Travel Bliss Interview Series: Papillon Traveller.
In continuation with my Interview Series, wherein each month I feature two interviews with people from around the world – who may be a home-maker, a traveler, a blogger, or a biker or a painter or a potter or an entrepreneur or a writer or just about anyone who have chosen to follow their bliss against all odds, this time my very special interview is with the very young and beautiful social butterfly: Jessica Zappelli. Jessica is a travel blogger with a passion for people, travel, self-development, fitness and health. She is the owner of her website: Papillontraveller.
Her interview is sure to inspire us and motivate us to continue to strive and explore and try out new things or just excel in whatever we put our minds to do.
1.Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Sydney Australia, so I’m a true Aussie through and through. During that time in high school, when it was time to decide what you wanted to do for the rest of your life, I knew that there was no subject in University that I wanted to study for a 3-4 years that would lead me to a happy career. I chose an alternate route. I went to college to study hospitality management. Why I chose this subject is because of two things, I like people and I wanted to travel. Through the hospitality industry is where I feed my hunger to get to know people, learn where they’re from, crave a better understanding of the world and all the cultures in it, it is where I’m inspired everyday to get out of my comfort zone and see the world.
At 22, I took my first overseas flight with a one way ticket to London and a 2 year working holiday Visa in my passport, only my dreams in front of me. Somewhere along the line I made it my goal to travel to 30 countries before 30. This year, 6 years later and a much older semi wiser Jess has now reached that goal.
Apart from travel I also like to go to the gym, hang out with friends, go to the movies, read books and hang out with my favorite person in the world, my boyfriend Brad. My fitness and health have become such an important part of my life. Before leaving to go to Europe I was at my heaviest weight of 85 kg. During my time over there and coming back to Australia I dropped about 27 kg. Keeping myself mentally, physically and emotionally fit is part of my everyday life. I don’t always succeed every day, but I do try which is why to me it is so important to be the best version of yourself every day and whatever it takes to make your dreams come true. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for travel, health and fitness. Having also a good support network of family and friends is also what keeps me energized and pushes me when I’m running low on fuel in the tank.
2. I loved your Travel Blogging website: Papillontraveller. Please tell us more about it. What does the name Papillon mean? How did you come about to choosing this name for your blog?
The word “Papillon” means butterfly in French. Throughout my travel journeys I have changed and transformed myself into the person I am today, much like a butterfly coming out of its shell and flourishing. Why in French, I just think it sounds pretty.
3. What are you absolutely passionate about? And what drives you to achieving it?
Without sounding cliché my passion is people and travel. I love getting to know people, where they’re from, their belief systems, how they operate. Travel allows me to follow my passion and also lets out the curious wonderer inside of me. The world is made up of 7 billion people on this planet, each one of us with our own thoughts and ideas. Travelling around the world, opening my eyes and heart to the different cultures firstly really makes me appreciate what I have at home and secondly gives me a greater understanding, compassion and patience for the people around me. There is always something you can learn from somebody else. Along with this I’m also passionate about culture, the history and food of a place. I’m a great believer in if we can understand the past we can move forward freely in the future. My other passion is animals, any holiday that involves visiting animals in sanctuaries or in the wild like I did in Africa is awesome.
4. Tell us about your decision to quit your job. What was the thought process behind it? And do you have any regrets? How do you fund your travels?
The truth is that it was only recently I have quit my job to pursue full time my career as a travel blogger. For the last 2 and half years I had this dream to live a digital nomadic lifestyle. I wanted to travel the world and earn an income while doing it. Travel blogging wasn’t actually my first career choice to achieve this goal. My first attempt at being a digital nomad was actually to sell products on Amazon. I thought this was a great business model to follow; I could find all new and cool products from around the world to sell. At the beginning it was successful, after a lot of hard work my products were selling. I wasn’t yet earning enough to support myself fully so at the time I was still working a full time job and working in my spare time on my Amazon business. After a few months I tried expanding my Amazon business with new products. I found though I had some issues with my first products and the second product was definitely not selling as well. I found myself after about a year’s effort in debt and working harder than ever to get myself out of it.
I tried a whole bunch of different things to get my business off the ground but it was a big flop and it seemed my dream would never come true. As a last attempt to get the business back up and running I decided to travel to India to go to a Trade Fare to find new products. Whilst planning my travel arrangements I thought I could also arrange other peoples travel arrangements there as well. Well that idea turned into a big flop however on this journey I rediscovered my passion for travel and wanting to help other people travel. I never found any products of interest to me in India but during my time there my travel blog was born. I had written my first blog post and was discovering myself as a blogger.
Still in debt, I was still in no position to quit my fulltime work for my blog however I did work my ass off in every spare minute I had to develop it. Problem was I was doing a fulltime job that was mentally and emotionally exhausting and it became increasingly more difficult to have the energy to work on my blog. There have definitely been times where I have felt that my efforts won’t lead to any success and my dream of becoming a digital nomad is just slipping through my fingers as I get older. Then came Africa. During my trip to this amazing country I realized life is too short to be doing a fulltime job that I’m not passionate about and doesn’t bring me any joy. I promised myself that when coming back from the holiday I will do everything I can to change my situation to work on the things I love and not just because I need to earn money. This decision has also come from the great support I have from my partner. So it was early July 2019 that I handed in my resignation to work fulltime on making my dreams come true.
The only regret I have is that I wish I made this decision sooner. There are so many inspiring travelers out there who travel full-time and left with only a minimal amount in their pockets and found a way to make it work. Even I made it work a few short years ago while I was living in Europe, I don’t know why I was so scared to make it work again. Truthfully I think its maybe the path I had to follow, no ones journey is them or is black and white. Everybody takes their own paths in life and do what’s right for them at the time. I guess I was doing what felt right for at the time, every decision I have made has lead me to this point in time right now and its exhilarating.
How I fund my travels is currently from my full-time income and savings. In the past this has not been the only method of funding my travels. I have learned in the past how to travel on a strict budget by saving on accommodation through couch surfing, volunteering and wwoofing.
5. You are a very young solo female traveler. Please tell us about your journey.
It hasn’t been an easy journey but most definitely a rewarding one. It came about when my partner in 2013 and I broke up whilst living in Stirling, Scotland and all in a span of 24 hrs I moved to Berlin and become a single solo female traveler. My life had literally been turned upside down and I had no family or friends around me that I could rely on. I couldn’t quit and go home; I had to find a way to make it work and it was honestly the most heart breaking and liberating time of my life. It was truly the best thing that could have happened to me.
I love being a solo female traveler, even though I now travel with my current partner, I will never forget how empowering it is to be tracing out your own path. I absolutely stumbled along the way. I had to learn how to read a map, decide where I wanted to go and then plan how to get their on my own, look after myself and become confident within myself to have the courage to approach people in hostels in attempt in making friends. I loved being a solo female traveler and highly recommend, male or female to experience travelling solo at least once in their life. Getting lost somewhere in a foreign place is the best way to find yourself. That’s what becoming a solo female traveler did for me.
6. Did you face any challenges / difficulties during the course of your journey?
Absolutely. Sometimes everyday was a challenge. One of the most memorable challenges I faced other than the time of moving to Berlin on my own was when I went to India last year. The purpose of going to India wasn’t for travel but for business however despite this it was hardest country for me to travel in. I’ve traveled to a lot of places before India by myself however it is the most confronting place I’ve been to. I was a white solo female traveler staying mostly the capital city in Delhi. Delhi is loud, busy, dirty and not overall a welcoming place to be. I found I had to be on my guard all the time watching out for people trying to scam me and even crossing the roads were a nightmare. It’s a different sort of chaos that I couldn’t connect with.
Along with staying in Delhi I stayed in a smaller town about an hours’ drive from the capital to go to the tradeshow which was the purpose of my entire trip. I remember staying in this guest house in the middle of nowhere, the only way for me to get around was by Uber, I couldn’t walk outside by myself, there weren’t many people around I could interact with and I remember just feeling so lonely. I had never experienced such a high amount of travel anxiety before. I was supposed to stay here for 6 nights to spend time browsing the Trade-show looking for products to sell on Amazon but I found I wasn’t in the right head-space to do this for 5 days straight. I ended up cutting it short to 3 nights and went back to Delhi for the remainder of my trip. It was the first time I wanted to actually go home early from a holiday. Despite my feelings of anxiety and loneliness I managed to stick it out. Back in Delhi I booked myself a private room in a hostel where I had the benefit of my own space with still the chance to interact with people which helped.
Don’t get me wrong there were still some beautiful parts of India I got to see and experience. The Taj Mahal was spectacular and the parks in Delhi were the only quiet places to be, but I would not be rushing back to Delhi anytime soon. I would love to visit other parts of India though as I believe the quiet areas are more beautiful.
The biggest lesson I learned with this experience is just to trust my feelings, do what’s best for me and just keep moving forward.
7. Any one lesson learnt or travel moment you will not forget?
My most memorable travel moment happened in NZ in 2016. I was traveling there on my own and had hired a car to drive from Christchurch to Wanaka. The drive itself took about 6 hrs but it was the most organic majestic time of my life. I was in the car on my own, no music, just me, the road and nature. NZ is a breathtaking country. There was so many times I had to stop to take in all the scenery. I just remember feeling completely grounded, happy and at peace with myself and the world. So simple yet so powerful and now every time I’m feeling sad or beaten down by life I remember that moment and remember life is beautiful and I can do anything.
The biggest lesson I learnt as a traveler is to trust myself, trust I know what is right for me, and trust that despite how scary travelling to a new place or meeting new people can be; I can do it. I trust that gut instinct that keeps me safe and trust that I can handle anything. No matter what, just keep stepping one foot in front of the other, just keep moving forward.
8. Any words of wisdom / advice to all the people out there? There are so many of us who have certain dreams or passions that we want to pursue, but are struggling within ourselves, are not sure or are second guessing and having doubts about it.
Life is short. There is no time to waste chasing your dreams and even though the path may not be clear and you will face plenty of obstacles and believe me there will be lots, trust in yourself that you are more than capable.
9. What is your idea of Bliss? Are you following your Bliss?
My idea of bliss is to be living a life that you are happy with everyday. It is to find the joy out of the little things and to appreciate all moments in life, including the good, the bad and the ugly. This is whether I’m traveling, at home with my partner or hanging out with family and friends, I appreciate the time I spend with others and am thankful for the moments we have together in life.
I would say most of the time yes I am. There are definitely times when I’m feeling frustrated at life because I’m not where I thought I would be at this point of time in my life, I’m still working on my dream of being a digital nomad travelling the world but I have now accepted the fact that it’s ok I’m not there yet. The true failure would be giving up on this dream all together. Unfortunately as much as you try you can’t plan for everything that happens in life. So finding the joy out of the small things while working on the big things is living in bliss.
10. What is your ultimate Travel Goal?
I recently have achieved my first travel goal which was to reach 30 countries before 30. I was actually shocked when I realized that I achieved this in only a short 6 years. My ultimate travel goal is to live and to travel to as many places in the world as possible. I’m selfish, I want to experience the whole world, LOL. My next immediate travel goal will be to travel to 50 countries before 40 and to live overseas again somewhere for a minimum of one year. This I plan on doing next year.
Thank you Jessica for doing this interview with me! Your journey so far and all that you are doing is truly an inspiration for me and all those reading this blog.
I wish you all the very best in everything that you do and sincerely hope that you continue to follow your bliss and that you are able to fulfill your travel goal to travel to 50 countries before you turn 40!
Stay tuned for this space, as I come out with another smashing interview very soon.
Till then, keep traveling and keep sharing your stories of inspiration here.