Meet Steffi Erdmann, a sport lifestyle apparel Product Manager from Stuttgart, Germany.
Now living and working full-time in Nuremberg, Steffi maintains an active lifestyle in which physical exercise and travel play a big part in her time off. She is the perfect example of how full-time work and epic travel adventures don't need to be mutually exclusive.
We met Steffi on our Kinabatangan River cruise in Malaysian Borneo back in August and were reunited in Germany in December when, after having only met us once and having just returned from a huge trekking adventure in Nepal, she kindly allowed us to stay in her home for a week.
Just back from a bouldering session after work one night, here's what Steffi had to say about combining work and travel, and some of her favourite travel experiences.
1. How long are you travelling for?
Unfortunately I am not travelling at the moment, I am working back home in Germany. However I am trying to get as many exciting trips out of my 28 vacation days as possible. Usually that’s 1 or 2 long distance travels a year and a lot of weekend trips. For next year, I plan to take a sabbatical to be able to travel a couple of months in a row.
2. How heavy was your baggage at last check-in?
The last time I checked-in my luggage was for my trekking trip to Nepal. I tried to take as little as possible because I had to carry everything around in the Nepalese mountains for the next 10 days. You think twice about how many pairs of shoes and pants you really need. I believe my backpack weighed only around 9-10 kilos.
3. Apart from your passport, what item can you not travel without?
A good travel guide; Lonely Planet, for example.
4. What was the first foreign country you ever travelled to?
It must have been Austria I guess. Nothing too exotic for someone from Germany, you hardly realize that you are in a different country. But my parents love the Alps and winter sport, and therefore we went to Austria a couple of times every year when I was young.
5. What has been your favourite destination to date?
Really difficult to say – as you travellers all know, there are so many incredible places across the globe!
I can’t decide on only one, but at least I can narrow it down to two: Burma and Nepal. In both countries you can still find many non-touristic areas and the local people are amazingly friendly. In Burma, I was amazed at the variety of sights the country has to offer: innumerable golden pagodas, the old Kingdom of Pagan and beautiful beaches, just to mention a few. In Nepal, I enjoyed the beautiful landscape and the utter solitude of some areas.
6. Preferred accommodation: Hotel? Hostel? Randoms’ couch? Other?
If I am travelling outside of Europe, I really enjoy homestays with local families and being involved in their day-to-day lives. That’s how you can get insider information and experience a foreign culture the best. If I am just going for a short trip somewhere in Europe, I like to allow myself a few nights in a nice hotel.
7. Given an unlimited budget, where would you most like to go?
I would like to travel to some countries which are rather unexplored, for example Papua New Guinea or East Timor. Besides the budget, you need more than one or two week's time to explore those countries. They are definitely very high up on my list, maybe for my sabbatical?! And if there would be still some budget left, I would also like to visit the Galapagos Islands. The flora and fauna there must be amazing!
8. What do you most like about travel?
Meeting people from different cultures – other travellers and local people – is definitely one thing I enjoy a lot. When travelling, you always meet people with interesting stories and different backgrounds who you would usually not meet at home. Another reason why I enjoy travelling is because it makes you think outside the box. In day-to-day life you worry about too many little things which are rather unimportant. If I see how happy and stress-free people can be in other cultures, I try to take them as an example and look at my life from a more relaxed angle.
9. What do you most dislike about travel?
If there is anything I don’t like about travelling, then it is packing and unpacking my backpack every day. Somehow my stuff seems to grow more and more every day and never fits in the bag as well as in the beginning. Also long transfer times and sitting around at airports for hours can be very boring.
10. What is your most memorable travel experience?
Difficult to choose the best one, but I think our self drive camping tour through Namibia and Botswana was one of the most memorable experiences. It was so different to anything else I have seen and done before. The whole trip was very exciting: driving through rivers and deserts with a 4×4 drive car, riding down the red dunes on a sand board and sleeping in a rooftop tent in the middle of nowhere.
We saw plenty of wild animals up very close: zebras, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles… The best day was the canoe trip through the Okavango Delta in Botswana. When we got off the boat on a small island, a herd of elephants was just a few meters away. We had to be really careful that they didn’t spot and attack us.
We were lucky to make friends with a local from Windhoek who showed us around in his hometown. With him we got to see the townships and the area where he lives. He made this trip very special for us.