Director of the Promotions Division of Big Ambitions, travel sales and marketing consultancy created with the purpose of assisting travel and tourism companies in South Africa to become travel marketing experts. She is a passionate follower of online marketing, social media, retail travel, inbound tourism and publishing.
Natalia has editing, writing and management experience in the content generation, online marketing, social media and publishing fields, has completed an online marketing diploma with University of Stellenbosch, Honours in Journalism and Media Studies and Masters in Publishing with specialisation in online publishing field cum laude.
How did you fall in love with travelling? My first overseas trip was to Portugal with my grandmother and uncle at the age of seven. I was homesick for a week and hated every minute. A few weeks later, they had to drag me back kicking and screaming. I was obsessed with aircraft from that moment. My Dad used to drive me to the airport – we lived in Rustenburg at the time so it was quite a drive – and we would watch the planes land and smell the jet fuel. To this day, that smell still brings back fond memories no matter the hundreds of times I have boarded a flight since then.
What kind of traveller are you? I’m a doer. So beach holidays, kicking back and watching the day go by is definitely not my style. I like to fill my days with engaging activities, I love the outdoors and nature. I also love good food and wine, and friends. My favourite type of travel is one that includes some sort of challenge, like a hike or learning something new. I also love being in a place long enough not to see it superficially. And my favourite thing is to go to the supermarket and see all the cool foodie stuff we don’t get back home.
What’s your travel philosophy? “What you give, is what you get.” If you’re generous of spirit you get that back in abundance. I have always found that to be the case, even at 2 am stranded in a Thai village with non-English speakers. The kindness of strangers can never be under-estimated.
What are your top travel essentials? A power bank for my phone – sometimes two, depending on where I’m travelling to.
Where was your most memorable trip? I have so, so many. For obvious reasons, Antarctica stands out for its sheer scale and other-worldliness. I won a lottery to be one of 30 people to sleep in a survival tent on land overnight. At 2am, in the eerie dawn light, thousands of penguins descended from their rookery and waddled past, but a metre from the tent opening, making their way to the icy waters to feed. They were fearless – following a couple of leaders who weren’t in the least bit bothered that I was watching them as they keep streaming past. Across the bay, a glacier calved making waves that hit the icy cliff just a few metres from our tent. I took an audio recording of the (not so) stillness of Antarctica. It’s a soundtrack I’ll probably never get to hear again first-hand.
How has travelling changed your life? I was morbidly shy growing up. I think that’s hard to believe now if you meet me. But I credit travel for helping me come out of my shell. When I was 16, my parents sent me to Portugal on my own to go to high-school. Not speaking a word of Portuguese at the time, I was forced to engage as much as I could to learn the language. My parents then allowed me to travel extensively in my late teens, even on my own. I learnt how to be comfortable on my own and with others and developed the social skills I clearly didn’t have when I was younger.
When borders open again and the world starts to return to ‘a new normal’ what’s your first travel destination on your list? Stellenbosch, to go stock up on wine! And then, New York, to visit a very dear friend I am missing terribly.
Best travel advice you can share? Be curious, always. Don’t look at the world with your own world view. Look at it from every other perspective and you will learn so much about it, its people and yourself.