Name: Matt and Amanda
Current location/hometown: Au Gres, Michigan, USA
Occupation: linguists/travel bloggers/photographer/writer/ESL teachers
“…like something out of a fairytale…”
Welcome to another of our increasingly popular ZakopaneGO Travelbloggers Q&A sessions. Today we’re joined by the talking travellers, the wanderlusting linguists themselves! Guys, it’s a great pleasure to finally catch up with you. Let us start by introducing yourselves to our readers.
Hey there! We’re Matt and Amanda. We come from a small town in rural Michigan. We knew long ago that the USA just wasn’t for us, so we decided to set off traveling the world in search of languages, nature, new cultures, beauty and all the things that make life worth living.
Love that attitude. What are you getting up to right now?
At the moment we are relaxing in our hometown of Au Gres, Michigan for the summer, enjoying Lake Huron and the surrounding nature, preparing to take off to Central America to start a multi-year odyssey of Central and South America.
Sounds like big plans are going to materialise. Where have you travelled so far?
So far only the European continent; France, Italy, Malta, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia.
Now, I think it’s amazing when you meet someone who shares the same interests and feels passionate about travel at the same time. You two make a great match. How did your adventure start? What motivated you to go out and see the world in the first place?
(Amanda) When I was 15, I had an opportunity to spend a month traveling through Italy, Malta and France as a People2People student ambassador; it was a life changing experience for me, language and travel became the most interesting things in the world to me, and I knew that pursuing these interests was the only thing I wanted out of my life. Pursuing degrees like English Linguistics and French which make me fairly unemployable in my home country, but highly employable in others has been part of my strategy for pursuing life-long travel.
(Matt) I was friends with a foreign exchange student in high school, she invited me to come visit her in Germany; I spent months saving up money, and finally went. I had studied German for a couple semesters by the time I went, so staying for 6 weeks was a great opportunity to immerse myself in German language and culture. When I got back, I started saving for my next trip, as well as taking all sorts of different foreign language classes, and plotting ways I could make a career traveling and learning new languages.
As travelbloggers, you know how globetrotting can change a person’s life and open them up to new cultures, perspectives and experiences. What made you choose Zakopane as one of your pit-stops?
Coming from a town with a population of ~800 people, we like to travel to rural areas and spend lots of time doing nature activities. The south of Poland sounded like a paradise for hiking and nature activities, and Zakopane was an accessible jumping off point for a lot of the activities we wanted to do while in the south. Our Lonely Planet guide also made a persuasive case for visiting the south.
It’s certainly beautiful. What time of the year did you visit and why?
We visited Zakopane in early September. Our first trip to Poland came by chance. We were spending 2 semesters studying at L’Universite Catholique de l’Ouest in Angers, France: since we were traveling on a student visa, we were not able to buy our plane tickets until we received our visas, which told us the date we were allowed to enter the country; by the time we got our visas, tickets directly into France were $1500 (one way), but tickets to Poland were only $500, we made the split second decision to fly into Poland and use the money we were saving by not flying into France to travel around before making our way to France. We loved Poland so much that we came back after we finished our studies! As far as visiting Zakopane, we saw photos of the southern Poland, and decided that that was where we wanted to spend most of our visit. Our second trip to Poland, we visited the Baltic Coast, it was very nice, but we have decided that we prefer the south.
It’s really great hearing that the area made such an impression on you. I mean, obviously we’re passionate about it but it’s so heart-warming hearinf it from someone who travelled throusands of miles from places like the USA which have world-famous destinations and amazing national parks. Tell us, where did you stay during your visit and how would you rate the facilities?
For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the hostel! It was just several blocks from the bus station outside of downtown. The facilities were great! Everything was clean and modern.
What was the highlight of your trip?
Everything! The ambiance of Zakopane was like something out of a fairytale, the traditional architecture and attention to detail in the construction of every building gave the city such charm, it was unlike anyplace else in Europe that we had seen before. We enjoyed admiring the architecture, and just wandering around the city, but hiking to Morskie Oko was probably our favorite thing we did while staying in Zakopane. Taking a raft trip down the Dunajec Gorge was a close second.
Now you said you’re big on your activities. What activities would you have liked to see made available to travellers visiting the region?
The Tatra National Park was difficult to find information on as an English speaker, I would have liked to have spent more time in the park, but most information we found was about guided tours. I would like to see more information on the park. Conversely, we found the neighboring Pieniny National Park very easy to enter, navigate and find information on.
We agree, which is why we built this website and, hopefully, it can help solve some of the problems which English-speakers visiting the area encounter. What else could the city improve on to enhance the experience of tourism in the area?
More accessible public transport around Zakopane and easier access into the Tatra National Park.
Your top travel tips for visiting the city/region?
Try the regional foods; the smoked cheese is great! Bring a phrasebook, at some point you will need it; only in the main tourist areas will you find English speakers. Don’t forget to watch the epic mountain sunsets from one of Zakopane’s many parks!
The phrasebook is a must, but any old Polish-English dictionary won’t help either. The locals here speak a very particular dialect called ‘Gwara’ which is so typical of the highland region, even some Polish people have serious trouble understanding it. Luckily, we’ve thought of that too and got a little Gwara-English phrasebook on our website to help out. Tell us, now you’ve been to Zakopane, where’s next on your bucket-list?
We are leaving for Nicaragua in a few weeks to start learning Spanish before we start an odyssey of Latin America. We have never traveled anywhere tropical before, so we are thrilled to escape the impending doom of winter in our native northern climate!
Your RSVP or nomination for the next ZakopaneGO Travebloggers chat?
We are pretty new to the travel blogging scene, the only other bloggers whose experiences in Zakopane I have read about have been on your website 🙂
That’s a positive thing for us I’d say. We’re a very young website and it’s been fantastic getting the feedback we have in our first few months, especially from the travelbloggers worldwide who have embraced our project and took time out to share their experiences. Fingers crossed, we will soon be in a position to provide helpful information on the city and Tatra mountains to the hundreds of thousands of visitors coming to relax and discover the region every year. Amanda, Matt, thank you both for chatting to us! We love what you’re doing and hope to see you again in the future! Enjoy your Latin American adventure and stay in touch!
Alternativaly, check out their pages on: