Hi all! Today’s interview is with a blogger whose blog I only recently discovered and is fast becoming one of my favourites. The title ‘Handstands Around the World’ certainly grabbed my attention as ‘something different’, which is always something I look out for. Diana Di Marco runs this blog and today I’m so privileged that she’s taken time out to answer the questions I set! Enjoy!
- Hi Diana! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Would you mind starting by telling us who you are and where you’re from, and of course the name of your blog? What do you do when you’re not blogging (doesn’t have to be work, could be hobbies or interests etc). Where are you based at the moment?
Hi Andy, thanks for giving me this opportunity! I have a blog here on WordPress called Handstands Around the World. I’m based in the US – more specifically, I was raised in Montana and I’m currently living in Colorado. I’m most likely to be found at work – I’m a nutrition professor at two local colleges – or outside. I try to get out and explore every weekend, especially since we moved to Denver and have endless options! If I’m not doing either of those things, I’m probably at home drinking tea or a beer and reading, doing a puzzle, playing a game, baking, planning a future adventure, or bingeing something on Netflix. I’m fairly introverted so I generally prefer to spend my free time doing low key activities.
- When did you start your blog and why did you decide to start a travel blog?
December 2015… so almost five years ago! I started to blog for three reasons: (1) I’ve been traveling my whole life so I have tons of photos and info to share; (2) I’ve always relied on travel blogs to help me with trip planning and wanted to be part of the travel blog community; and (3) I love to write and thought it would be fun to document all of my adventures!
- Your blog is entitled ‘Handstands Around the World’. Although it’s mostly in the title, please tell readers why it’s called this and what made you decide to have this take on travel.
Truth be told, it’s a bit of an ambitious blog title for someone who has only been to 4 countries. My fiancé (Pat) and I were both in grad school at the same time, and now we have student loans, plus COVID happened, so we haven’t been able to travel internationally as much as we would like. But I’m holding out hope that we’re able to expand our horizons in the next couple years and I’ll be able to do handstands in some new countries.
The handstands part of the blog is because I was a competitive gymnast for nine years. Back in about 2007, I believe, was when I first decided to do a handstand while traveling and have my mom take a photo of it. It quickly became a habit and, while I don’t do one at every single place I go, it’s my goal to eventually do a handstand in every US state, Canadian province, and as many countries as I can!
- What do you like to write about and why?
I guess the obvious answer is my adventures. I generally write about all my excursions, whether that’s a weeklong international trip or a morning of hiking. I’m a person who likes to plan and research and be familiar with all the details, and I think that spills over into my writing. I like to provide my readers with an organized and detailed source of information too, so they know what to expect at each destination.
Also, I’m an educator through and through, and I’ve recently started allowing that to spill over into my blog. Specifically, I’ve been making an effort to include at least one piece of information in each post related to Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. LNT is a set of outdoor ethics that teach people how to have a minimal impact adventure. Colorado’s population is growing like crazy and we have a massive tourism industry, and the unfortunate downside of this is that many people who come here don’t know how to behave in the outdoors and, as a result, engage in behaviors that damage the environment. I think it’s so important to educate people on these outdoor ethics so we can protect these places while allowing them to remain open and accessible to everyone.
- What have been some of your favourite destinations?
Oh boy, how do I narrow this down? On a broad scale, mountains are always my favorite destination. I grew up surrounded by them and I never get tired of spending time in them. To be more specific, Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies are probably my favorite places I’ve ever been! Maritime Canada – especially coastal Nova Scotia – is a place I really loved visiting. And since moving to Colorado, I’ve fallen in love with the San Juan Mountains.
I also really enjoyed Germany. It’s the first and only European country I’ve visited at this point, and I really loved experiencing the food, culture, and just general European way of life. It gave me a really different perspective on life in the US.
- Who do you see as the audience for your blog?
Mostly people from the US and Canada, since that’s what most of my posts are about. It seems like most of my followers are fellow travel bloggers. I’ve recently started to attract some viewers who are researching things to do in Montana. I think it’s a little bit less saturated of a market on the internet, so when people google a certain trail some of my posts show up.
- What advice would give to someone just starting out blogging?
I think this is probably the same advice everyone gives – make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you go into it just hoping to get famous and make money and travel for free, you’ll probably get frustrated and give up. Start a blog because you want to connect with people and because you genuinely enjoy writing about whatever topic(s) you want to focus on.
- What is the hardest thing about running a travel blog?
For me, it’s been making sure writing doesn’t start to feel like a chore. It was never my goal to make money from this blog or gain thousands of followers. It’s just supposed to be for fun. That being said, I’m a person who likes to be on a schedule. At first it was a bit of a struggle to figure out how often I should post in order to regularly provide new content without burning myself out or getting to the point where I feel like I “should” sit down and write something.
- How has your world changed due to Covid-19? What restrictions are in place where you are right now? And how has it curtailed your travels?
In some ways, my world hasn’t changed that much. I’m working from home now and teaching online classes, so that’s been the biggest transition. But Pat and I were very fortunate in that we both kept our jobs. We’re not really the kind of people who go to parties or bars or movies, so having stay-at-home orders wasn’t much of a change for us. If anything, we learned that we’re pretty boring!
Currently, we’re not under many restrictions. We have a mandatory mask requirement, gathering size limit, and capacity at indoor locations is still reduced, but that’s about it. But other states have quarantine requirements for travellers so that has basically limited us to staying in Colorado.
As far as travel disruptions, there have been a few. We’ve both had to cancel trips to visit family. And for the first time ever, my family didn’t get to have our annual summer camping family vacation. For as long as I can remember, we’ve spent 8-10 days each summer roadtripping our way through national parks. Not this year.
- How do you think travel will change due to the pandemic?
One change we’ve definitely already seen is that people have opted to travel closer to home. Colorado parks, trails, and campgrounds have been completely overrun this summer. A lot of people are getting outside for the first time, and while I’m sure some of them won’t stick with it once their previous hobbies and activities are fully available again, others probably will which might cause the overcrowding to become more of a permanent thing. It’s hard to say.
I’m sure that as soon as it’s deemed safe to travel overseas again, many people will immediately book a trip. Others will probably be more cautious. Others might realize they prefer to continue exploring close to home. I definitely think some countries might tighten entry requirements for tourists, including mandatory proof of COVID vaccination. And I think some of the capacity restrictions and new reservation systems that have been put into place might stick around. Annoying as that can be, having a smaller crowd improves the travel experience and protects the location.
- What place would you really like to visit and why?
Once again, mountain destinations largely top my list here. I just feel so at home and at peace when I’m in the mountains, and I never get tired of the incredible scenery. Iceland, New Zealand, Patagonia, Alaska, Hawaii, and Slovenia are currently some of the top contenders.
I also have a ‘travel bucket list’ and a ‘places I want to go’ list on my blog that provide a more complete answer to this question.
- You’ve mostly blogged from around your home country of the USA. And you have a real love of hiking! When did that start? What have been some of the most challenging hikes you’ve done to date?
The hiking itself started when I was too young to remember. My parents have always camped and hiked, and having kids didn’t change that… even when we were super tiny. The love of hiking came a little later. I never completely hated it, but my parents were still married back then and my dad had a way of making everything miserable. I think it was in my late teens that my mom and I started hiking on weekends, just the two of us. That’s when I really discovered how much I love it!
Most challenging hikes… I actually have a list for this answer too. Can you tell I have a list problem?
- Star Dune (tallest sand dune in the US) – this is not a long hike, but my mom and I were so exhausted from climbing so much sand that we actually had to crawl our way to the top; for this reason, I consider it the hardest hike of my life
- Quandary Peak (Colorado)
- Four Pass Loop (Colorado)
- Mount Washington (New Hampshire)
- Crypt Lake (Alberta)
- Please recommend three posts from your blog you’d like people to read (and why!)
First, I recommend my recent contribution to the A-Z travel list phenomenon that made its way through WordPress a few months back. I put my own unique twist on my list!
Second recommendation is this post on how to pitch your tent in the sand. As the name suggests, this one outlines how to pitch a tent in a sandy location where tent stakes don’t work. It also includes some photos and stories from the time we did exactly that – and to this day, it’s my favorite spot I’ve ever camped!
And lastly, given everything that’s happened recently in the US, this post I wrote on social justice in the outdoors. It’s not the most profound thing I’ve been written. Honestly, I grew up pretty naive and until recently was pretty uneducated when it came to history and race relations, especially when it comes to hiking and traveling. So I don’t really have anything earth shattering to say on the topic. I’ve been undergoing a bit of a personal reckoning along with the rest of the nation, and doing my part to listen and learn. After reading it, I’m hoping people will share their thoughts and experiences in the comments so I can continue to learn and understand different points of view.
- Finally, how can people find you on the net and social media? Please include blog address, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and any other channels you use.
- Finally (again!) what are you hoping or dreaming for in 2021?
Our big plan for 2021 is that we’re getting married! Hopefully. It’s not until mid-July and it’s going to be a super small wedding, so we’re operating under the assumption that it will be safe for everyone to travel by then. The biggest issue is whether the US/Canada border will be open so the family members up there can make it to the US. Fingers crossed!
Other than that, I’m just hoping things start to go back to normal… whatever that even means anymore. Outside of FaceTime, I haven’t seen my sister in almost a year and Pat’s family in a year and a half. Both of us have grandparents who are in their 90s; we’d like to be able to safely visit them again. I miss being in the classroom with my students, and I hope we can transition back to in-person classes by next fall. But mostly, I’m looking forward to the day we – as a nation and as a world – are able to get this virus under control and not fear for our health and safety every time we step out into society.
So a MASSIVE thanks to Diana – please check out her amazing blog! Thanks for stopping by as always, and May the Journey Never End!