My Life as a Travel Tester

A modern day Austrian camper in Greece. (Photo via wikimedia commons)

Growing up with gadgets
My grandfather used to write books on lightweight travel, camping, and survival. Because of that, I’ve never really had a holiday in my childhood without using a quirky piece of travel gear.

It wasn’t just pans with extra thin bottoms (for better performance on camping stoves) and spoons with the handles cut half their size (to save space); it was the whole experience of these trips. To start with, we didn’t have a caravan like normal Europeans families; we had a trailer tent. Once unfolded, this brown monstrosity became the size of a small circus tent that included a cooking area, two bedrooms, and an entrance big enough to fit an elephant through, all separated by canvas.

With that tent, we drove all over Europe in search for places that, preferably, weren’t located on any map, so my mum kept busy during the long drives. I must admit that, apart from a field of grain every now and then, my dad drove us to the most interesting places you could imagine. We camped in a family’s backyard in the Czech Republic, walked through a ghost town in France, fed elks in Sweden, and experienced authentically late Spanish dinners. No joke, we even saw a real extra-terrestrial crop circle in the South of England!

Whenever we would come back from one of our adventures, we would have hours of photographic and video material to sort through, a suitcase full of quirky souvenirs, and tips for hundreds of ‘off the beaten track’ activities and local museums. It would be very useful for others, if it were ever possible to relocate it on the map that is. In short, my youth was one big (and very unorganized) product review.

Nienke testing her travel gear to its limit

Go, Go Gadget Arm

I still love to discover new places and won’t let an opportunity go by to try out nifty traveling equipment. As a matter of fact, whenever I’m on a trip I seldom rest from looking out for new tours, modes of transport, restaurants, accommodation options and other travel related services to write about. My bag is filled with anti-mosquito socks, solar chargers, the latest head torch, foldable forks, and books about survival in the jungle. Even if I’m on a city trip to Paris. You can’t make me happier than by letting me believe there will be great adventure ahead of me.

Sometimes I do find it hard to switch my travel testing mode off though. As soon as I enter a hotel room, I have to take a picture of the bed (before I jump on it). I don’t pray before dinner, but instead take a snapshot of my plate. My travel companions already know me and patiently wait for my self-modeling sessions with my hiking boots at 4000 meters up in the Himalayas. And they don’t mind as long as they don’t have to talk about the benefits of traveling with a solid shampoo versus one that comes in a bottle.

More to explore

It’s probably too late to cure this affliction of mine, but I’m sure that when I join the Travel Tester Anonymous there will be more people with the same addiction as me. Maybe we can meet up in the retirement home and write reviews on bingo nights, trips to the park, and the latest hearing aids together.

If you’re one of these people, my advice is not to listen to anyone who thinks you’re a bit odd. Keep gathering those brochures and receipts. Never stop taking pictures of menus and information signs. Carry that notepad with pride and have a fresh look at every place you visit. Be sure to share your reviews with the world and especially, don’t forget to take your kids. Who knows, they might really come to appreciate it one day.

Nienke Krook

About Nienke Krook

Amsterdam born Nienke ['neenkuh'] went from camping in Europe to backpacking all over Asia and Oceania. She fell in love with another Dutchie in Sydney, where they now live and enjoy their expat life. Working as a hostel receptionist and travel agent, Nienke meets travelers on a daily basis. She loves to give travel advice, testing out travel gear and never stops planning new trips to later write about.