Alison Roberts-Tse is the founder of Up&AtEm Travel – a London-based blog that focuses on cultural aspects of travel. While you can find accommodation, dining and entertainment reviews along with general travel tips, Up&AtEm Travel is shifting to more extensively cover history, customs, festivals, art, architecture and cuisine. The blog’s new format will highlight locals through their own anecdotes and showcase interactions with them in personal travel stories.
Although Alison grew up in Wisconsin, her happy Wisconsin cheese chomping years were interspersed with holidays: petting manta rays’ bellies on Hawaii’s ocean floor, failing to barter in a Mexican mercado and foolishly braving a plane-propelled sandstorm on Maho Beach. Upon graduation from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, she took her first trip to Asia where she unwittingly met her British husband. She now lives in London and obsessively plans getaways, both near and far.
TPM: What kind of traveler are you?
UAET: The best phrase to describe me is “travel opportunist.” My travel style varies: I’m a low-budget solo female traveler during some trips, but holidays with my family tend to be more luxurious. However, I am typically a DIY traveler because I prefer to select my own transportation, accommodation and attractions instead of joining tours.
Although I do take city breaks, if I had unlimited vacation days and resources, I would definitely be a slow traveler. Once I arrive in a destination, I prefer to simply amble around to let impressions of the new location sink in. Travel highlights for me tend to include dance performances, wellness rituals and delicious cuisine.
TPM: What made you decide to become an Expat?
UAET: My first stint at expat life was facilitated by a scholarship to learn Mandarin in Taiwan. My lovely Taiwanese dance professor recommended me to visit his home country, so I made the arrangements to study abroad. Whilst in Taipei, I met my British husband, which precipitated my move to London!
Although I was rather unenthusiastic about the city on my first visit, logistics called for me to make the move. It took about 2 years just to feel settled in, so now I am looking forward to really embracing the culture and lifestyle. Searching for and writing about little London gems on Up&AtEm Travel helps, too!
TPM: Why did you decide to create the Up&AtEm Travel website?
UAET: Originally I created Up&AtEm Travel to share my travel stories with friends and family. I grew up journaling, and writing helps me to continue processing travel experiences. Although I began writing for my friends who often wonder where in the world I am and what I’m doing, now I’d like to reach a much larger audience. I hope to accurately supply entertaining descriptions of places to jetsetters and armchair travelers alike, to educate people who are intrigued by the world and the variety of its inhabitants.
TPM: You’re an award winning travel blogger. Which is really awesome, congrats! Can you tell us what that moment was like for you when you won your first award for an article you written?
UAET: Thank you so much! Winning a blog award was really exciting – and validating. I geeked out for about a day, but the award made my entire week. I was happy to share my experience about unlikely hospitality from the police in South Korea and to know that others enjoyed my silly story. Ultimately, becoming an award-winning blogger gave me the confidence to self-host on my own domain and approach magazines as a freelance travel writer… My first article will be printed in November! I’m trying to continue building on that momentum.
TPM: What’s your favorite thing about traveling?
UAET: I love travel because I can just visit a somewhere different for a complete change of pace. I got really sick of London last autumn, so I easily booked a train ticket and escaped to Paris for two days Paris. It was so easy to sink into a new lifestyle and find unique experiences in another culture’s everyday life. When I travel I can try on different customs and learn about how they differ from American (and now British) mannerisms that I take for granted. Although travel can be exhausting, it really does help me to feel alive and connected.
TPM: How many countries/states have you visited?
UAET: States: 10 – not including drive-throughs. Countries: 26 from 3 continents.
TPM: Where is your next travel destination going to be? Why?
UAET: Oooh, I actually have to keep my lips partially sealed on this one! I run a “Mystery Destination” game on my social media, which means I post 5 clues about my upcoming trips on Facebook and Twitter to let people guess where I am headed before I share my “reveal” video. Although I can’t say where I’m going next, I am traveling to see a beloved Japanese composer in a famous European city…
TPM: What do you think is the biggest sacrifice you have done for the sake of traveling?
UAET: My pocketbook is the obvious sacrifice, but moving abroad for the long-term does make my life seem rather segmented. Many people can divide life into childhood through high school, university and work – but I have short chapters of my life on different continents surrounded by different people. Each time period was unique, and although I have friends in many different places, it can be hard to keep in touch. Reviewing my life over the past couple of years can seem disjointed and I sometimes sift through all of my pictures just to process it all.
TPM: How has travel changed you?
UAET: Travel has made me a happier, better-informed and more curious person. Because I have had the chance to encounter a wider variety of wondrous landscapes, buildings, traditions and people, I have grown a more positive and hopeful worldview. Of course, I have had negative experiences while abroad, too, but the vibrant, genuine people that I have met on the road outshine them. And, in particular, solo travel has made me more confident and self-sufficient.
TPM: What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about living the Expat life?
UAET: Expat life varies depending on whether you believe you’re going to be gone for a year or whether you plan to settle elsewhere for a lifetime. But remember that it can take up to a year or more to adjust to life in a new country, so I recommend for staying at least 2 years to really enjoy the new life that you have built. It may seem long, but it will go by quickly!
Visits home are helpful, but having family and friends make the journey over to you is a lot fun, too. That way you can play tour guide and show them around all the places that you discover. However, watch out for “friends” that only stay in touch with you because they want to crash at your place. Don’t extend invitations to host unless you really want to spend time with those people. Even so, you may have to un-invite the pushy people that invite themselves!