Travel Tips

10 Minutes with Jean from Holy Smithereens

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Travelling the globe since she was young, Jean from Holy Smithereens now sees the world in true luxury style. Creating her blog as a way to share her adventures with friends and family, Holy Smithereens is the place to head for the perfect balance of luxury and adventure travel!

We reached out to Jean from Holy Smithereens to find out more about her blog and some of the unforgettable places she’s travelled to so far. Check out her responses below:

Tell us a little about yourself and your blog.

Hi! My name is Jean and I run a travel blog called Holy Smithereens. My style of travel is a combination of adventure and luxury, and that’s a summary of what you can see in Holy Smithereens. I named my blog as such because I tend to utter “Holy S!” when something impresses me in my travels. Because we like to keep it wholesome in the world wide web, Holy Smithereens was thus born.

I have worked in the travel industry for over 10 years, and now create content for my blog and other travel brands.

When did you first start blogging about your travels?

It was in 2006 when I first opened a blog in order to document my travels. I travelled a lot for work and personal trips so blogging was initially a lazy way to update my family and friends of my whereabouts.

In 2012, I realised that people other than my family and friends were reading the blog, and that’s how I got into professional travel blogging.

How did you catch the travel bug? Was there a certain experience that got you hooked?

I caught the travel bug at an early age. I was 4 when my parents took me on a Christmas holiday to Hong Kong. That was more than 30 years ago but I still remember very specific details about that trip. I was fascinated by the flight attendants, the pilots, the hotel we stayed at (I came back to visit that hotel just 3 years ago) and how travelling changed my parents’ disposition in a good way.

My parents gave me a toy typewriter as a souvenir present and it was at that moment that I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing two things that I love: travelling and writing.

Where did you head on your most recent trip?

I was in Europe a couple of months ago (Spain, Portugal and Italy). I went on a road tour starting in Madrid, heading on to Avila and Salamanca, then crossed the border to Portugal and visited Coimbra, Fatima and Obidos before stopping in Lisbon. Heading back to Madrid, I stopped by in Seville and Cordoba.

Spain is a food lovers’ dream destination but I especially loved its Moorish architecture and its vast history of Catholicism and Islamic faith. I loved the countryside of Portugal, most especially the walled part of Óbidos. Fatima was an eye-awakening experience. I was there the day after the Pope visited, and I saw people from all corners of the world gather in one place all for faith. It made me remember a quote from Voltaire: Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.

What steps do you take to prepare for a trip?

It’s a given that I do some research on the destination’s weather, currency, political and safety situation, most especially if it is my first time to visit a city or country, but one important thing that I do is to prepare myself physically for a trip, especially as I do a lot of physical activities in my travels. I’m usually away between 2 weeks to 2 months, and as much as I love travelling, it can really take a toll on your health.

What I do at least 2 weeks prior to my departure is to ensure I have a healthier regimen than usual – sticking to my workouts and diet regularly, and also taking supplements.

Most of my trips are ruined by getting unexpectedly sick, especially when I’m travelling long-haul and there’s a sudden change in climate. I find that when I get sick when I travel, it ruins my entire itinerary and takes away the fun, so I make sure that I’m in an optimal state of health when I travel.

I also bring an arsenal of vitamins, supplements and medicine for emergencies. Airborne fizzy tablets are the best! I know my preparations are making me sound like a nana but I’ve travelled enough to know that the number one downer when you are travelling is getting physically sick.

Do you have any advice for first time travellers?

Take photos of your ID’s – passports, credit cards, visas, and upload them to a cloud drive. Should your physical ID’s get stolen or misplaced, it will be very easy for you to recover or put a block on those ID’s.

Invest in durable luggage, especially if you are planning to travel often. I would like to say ‘travel light’ but I myself am not a light traveler. What I discovered through the years is that hardcase luggage and packing cubes is a combination that changed my travel lifestyle drastically and allowed me to bring all my essentials without the bulk.

Lastly, and I say this as a sage advice to all travellers – whether they are first-time or veterans, choose your travel companions wisely. Relationship dynamics are entirely different when travelling, so the right (or not-so-right) travel companions can make or break your experience.

Are there any destinations that ended up being completely different to what you imagined they would be like? If so, how?

There are quite a lot of destinations with unexpected surprises, but one that stands out for me is Poland. Prior to travelling there, I imagined Poland to be pretty cold and utilitarian. It was cold when I went (November), and there were traces of its communist past coupled with its rich history, but what I didn’t expect to have such a warm experience overall because of Polish food and Polish people. Polish food is so simple and comforting which is perfect for the cold weather. I also discovered that Polish people in general are very down to earth, practical and straightforward. The combination of those two (food and people) provided such a warm and memorable experience, leaving me wanting to return.

If you could visit anywhere around the world right now, where would you head?

My answer to this question will always and forever be Tahiti. It’s the one place that not only deserves the hype, but actually exceeds it. I love the combination of ocean, mountains and greenery in the islands. Tahiti also seems to be trapped in time, it’s a place that still hasn’t been invaded by excessive consumerism. Some islands still engage in barter trade and I find that amazing. My life goal is to retire in Tahiti.

What do you think is the most overrated destination? Why?

Travel is very subjective, so one’s ‘bucket list’ city may be another person’s idea of a ho-hum destination. I try to keep an open mind whenever I go somewhere, but having said that, I think I expected a lot more out of the Manneken Pis in Brussels.

Where are you travelling next?

I will be based in Southeast Asia for the next several months. The resort and hotel growth in this region is booming and I plan to explore not only the accommodation options, but also the untapped islands around Southeast Asia.

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Feature Image Credit: Holy Smithereens.

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