This month, we interview Vicki Hatfield (aka vicki_h) for the Talking Travel series. In "real life", Vicki is a 40-something PhD that works as an HR Director for a large southeastern city, but when real life releases her for a precious moment, she says she's "nothing more than a girl with a savage case of wanderlust".
"Ten years ago a dear friend of mine was dying of cancer in her early 40s. We were talking about my desire to travel and the fact that I had never been anywhere. She spoke quietly, "I spent my life saying 'I'll do that when...' thinking that I had all the time in the world. Don't wait for when," she said, "Sometimes, when never comes."
"She passed away in April. I went to St. John, USVI for the first time in May and haven't stopped traveling since."
"I believe in living life to the fullest and making the most of every moment. For me, travel is about immersion in a different place, a different people, a different pace and rhythm than my 'normal life'. I want to experience it as fully as I can by diving headfirst into the food, the people, the landscape, and all of the 'off the beaten path' experiences that I can stumble into. Best of all, I want to take you with me."
You can follow Vicki's journey through her Travellerspoint photos here.
What has been your favourite travel destination to date?
The Amalfi Coast in Italy. I was a 'late bloomer' when it came to European travel. I didn't do the post-high school backpacking trip or the semester abroad in college. My first trip to Europe was when I was almost 40 years old. Rather than choosing a typical first European destination like London or Paris, I clung to a wrinkled worn photo that I had from a travel magazine that had enchanted me years before... the Amalfi Coast. I thought, I have to see this place, knowing that there was no way it could be as beautiful or as magical as the image my mind had conjured up. In fact, it was more beautiful and more magical. It was 12 days of perfection filled with honey-colored buildings climbing with bougainvillea and ivy, plates of pasta with savory cheese, children laughing as they played soccer in the piazza a sunset, and carafes of red wine brought in unlabelled by a farmer just before dinner. It was priceless.
Your photos on Travellerspoint show many delicious shots of food - do you classify yourself as a foodie and how important is the culinary experience
when choosing a travel destination?
My friends and family laugh at my obsession with food. I LOVE FOOD! I don't consider myself a foodie, in the sense of someone with a more refined taste who seeks a particular level of knowledge or expertise when it comes to the realm of food. I am just a person who is constantly in search of the next thing my mouth will love. I am less likely to seek out a seven-course prix fixe in a fine NYC restaurant and more apt to look for the best beachside BBQ truck on Anguilla. I believe fine food can come on a paper plate if you know where to look. And yes, food is an extremely important part of my travel experience. Once I have selected a destination, I rely upon travel blogs and travel forums to find fabulous food experiences, whether they are in a five star resort on Kauai or in an old saloon 20 miles down a dirt road in Montana.
What camera do you use to take you travel shots and what advice do you have for aspiring travel photographers?
I have to tell on myself and admit that I am not a particularly knowledgeable photographer. I have no technical expertise and know very little about the manual settings on my camera. That said, my best advice for aspiring travel photographers is to get a camera that is smarter than you. Get a digital SLR with a couple of good lenses and a polarising filter. I am a Canon girl and started with a simple Canon Rebel. With that camera, the quality of my photography improved dramatically. I bought a couple of good L series lenses, a wide angle and a zoom, as well as a B&W circular polarising filter. It changed my world because for the first time, I could capture an image the way I saw it. From there, I have added a Canon 50D and more recently, a Canon 5D Mark II.
What holiday spots do you recommend in the US?
There are so many great spots in the US that I love. One favorite has to be Savannah, GA. It doesn't matter how many times I go to that wonderful little city, it is always a new place. Amazing food, beautiful architecture, and a great little beach town on Tybee Island makes it a perfect place for a long weekend. I am also in love with coastal Maine. Give me a rental car and a map to the best lobster pounds and I am set! The stretch along Highway 30-A between Destin and Panama City, FL is another great spot. You'll find crystal clear water and unique little seaside towns, each with its own personality and character like Grayton Beach or Seaside. My very favorite US destination, however, is Whitefish, MT. Whitefish itself is an adorable little town with a cool historic walking downtown and it is nestled right at the entry to Glacier National Park, and outstanding backpacking region.
What inspires you to travel?
It started with my friend Melissa Mae who, when I was struggling with the guilt of spending money and time on something many saw as frivolous or wasteful, told me to "go for it". She died of cancer months after telling me not to wait to do what I loved because life doesn't promise you another day. Since that time, I have fallen in love with every aspect of travel. I love the planning – diving into travel blogs and forums and devouring every word of every experience that I can find. I love dreaming about the destination and imagining the wonderful adventures that wait around the corner. I love the experience of being there....smelling the air, tasting the food, feeling the sand or the pebbles or the mud of the place between my fingers. I love the memories I have when I return home that I can wrap around me like a warm blanket on cold winter nights.
Check out these recent interviews in the Talking Travel series: