We talk to Susanne Pacher through Shwetha Arun Devotta. Susanne is a world traveler and the creator of Travel & Transitions, an expanding internet portal about unconventional travel, cross-cultural connections and interesting life journeys. She has a very hectic job too – as President and Founder at Textronics Communications Ltd (Toronto, Canada), a leader in corporate and institutional language translation services. Read on for a great interview with this inspirational woman!
STW: Can you tell me a little about your growing up years and was there always an explorer in you?
SP: For some strange reason, I have always loved to travel, to explore, to meet people from different places and to learn about the world. It seems I was born with a boundless sense of curiosity, and even as a teenager, I already travelled a lot. Apart from school trips to different parts of Europe, I took my first independent trip by myself at age 15 to study English for 3 weeks outside of London. While at university in Austria, I took a job with Avis Rent-a-Car and was working as a car jockey, transferring rental cars from all over Europe back to the home rental station in Austria. I have always loved travelling!
STW: Tell us how you developed this passion for languages? You also run a language and translations company, can you tell us a little bit about that?
SP: Along with my passion for travel, I have always had a passion for learning languages and for communicating with people from other places. Back home in Austria, I attended a high school that specializes in foreign languages. By age 18, I was proficient in 4 languages: German, English, French and Latin. Then I studied English and Spanish interpretation and translation studies at university, with the goal of becoming an interpreter for the United Nations. Later, I also studied Italian and a bit of Russian (that language still remains a major challenge). And as fate would have it, I moved to Canada in my early twenties. At age 24, I ended up founding my own language and translation services business, which today provides corporate language services in all languages and all subject matters.
STW: Your website, is unlike the other run-of-the-mill travel websites? What according to you sets it apart?
SP: The site specializes in several subject matters: first of all, my own first-hand-travel reports which are generously illustrated with photos and video links (I have more than 4600 travel video clips on Youtube); secondly, we offer lots of practical travel advice and destination information; and thirdly, we frequently feature interviews with world travellers, tourism experts, hospitality entrepreneurs and all-around inspiring people.
Travel & Transitions really enables the audience to come along on my trips, helps them with travel planning, and for those that can’t travel for some reason, it provides a great armchair travel experience that lets them explore the world virtually. In the near future, I am planning to bring additional bloggers onto my website who will share their own personal travel experiences so we can cover even more of the world.
In addition to writing about history, culture, architecture, markets, festivals, nature, active travel and adventure, I focus on the people behind the destinations. It’s meeting the people that makes travel special, and I truly believe that travel is a wonderful opportunity to form new friendships, to build connections and greater understanding all across the world.
STW: How do you manage to juggle the roles of an entrepreneur and being constantly on-the-go?
SP: Quite frankly, sometimes it’s very tough. When I get ready for a trip I often work really long hours and weekends to take care of my corporate business and prepare for a trip. I am really fortunate to have great staff members who take care of my translation business while I am out of town.
While I travel, I constantly stay in touch, via Facebook with my followers and fans, and via Skype and email with my co-workers. My days on the road are also very long, I usually start at 6:30 in the morning with local research, writing up a travel summary from the day before and creating social media posts to keep my audience informed. Then I am usually out, experiencing a local destination, often from about 8 am until 10 or 11 pm. Finally, when I get back to my room, I download and process photos, which often takes until 2 or 3 am. I don’t sleep much when I am on the road.
STW: Tell our readers a little bit about how you plan your trips? I see you connect with a lot of local guides and families to host you and take you around too. Give us a few of your best travel planning tips.
SP: Actually, I do a lot of planning before I leave on a trip: I do lots of Internet research (Wikitravel, Facebook contacts, local tourism destination organizations, etc.) and I have a huge library of printed travel books (mostly “Eyewitness Travel Guides” by DK Publishing – I love that brand of travel books because of its great photos) that I read before I embark on a trip.
I also watch and record tons of travel shows on TV; for example, I love Globe Trekker / Pilot Guides, Rick Steves, Waterfront Cities of the World and many other travel programs. I may also check out Youtube videos to see what a destination looks like before I go.
Before every trip, I also check out Tripadvisor; they always have a section on “things to do” in a particular destination. If I am booking my own accommodation, I check a variety of accommodation booking services (Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Hotels.com, Venere.com, Hostelbookers, Airbnb and many others).
I do really enjoy peer-to-peer travel and bed and breakfast travel, because you get to stay with local people who usually end up turning into local experts and personal friends. I absolutely love making new friends and it’s great when a local guide or hospitality provider turns into a personal friend.
And of course, I contact the regional tourism marketing organization to work out a detailed itinerary. These organizations are usually very helpful in helping me work out an itinerary that will expose me to a diverse range of experiences in their destination.
STW: Do you consider yourself a backpacker/flashpacker ?
(In case you haven’t heard of a flashpacker like me, check out this link)
SP: I had to check out your link to understand the meaning of “flashpacker”. If you define a “flashpacker” as a “backpacker with a higher disposable income, as a techno-traveller who is tuned into new digital tools, I will probably fall into the category of having a smaller to medium-size budget with a preference for higher amenities (just my style of travel, I always try to get the best bang for my travel buck) and very high on technology.
I actually don’t travel with a conventional backpack per se but with a medium-size suitcase and an average size backpack for all my cameras, cables, converters and computer equipment. And I don’t usually stay at very low-end accommodation providers, in dorms or hostels, although lately I am actually considering that as well, just for the experience of interacting with people in a more casual environment. At the very least I do require a private room as I have very light sleep and work long hours, so I am not able to share rooms with other travellers.
As a professional travel content creator, I quite often get sponsored by tourism marketing organizations who book me into 4 or 5 star hotels, so I really cover virtually any accommodation option, lower and higher end. In particular, I really enjoy historic hotels; they always have such interesting human stories connected with them. Every accommodation I stay at has to have a high-speed Internet connection (which doesn’t always work when you get there).
STW: What advice do you have for aspiring nomadic travelers?
SP: Apart from practical travel advice, I would say nourish your curiosity and open your heart. You’ll be amazed at how travel will enrich your life.
STW: Lastly, I know this one is tough. What are your top 5 countries/cities you have visited and what are the countries/cities sitting in your bucket list?
SP: Now this truly has to be the most difficult question in this interview. It’s amazing – every time I knock something off my bucket list, something else pops up. Some of my traditional favourite destinations have long been Spain and Italy. I have always been drawn to the Western Mediterranean since I was a child and I love the languages there. The same goes for different destinations in Latin America, there are just so many interesting Spanish-speaking destinations.
Lately I have also been exploring Eastern Europe, and am rather fascinated by what I saw in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Of course, I can’t forget my two home countries of Austria and Canada who will always be among my favourite destinations.
Short and medium term future travel plans include Portugal, Romania, Russia, Turkey (in particular Istanbul), Chile, Peru, Brazil as well as farther destinations such as India, Singapore, China, Australia, South Africa and other parts of Africa. It’s not surprising that the slogan of Travel & Transitions is “Life is a Journey – Explore New Horizons”. Travel allows me to do just that.
Thank you Susanne and Shwetha for this delightful interview! Leave your comments here to reach out to Susanne.