Meet Steph Parker, Author of Budget Travel Blog “Big World Small Pockets”
Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Steph started traveling at the tender age of 18, and hasn’t really looked back since. From living in Latin America for two years, Australia for four, and having visited over 50 countries so far, Steph wanted to start blogging to help show others how they, too, could travel more and spend less. And so her budget travel blog—Big World Small Pockets—was born. Follow her adventures live on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
You did a six-month stint in Africa at 19. Were you much of a traveler before that? What inspired you to take the leap? And, what drew you to Africa?
I was lucky enough to have always been taken on family holidays as a child, so I blame my parents for my itchy feet! I visited countries such as the US, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Spain, and Portugal as a child, but my first foray as an independent traveller was actually at 18 when I backpacked Italy for two months directly after I finished secondary school.
Then came Africa and, well… the rest is history! I chose Africa because it seemed wildly different; while everyone else seemed to be inter-railing Europe during their “gap years” I was determined to do something out of the ordinary. No change there then!
You note that your Central American travels were what officially made you realize you wanted to travel as a way of life. Was there a specific event that solidified that decision? How did your family and friends take the news initially?
After Africa, I studied at university for 3 years and, while I always traveled in the holidays, it felt like a “regular” career path was how my life would finally pan out. This was despite me traveling for a year after university, and then also during the holidays of my Master’s degree. Yet as time went on, I couldn’t shake the travel bug; I always felt like I had my feet in two worlds—one career and “normal” life, the other “freedom” and the open road.
Heading to Central America and falling in love with the continent after my Master’s solidified my decision to put my two feet along the path that made me happiest. The choice was crystalized as I watched the sunrise of the Spring Equinox over Lago Atitlan in Guatemala. Anyone who’s been here will know it’s a special place! My family are amazingly supportive, my rock from afar.
How did you fund your travels in the beginning? When, and why, was the budget travel blog “Big World Small Pockets” born? Any advice for us budding bloggers?
In the beginning I worked super hard at home in the UK, saving every penny so I could travel for months on end. In Latin America, I began “working on the road” largely in hospitality jobs that allowed me to extend… and extend… and extend my travels. However, I always felt unsatisfied by this sort of work, especially as I got older and really wanted something more of a challenge. The time came when I was living in Australia.
A friend I met there, who made money online, introduced me to blogging, set up my budget travel blog, showed me the ropes and the rest is history. Well, not quite history! It’s important to remember blogging is a lot of work—I slaved for two years working full time jobs and pretty much full-time on my blog, too, before I really started to see results. It’s important for budding bloggers to remember perseverance, determination, hard work, and lots and lots of continuous research is the key to success. It’s a path I’m still on myself.
You’ve been featured on Lonely Planet, Nat Geo, Huff Po, and Thought Catalog. How did you land your first big break? What was it about?
Honestly, it was luck. As you grow your blog, more brands become aware of you and reach out to you. There are no special tricks, I’m afraid. Just maintaining high quality is key.
You recently completed another trip to Africa, with the Middle East mixed in. What were some of your top experiences?
Oh goodness, there’s a question! I mean, there’s no doubt Ethiopia and Lebanon stand out for me as sensational destinations; both a complete surprise, both wonderfully off-the-beaten-track, and both chock full of sensational food, friendly people, and incredible culture. Petra in Jordan also deserves a special mention, as does the Masai Mara in Kenya, trekking with the gorillas in Uganda, Stone Town in Zanzibar, and Cappadocia in Turkey.
Did you find solo travel as a woman in those regions challenging?
Honestly, no; I’ve rarely felt more looked after.
If you could rework the trip based on what you know now, would you change anything?
Just allow more time! I always want more time!
I’ve yet to travel to Africa. What’s the #1 thing I should know about visiting?
That everything runs on a different timescale, and that fear of this little-travelled continent is no reason not to explore its unbelievable depths and delights. Africa gets under your skin. There’s no doubt about that. I’m planning my 5th trip there soon! Oh, and take a tent; this can save you a huge amount if you’re on a tight budget!
What’s your favorite aspect of traveling? Any advice for folks that want to travel, but just can’t seem to push that button?
The sense of discovery, of learning, of opening your mind, the wildness of the adventure, the spontaneity, the beauty, the faith in humanity it restores, the ability to experience with your own eyes and not rely on what we are told about certain places… need I go on?!?
Such a typical question, but everyone wants to know: Favorite destination? Or top three? (I can never narrow it down to just one!)
4. Bulgaria (new entry!)
Last, but not least, when are you visiting us in the United States?!?
Now, there’s a question…
Okay, so maybe Steph will swing back through the US after she finishes eastern Europe and South America. (If she does, I know this great DC tour guide.) A huge thank you to budget travel blog “Big World Small Pockets” for taking the time to share her extensive travel insights and blogging knowledge! To track Steph’s travels, follow her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.