In this month’s Frequent Flier Sound Off, we chat with Leslie Cole, a traveler who has visited 30 countries and who just got back from a 5-country Eurotrip.
Name: Leslie Cole
Location: Seattle, Washington
Occupation: Quality Assurance
Number of Countries Visited: 30
Last Country Visited: Croatia/Montenegro/Bosnia/Slovenia/Italy (same trip)
What is your favorite country you have visited and why?
Seychelles remains my favorite country out of all the destinations we’ve visited. Besides being our honeymoon destination, it’s the most spectacular place I’ve ever seen. It’s an amazing combination of beaches, jungle, mountains, and crystal-clear water. It’s hard to get to from the U.S. and relatively unknown so it’s not overly crowded. The locals are tremendously friendly and luckily for us, everyone speaks English. La Digue is one of the islands in the Seychelles and it’s by far the prettiest place I’ve ever seen. It looks like it’s straight out of a movie set. We can’t wait to go back!
What is your least favorite country you have visited and why?
Poland is probably my least favorite, although to be fair, we saw very little of the country. We visited Gdansk and a little port town on a cruise I took with my family in 2008. The town center was overrun with tourists but outside of that, it was a fairly dreary spot. I would actually like to go back some day because I know there is more to the country than what I initially experienced.
What countries are on the itinerary for later this year and into next year?
We are visiting Riviera Maya, Mexico, next week for a wedding and then spending Christmas in Whistler, British Columbia. Next spring, we will be doing a river cruise down the Danube with family. We’re starting in Budapest and traveling through Austria, Germany and ending the trip in Prague. These are all new destinations for me so I’m really looking forward to the trip!
When did you start traveling? Did it start at an early age for you?
I started flying with my parents when I was an infant to visit family in Florida and Oregon. I can’t count how many flights I took as a child, but it was a lot. We grew up in Arizona and spent a lot of time exploring the Southwest. As teenagers, we did a roadtrip up the west coast and a separate trip to Alaska. I didn’t travel internationally until I was 18 after graduating high school. We visited England, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey with a group from school. I was hooked after that. 🙂
Why do you travel? What is your personal reason for traveling?
I get really restless being in the same place, doing the same thing day over day. Travel allows me to “scratch that itch” without moving every other year. I also love photography although I am no expert. Visiting new places without my camera would practically feel like torture. I love documenting our travel and keeping those souvenirs for later. I especially love sharing travel stories and advice with friends who share this passion. It’s really exciting to inspire others to visit places I hold near and dear.
Why do you believe it’s important for others to travel and see the world?
Traveling has provided an education that no class or book could ever provide. Growing up in the U.S., you miss a lot of what the world has to offer. Our news and education can be limited at times. Traveling has allowed us to learn about current events, world history, other cultures and more. You don’t know what you don’t know until you get out there and experience what the world has to offer.
How you manage to visit so many amazing vacation spots so frequently? What is your travel strategy?
About half of my international travel has been for school programs or family trips. Luckily my family travels together frequently so that allows us to see a lot of the world. I also traveled quite a bit domestically when I was working in medical sales. I had a territory that was out of state so by using my frequent flyer miles, I was able to see a lot of the country.
When we got married 5 years ago, my husband and I created a “travel fund” to use for big vacations. We would each contribute a certain amount from each paycheck and over time, that would turn into our annual vacation. We agreed not to spend those funds on anything other than travel. The first trip we made after our honeymoon was Thailand, via South Korea. Since we were using savings that we had designated for travel, it almost made the trip feel like it was free.
For your honeymoon alone, you went to what many would consider two bucket list destinations. How did you manage this?
Seychelles had been on my radar since college (I majored in Tourism), so I had been researching the islands for years. I knew we wanted to visit Seychelles so instead of having a huge, elaborate wedding, we did a small wedding and used the extra funds on our honeymoon. We had a lot of help from family and instead of doing a traditional wedding registration, we created a “Honeyfund” to help with the cost of the trip.
We flew through Paris as our connection and were able to stay there for three nights at a fairly inexpensive hotel. We did a lot of research and were able to find a great hotel in Seychelles as well. All the research paid off, and we couldn’t have done it without the help from family.
What inspires you about the travel experience?
Meeting new people, seeing new places, trying new food, and challenging myself to try new experiences.
What do you like least about travel?
I desperately miss our dogs when we’re gone. If we could bring them on the plane (and no, not the cargo hold) then we would bring them everywhere!
How do you balance your career with travel? What recommendations do you have for others?
I work for a great company that allows for flexible time off. They strongly encourage work/life balance, and they also promote responsibly using your paid time off. I have a job that allows me to plan my work on a monthly basis so if I can accomplish my monthly goal while taking time off, it’s up to me and my manager whether I take a vacation. I also work remotely so if I plan wisely, I can work while on vacation.
My recommendation to others: plan ahead as much as possible. If you have a big trip that you’re trying to plan, buckle down at work and earn that time off. Don’t abuse your PTO, especially on the little things! If you’re looking for a new job, inquire about their PTO policy. It’s becoming more common to find companies who allow for this flexible PTO or even remote work.
What recommendations do you have for someone who is looking to be more adventurous and travel?
Social media is a great way to expose yourself to new destinations and to gather ideas for your next vacation. I created a public Instagram account to share my travel photos and I follow other avid traveler’s photos. Through Instagram, I found new trails to hike in my state, sites to visit on my existing trips and new international destinations I want to visit. It’s been great inspiration and has led me to places I never would have otherwise discovered.