Margherita and Nick are the duo behind The Crowded Planet, a nature and adventure travel blog with an interest in sustainability.
Nick is originally from Australia, whilst Margherita is from Italy but the couple are currently both based in Milan, Italy. Besides travelling their other passions are hiking, triathlons, cycling, eating food from all over the world and spending time with their cat Tappo!
We had a chat with Margherita who gave us a closer insight into their travels that began in 2009, as well as tips and advice she has for fellow travellers.
You started travel blogging in 2013. What motivated you to start? How did you get started?
The first iteration of The Crowded Planet actually dates back to 2009, when we embarked on a 15-month round-the-trip backpacking journey. We used the blog to keep in touch with family and friends and let them know what we were up to. Then our trip was over and we both moved to Italy – we kept travelling, but only for shorter periods of time, so we kind of forgot about the blog. In 2013, we decided to ‘resuscitate’ The Crowded Planet – after all, we had many more stories we wanted to share. We weren’t thinking to make a living out of it. We just wanted a space where we could tell travel stories and share our pictures. Within 6 months, we started to get invites to hotels and press trips, and within 2 years we were earning enough from the blog to make it our full-time occupation.
How many countries have you been to so far? If you were to recommend 3 of these countries, what would they be and why?
I think about 85. We haven’t actually counted them, because every time we try to, we end up losing count! If I were to recommend three I would say Italy (maybe I’m a little biased!), Japan because I just love Japanese food and culture, and Argentina for nature and wine! Nick really likes Ecuador, because of the mix of rainforest, mountains and the magical Galapagos Islands.
Are there any countries you wouldn’t travel to?
No, I think every country has something to offer. Not to mention, I would also visit most of the places I’ve been to again! However, we would only visit places when it’s safe to do so, avoiding war zones and political unrest. We think part of travelling responsibly is not endangering ourselves and others and having to rely on our embassies to get us out!
You love mountains and hiking. If you were to suggest a mountain hike, what would it be?
That’s a really good question. We really enjoyed hiking in Kyrgyzstan – not many people visit (yet), so it’s a wonderful time to enjoy some unspoilt mountain scenery. Closer to home, we love the Brenta Dolomites, offering a variety of trails surrounded by truly stunning scenery!
What is the weirdest food you’ve ever tried while travelling?
When we started travelling, eating ‘weird foods’ was something we really liked to do. I remember once in a Chinese food market we both tried scorpion! I have to say it wasn’t very good, really salty and made your mouth all tingly. Many years ago in Iceland, we also tried puffin, which wasn’t very nice at all, with a weird texture and fishy aftertaste. Now we are less likely to seek out weird food and prefer going for local specialities. However, there is one weird food I really truly enjoy – Durian, the smelly kind of fruit!
How do you create income to pay for your travels?
We earn money through our travel blog, with a mix of display advertising, affiliate marketing and content/social media campaigns. We also do some freelance work on the side, mainly writing/editing (me) and photography (Nick).
Do you have any travel hacks?
Before COVID, we managed to snag quite a few great flight deals by monitoring error fares on Secret Flying, and then booking directly on the airline website. Sometimes that meant heading to the airline website within just a few seconds of spotting the error fare! By doing so we managed to get 2 return flights to LA for €300, and 2 to Mexico via Canada for €180. Not bad!
You like to support sustainable budget travel. Any advice for travellers looking to be more sustainable on a budget this year?
I would say research is key. Try to support locally-owned, ethical businesses every step of the way – book guesthouses rather than large chain hotels, hire local guides and visit local restaurants rather than fast-food chains. Also, moving around too much increases your carbon footprint, so opt to visit fewer places but spend more time in each of them. Finally, try not to waste food – we’ve seen travellers order huge spreads of food and only take a bite or two from each plate. If you order too much, take your leftovers with you and have them the following day!
What has been your most rewarding travel moment?
This is a very hard question to answer. We’ve been lucky to see many of the world’s most iconic sights, including all the new wonders of the world, and will never forget my first look at each of them. However, there are two unforgettable moments that come to mind. First is seeing elephants at sunset at Etosha National Park, on the day of our 10th wedding anniversary. The other is finally reaching Santiago after over a month along the Camino, and dancing and singing with other pilgrims in the footsteps of the cathedral.
Do you have any upcoming travel plans? What’s top of your bucket list?
Right now we are in Australia, visiting Nick’s family after three years apart due to COVID. We’ll fly back in a couple of weeks and spend a week in Abu Dhabi on the way over. In April we’ll go to Mexico for a sustainable tourism project, and then we’ll be heading back to Europe for the summer. We don’t have any further plans – the pandemic taught us not to plan too much!