2013 Winners interview – Kisty Mea

Last year the Big Blog Exchange competition sent 16 excited bloggers from across the globe on a 10 day adventure, swapping countries, cultures and blogs with each other for 10 days – all the while sharing their experiences with the rest of the blogging community following their journey digitally.

Kisty Mea, one of our winners in 2013, travelled from Singapore to the United Kingdom on her exchange. Read her interview and see what she had to say about her BBE experience.

Full name: Bloomingdale Yoko Maria Mea… but please call me Kisty! J

Age: 25

Blog url: http://kisty.net

Where do you live: I used to live in Singapore. Now, I’m living in the Philippines.

Where did you visit on the BBE: I visited several places in England, United Kingdom.

What were the biggest highlights of the exchange?

Oh, this is tough to answer. I think the whole thing itself is the biggest highlight. But to travel mostly on my own and truly immerse myself in the rich culture and history of England, I think that’s my favourite highlight of the exchange.

Has the BBE changed you? Did the experience change your views about travel?

Yes, definitely! BBE has encourage me to travel more and often. It has also opened my mind to a lot of things, which I believe has affected the way I want to travel now. I’ve learned appreciate the culture of the country I’m visiting even more, as well as the kindness of the strangers I’ve met along the way.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering?

I firmly believe that the jurors of the Big Blog Exchange are not just looking for a blog that’s famous and popular. I think they consider everything: content, design, following and overall purpose of your blog. So don’t stress too much if you don’t have a huge following. Just focus on your blog’s content, make it interesting and genuine.

Would you have done anything differently looking back?

For 10 days straight, Lucy Plummer and I drove around to different towns and cities in England. And looking back, I should’ve taken advantage of the 6-month visa that was given to me. London itself is huge, and that’s only just one city. There’s so much to see and do that 3 weeks wasn’t enough. 

Sum up the BBE in three words:

Best. Contest. Ever!

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Could we be posting YOUR winners interview next year?

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2013 Winners interview – Rosario Lamastra

Last year the Big Blog Exchange competition sent 16 excited bloggers from across the globe on a 10 day adventure, swapping countries, cultures and blogs with each other for 10 days – all the while sharing their experiences with the rest of the blogging community following their journey digitally.

Rosario Lamastra, one of our winners in 2013, travelled from Argentina to New Zealand on her exchange. Read her interview and see what she had to say about her BBE experience.

Full name: Rosario Lamastra       

Age: 22

Blog url: http://www.atblueheaven.com

Where do you live: Argentina

Where did you visit on the BBE: New Zealand (Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Rotorua).

What were the biggest highlights of the exchange?

I visited five cities and travelled the North Island and South Island of New Zealand in just ten days. My eyes didn’t fully adjust to a landscape before I was already looking at another. I contacted local bloggers and they showed me their favourite places. I talked with local people to find out about their culture and way of life. This made me learn even more about my own culture and how valuable it is to have the possibility to travel in order to learn about other cultures.

Has the BBE changed you?

In so many ways! BBE gave me the opportunity to travel alone and meet people from different places. It showed me how beautiful the world is and how important it is to go ahead and search for opportunities that can make you visit new places.

Did the experience change your views about travel?

Sure. It made me understand that every part of the world has special places to show, with kind people who are able to share experiences with you. You don’t only need to visit the touristy places, it’s awesome trying to discover new places by yourself. Just walk and pay attention to every single detail that surrounds you.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering?

Go ahead and make it possible! BBE is an opportunity for everybody and is not impossible. If you really want to travel the world, believe me you could find a way of doing it. It only depends on how much you want something. Everything is possible!

On the other hand, if you start a trip, try to follow your own path and pay attention to any corner. You never know when you could find a hidden place that you will never forget!

Would you have done anything differently looking back?

Absolutely no! I planned the trip by myself and I really enjoyed every stop and place I visited in New Zealand. I don’t think there’s a best way of visiting, you only need to enjoy yourself and make your own trip. Enjoy everything, also the spontaneous things.

Sum up the BBE in three words:

Creativity, adrenaline, adventure. BBE is an opportunity to know more about this beautiful world.

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Could we be posting YOUR winners interview next year?

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2013 Winners interview – Liesbet Maroye

Last year the Big Blog Exchange competition sent 16 excited bloggers from across the globe on a 10 day adventure, swapping countries, cultures and blogs with each other for 10 days – all the while sharing their experiences with the rest of the blogging community following their journey digitally.

Liesbet Maroye, one of our winners in 2013, travelled from France to South Africa on her exchange. Read her interview and see what she had to say about her BBE experience.

Full name: Liesbet Maroye

Age: 28

Blog URL: http://liesbetmaroye.wordpress.com/

Where did you visit on the BBE: the lovely South Africa

What were the biggest highlights of the exchange?

I think that every BBE-winner will say the same: it’s hard to pick the biggest highlights :). But I’ll give it a try: of course the South African wildlife, the game drives, the nature and the animals. I was really amazed by our roadtrip on the Garden Route: every bend revealed a new landscape. Besides the nature, I often think back to the moment that we were eating braai in a typical shebeen with other guests from the hostel, with hostel crew members surrounded by the South African ambiance. The day that touched me most was the day that we visited the township of Langa followed by a visit to the Robbenisland. It makes the whole story of Apartheid more real and touching.

Has the BBE changed you?

It was the first time in my life I travelled alone that far away and that I lived the feeling of “go with the flow”: as the journey was organized by the South African representative of HI, I didn’t really know what to expect. So every night I went sleeping with some amazing experiences and I got up the next day longing for more! And yes, such an experience can be a source of inspiration for your own life. It made me think about my future, about what I want to do and about how I want to grow.

Did the experience change your views about travel?

It did not really change my views about travel, but it rather confirmed them. Staying in a hostel, makes you feel more like a traveller than a tourist. By talking and travelling together, you learn how others deal with their quest for happiness, it teaches you to appreciate the things you have. I adore those moments where total strangers become travel friends at the end of the day.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering?

3 words: do not hesitate :). Really. Don’t. I am not a professional blogger (maybe one day, but not now ^^). I am just a girl who likes blogging about my life and my journeys. When I entered the competition, I had a very basic blog, but as I was determined to win, I put all my energy and commitment in it. Whatever you blog about, this is your chance to meet like-minded people and to share your thoughts. So, just go for it: get people to vote for you, engage them with your enthousiasm, keep on blogging and maybe you’ll get that HI-once-in-a-lifetime-experience.

Would you have done anything differently looking back?

I don’t really think that I would have done something differently. Just enjoy, go with the flow and blog about it.

Sum up the BBE in three words:

One amazing experience!

Liesbet South Africa garden Route Tour

Could we be posting YOUR winners interview next year?

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2013 Winners interview – Andy Andersen

Last year the Big Blog Exchange competition sent 16 excited bloggers from across the globe on a 10 day adventure, swapping countries, cultures and blogs with each other for 10 days – all the while sharing their experiences with the rest of the blogging community following their journey digitally.

Andy Andersen, one of our winners in 2013, travelled from Puerto Rico to Spain on his exchange. Read his interview and see what he had to say about his BBE experience:


Full name
: Andy Andersen         

Age: 26

Blog url: http://www.backpackingdiplomacy.com

Where do you live: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Where did you visit on the BBE: Spain (España)

What were the biggest highlights of the exchange?

Aside from the wonderful treatment of all of the people affiliated with Hostelling International, I got a really unique and unprecedented opportunity to get to know Spain. I was sent to a multitude of different cities over various regions of Spain. For me it was a really amazing opportunity to see things up close with insiders teaching me about their cities. Some of my favourite memories include walking the streets of Granada overlooking Alhambra, hiking in Murcia, harvesting rice by hand in southern Catalunya, and getting to know the many beautiful places and people in Spain.

Has the BBE changed you?

The BBE was a really great experience for me. Has it changed me? It depends in which way you mean. I was really moved by many of the people that I met while in Spain, and I often say that people change you by sharing their perspectives and experiences with you, so I suppose in a way, I can say.

Did the experience change your views about travel?

My views about travel have always been the same. I live to experience the world first hand, to learn from other’s perspectives, and to try new things daily. I think that if anything, the experience reaffirmed my beliefs.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering?

You have nothing to lose. It can be a great life experience for you if you are chosen. Even participating in the project gives you the ability to meet and get to know a lot of interesting bloggers. Additionally, you will get some exposure for your blog and maybe attain new followers, which is never a bad thing.

Would you have done anything differently looking back?

I don’t think that I would change anything.

Sum up the BBE in three words:

Live for experience

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Could we be posting YOUR winners interview next year?

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Meet Natália Becattini – Winners Interviews!

Have you met our lovely blogger Natália from Brazil yet? She blogs over at 360meridianos and is exchanging with Claire from the Green Geekette. Natália will be jetting off to France on the 7th June – and so in preparation for her trip, we thought we would ask her a few questions so that we can get to know her a little more!

Firstly, for those who haven’t read your blog before – can you explain to us a little about what your blog is about?

360meridianos is about three friends – Rafael, Natália and Luíza – discovering new places and learning from the world. We try to inspire people to step out of their comfort zones through travel. We believe that it’s impossible to go out and see the world and remain the same person you were before.

We made a small video presenting ourselves and the blog:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/65753467″>The Big Blog Exchange</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/360meridianos”>360meridianos</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Why did you first decide to set it up?

We start blogging during a round the world trip we did in 2011. It seemed a nice way to keep our family and friends informed about what was going on in our lives.

How long have you been blogging for?

We are blogging since October 12, 2011. It was the same day that we arrived in Madrid, our first destination of the round the world trip.

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How are you preparing your for your trip?

Well, I have to say that I am ready to go. As I don’t need a visa or any kind of vaccination to go to France, all I have to do is to search about the beautiful places I am going to see. I already bought a travel guide and did some online reading. I am very excited and looking forward to see everything with my own eyes. I am also thinking in different ways to share my experiences on Claire’s blog.

What are you most looking forward to?

Well, I think that I will make some people shocked when I say that the thing I am most looking forward it is not the Eiffel Tower. But that is only because I have been in Paris before.  Now that I know which places I will be travelling to, I am very excited with the prospect of visiting Carcassonne. I love History and and visiting a medieval ville is something very interesting for me.

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I was very happy when I got my itinerary, because the HI National Association in France noticed that I like culture and gastronomy and made a plan based on my interests. So, besides Carcassonne, I am also looking forward to visit the markets, try the food, the cheese, the wine, the French Riviera (how perfect it is that I am going during summer?)… There are so many exciting things that I just can’t rank them all.

As you probably know, the Big Blog Exchange is all about ‘changing the world, using the power of blogs’. How do you think you and your exchange can help change the world?

As I said before, its impossible to see the world and remain the same. The 16 winners will certainly be changed by this experience. We will learn about a new culture, meet new people, try different foods, experiment the life outside our confort zone. Then, we will share everything we learn about the world in each other blogs, writing to people we never had the chance to write before. Hopefully we will be able to inspire these people and make them learn with our experience. This is how the exchange is going to change the world: changing people first.

How do you plan to record your trip? Are you going to be blogging through video, pictures, written words or all three?

I am planning to use everything I can. I will try to do some video blogs, but also use a lot of photos to illustrate my experience. And, of course, I will write about it, even though writing in English is quite a challenge for me.

Are you excited at the prospect of swapping blogs?

Of course! The opportunity to write for someone else’s blog is the most innovative aspect of The Big Blog Exchange. That is what make this program so unique. The exchange will give us the opportunity to reach people that would never know our blog.

Is this your first time travelling or have you travelled before?

I got the travel bug many years ago, during a backpack in Brazil’s coast. Then I  lived for almost 50 days in South Africa, lived for 6 months and in India and did a round the world trip. This is not my first time travelling, but I am always as excited as if it were.

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Have you heard about Hostelling International before, or is this your first experience with us (have you said HI to the world yet)? Are you excited?

Yes, Rafael, Luíza and I always stay in HI hostels in our trips, specially in Brazil and in the rest of the Americas. I like the idea of offering high quality accommodation at low cost and it is always very easy to meet other travellers in a hostel and make new friends from all over the world.

Are your readers excited about your trip? Have you been blogging in the run up to the exchange?

Yes, all my readers and friends are very excited about it. We wrote some posts about the competition and we have a few more planned in the future. I felt that everybody was very happy when we announced that we were chosen. Now they are curious about how I am going to share my experiences and, of course, what Claire is going to say about Brazil.

What tips can you give for your exchange partner? What can he/she explore in your city/country?

This was actually the subject of a post on our blog. As we are going to receive Claire here, I made a list with some essential  brazilian experiences for foreigners with an English translation on the side of each item. The best part is that the readers are also posting their ideas about what they think she should try. We have some classic suggestions, such as go to a Samba party or a attend a soccer game, but also very local things, like eating a warm pão de queijo. The food is, actually, one of the best things in Brazil. I think she should try as many fruits and juices as she can, because they are delicious. For lunch, our classic rice and beans or a traditional Brazilian barbecue.

I know that maybe Claire won’t have time to do everything that was suggested there, but maybe it is a good start point.

Where should he/she go? Or what should they do?

Rio de Janeiro is a must, even during winter. I am glad that she will be able to see the Christ, the Cable Car, the Lapa district and the beach of Ipanema. São Paulo, on the other hand, is all about the night. There are many restaurants, bars and clubs to explore. If she likes history, the city center is also a good place walk a little bit. Bonito is perfect for sports and ecotourism, so she will be able to see our exuberant nature. And Iguazu Falls must be amazing! I am going there for the fist time few days before travelling to France, so I think I will have to came back later and tell her how is it like.

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What do you find most rewarding about being a blogger?

Being a blogger became an important part of our lives. It is something that we do with passion, something that is really worth spending time with. We write about something we love and that is why winning the BBE was so special. It was a kind of recognition for our hard work and a way to show us that we are doing a good job.

Of course, we have this signs that the blog worth a lot every time when a reader come to say that we inspire him/her with our travels and lifestyle, or that we helped them to plan a trip with our tips. I mean, reaching people we never saw in our lives is the best reward we could have.