Quick Facts: Nick Kembel
Quick Facts: Spiritual Travels
Did you know? This website’s theme color is that of monks’ robes and temple roofs in Asia.
Please keep scrolling down to read my full bio!
How I fell in Love with Travel
Mostly I try to stay behind the camera and in the background of this website. I’m definitely not the “Instagram influencer” type, and this website is not meant to be about me. But if you want to know a little more about the person behind the articles, here it goes!
I fell in love with travel in 2001, a year after graduating from high school in Canada. Two friends and I went backpacking for six months in New Zealand, Australia, and SE Asia on a super low budget. During that trip, somewhere in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, I had a moment of zen and realized that travel was my life’s calling. I also fell in love with Asia from the moment I stepped foot on the continent.
In university, I specialized in Asian religions & cultures and wrote my thesis on Tibetan Buddhism & politics. I was also the president of my university’s chapter of Student for a Free Tibet and I even had a chance to interview the Dalai Lama’s sister-in-law.
Upon graduating, I embarked on multiple backpacking trips that took me to 50-something countries, mostly solo. Some personal favorites included Guatemala, Ethiopia, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, India, China, and Myanmar.
My Taiwan Story
Asia had always remained my favorite, and I eventually realized it would make more sense to base myself there instead of continually paying for expensive flights around the world from Canada.
So off I went to be an English teacher, first in Thailand, then China, and finally Taiwan in 2008. The latter country proved to be incredibly comfortable, so I ended up living permanently in Taiwan. To get an idea of why I fell in love with this East Asian island nation, take a peek at my 55 favorite places in Taiwan!
One day at the end of my first year in Taiwan, a short, cute Taiwanese woman shyly approached me on the Taipei MRT to chat. Within a few years we were married, I moved in with her family, and we welcomed Sage & Lavender to this world.
In 2011, I wrote my first book, Taiwan in the Eyes of a Foreigner. It sold over 7000 copies and brought me a few minutes of local fame. Teaching kids had never really been my thing, so I used the success of my book to launch a career in freelance writing and tutoring working professionals.
In my 11 years in Taiwan, I worked for several of the country’s largest English textbook publishers and became the head editor of an educational software producer.
I’ve authored or contributed to over a dozen books and produced numerous educational videos. I’ve also taught and delivered presentations in several colleges & universities, and tutored top executives of big name computer companies in Taiwan.
How Spiritual Travels Was Born
The work I did in Taiwan was highly varied and satisfying in many ways, but my heart and soul was always in travel. For years I explored every corner of Taiwan whenever I got the chance, first with friends, and later with my wife and kids. I started writing for travel magazines in Taiwan, and eventually some bigger names like CNN and National Geographic Traveller. I also once guest hosted a CNN documentary about offbeat things to do in Taipei.
I had been blogging for years by that point, but always as a hobby. When our kids arrived, I became a stay-at-home dad and put my blog on the back burner for a few years. But in early 2018, when life started getting a little easier again, I finally decided to transform my hobby into a career.
I completely redid this website, learned proper SEO, and then started pumping out content about my adopted home, Taiwan, and some neighboring countries. I sought to create the ultimate resource that I wish I’d had when I first arrived in Taiwan and Asia. Within 1.5 years, Spiritual Travels was being read by hundreds of thousands of people per month!
I was finally doing what I loved most: helping people plan trips to my beloved Taiwan. On top of that, my numbers were skyrocketing every month, and I was earning more than double the income I ever made from teaching or writing for textbook publishers. The success I achieved with this site was far beyond what I had ever dared to wish for.
Where I'm at Now
Ironically, right around the time my Taiwan travel blog started really taking off, my wife and I left Taiwan to move to my hometown: Edmonton, Canada. It was a complicated decision that was many years in the making, and we truly love both countries, for different reasons.
So we got rid of all our stuff, sold our apartment, then traveled around the world with our kids for 2.5 months. We then settled into our new home in Canada just before then COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Like most people in the travel industry, I lost all of my income practically overnight.
Once we are able to again, we plan to maintain a close connection with Taiwan and spend part of every year there. Our kids are in a Mandarin bilingual school in Canada to continue learning Chinese, and our hearts are still very much in Taiwan.
I also continue to help travelers plan their trips to Taiwan via my free Taiwan Travel Planning Group.
Why the Name "Spiritual Travels"?
If you know anything about blogs and websites, you are probably aware of the importance of having a defined niche. But ever since I started this website, I’ve had something I call “niche identity crisis.”
In my early years of backpacking, I had always been attracted to the great spiritual centers of the world. I gravitated to places like Amritsar & Jerusalem, I walked many pilgrimages, and I bedded down in temples.
So my initial idea was to create a website that focused on these kinds of experiences, hence the name. But by the time I got to it, most of those travels were behind me. And as my years passed in Taiwan, that’s where my true expertise developed.
At the same time, I didn’t want to create a Taiwan-only niche website. I wanted to travel to other countries and include them, too. But even though that’s what I did, my Taiwan content was the real meat of this website, getting the lion’s share of my traffic at first.
Then, once I had kids, my whole world changed. I suddenly found myself bringing Sage and Lavender everywhere I went, showing them the world. My content inevitably went in the direction of traveling with kids, both in Taiwan and in the 10+ countries they’ve already been to.
The most recent chapter in my website’s journey has been my return to my homeland, Canada, which I am now enthusiastically rediscovering and, of course, writing about.
In sum, my blog started out as spiritual journey, but as I entered new phases of my life, those transformations have been reflected in the focus and content of my site.
This also explains why I’ve always kept the URL of this website as my name (nickkembel.com). Change is constant, and I don’t want to start a new website from scratch every time my life situation shifts. So who knows what direction this website will take in years to come?
Maybe someday I’ll drop the “Spiritual Travels” name. But for now, even though my latest travels tend to be mainly focused on collecting information for this website and simultaneously keeping my kids entertained, the name represents my roots, so I’m sticking with it for now!