowly grew into an entire day and is now at ten days if both of us are gone and three weeks for just me. I also spend lot of time after returning from a trip analyzing what problems arose while I was away and coming up with solutions to the issues so they will not occur the next time I am gone. It has taken a lot of effort, but I am now seeing the benefits.
5. I noticed you mentioned that there was a time in your life when fear makes your decision, how did you overcome it?
When it comes to anxiety and fear, there really is no guarantee, so I not so much have overcome as much as I have learned to manage it. After much research, I realized that my fear was created by my negative thoughts regarding a situation. I have worked hard over the years to understand, challenge and change my thoughts. I now know that I have the tools to keep it under control, I just have to put them to use. Some days are harder than others, but at this point even the bad days are pretty good in relation to ten years ago.
At the same time, I realize that it is unrealistic to thing that all fear will completely disappear or can be controlled. So, I also made a promise to myself that I would not allow fear to make my decisions for me. If I am presented with an opportunity and want to say “no”, I ask myself if that negative response is driven by fear. If it is, I make myself turn that “no” into a “yes”. This promise has led to some of my most memorable experiences.
6. What has been your bucket list experiences and what was your favorite among them?
I have had some AMAZING bucket list experiences: swimming with whale sharks in Mexico, bathing elephants at a rescue in Thailand, taking a helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon, watching wrestler’s practice at a sumo stable in Japan, nibbling on chicken feet at the cheapest Michelin restaurant in the world, etc…
I am thrilled any time I have an incredible new experience, but amongst my favorites was going on a four day African safari in Tanzania and swimming with thousands of jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake in Palau.
7. How do you fund your travel?
There are two things that help support my travels. The first is my blog, Bucket List Journey. I make a teeny weenie amount of money by selling advertisements and earning commissions through affiliate programs. But, what has been most helpful in regards to blogging is that many tourism boards and other companies will sponsor my travels in hopes that I will find their activities bucket list worthy enough for me to write about. These “media trips” have been an important part to me being able to accomplish many of the goals on my list.
Secondly, my husband and I own a successful Italian restaurant in Northern California that gives me a degree of financial freedom. With that said, we have worked diligently for the past several years in order to set it up to fit around my traveling lifestyle.
Let me also say that I believe that some of the reason I can afford traveling is because it is what I choose to be able to afford, it is what I am truly passionate about. I would forgo designer clothes, fancy coffee or a manicure any day of the week if it were in exchange for a memorable experience.
8. Do you take advantage of airline credit cards to save on flights? If so, which card do you use?
I am a member of almost all the airline mileage programs, but my main airline credit card is the United MileagePlus Explorer. By belonging to their program and actively using their credit card my points accumulate more rapidly. I charge everything on it, even if its only a dollar.
What’s most important about using reward cards is understanding all the benefits to your card and knowing how to accumulate the most points possible.
9. What experiences are still on your bucket list?
Even though I have checked off hundreds of items from my bucket list, there are still hundreds more. With so many incredible experiences in the world, it’s hard to limit myself! What’s coming up in the near future is visiting the Christmas Markets in Germany, seeing a Water Puppet show in Vietnam and eating scorpions in Singapore.
10. Do you have any major travel regrets?
The only regret I have is that I did not start traveling earlier in life. But, I am certainly making up for lost time, last year alone I was in 5 continents, 13 countries and countless cities.
11. What is your advice to young travelers who are still controlled by their fear against making their travel dream come true?
Besides challenging your fearful thoughts and living in the present moment, the best advice I can give is to take your goal and break it down into a bunch of tiny little goals. Some times when you are looking at the big picture of a dream it can seem completely impossible. But, by concentrating on taking baby steps you can celebrate each little victory and feel like you are making progress.
It doesn’t matter how slowly you are moving towards your dream, it just matters that you are taking steps towards it every day.