I travel for so many different reasons. I travel to see different landscapes, taste new foods and hear new sounds. I travel to set foot on new beaches, swim in new seas, climb new mountains and get lost in new cities. I travel to learn about new cultures, to meet new people and be inspired by their stories. But more than all of that, I travel to have my values and judgements questioned, to open my eyes to new ways of being and to find better ways to live my own life.
What has been your favourite country and why?
This is such a hard question as I have gained so much from so many different countries and places! Nepal, with the highest mountains in the world is an inspiring, magical place, with perhaps the most spectacular scenery that I’ve ever seen in my life.
Colombia, with its colour and vibrancy, music on every street corner and warm, welcoming people is a place that I would love to return to.
And Catalunya (Spain) where I am currently living with it’s relaxed, friendly lifestyle, fascinating history and proud culture is a place that has become home to me in a short space of time.
What has been your biggest culture shock moment?
My biggest culture shock moment occurred when I left England for the very first time on my first solo adventure. I booked a one-way ticket from London to Kathmandu, Nepal, and when I arrived after a 10-hour flight, the culture shock hit me like a hot blast of air, literally.
Kathmandu’s streets were a crazy, dusty mess of traffic, people and animals. Rickshaws, lorries and ramshackle cars almost collided as they drove at a fast pace down the main high street. As men sat dressed in capes getting their hair cut on the pavement, cows meandered slowly by in all directions and children played at the side of the road. Compared to England’s orderly streets, this was chaotic, and it took me a while to get used to it!
Slowly but surely, I began to navigate my way around the hectic city and after a few days, as I started to get used to, even thrive off, the new pace and spontaneity, my culture shock gradually faded. However, I will never forget that first feeling upon leaving the airport, when I felt like I was stepping into a brand new world!
What inspired you to write a book?
After living in South East Asia for seven years I had so many stories of adventures and mishaps and had met so many interesting people that I felt like I was constantly saying to myself – ‘I should write a book about this one day!’ And so, one lonely night, in a particularly dismal hostel in Malaysia as a rat ran back and forth across my ceiling, I started to put pen to paper, or rather fingertips to laptop.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about going on their first backpacking trip?
– Have a flexible plan. Don’t book hostels for the next six weeks, especially in South East Asia and South America. It’s much better to be flexible about where you want to stay for a longer / shorter period of time, depending on weather, local festivals, who you meet, or how much you like a place.
– Pack light. When you hit the road, you’ll realise that you can buy pretty much anything that you’ve forgotten to pack, so don’t try to fit the kitchen sink in your backpack.
– Get off the beaten track. Go places that aren’t in your guidebook, venture off the main tourist street and find your own private patch of paradise that hasn’t been written about or photographed a thousand times.
That said, I find that you just can’t beat the advice found in the wise words of the pioneering founder of the Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler –‘All you’ve got to do is decide to go and the hardest part is over.’
Want to live your very own thrilling adventure off the beaten path? From the Philippines to Peru to South Africa, Free & Easy has got you covered!