In this edition of PALA Meets, we’ve been spending time with Nina Botzen, aka The Escaped Student. Nina is a 24 year old student, based in Lucerne, Switzerland, who caught the travel bug and now writes about her global adventures, as well as ethical fashion and lifestyle.
Lovely to meet you Nina, thanks for chatting with us today. When did you first catch the travel bug and what inspires you to keep travelling?
I think it first really started when I was 17 years old and about to head out for an exchange year in the USA. I had the urge to break free from my old routine and get out in the world; experiencing a new culture drove me to my decision. I always thought cultural understanding is key to a better world and honestly I think there is no better way to widen your horizons than to go out there and see them for yourself. Travelling also made me realise how spoilt we are in our western culture, and that most of us have lost track of what really matters in life.
How do you like to travel? Do you travel by bus, train, plane? Do you travel alone, or with friends? Do you travel to visit famous sights or to have experiences? And what’s the first thing you do when you arrive in a new location?
I have to admit that I used to travel by plane a lot more, purely because it was cheaper. As I became more aware of the damage and impact I made on our planet by flying I tried to reduce my air miles within Europe. There are many other easy AND cheap ways to travel (like Flixbus). As my friends didn’t catch the travel bug as much as I did and are rather settled already, I decided to go exploring by myself. There are pros and cons to solo travelling but you are never really alone even when you are travelling by yourself.
I definitely travel for the sake of experiences. I feel a bit frustrated lately though, as in my opinion Social Media has massively changed the way some travel. Many people set out for famous spots to get the picture alone, and I think they forget to enjoy the moment. Also, most attractions are heavily overcrowded – for example Dubvronik is about to loose its cultural heritage status because there are too many tourists. I think over-tourism is a major concern and there are steps to be taken if we want to conserve the beauty of this world.
First thing that I do in a new place is that I go out for a walk in order to get an overview and a first impression of the place I’m in. Without any previous research or so, but just let my curiosity guide me.
How do you marry a passion for sustainable living with global travel? What can we all do to keep sustainability in mind while we travel?
Sustainability was something I was aware of for a while but hadn’t started to actively look into until beginning this year. Before, I felt concerned with the topic of consumerism so I read Marie Condo’s books, gave away most of my things and as a consequence I stopped buying more ‘stuff’. But this year, when I started really buying some things again (because I needed some things) I started to dive in more in the topic of ethical fashion and how to make more sustainable choices in travel. Further, I think it’s important to treat the environment with respect. Don’t take any souvenirs with you that come from a protected area, and try to visit lesser known places.
What’s always in your bag when you pack for a trip?
I carry a cotton sleeping bag with me because I feel more comfortable having a piece of home with me (and it hardly takes up any space either). Further, I bring a bum-bag along which is a good way to carry your valuables around. Also, my camera has to be top of the list to capture those beautiful moments. Photography is something I’ve been doing long before Social Media and for me it’s a way of artistic expression.
Where has been your favourite place to visit so far and where is still on your bucket list?
This is a hard one but I would either say Costa Rica or Iceland. I was in awe of the beautiful and well-kept nature in Costa Rica and all the wildlife, and was incredibly impressed by the magical nature in Iceland too. Iceland really was jaw-dropping and didn’t look like earth, it was so surreal and beautiful. My bucket list is still very long but I would love to visit Kyrgyzstan. Also I would love to see the Faroe Islands but lately they have become extremely popular on Social Media unfortunately, so I will probably wait for a while on that!