Happy Earth Day! All month long, Airheart has been celebrating travelers who are passionate about our planet and sustainable and responsible travel. Today, we’re featuring travel couple Margherita Ragg and Nick Burns of The Crowded Planet.
Margherita and Nick met in 2004 while they were both exploring the city of London. As they were both passionate about travel individually, it naturally became a big part of their lives as a couple. They began their popular blog, The Crowded Planet, over 10 years ago. Margherita shares her passion for travel through writing, while Nick captures the destinations they visit through photography.
When they travel to a new destination, they focus on nature and outdoor adventure experiences to lower their carbon footprint. They share their tips, guides, and thoughts on ecotourism from the 50+ countries they have traveled to together.
We talked with Margherita and Nick about how they started their careers in travel writing and photography, thoughts on how all travelers can incorporate sustainable practices into their trips, and where they’re heading next.
Tell us about your blog. How did you come to the idea of creating it? How has it evolved since its creation?
We first came up with the idea of The Crowded Planet during our round-the-world backpacking trip in 2009/2010. We wanted a space to chronicle our adventures so everybody back home could read them. After that trip, the blog lay forgotten for a few years. Then, in 2013, we “revamped” it and started writing again, this time paying more attention to the design and quality of our articles. Over time, we started focusing less on traveling on a budget and more on sustainable travel, which also reflects the development of our interests and traveling style.
Your travel focuses on nature and adventure. What is it about this type of travel that interests you most?
We both really like nature and outdoor adventures. We love sports, so we like doing things that keep us active, like hiking, cycling, kayaking, and the like. These kinds of activities are also kinder to the environment. Since we often fly to our travel destinations, we try to engage in activities with a low carbon footprint once we’re there.
What are some of your favorite activities to do to experience nature when visiting a new destination?
The tagline of The Crowded Planet is “Finding Nature Everywhere.” We like to check out parks and green spaces when we are in cities. One way to immerse ourselves in nature is through running. We both love running, and whenever we do it, we don’t take phones or music with us, so we are 100% at one with nature. We also love trail running in natural places, especially if we know we won’t get lost! If you don’t like running, you can have the same experience walking, but remember to leave your phone at home!
You’ve talked about traveling responsibly on your social media and website. What does that mean to you, and how do you think other travelers can incorporate more responsible practices into their traveling?
Prioritizing low-emission activities such as walking, hiking, or cycling is one way for sure. Everybody will also tell you about taking reusable bottles, cups, and straws, but there’s a part of responsible travel that is all too often overlooked: engaging with local people in a responsible manner. For instance, we always like to stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants, and take tours that introduce us to local culture. We like to make sure locals benefit from our spending directly and try to avoid big international companies acting as middlemen.
What are some of your favorite memories from your travels?
Oh, there are so many, it’s very hard to choose one. I’ll go with two. One is standing in front of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela after a month and a half of walking the Camino. It was such a strong, emotional moment that we even forgot to take a picture of it! Another great memory took place in Etosha, Namibia, on the day of our 10th wedding anniversary. We arrived at a waterhole in time for sunset and saw elephants, zebras, and other animals surrounded by the majestic setting sun.
What have you learned about yourselves through traveling?
When we started traveling, my dream was to find a way to work and travel at the same time so that I could travel forever. Many years later, this dream became a reality, and for a while, we traveled full time. To be honest, though, I think we are the kind of people that like to have a home base. We love our cat, our family and friends, and just the feeling of being home. By having a home base, we enjoy traveling more as we look forward to our trips. When we traveled full time, one destination just rolled onto the next and, after a while, it got old.
Do you have any advice for others looking to get into travel writing or photography?
Some say the market is saturated, but I say otherwise - there’s always a need for good writers and photographers! I would recommend studying and practicing before looking for paid work, perhaps asking some seasoned professionals to show you the ropes. In terms of writing, there are so many dime-a-dozen writers out there that good ones really stand out - and can be paid well. Take time to learn your craft, and success will follow. Avoid going too fast, too soon; success doesn’t come overnight. And please, don’t trust anyone who will say a $100 course will turn you into a travel writer/photographer!
Are there any upcoming projects or travels that you’d like to share?
We’ve just finished two really big trips - Australia to visit Nick’s family, with a stopover in Abu Dhabi on the way back, and Mexico for a sustainable tourism project (and tacos). During the summer, we typically travel around Italy and Europe, spend time on the beach and do some cycling trips or triathlon races. We usually leave for extended trips in October/November again, but after COVID, we find it really hard to plan ahead. Three countries we’d love to visit are South Korea, Costa Rica, and Colombia. One of these will be our next destination, but I don’t know which one!
To learn more about Margherita and Nick, and to keep up-to-date with their travels, visit their website.