Meet December’s Guide Architect of the Month

Each month, we like to showcase someone from the Wild Bum community. This month, as our Guide Architect of the Month feature, we are introducing you to Gretchen Reese.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’ll start with the basics here! My name is Gretchen, and I am originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, though I have family all over the world. I consider myself to be an avid traveler and life-long learner. Above all – a lover of good food and good wine.

Sometimes I’ve considered myself to be a bit nomadic. Though, once I find a place that I love, I am quick to find myself quite attached. I’ve worked as a writer since my time in University, starting a freelance writing business to create custom hours and a job I love. Avoiding the not-as-flexible retail route that many choose to take instead. This was partially due to the fact that Wisconsin winters are brutal, and this offered the ability to work from home (score!). But it also allowed for more flexibility to incorporate travel into my priority list.

Whilst in University, I obtained a degree in mass communication and digital media. But, I found my true love in studying abroad in the UK twice during my time there. Post-graduation, I continued to prioritise travel and freelancing. Truly, the flexibility was the best piece of this – not just for external clients, but maintaining a lifestyle and travel blog. (Monochrome Minimalist) I recently launched a lifestyle and interview podcast (Passione: A Podcast by Monochrome Minimalist). 

However, nearly a year ago, I also took a full-time writing job with a technology company. They are based in Minneapolis.

What type of traveler are you and what would you say is your travel style?

My travel style definitely changes depending on my destination, and especially the people whom I’m traveling with. If I travel by myself, I tend to not splurge on accommodation. I actually love to rent a spare room via Airbnb or VRBO. You can meet so many incredible people this way. Honestly, I’ve made some of the most incredible friends by doing this. I have always loved to focus my travel on food – no matter who I travel with. Because of this, I tend to book hotels/rentals based on where I’d love to eat. Works every time.

I guess what I’m trying to say  is that my travel style is quite a flexible, go-with-the-flow type style. I don’t like to overcram my stay, because that can lead to unnecessary stress. I’d rather have an idea of where I’d like to go and what I’d like to see, and see what happens. Sometimes the best trips are made because you ventured away from your plan and off the beaten path.

Where have you been? Where has been your favorite place?

I’ve been to quite a few countries, I believe it’s up to eight outside of the US, still with many more on my list to travel to. It’s really hard to choose a favourite place – because I think each carry their own charms, pros and cons. Each captivates you with their atmosphere and creates unique memories. That being said, my most frequent travel destination – overall and in the last five years – has been London. So perhaps you could say that it’s one of my favorite cities to go to. However, other top contenders in this list are also Paris, Firenze (Florence, Italy) and Venezia (Venice, Italy). Italy is a beautiful country, one that is full of fascinating history – so, if London didn’t take the top spot, most places in Italy would be my number one.

Why did you decide to become a Guide Architect for Wild Bum?

Becoming a Guide Architect for Wild Bum was one of the easiest “yes’s” I’ve ever said. I love to research my destinations – understand the etiquette, try to begin to learn a language if necessary, learn where the best areas are to stay or which restaurants are the best to try. Travel research is such a natural process of every trip that I take, and sharing your research can actually be quite fun. Hence, Wild Bum and becoming a Guide Architect seemed like a perfect opportunity.

What guides have you created? Do you have any upcoming guides we can look forward to?

I’m (admittedly) a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to being a Guide Architect and creating my guides. I love to have options for any and all budgets, as well as different options depending on whether you’re traveling with friends, your partner, your family, etc.. That being said, I’ve got a couple of guides coming up on London – the one I’m most looking forward to is London for Lovers, a guide that’s a perfect pick-up for a couples’ trip, honeymoon or even a wedding present. It’s got London covered from every angle, with options for every budget – from low and minimalistic to a luxury English escape.

What is one thing you CANNOT travel without?

Is it considered cheating if I give you a top five?

If so, my absolute top travel item is my camera – or at least, something that I can capture both photos and video with. I love to create travel books following each trip that I take. I’ve been using Artifact Uprising to create these lately – which is a gorgeous small business that could be a lovely gift idea for a loved one or family member for Christmas.

I think I would be absolutely devastated if I couldn’t capture photos – because they always make such amazing and emotional memories to look back on after a trip – and also, they can create beautiful gifts or even home decor upon your return.

If I’m allowed a top five – it expands from simply my camera (or a photo capturing device), to a journal, a hair styling tool, a wear-it-for-anything outfit and (if I’m travelling internationally) a passport/power converter.

Reasons being – a journal is kind of like a camera for me, and as well, I’m a writer. I love being able to capture moments in time in both image and words. The hair styling tool for me is a must, because I’ve got curly hair that does what it wants – and when I’m taking travel images for my blog or client work, I prefer to look a little polished. The wear-for-anything outfit comes in handy if you don’t know what your schedule will look like – oftentimes in bigger cities, many restaurants or bars will have a dress code.

You never quite realise just how handy the wear-it-for-anything outfit is until either you or a friend can’t get into a restaurant you’ve been eyeing all day because you weren’t dressed for the appearance code of the establishment. The passport and power converter always come in handy. Obviously, you’ll need your passport for travel. The power converter helps to avoid any headaches once you land at your destination. It ensures that your devices from home will work wherever you go. 

How have you stayed inspired during this time where travel has not been as accessible?

You know – I think this has been the most difficult part of the pandemic for me. As I previously mentioned, I tend to at times view myself as a bit nomadic. I love being in Europe, France and especially Italy. Specifically, because I love the culture that surrounds community. The food, the easy style of life, the belief that luxury lies in the simplest pleasures in life. I also deeply love England. Finding my second feels-like-home in London – so not being able to travel has hit me particularly hard. 

However, I have been trying to cope as best as I can. Ask anyone close to me, and they’ll tell you it’s been necessary as my travel bug has been rearing and ready to go.

As a writer, one thing that has been incredibly helpful is creating stories. Travel guides or articles surrounding my travels, restaurants I love and trips that have changed my life. Part of this includes looking through travel imagery. Which is always a nice way to feel as though you’re still able to travel without leaving your couch. Creating a photo book has proved to be one of the ways that’s best kept the love of travel alive during the last ten months.

Another thing that I’ve really loved throughout the year is all of the virtual tours and classes that have been available online. For example, I’ve done an international etiquette course via an online finishing school. I’ve also taken virtual tours of Rome and Paris, and even began learning Italian.

Long story short, I think keeping my mind busy has been the key to keeping the travel blues away.

What is something you enjoy about being part of the Wild Bum community?

I love that this group of people was founded based on the idea that we’re all more connected than one might think. Through shared experiences, and culture commonalities and even family traditions. 

Wild Bum, in my opinion, doesn’t only just showcase a love for travel and travel research. But, also achieves the mission of showing us that we’re all more connected than we realize. This in particular is why I would recommend to anyone to join the Wild Bum community. Whether they be a Guide Architect or a subscriber. You’ll find a lot of like-minded people and immediately feel at home.

We are all about inspiring people to get out there and travel, use time-off to explore, and find their wild.

Tell us, when do you feel the most “wild”?

Travel – experiencing and seeing new places, is what brings me some of the purest joy I’ve ever felt. I’ve met some of the most incredible people, from venturing out of my comfort zone and seeing the world. If there was one thing that I could credit travel for, it would be that. Even though, surely, the list of travel benefits are much, much more.

If I could encourage everyone, anyone, even just one person to see more of the world – then I’ll be quite happy indeed. Go out and see the world. Experience it. Feel it. Embrace it. It will make you a better person – more well-rounded, more aware, more open-minded. Travel is the best medicine, it can heal any heartache. And it always makes you appreciate where you come from.

If you haven’t already, be sure to read this post to meet another member of our community, and last month’s Guide Architect of the Month, Maddie.

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