After working at Getaway for three and a half years, I’ve decided to leave my dream job and embark on a freelance travel writing career (and start a mobile yoga studio).
My assignments for Getaway have taken me on some incredible adventures, from hiking into an active volcano on Reunion island, tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, overlanding from Joburg to Malawi in a Mini, trekking in the Namib Desert, beach hopping in Mozambique, rafting in Zambia, partying at the best festival in the world, eating my way around Mauritius, Prince Albert, Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, road tripping in Namibia and riding elephants in India.
In short, it’s been an awesome ride. Apart from the fun stuff, I’ve learnt a couple of things along the way about travel, people, food and how to pack light.
1. No matter where you go, once you get past superficial differences (language, culture and strange tastes in dancing), we all have a lot in common. Sometimes the differences cloud what we share, but they are always there if you look hard enough.
2. On the whole, people in most developing countries want to help you, rather than steal your stuff. There are mostly good people out there, and it helps to drop the cynicism that many of us have.
3. Amazing places to stay aren’t defined by how much they cost. I’ve stayed in campsites, guest farms, dorms, backpackers and some of the world’s top luxury hotels, and the ones I’ve liked best are not necessarily the most expensive. It’s all about the people who work there, the effort put in to make the place more than a collection of rooms and the location – whether on the banks of a river, in the wilderness of a game park or on an undeveloped stretch of coast.
4. Food leads you to the heart of a culture. Whether it’s eating sushi in Tokyo’s top Michelin-starred restaurants, tucking into a curry from a roadside stall in India, or eating deep-fried cassava sprinkled with lime juice and chilli in a Kenyan village, there are stories behind everything you eat in a new place. Learn the stories and connect with the people behind the food and you’ll learn more about a place than you ever would by reading a guidebook.
5. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a 4×4 to travel overland in Africa. I’ve driven over 4500 kilometres from Johannesburg up to the top of Malawi, and along the coast of Mozambique in a Mini Cooper and didn’t have so much as a flat tyre. Off-the-beaten-track travel is generally a lot easier and less scary than guidebooks (and travel agents trying to sell package holidays) will have you think.
6. Always have your camera with you, ready to shoot. Once you see a good photo opportunity, shoot it right then and there rather than waiting for another chance to get a similar photo, or shooting it on the way back.
7. Travelling light is the only way to go. I used to try and pack for every weather eventuality, lugging huge suitcases around countries and wearing only half the clothes I brought, but now I stick to a strict list. Unless your trip requires heavy duty gear (I’m thinking a polar expedition or heli skiing) try and fit all your clothes into a bag small enough to fit into the cabin.
8. Locals make the best guidebooks: connect with them through blogs and social media and you’ll get the best insight into a place.
9. Travel apps aren’t essential (remember a time when we all managed to travel without cell phones?) but they do make life a lot easier. Travelling organised is about jacking up your smartphone.
10. You don’t have to travel to travel. Reading great travel writing will teach you more about the world than going on package holidays where you only see in the inside of the airport and your resort.