One of the best parts of travelling is meeting amazing like-minded people! These chance encounters often blossom into true, long-lasting friendships. Even people that just pass in and out of your hostel offer incredibly inspiring stories. I once met a young guy who was cycling the whole way around Australia by himself, and another man was making his way from New Zealand to England by land and sea, proving to his friends back home you don’t need money to travel the world. I’ve decided to start Interview with a Traveller, a post dedicated to interesting people we meet on the road.
This week, I was super-excited as one of my best travel friends was arriving in Melbourne. We met in a hostel in Darwin three years ago and hit it off right away over a jug of sangria by the pool. Since then, we have re-united for some crazy nights in Melbourne, a golden time in Broome and most recently, South-East Asia! The last time I saw her, we were zip-lining through a jungle in Laos! Here’s what Lisa Uphill has to say about travel:
1. What was your first overseas trip?
I was fortunate enough to enjoy some wonderful Summer holidays in Europe with my family when I was younger (and one or two boozy holidays with mates) but my first big trip was to Australia. I was 23 and had suddenly found myself in a rut. I had become stagnant in a poorly paid job with the same company I had been with for nearly 5 years…I needed a huge change. I’d always wanted to go backpacking but never thought I’d summon up the guts to go on my own…turns out it wasn’t so hard! I didn’t have unlimited travel funds, just my modest savings, so I applied for a one year working holiday visa to subsidise my travels. I booked a flight at the beginning of Summer and by the end (after months of enduring the emotional cocktail of nail biting anxiety and sheer excitement) I was on my way. I had no idea what to expect! Having heard mixed opinions from people who had travelled alone I decided to give myself four months to stick it out, be brave and make friends. After 4 months I had forgotten all about this and had already experienced things I didn’t even have the imagination to dream of! I ended up staying 2 years and visited 6 of the states and territories….I have yet to visit SA so that’s still on the bucket list!
2. Where are you right now?
I am in my favourite city (so far) Melbourne. I’ve returned to Australia after 3 years to visit some friends (one of whom writes kick-ass blog) before heading to NZ on another two year working holiday visa.
3. How do you finance your travels?
For my last trip around South-East Asia I knew I wouldn’t be working, so for just over a year previous, I lived with my parents and saved my butt off. I was fortunate with my last job in England because my hours meant that my parents and I were like ships in the night during the week. I worked 2pm until 10pm, so by the time I got up in the morning, they were at work and I had the house to myself. This kept us all sane! My simple advice (whether you’re renting or not) would be to calculate all your monthly outgoings, take out a reasonable amount and chuck it in a separate savings account and just be very aware of what you have left so as not to overspend.
4. How do you make time for travelling?
I’m pretty proactive in finding work as soon as I return from a trip because the sooner I start saving the sooner I’m off again. I tend to work as many hours as I can if the job allows overtime. I also book my visa or flight out to my destination fairly far in advance so I have something to work towards. After that, it’s just a case of biting the bullet and quitting…there will always be other jobs.
5. Hobbies on the road?
I was big into bracelet making when I was living in the sleepy town of Broome in Australia. There’s a fantastic little bead shop there, which I’d spend hours in. It was a nice pastime whilst sat on the beach and a nice gift to give to my new travel buddies.
Surfing is undoubtably my favourite hobby. I went to a surf camp in Gerroa, two hours South of Sydney, where I had the time of my life and fell in love with the sport. I’ve just started surfing on the regular since I went to Indonesia this year. There’s a good little surfboard shop in Kuta, Bali called ‘Naruki’ where I picked out the right shape and size for me. There are some fantastic spots in Indonesia for beginners…as well as all levels. My favourite spot for its beginner friendly point break is in a tiny fishing village in West Java called Batu Kuras. If you ever go there, be sure to sample the huge local prawns at Bayview Seafood Restaurant – I had two weighing in at half a kilo. They were incredible!
6. What is your travel style? How has it changed over the years?
In terms of organisation, I plan nothing, book nothing other than my flight out and maybe the first couple of nights accommodation and absolutely wing it! I find its much easier to let the plans unfold organically because I’m always influenced by other travellers and it’s hard to know how you will feel about a place until you’ve experienced it. If I can, I like to work in my favourite spots, because you meet some great people and learn some invaluable local knowledge.
My style (in terms of lifestyle and spending) has varied a lot since I made my first trip. Sometimes I enjoy being really thrifty and and sticking to a strict budget (at times it’s very necessary!) and sometimes I live as I would at home or on holiday with lots of treats. At times, it’s dependent on whether or not I’m working and, other times, a certain lifestyle just lends itself to the area I’m staying in. I’m a massive foodie so I can’t bring myself to living off noodles if there are fantastic food joints to hit. In Asia you get the best of both worlds, because the food is delicious and so cheap.
As far as when I arrive at a place, I never settle for the first accommodation I see – I’d rather scale the whole coastline in the midday sun, visiting every home stay or bungalow available to find the perfect place. Oh – and once I’ve checked into a room, my bag explodes all over the place within minutes! To quote my boyfriend, I pull the zip and it’s like inflating a life raft of clothes!
7. What three items do you always put in your backpack?
Besides the obvious passport etc I have to have….
- Tiger balm – essential for soothing mosquito bites, who love my blood!
- Denim shorts/hot pants – a good pair will do you for day or night time if matched with the right top. And can be worn with leggings for the colder days.
- Havianas – my flip flop/ thongs/ jandal of choice! In a neutral colour so they go with everything and look alright with a casual dress or whatnot for the evenings.
Oh!! One more….I do love a good flannel shirt for long bus or train journeys when the air con gets a little nippy.
8. Favourite place so far?
Ohhh this is far too tricky. So many amazing places and often it’s the people who make it. If I was to be very vague I would say Australia is my favourite country for the sheer diversity in landscape, lifestyle, scenery and cuisine. It’s somewhere I could definitely see myself settling. There are some stunning places in South-East Asia, my favourites being in Thailand and Indonesia….collectively they make up the trip of a lifetime but I could not pick one. Instead I will list a few of my favourite experiences:
Snorkelling with Manta rays on Australia’s west coast, those creatures are so majestic…they glide slowly and gracefully through the water with their 6ft wing span and seem to bare no mind to humans swimming along next to them. A very surreal experience.
Bungee jumping in Cairns – what an exhilarating experience! I’ve never felt such a rush of adrenalin. I’m looking forward to experiencing the 10 second free fall jump in NZ.
Skydiving…also in Cairns. I found this surprisingly less scary than a bungee jump…I felt euphoric gliding through the air over the stunning coastline.
Staying in lake huts and trekking through the jungle in Khao Sok national park, Thailand. This place was so beautifully picturesque and very untouched by tourists. We had so much fun playing about on the floating logs on the lake. The view of the lake at sunrise is the most awe-inspiring and serene sight I’ve ever seen.
I was working for the Nomads Hostel in Airlie beach, Australia. A bunch of us had staff rooms at the hostel and we all became really good friends…there was always some shenanigans going down. One day, a few of us were cleaning out a room when we heard a blood curdling scream and ran outside to see one of the girls pointing at the wall shrieking that there was a huge spider. I looked over at what appeared to be a cluster of thick wool or something in the corner. It was in fact a bird eating spider….like legitimately a bloody huge tarantula looking thing…right there….just chilling…in the wild…not in a zoo like I’d only seen them before. It had every right to be there, considering we were in a very tropical area, but was very unexpected none the less.
Anyway the story doesn’t stop here…a few days later I was showering in our shared bathroom which, as you can imagine, being frequented by several backpackers, was pretty untidy. I was looking down at a ball of a load of black hair ties when I realised….no no….it was of course the spider. I’ve never moved so fast. Turns out the poor thing had died and had been used for a mean trick…..once I’d discovered this I had to get my own back. I took the dead spider and placed it in the sink, spreading out its thick hairy legs so it appeared to be alive. I waited in the room, chuckling an evil laugh under my breath for my friend to come in….only for her to walk right in….glance, shrug and walk back out again. My plan had failed. I did however manage to scare the life out of myself when I went in later to get ready for work and had totally forgotten it was there!
10. Where to next?
New Zealand. My boyfriend and I will fly into Auckland and probably settle for a short while there so we can buy a camper van. We plan to do a lot of surfing whilst we’re there. I’d tell you more but that’s about the extent of our planning!
Thanks Lisa! I hope everyone enjoys this post as much as I’ve enjoyed reading it. I look forward to hearing more about these New Zealand adventures in the future. Stay tuned for more Interview with a Traveller as we set off on our road trip around Australia!
Note: All answers and photos supplied by Lisa Uphill.