Susan and James, the married couple behind the travel blog The Savvy Backpacker, have been traveling around Europe together for six years. Both from the state of Missouri, the two packed their bags when Susan got an internship in Paris in 2011. They’ve been traveling ever since.
“We mainly focus on the details of travel planning,” James explained. “We do some trip reports but we try to keep those as informational as possible. Basically, we put our readers’ needs at the heart of everything we write.”
They’re not here to give their readers romanticized tales of travel. They’re here to nail down the details, get to the nitty gritty, and make sure that they have all the intel to help you plan your perfect trip.
“We plan a lot so that helps minimize the chance of us screwing something up,” James said.
But they’re backpackers, remember, so they’re not planning their trips so much that they’re doomed to failure.
“We’re not super serious planners,” James said. “We’ll research about what we want to see just so we don’t miss anything, but we don’t do a minute-by-minute itinerary. Also, we don’t like to be rushed so we normally don’t do more than one big thing per day when traveling. The rest of the day we’re happy to wander around and stop for a drink if we’re tired.”
James remembers a time when he didn’t do much planning, though. It was his first trip to Europe and he was traveling solo with just a Eurail pass — and no plan. He had barely done any research, so he whizzed through European cities without knowing what to see or do. Luckily, he learned his lesson.
“The moral of the story… plan enough so you don’t miss stuff but don’t plan so much that you have no flexibility.”
Now, James and Susan have a way of doing things that ensures they see what they’re traveling to see, while also including some time to relax.
“In October, we rented Vespas and rode through the Tuscan countryside. The weather was absolutely perfect. If I had millions of dollars I would buy a villa in Tuscany and ride a Vespa everywhere,” James said, reminiscing on some of their most noteworthy travel moments. “But my favorite thing was walking the streets of Paris on a nice summer night. Nothing better.”
Walking the Parisian streets at night isn’t the only thing the couple love about the city. It’s also an ideal home for their fluffy Maltipoo, Henry.
“Henry is quite the international traveler, that’s for sure. We would take him around Paris and people would want to stop and take a photo with him (he’s quite the ladies man). Paris is great because it has all kinds of sidewalk cafes so we loved taking Henry there.”
Being a perfect place for Henry is just one reason that the couple loves their adopted home — one reason of many.
“I think Paris will always be our favorite city for a million reasons,” James said. “First, it’s a very livable city. There is a good amount of green space, the Metro is amazing, there are lot of small shops and farmers markets, it’s a stunning city, the museums are excellent, and there are easy connections to the rest of Europe.”
But they’re travelers — even perfect cities give way to the human need for newness and adventure. The couple (and Henry) have recently moved to New York City and are excited for all the different travel opportunities that their new home base presents. Already, they’re noticing similarities between their old city and their new one.
“ I do think the Parisians get a bit of a bad rap,” James said, when asked about being an American in Paris. “I’ve noticed that they’re similar to New Yorkers — the ones who deal with tourists all day can be jerks but the normal citizen is happy to help — assuming you don’t get in their way as they’re going to work.”