Natascha and Isa from Germany: We are Westwards.
We travel. We write. We write about travelling.
As long as we remember, we have been passionate travellers – but until 2006 we both lived and worked in Tokyo and travelled only during holidays. When our contracts in Japan ended, we decided to return to Europe overland. We travelled via China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Northern Africa, more or less travelling WESTWARDS. During this trip we started to write articles about some of the weirder countries we visited (such as Turkmenistan) and sent them out to German newspapers. And eventually some of them got printed! We continued our westwards travel to South America and Polynesia and at one point decided not to go back into a regular 9-to-5 job. Since then we have been working as freelance travel writers and tour guides for groups. We are basically based in Berlin, Germany, but busily travelling the world, often for several months at a time.
The geographical direction of our travels may not always be WESTWARDS these days, but the spirit remains the same. Just as the early American settlers travelled westwards into the unknown, breaking out of old conventions, we are always trying to find the new and unexpected, both in new travel destinations and in seemingly familiar places.
Our travel style
We are what may be called the “mature backpacker” type. We stay in cheap hotels and hostels, often with shared bathrooms, although we tend to pay the extra money for a double room. In European countries we usually go camping, which is great because we can cook our own (vegetarian) meals. Doing so makes Europe quite affordable. Another way to save money is to almost always use public transport or, if this is not possible, to hitchhike. And to walk – a lot. However for our research trips we often have to rent a car in order to cover many places in a short time.
Most places we visit have both cultural and natural highlights, and going outdoors for us enhances the travel experience. On the other hand, we dig deep into history, art and architecture and can spend hours in some old ruins. And we rarely save on entrance fees for sights or museums.
How do we pay for our Westwards travels?
Although we travel westwards and eastwards all over the world, our regional focus for articles and guidebooks is East Asia (we both studied Japanese), as well as Central Asia, and Egypt. Recently we also did a guidebook about Tyrol in Austria and are in the process of researching one about Valais in Switzerland. As we make our living from travel writing and tour guiding these days, we need to differentiate between private trips and work-related travel – at least to some extent. For the guidebooks, we do occasionally accept (and ask for) sponsoring to reduce the costs of travel. (In case anyone still thought the guidebook contractor pays expenses and a daily allowance – that is not the case). Nevertheless, we pay by far most of our travel expenses ourselves.
The Westwards travel blog began in 2006 as a private hobby and a way to stay in contact with friends (this did not work in the end). It does not earn us any money. We don’t do sponsored trips for the Westwards blog and we keep it advertisement-free. Thus we stay independent with our writing and have the freedom, on the blog, to write in the style we want. Mostly travel stories and personal observations about places and things we find fascinating, intriguing, perplexing – and sometimes also annoying.
Browse through our archives of almost 15 years of travel blogging.
Visiting all the countries in the world?
So far we have visited around 80 countries (depending on the definition of country), but we don’t aim to visit all of them. There are years we go without travelling to a country we haven’t been to yet. When we go somewhere new, we always have a look at the UNESCO World Heritage list to find interesting destinations. We have a list on the blog about UNESCO World Heritage sites (not all of them linked to a post yet) we visited, our impression and recommendations and how to get there without your own transport. Finally, for those who read German, there are links to our printed publications on the blog as well. If you are interested in travelling with us on a guided tour (also in German), they are listed here.
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