10 Questions For (26): Sheila Scarborough of Family Travellogue

Happy to present to you a social media canon Sheila Scarborough of -Yes! of what not? 🙂 – Sheila Scarborough.com, of Family Travellogue which is in the Bootsnall Travel Network and contributing to Perceptive Travel Blog, belonging to the Perceptive Travel Online Magazine. I believe I missed some:-)

Sheila Scarborough
(photo courtesy Korey Howell Photography)

1) Who Are You?
I’m a writer specializing in travel, automobile drag racing and Web 2.0/social media. I also speak, teach workshops and consult with companies about how to communicate effectively using social media.

I grew up in a Navy family, and after college I served in the Navy myself for almost 23 years, aboard ships on both US coasts and in Japan. My shore duty assignments included a NATO command in the Netherlands (in Brunssum, near Maastricht) so I’ve enjoyed a lot of travel opportunities.

When I left the Navy, I decided to become a travel writer, and a journalist friend said, “If you’re going to be a writer, you need to have a blog.” So, in between pitching for print assignments, I started my BootsnAll family travel blog in February 2006, then later also joined the Perceptive Travel Blog to write about more general and cultural travel.

The drag racing work started when I got an assignment to blog from the track at the Gatornationals, a big race near my home in Florida. I fell in love with the action, the noise and the stories about the participants. Sports writing is a good mental change from travel writing, and I’ve also done longer motorsports-related articles in Texas Highways magazine and online with Automotive Traveler.

The social media work is the result of the skill set I’ve developed after three years of blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I have a Navy Master Training Specialist certification and spent a lot of time on instructor duty, so it’s very natural for me to teach and speak.

2) What do you like about what you do?
I love to tell a good story and to guide people to worthwhile destinations, especially the unexpected, less-glamorous places. I often say, “A monkey could write ‘My Secret Tuscany’ but it takes talent and effort to make some obscure back road or small town compelling.”

Blogging and other social media platforms are perfect for me because I love to connect people and tell stories to the widest-possible audience.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
It is so difficult to make a living from creating Web-based content. It will get better, because the value will increase as the world continues to move online and to mobile, but if I did not have a military pension, I’d have never made it this far and I’d be stocking shelves at my local IKEA.

I am thankful that I stood all of those bridge and engineering watches aboard ship, at all hours of the day and night; those hours “bought” me the chance to live my dream now. Thank you also to my Sainted Husband, Chris, who has a steady job as a mathematics teacher.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.
I’ve been working with the BootsnAll Travel Network since August 2008 to transition my family travel blog to a new URL and template. Boots has done a lot with destination-based content, but not that much with a family travel topic, so we’re both excited about continuing to work together. We see no reason that independent travelers can’t continue to see the world even after they have kids.

The Perceptive Travel Blog is also doing really well; we like to highlight places and tell stories that you won’t find elsewhere. My only regret is that I’ve never had a chance to meet my co-bloggers in person (Nia Malchik in New York and Liz Lewis in New Zealand.) Some day….!

Hong Kong View from the Star Ferry by Teen Wolf

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
** Hong Kong (although now that I’ve visited Shanghai, I have to pause a moment before saying that. There’s a new competitor in my heart.) I’ve visited Hong Kong several times, and always loved its energy, business focus, bright colors and go-go people. The harbor view from the Star Ferry never fails to make me grin like an idiot.

** Chicago, because it is a no-nonsense town that appreciates and supports great art, architecture and public spaces. It’s like New York City, but not so full of itself. Chicago’s location on Lake Michigan, and the Chicago River running through the town, lend it an unexpectedly maritime flavor even in the middle of the Midwest. I appreciate big expanses of water next to a vibrant city (when will someone buy me a ticket to see Sydney?!)

** The Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala. I was only able to spend a little time there, but it took my breath away. Jungles, monkeys, climbing ancient pyramids and looking back over the treetops; wow, what’s not to love?

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Actually, I don’t really care about hotels. That’s funny for me to realize, but I had to think hard to answer this question. I do not travel to stay in nice hotels or resorts, I travel to see the place where the hotel is located. As long as the lodging is clean and convenient, I’m happy. I drop off my suitcase and leave to go explore.

Here’s my best effort:

** The Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi. Converted sharecropper shacks in the heart of Delta blues country, and the snazziest bottle trees I’ve ever seen. (Close second is the Bayou Cabins in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, because hosts Rocky and Lisa Sonnier are so genuine and I like being right on the Bayou Teche.)

** The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) cabins in Bastrop State Park, Texas, near Austin. These small stone “Hobbit cottages” were built in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, but they are beautifully-maintained and have charming hand-carved fireplace mantels with nice sayings like, “Old Friends Are Best.”

** Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu, Tokyo. Give me a good futon and fresh-smelling tatami mats, and I sleep like a log. The bath looks out over the Asakusa Kannon temple and the pagoda is beautifully lighted at night. Bliss.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?
** A sunset Mai Tai at Honolulu’s Sheraton Moana Surfrider hotel, near the banyan tree that was planted in 1904 on Waikiki Beach. Watch the sun’s rays play over Diamond Head, and wonder why you don’t live in Hawaii.

** A gin and tonic in the InterContinental lobby bar in Hong Kong, on Kowloon side so I can watch the nightly laser light show on the spectacular buildings across Victoria Harbor.

** A Dairy Queen Peanut Buster Parfait near Jawad’s grocery store in Manama, Bahrain. It was so absurd to be eating one of my favorite fast food ice cream desserts on an island in the Persian Gulf (or Arabian Gulf, depending upon your political perspective.)

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
** A bad drinks/appetizers experience at Inn of the Anasazi bar in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I think we hit on a bad night or the staff was all in a bad mood or something, but it was a perfect example of an expensive place that didn’t deliver on service. If you charge me an arm and a leg, you’d better make it worth my while.

** The Waxahachie, Texas American’s Best Value Inn. I was covering a drag race and had to get lodging at the last minute. This place was gross in just about every way, and I wrote a blog post rant about why it is apparently impossible to find a decent, clean room for one person for US$50/night. Most commenters on the post told me that I got what I deserved, but US$50 is a lot of money for some people. Should only the well-off get decent hotel rooms?

** London. It took several trips there before I stopped resenting how much money I had to spend to do the most basic things. It was not fun to look at every price tag and have to mentally double whatever number was listed. I thought I was clever enough to “go cheap” in just about any big city, but London put me to the test, particularly when the kids were with me.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accomodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
** Enjoy swimming in or near Austin. Try a dip in spring-fed Barton Springs Pool, Hamilton Springs Pool or go inner-tube floating in the clear, cool Guadalupe or Comal Rivers.

** Watch the Mexican freetail bats fly out from under the Ann Richards Congress Ave bridge at sunset from May to November (the world’s largest urban bat colony “hangs out” under the bridge.) Then, go eat Mexican food at Guero’s, Maria’s Taco Xpress, Chuy’s or Fonda San Miguel.

** Come visit us in the fall for the three-day Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park (it’s better for music fans than South by Southwest Music, in my opinion) or the Texas Book Festival. The Book Festival in particular is a little-known event outside Texas, but it is extraordinarily well-run and has so many wonderful speakers and presentations, all held in the Texas Capitol buildings.


10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
You’re Dutch, so I’ll bet you’d like to know what I thought of living in the Netherlands.
** I love Zuid-Limburg, the “Dutch Alps” region where Brunssum is located. It is the prettiest, greenest area, with lovely little distinctive villages. It’s too bad that so many never leave Amsterdam to see the rest of the country.

** Most underrated city – Rotterdam. Love the cutting-edge architecture and even the tourist cruise of the amazing harbor facilities.

** One of my favorite memories – Taking my son and daughter (on separate trips) to visit the Waddenzee islands of Terschelling and Texel. They were so relaxing, but I did miss the chance to go wadlopen (mud-walking between the islands when the tide is low.)

** What I think about the Dutch – They are brutally frank and honest. I like that a lot. They speak multiple languages without apparently breaking a sweat; I am embarrassed that I can only speak bad French. They close stores and take Sunday off to be with family; they know when to stop working. They are very picky about having clean windows and house entrance areas; I always felt like the neighborhood slob because I kept forgetting to clean mine.

** What I miss most – Fietspads (bicycle paths.) The Dutch have a whole system of bicycle lanes, many with their own stoplights and signage, so you aren’t sharing the road with cars. It makes cycling so easy and safe, unlike in the US when I often feel I’m taking my life in my hands to ride anywhere.

Best wishes,


My Observations
Thank you for being my guest Sheila. Impressive lady! I loved Todd’s Iphone video stream of your SXSW performance together with Pam. Much less formal than our ITB09 sessions in Berlin. Having lived in The Netherlands is a great plus:-) You have a standing invitation, whenever in the neighborhood, and provided I didn’t sell my boat, for a private boat tour The Hague – Rotterdam (Center and Harbour) – The Hague. Boat’s top speed 30 kn and cruising speed 22 kn. Distance The Hague – Rotterdam Center 31 nm. Thanks again!

5 thoughts on “10 Questions For (26): Sheila Scarborough of Family Travellogue”

  1. Great post! Interesting questions!
    I agree, swimming in austin, especially barton springs is one of my favourite things to do.
    I really enjoyed Texel as well, especially the seals.
    I do feel like London is worth the splurge, but I supposed as a brit I have a bit of a bias.

    I’d love to see you interview some other bloggers.

  2. Hey! I have a blog about aviation and tourism. I found you on Blogcatalog and I wonder if we could exchange tips about trips and get linked each other on our blogs. What do you think about it? We could exchange a little banner or just a link.

    I hope to hear from you soon.
    Best regards,
    FA Dan

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