One of the best things about running a blog/website is the people I've met, both in person and virtually. One falling into the virtual category is Andrea Spirov, who runs the Inspiring Travellers travel blog. Andrea is a writer, photographer and entrepreneur who has travelled through Australasia, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Southeast Asia, and until recently lived with her husband John in Stavanger.
As Andrea packed her suitcase for their new life back in the USA, I managed to ask a few questions about her time in Norway.
What did you enjoy most about living in Norway?
We really loved our house in Norway and the opportunity to live a very quiet life for a year. Even living in one of the cities, Norway is very small and it's great to be able to step out into nature close to home and to live someplace where the population is quite small.
What did you enjoy least about living in Norway?
Cost of living was probably the biggest challenge to living there. People often argue with me that Norwegian citizens and residents are paid “well enough” to compensate for the high cost of living but we just didn't find that to be fact. It meant that even on a high salary we were limited in what we could do if we wanted to still save money.
As much as we would have liked to travel more around the country, the price of things put a damper on that as well. I also found the healthcare lacking for what we paid in taxes (I have a chronic condition).
What advice would you give to someone about to move to Norway?
Do your research and really get to the bottom of the reason you want to move there. Make sure that any assumptions you are making are correct. Norway is a beautiful country but I wouldn't call it the easiest place to live. Be sure you have adequate savings for the first few months because the costs of getting set up are high unless you are coming over as an expat and the company is taking care of everything for you upfront.
What was your experience of starting a business in Norway?
Really tough. It was one of those experiences that I'll always cherish for the lessons learned but it definitely wasn't lucrative for me. That said, I made a LOT of mistakes. Doing business in Norway is not like doing business in places like the US or Australia, the two countries I'm most familiar with. But I don't want to discourage people. Just be prepared for the high costs of marketing. Remember, nothing is free in Norway (except camping in the national parks!)
You're both foodies – what did you think of Norwegian food & drink, and the restaurant scene?
I think it's difficult for me to comment on this. We mostly cooked at home because of the high cost of eating out in Stavanger. John had some great experiences going out to company dinners, mostly with the seafood. My favorite Norwegian food item was probably the delicious fresh bread you can get at the supermarket. We also absolutely loved the craft beer in Norway – some of the best in the world!
Your favourite place in Stavanger?
We had some great times at the Cardinal Bar in Stavanger city centre.
You describe your travel style as “laid-back luxury”, what does this mean?
We are back to work now so when we travel we like to indulge. We often stay at boutique luxury hotels and eat at high-end restaurants when we travel, but we aren't pretentious. We don't stay or eat somewhere just because it's expensive – we just expect high quality. Our personalities are relaxed so while we do enjoy the finer things in life, we aren't snobs about it.
Where is your favourite travel destination and why?
That's an impossible one for me to answer. Everyone always wants you to name your favourite place but the truth is that I have many favorite places for different reasons. Or maybe I just have't found “the one” yet. My top destinations so far are France, Uruguay, Germany and Queensland, Australia. But I haven't even seen half the world yet so I don't feel qualified to name a favorite. Places change as well. I've returned to a destination and not had as good an experience as the first time.
What made you decide to start your travel blog, and did you ever think it would become as popular as it is?
I wanted to keep myself engaged in my craft while travelling, which at the time was writing and online media. When John and I decided to take a year off for a world trip I thought it would be great to keep a journal of what we were doing and originally I was hoping to interview other travellers about their projects as well.
The latter became really difficult because people were busy on the road and not really interested in taking the time out to prepare something. But we just started publishing our own stories and slowly built up the blog. I had no idea it would turn into anything like it has now, but we really enjoy all the people we meet through the website and the wonderful opportunities it has provided us. Inspiring Travellers has really enhanced our travels and our lives.