This interview is a particular favorite of mine as we’re meeting a fellow Compostela lover and temporary citizen, Trevor!
1. First of all, what are your website and social media links?
2. How did you come up with your website name?
Gah, I’m so uncreative; since I grew up in the U.S. state of Texas and left after graduating college to teach English in Spain, I titled my blog “A Texan in Spain” to reflect that. I didn’t want to be boring and just put my name as the title, but I couldn’t come up with a cheesy, alliterative title relating to travel (e.g., “Trevor’s Travels”? no thank you haha), so the name stuck. It’s perhaps a little limiting since I’m moving back home next summer so I’m considering changing to “A Texan Uprooted” or something like that.
3. What more can you tell us about your blog? What are your goals or intentions for it?
While I primarily write about places I’ve traveled to, my blog falls into the “expat blog” category, so you can expect to read everything from the cities I’ve lived and worked in and my restaurant recommendations to observations about the accents, languages, and culture shock. A lot of my travelogue posts have a decidedly historical and architectural slant to them so you really get the cultural background to the places I talk about.
Having taught English in the province of Jaén (Andalucía, Spain) for one school year, and going into my second year teaching in coastal Galicia (northwest Spain), many of my posts highlight these under-appreciated corners of Spain.
With my blog I have several goals, including: to feature every destination I’ve traveled to—either with a brief photo post or a longer post to really do it justice—in a way that makes What It’s About easy to understand and accessible; to share interesting tidbits about daily life and culture as an American living in Spain while speaking Spanish and Galician; and to break down the confusing bureaucratic processes Americans have to go through when coming to teach English in Spain.
4. Can you provide us with a Throw Back Thursday picture of one of your favorite travel memories?
One of my favorite travel memories has been going to the southern Spanish city of Córdoba at the beginning of May last year. A friend and I ran around the old town, taking part in the city’s Patios de Córdoba courtyard-decorating competition. These ostentatious private patios are opened to the public only during this contest, which has been held for nearly a century. It was the first year that it had been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage (like a World Heritage Site but for cultural things), so the crowds were understandably insane. In between paradise-on-earth patios festooned with bright, colorful spring flowers, we took a detour to be tourists in Córdoba’s tiniest alleyway—the Calleja del Pañuelo, or the “handkerchief alley.”
5. Which are your favorite and least favorite cities you’ve traveled to? Why?
Favorite city: Córdoba, Spain. When I first applied to teach English via Spain’s auxiliares de conversación program in 2012, I requested to live in Córdoba, one of the biggest cities in Andalucía (southern Spain). Although I got placed in the backwater province next door, I still came to visit several times. Originally a Roman city, then the capital of the Moorish Caliphate of the same name, Córdoba is now a provincial capital in the Andalucía region and one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to.
Córdoba’s stunning monuments are what first attracted me here: its Mosque-Cathedral, synagogue, Roman remains, and charming whitewashed streets. After a chilly winter, the city always comes back to life with gusto in the springtime: Holy Week processions, the annual town fair, Cruces de Mayo, and Patios all happen within weeks of each other. And the delicious cuisine has a lot to satisfy your stomach: salmorejo or cold, savory tomato-bread soup, fried eggplants with sugarcane syrup, and oxtail stew.
Least favorite city: Naples, Italy. I came here last December to do three things: eat pizza in the city it was invented in, hit up the archaeological museum, and make a daytrip to the Roman ruins of Pompeii. Outside of those three star attractions Naples was a total dump. The creaky, dated metro system consisted of some old train cars the city had thrown together—and to make matters worse I couldn’t actually buy fare cards at the station. Napolitani walked side by side with trash and graffiti, and there were quite a few shady characters mulling about. Overall a bad introduction to southern Italy.
6. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Where?
I’ve had everything from snails and octopus to tripe, pig ear, and pig feet. But I think percebes take the cake for strangest thing I’ve ever eaten. Called goose-neck barnacles in English, you chew off their leathery “neck” and then, holding down the rocky beak, slurp down the savory innards—which to some people tastes like a blast of intense ocean fishiness. A delicacy here in northwest Spain, they’re also extremely expensive (30-50€/kilo) since harvesting them on tidal rock cliffs is a dangerous activity.
7. Who are your travel idols?
Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired magazine. In the 1970s he backpacked for months across western and eastern Asia, exploring this vast continent before the onset of mass tourism and globalization. In 2002, he published a collection of photographs he took while traveling called Asia Grace, which gave me a fascinating look into what Asia once was (and often still is).
Rick Steves, the famous and folksy PBS tour guide star. Although some people give him grief for never straying from the so-called “beaten track” (or maybe for trailblazing said track himself), I always appreciate his European guidebooks for making a foreign country you know little about so very accessible—and throwing in heaps of humor and puns to boot. I enjoy his laid-back TV shows and his unique perspective on culture and politics as an American who has traveled extensively across Europe.
8. What’s your best travel tip?
You can never research too much. Be it scouting out traditional, unique dishes in each city and the best (and most affordable) restaurants that serve them; studying useful words, phrases, and pronunciation guides in the local language; or reading up on the country’s history—any extra bit of research you do before a trip can only help you have a better time. Plus, all the prep work and getting excited is half the fun!
9. Which is your favorite post you’ve written? Please provide a link.
This summer I published “Albarracín: The Most Beautiful Village in Spain” as an homage to a tiny little hilltop village I spent two cold winter nights in this February. A municipality in the lonely, rugged, landlocked region of Aragón, Albarracín is famous for its grand views and restored cityscapes that recall centuries past.
10. What advice would you give to someone new to travel blogging?
Write for yourself. The travel-writing field is extremely hard to break into, and it pays little, if anything. Don’t expect to start making the big bucks one, two, even three years down the road; so write for fun, as a hobby, for you. What matters isn’t making money, but writing good blog posts and cultivating relationships with your readers and fellow writers.
Be yourself. There are a bajillion travel blogs out there and thousands of new ones started every day, and the way to stand out isn’t through SEO optimization or monetizing your blog after your first hundred views. Your readers come to your blog for the content you write—and if it’s blasé or contrived they will move along. Let your inner voice speak up in the words you publish and show your readers what you’re most interested in. You do You!