A V A R O X A N N E S T R I T T O F @ S P A T R A V E L G A L
Original beauty and travel blogger Ava tells us why she loves what she does.
We were lucky enough to have an exclusive chat with one of the top travel writers and Instagram travel bloggers in the US, Ava Roxanne Stritt of @SpaTravelGal last month when we both visited the Fairmont Pacific Rim Willow Stream Spa in Vancouver, BC. She is as warm and authentic as it gets and her experience travelling the world and showcasing what she loves, is an inspiration to many. Her Southern hospitality and passion for unique experiences and meeting new people makes her a favourite for many to follow as she always has fun stories, beautiful pictures and honest reviews and feedback to share.
She works with many high-end brands such as Travelocity, Rocky Mountaineer, Fairmont Hotels, Delsey Luggage, and BC-based, Seaflora Skincare to name a few. Her success as a travel and spa writer didn’t happen overnight and her hard work and dedication to being her authentic self, paid off. As one of the original beauty and travel bloggers on Twitter, (she originated #skincaresundays in 2009), her first blog was My Skin Concierge. Now with over 33.8k Twitter followers, over 57k Instagram followers and her own website Spa Travel Gal, she’s one of the go-to resources for all things spa, travel and beauty.
As an avid animal lover, who lives on the water in South Carolina, she also shares a passion for wildlife, protecting the environment and spending time with her wonderful family and pets. Her unique childhood and experiences growing up shaped who she is today so we hoped to learn more about how she started off in the travel industry and what advice she could give others that hope to start a travel blog of their own.
WSR: Tell us about how you got into being a spa travel writer?
Ava: I think the biggest thing was the inspiration of my mother travelling the world to study education when I was young. Just knowing that she was traveling the world all over from Russia to India and sleeping in a thatched hut on the Bay of Bengal doing what she loved was such an inspiration! She was a writer and an educator who also spent time nursing hikers that were climbing up the Himalayan mountains to reach the top of Mount Everest and she inspired me to go and explore the world myself. We were always reading National Geographic growing up and I started looking at all the luxury hotels serving afternoon tea at luxury retreats such as the Ritz Carlton. It was Mother’s Day recently – a day I love to celebrate. I’ve been lucky to have spent this day enjoying afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton in Berlin, in the past! Also I was lucky enough to have spent a Mother’s Day in Baden-Baden, Germany with my mother. Her favorite country due to her heritage is Germany and we were able to celebrate the day at Brenners Park Hotel & Spa and also visit the new wellness retreat Villa Stephanie. During this trip I was also able to experience the 19th century thermal pools of Freidrichsbad – something all spa lovers need to experience.
WSR: What do you love most about what you do?
Ava: I like meeting interesting and like-minded people that like to get out in the world and discover things and explore. For example, sitting at a dinner table having French wine in the middle of Berlin, having great conversations with other travel writers from all over the world and being reminded why I love what I do. I can remember one night we were sitting there in Berlin after an official press trip I was on, was over, listening to all the other travel writers tales of where they’ve been and what they’ve done. Moments like that inspire me.
WSR: What has been one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had to date?
Ava: I fell in love with Montreux, Switzerland – it’s such a great relaxing place and I now know why many celebrities have gone there; why they have the Montreux Jazz Festival there, and why the song “Smoke on the Water” was made there. I got to take my husband into the room where they recorded “Smoke on the Water”. Also I know why Freddie Mercury ended up spending his time there and Queen had a recording studio there because it’s a very peaceful town on a glorious lake – swans even enjoy staying there! My favorite photograph I ever took was of a swan out on Lake Geneva just enjoying the day.
There are some nice spas in Switzerland too. Switzerland is a mixture of all the regions around it so you can be in different parts of Switzerland and you can feel like you are in Italy, Germany or France. You can travel across Switzerland very easily too. I was having a late breakfast in Montreux and we said the weather is good today, let’s go see the Matterhorn and because of their amazing train system, we were able to. My husband likes to get out and go too so when I’m with him I’m on the go, I’m not laying around in the spa as many people think, I’m on the go doing many wellness activities such as hiking and climbing mountains. It’s more accessible than people think to get up to Gornergrat, that’s the viewing area where you can see the Matterhorn. Being there reminded me of a little toy I had growing up of all these little skiers that my mother brought home from Europe. When I was going up the mountain to see the Matterhorn it was like a flashback to the toy I played with when I was young.
One of the other memorable moments that I’ve had, had nothing to do with spas. We were down in Key West and I got to go in the Hemingway Home and see the six-toed (polydactyl) cats and you can play with them (they want you to) and my future daughter-in-law was looking at me and she said, “Your having a moment aren’t you?” because I’ve been to Key West plenty of times but the home was always closed so you know you can have a moment, even when it’s not in the spa. Just find things to do – don’t stress over having to find the perfect thing to do. Sometimes you don’t know what you might like until you do it. This is also a reminder to just be you online or in person. You are all amazing just the way you are and don’t try to be something else.
WSR: Where are you off to next?
Ava: I’m off to Cabo with my family on a family vacation. We rented a home on the water and plan to go fishing, hiking and eat some good food. That’s where we’re also going to ride camels and go four-wheeling and stuff like that so hopefully it will be relaxing. There will be 6 of us, all my kids and my kids best friends are coming – big kids so it’s not like I”m baby-sitting or cooking – the guys cook in our family.
I like to go on unique trips that maybe other people have not been to, I want to do things that inspire people to go out and see things where you can’t really get the experience from a video or YouTube. We did Disney a lot and it was wonderful, we went 4-6 times a year when my kids were little but now that they’re bigger I’ve been able to take them a lot of different places. We’re going on a canal barge tour in France, a very small boutique luxury experience kind of like the Rocky Mountaineer, which I’ll be doing after I get back from France in October, it’s a very unique and exclusive way to see the Canadian Rockies. The barge tour is privately owned, you can normally rent out the whole thing or just one suite and I’m going with a friend, Nancy Brown, who’s a travel writer and our husbands are going too and we will go down a canal in France that goes from Nancy to Strasbourg in the Alsace region, and it goes very slow and you can just take in the scenery and it will stop at every little town and take you on excursions to wineries and historical castles. The spa experience on that one will be in the hot tub, so I have my hydrotherapy right on board. So that’s a very unique experience and I like being able to show things that people don’t usually do every day or you don’t see a lot of other places.
WSR: What are some other things you enjoy doing outside of travelling and spas that you are passionate about?
Ava: Definitely animals. My husband and I use to be head of an animal sanctuary in Georgia, we did a lot of animal rescue work and support and there’s a place called Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary that’s special to us. We’re also really big on no plastics, “Pass On Plastics” is a big campaign my daughter works with a lot.
Also I’m a Barre3 gal! You’ve got to counter effect all the damage from travelling. I usually go somewhere every month and I said I’m going to need a whole month where I don’t go anywhere because it takes a whole month to fix all the damage you do on the trip. When you are on long plane rides you just want to eat and drink and sit and watch movies, I can’t sleep on planes either, so coming home is my time to recharge and refresh.
WSR: What advice do you have for people that want to start a spa or travel blog?
Ava: Just write about what you love, don’t try to be anybody else or do what anybody else is doing. Just be inspired with what you truly love. You can go to a spa down the street, you can find a good skin care product, you can do a spa treatment at home, just do what you really love and don’t be obsessed with what other people are doing. A lot of people can’t get out and travel like this but you can go down the street. My best friend owns a boutique cottage spa and I’ll be going there this afternoon to get my eyelashes refreshed before my trip so I have spa days that are down the street too a lot of times, not always around the world. You can have amazing spa days close to home for sure.
Don’t forget to discover things near you. I’m really excited because in a couple of weeks in Congaree National Park near my house, there is a lightning bug phenomenon that happens there certain nights in the Spring, you have to time it right and they’re just everywhere, it’s magical. I think every Southern kid grew up chasing fireflies. I’m going to be there when night falls, I don’t know how many good photos I can get but the 12-year old girl in me will come out.
I would also definitely say start looking towards using more sustainable products. The next volunteer work that we really want to do, as we are always thinking about sustainability (not just recycling but reusing and not using plastics), is working with a group called 4Ocean. After this trip our family is going to plan to “Travel for Good” and go on a trip with 4Ocean and go out and clean the oceans with them. My family and I are big water people, we’re always on the water. Be sure to follow my articles on Travelocity about Travel for Good.
To learn more about how you can “Travel for Good” and tips on booking a vacation for a cause, read Ava’s article on Travelocity here.
-Liz, WSR Editor in Chief
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