Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Julie Munsch

Our Hip + Urban Girl this week has jet setted to over 60 countries, just launched her own travel blog and business and grew up with a famous dad that we all love! Say hello to The Traveling Munschkin!

Right off the bat you know we're dying to find out what it was like growing up as Robert Munsch's daughter?! Care to share a few fun and maybe embarrassing family memories?

There are quite a few as my father is such a child at heart. Let’s see, two years ago we were opening up our cottage and he almost burned it down. He has always had a bit of a fascination with fire, setting his sister’s hair on fire as a child and we even have a bonfire pit in our backyard. He decided to do a “controlled” burn at the cottage of winter detritus. People could see the smoke from across the lake and if the wind had shifted it wouldn’t have been only our cottage going up in smoke. There was also the time when a school bus pulled up to the house and my dad went outside and told them stories. That was fun to see.

At my grade twelve closing ceremonies he showed up in jeans and a Grateful Dead tie-dyed t-shirt. Thankfully he’s “the childrens’ author” and got away with it. Finally, I am so proud of him and his accomplishments as well as his honesty in dealing with his bi-polar disorder and addiction. He is without a doubt my hero and teaches me something new every time I see him.

Congrats on the recent launch of your new business! Can you tell us more about The Traveling Munschkin?

Thank you! I have been lucky to travel to more than 60 countries and on my trips I would write my friends and family, sharing my adventures. Not only did I want to start a website that shared my travel stories but I also wanted to have a site that catered to people like me - where they could find some budget options as well as luxury. I love my stilettos and painting the town red but I also love to get down, dirty and rough - like trekking and camping in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia (as I did a few days ago) or climbing Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain, Mt. Kinabalu. Finally, I have worked in the travel business for 12 years as a travel agent, food safety inspector for airlines and as a business owner planning corporate events worldwide. I want to share the knowledge, tips and tools I have amassed in my career.

Did you chose a career in publishing because both your parents are writers?

I’ve wondered about that and no, not directly. However, we didn’t have a TV for most of my childhood and when my parents finally RENTED one they purchased a lock for it SO we were severely limited to what we watched. My father and I would bicycle to the Guelph Public Library every Saturday and stay all day reading. I’d then go home with a large pile of books and so reading, writing and getting lost in adventures was a huge part of my childhood.

I also have come to realize that I am a bit of storyteller as well. I remember laughing the first time I realized that I am truly my father’s daughter.

What has been the pivotal moment in your life?

100% it was finding out that travel blogging is what I really wanted to do in my life. Only after doing A LOT of research and planning did I realize that I could make a living at it if I worked hard. Committing to it is hard and people don’t understand how hard blogging is! Keeping up with the ever changing social media world is a job in itself and when I’m traveling, I tour all day and work for about seven hours when I get to my hotel room. But I feel so blessed to finally be following my passion and you know what they say? Once you find what you’re meant to do in life everything just falls into place. It is so true! (We totally agree Julie! Blogging looks fun on the outside but a lot of hard work and stress happens behind the scenes!)

You have traveled to over 60 countries! What are your top 3 favourite destinations?

France! I lived in France for a bit as a teenager and I speak French. But I love France not because I can speak the language but because I get caught up in the romance and the history of a destination. I could get lost for hours in the Quartier Latin with a friend/loved one, a bottle or two of wine, a baguette and some cheese.

C’est une belle vie and I’m heading to Paris in a few weeks after Ethiopia and Kenya on Ethiopian Airlines’ direct flight. Can’t wait.

Buenos Aires is ironically called the Paris of the south. I absolutely loved it there and found it hard to leave. Great history and architecture, interesting neighbourhoods and fantastic shopping.

I can go any place with great scuba diving and be in a state of bliss. I loved Borneo (Malaysia) for a number of reasons but chose to go there because of the snorkeling and scuba diving.

Favourite places to shop and hang-out in Toronto?

I love BCBG. I often find their clothes to be unique and they do them well in both bright colours and in black. Most of my dresses are from there and their pants fit me well.

Fashionably Yours on Queen Street is an upscale consignment shop. I’d rather spend more money on a timeless piece that I’ll have for years than lots of little pieces that won’t last long.

Finally, who knew? I find a lot of great things at Bedo!

I don’t go out as much as I used to but when I do I like Reposado on Ossington, Brooklyn on Queen West and I just discovered Parlour Lounge on Adelaide and John. I really like it there as well.

Where to next for The Traveling Munschkin?

As we speak I am currently in the thick of things in Ethiopia and Kenya. Ethiopian Airlines’ just began their non-stop service from Toronto so I jumped at the chance and I love it here. It’s safe, truly breathtaking and inspiring.

I’m working on a YouTube channel so we’re taking lots of video on this trip and I am launching a luxury only travel blog in a few months call Infinite Luxury Travel.

As for the next destination? It changes often but the top three in rotation right now are New Zealand, India and I’m thinking of putting together a group of 15 of my readers, friends, or whomever to come back to Ethiopia for Ethiopia’s Epiphany on January 19, 2013. It’s supposed to be an incredible celebration and Ethiopia has blown me away as a fantastic destination for first time travelers to Africa.

What advice do you have for hip + urban girls who dream of traveling the world but are limited to a set budget or only have 2 weeks of vacation time?

It sounds weird but it is important not to limit yourself because of your perceived limits. Who do you know in a destination who you can stay with or try out CouchSurfing and stay for free wherever you go.

You can still go someplace exotic and overseas as long as you choose a destination with good transportation infrastructure. With this in place you can take overnight trains and buses saving you time and money on accommodations and flights. It’s also the best way to see the country! Some buses, for example, in Brazil and Argentina are very luxurious with seats that lay flat, hot meals, movies and even champagne! I often choose third world countries because you get great culture, astounding beauty and they are much cheaper than those in the northern hemisphere. Sure it might cost $1000 to get somewhere but then you’re living well on $20 per day. Take Thailand (my favourite first destination in Asia) as an example, it takes 20 hours to get there and cost about $1200 but leave on a Friday night, arrive Sunday morning (due to time change) and spend 2-3 days in Bangkok. Then take an overnight train to Chiang Mai in the north and spend 2-3 days there and then take a flight to an island such as Koh Samui and spend 4 days there.

I went to Thailand to scuba dive in Koh Phi Phi, The Similan Islands and Phuket with just one week off work and two weekends, so be creative with your time and it's definitely possible!

Check out The Traveling Munschkin and follow Julie's Tweets @travelmunschkin.

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