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From Scotland to Europe..a la Carte – a travel interview with Karen Bryan

Born and raised in Scotland, Karen grew up traveling around the UK before a trip as a young adult inspired her travels to Europe.  Inspired by travel and changes in Europe, she became the editor of the Europe A La Carte website.  Check out Karen’s story, travels, and the story behind her popular European website.

Where did you grow up?  What things were you interested in as a kid?

I grew up in east central Scotland.  I was born in Dundee but then moved south to Fife where I lived in the new town of Glenrothes and then Kirkcaldy.  As a kid I loved playing outdoors in the countryside.  I had the complete freedom to roam around that very few kids seem to have now.

Did you travel with your family as a child?  What is your favorite travel memory as a kid?

As a kid we used to stay in a caravan for a few weeks every Summer holiday at Achmelvich Beach in Sutherland on the north west coast of Scotland.  A lot of other families would go there every year so I had plenty of friends there.  I loved spending Summers there.  The first time we went abroad, when I was around 11, was by car and ferry to Holland to visit friends who’d moved there.  At that time regular foreign holidays weren’t the norm.

Having traveled extensively in the UK, what differences do you notice in people and culture within the UK?

For a small island there are so many difference between the countries – Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland – that make up the UK.  In Scotland there’s rivalry between Edinburgh, the Scottish capital in the east and Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city in the west.  When you go to more rural areas in Scotland, like the Highlands and Islands, there’s a much more relaxed way of life than in the heavily populated central belt.

What inspired you to travel?  What is your favorite destination?

I spent 7 weeks traveling around the Greek mainland and island on a solo trip when I was 19.  I couldn’t find any friends to accompany me, so it was go it alone or not at all.

I don’t have a favorite destination.  I’ve visited so many beautiful places in Europe but Scotland can equal them. I’ve only traveled outside Europe once to California, when our sons were teenagers.  We spent a week in San Francisco and then drove south along the Pacific highway to San Diego.  We all loved San Francisco.

What places are on your bucket list for places you want to see?

My must visit list is so long, even limiting it to Europe.  It includes Sardinia, Sicily, Lisbon, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and the Costa Verde in Spain.

As founder and editor of the Europe A La Carte blog, how did this come about?  What was your inspiration behind doing this?

Europe a la Carte started a standard website in 2002 as I saw the emergence of the low cost airlines and more people starting to put together their own holidays online.  I thought there was a need for a European travel destination information site.

As someone who travels a lot, what are some things you don’t like about traveling?  What would you like to see improved?

Flying anywhere, even within Europe, takes up a whole day.  I have to leave 2 hours for the drive to the airport, to arrive 2 hours before my flight departure, then the flight time, and transfer at the other end.  That’s before you even factor in flights delays and time between connections.  Probably the most practical thing to do is for me to live closer to an airport.  The real solution is to be “energized” as in Star Trek where your are transported to your destination in the blink of an eye.

What’s the biggest improvement you’ve seen in traveling?

The availability of cheap flights from the low cost carriers – especially Ryanair.  For example in 2000 we flew to Rome from Edinburgh via Frankfurt which cost over £200 each.  Four years later we took a direct Ryanair flight which cost £36.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your travels?

To try not to do too much when you’re in a destination.  If you rush around the must see sights and don’t give yourself some time to relax, you won’t really have an appreciation of that destination.  Be spontaneous and soak up the atmosphere.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a travel writer?

Travel writing is incredibly competitive.  It seems everyone and their Granny think they can be a travel writer.  The issue is will the reader agree.  Don’t get sucked into these “achieve your dream job travel writing” schemes.  It’s just not possible for everyone who aspires to be a travel writer to make a living from it.  If you enjoy travel writing, of course you should do it.  Just don’t think of giving up the day job too soon.

Karen Bryan is the founding editor of the UK based, multi author Europe a la Carte Blog.  The aim of the blog is to inform, entertain and inspire readers who love travel in Europe through Europe travel tips about the best places to visit in Europe.

Follow Karen Bryan on Twitter.

Check out these other guest post and interviews as well.

Adventure travel – Ted Nelson (Part I Adventure travel, Part II Interview)

Family travel – Jenna Francisco (Part I Family travel, Part II Interview)

Budget travel and Mexico – Mark Mendiola Guerra (Part I Mexico and Budget Travel, Part II Interview)

From humble beginnings to travel entrepreneur – Andy Hayes

Traveling Young and Free – Andy Hayes

Travel with your five sense – Keith Jenkins

Sharing your travel experiences – Melvin Boecher

Travel, technology, and social media – Anil Polat

Social media, travel industry, and tourism – April Mescher (Part I, Part II, Part III)

Art, Italy, and a love for travel – Angela Nickerson (Part I, Part II)

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  1. Ayngelina says:

    Interesting to see how a family’s travel, or lack thereof, affects adult travel.

    • That’s interesting because I don’t know that I traveled much as a kid. I did go on family vacations to the beach. I never went camping. And we did take on trip to Chicago and one from SC to Maine. So I saw a lot of places on those trips. However, I only flew once as a kid and that was because my dad won a contest.

      I took my first trip to Estonia in 1995. I’ve been on a plane every year since then. I think some of those little trips can plant the seeds of travel. Then like Karen, we just blossom and our passion for travel is born.

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