Humans are innate travelers and that explains our yearnings and longings for places we haven’t been to. Louise isn’t an exception. But she is, for she had the courage to leave everything behind to steer her life around world travel. Finally, she became a traveling nomad. Adventure, people and places and hitting the road became her life! Read her inspiring story and check out her incredible pictures.
So, hello Louise! let's start with introducing you. Let’s start with the inception of your journey to being a traveler.
Hello! As long as I can remember I wanted to travel the world and see what else was out there. However, I did what everyone else around me was doing and went to university and got a job. When the long term relationship I was in broke down it was the push I needed to take the plunge!
What you have done is what most people dream about: leaving everything behind to pursue what you and only you want. Could you narrate a bit about how you came to make this decision?
I booked my round the world with a 5 stops ticket and headed off to Australasia. At the time it was trendy to go to Australia so I figured that would be a good place to start but with some research, I decided I wanted a bit more. So the itinerary was Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia. After Australia I flew to Singapore, travelled overland through Malaysia and Thailand and flew home from Bangkok. 6 months in total.
Your first big adventure was a jumpstart. Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia. What was your biggest takeaway from there? And the most favorite travel memories of this big adventure?
I did my PADI Open water, took a ride in a helicopter, did a canyon swing and learned to surf. These were some of the highlights but also things that needed bookings. I realized that traveling requires planning and organization! When I first went I thought I’d be a hippy and just float from place to place but hostels and activities needed booking in advance haha!
Here I am surfing in Byron Bay, Canyon Swing in Queenstown and Kings Canyon near Alice Springs.
Hahahaha! We all learn the hard way, right? And mature that way! I must ask, how long did it take you to learn surfing? You seem to do it pretty well!
The surf school I learned with promised that we would stand up by the end of the lesson. They were right, I actually stood up for the first time - the photo you see there! But the surf boards were very long and user friendly.
This is so great, Louise! And what about bungee jumping? I for one would never touch that rope! How do you manage that courage?
I wasn't attracted to the idea of a bungee jump so opted for the canyon swing instead. The first time I jumped off front first like a normal bungee. I loved the thrill so much I asked to do it again. That time I was strapped to a chair and rocked off backwards as you can see.
I was younger then. Throwing myself off things came quite easy haha.
Hahaha! The young age and its vigor really does wonders! Moving past, photography has been like a guiding light that’s been with you since you started traveling. Tell me, how is experiencing a place hands-free vastly different from looking, capturing and looking again?
When I visit a new place I have to remind myself to look first, absorb the scene, then take photos. But I find it hard to do as I get so excited about what I see and the photos I'd like to take of it. I think perhaps I actually aim to shoot amazing photos, then from there select the most insta-friendly ones! ;)
It seems to be the way of the world now - to share the amazing places we are with the rest of the world instantly.
Very true! Do you also think people are in one big race of covering countries, forgetting to delve into the nuances each land has to offer. But I must say, your snaps hold that feeling of belonging very dearly!
Thank you! :) Yes I see it a lot online and with some of my passengers too - this urge just to tick off as many countries as possible. But I prefer to spend time in places and revisit them. Get to know the locals and absorb the culture.
I know, right! How do you strike a balance between the two? And what does it take to really get absorbed by a place?
I'm lucky now in my job as a tour leader that I visit places several times so the first time I take lots of photos then on follow up visits I simply enjoy just being there. I'm sucked in by awesome nature! That's what I mostly enjoy.
Recalling from absorption, what do you like exploring more in a place? The people and their cultures or getting absorbed by the ambience?
Hmm I find those two hard to separate as I think they go hand in hand. People and their cultures create the ambience of a place for me.
I understand what you mean. Yet, places have a life of their own that mingles with that of the people. You are in the intersection. Perhaps that's the reason behind your beautiful pictures. Being a photographer myself, would like you to give me a comprehensive list of travel-photography gear? This is really important for all the newbies out there.
Sure. I use a Sony Nex 6 (pretty old and beat up lol) with kit lens and a 55-210 lens. I have a pack of filters - polariser, UV and ND and a Tairoad tripod. I also have a DJi spark drone and a gopro hero 4.
Since you are into people and cultures, you could also buy a 35mm prime lens. Their results are great!
Yes if I had money to spare I would add a lot to kit list! Hopefully soon :)
You surely would! And even without them, you manage such breathtaking pictures, Louise! Let's move on to the next question. Do you think of yourself as a digital nomad? Or do you also yearn for a place to return to?
Am I a nomad? Yes. Am I a digital nomad? No. As a tour leader I travel the world but in between contracts I return home to Wales. That is to say, I come home and visit family and friends, but I don't have a house anywhere.
And you don't prefer a constant place to keep returning to? One which you can call home?
I am starting to lean that way but until now it hasn't been financially viable. The other big question is where "home" would be?! Maybe in the Alps haha!
Hahaha! Who doesn't want that? And this nomadic life has taken you to a gamut of different places. It’s amazing. Tell me about your snowboarding experience in California. All about it.
In 2009 I moved to Canada and trained to become a snowboard instructor. I ended up staying for 3 years. After my work visa expired I decided to apply for instructing jobs in California where the weather was less harsh! I got offered a job working at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe and jumped on the chance. I used to teach kids from 5-14 yrs old, mostly in group lessons.
I signed up originally for one Winter but loved it so much I returned the following year and then staying in Tahoe for that summer also. Good times and great memories!
In the summer I decided I wanted to see every part of Lake Tahoe so I packed up my bike with a tent and cycled around the lake, stopping along the way to try single track trails and do some hiking!! :D
And how long did it take to complete one cycle trip? Are there any en route pictures that you took?
I actually made a video about the trip:
I took my time and spent about 5 days. It’s not that far around lol.
From these 3 years, what has been your biggest takeaway?
I knew from that point on that I needed to spend my life in the mountains. It was where I loved to be so it was as simple as that!
Very few people know themselves as clearly as you do. But then again this is what traveling does to you... In your blog, you mentioned about a road trip that you undertook. It's simply astonishing. Let's hear all about it from you.
Ah, you mean driving a truck from Istanbul to Beijing and back?! Haha. Yes, this is a trip I've done a couple of times now. As I've mentioned I'm a tour leader and I lead overland adventure trips to off the beaten track destinations…
Mongolia is an overlander's paradise! No roads, just drive wherever you want! Here is our overland truck pulled up to make camp for the night. Our Mongolian guide demonstrated his table tennis skills!
The hiking and wine in Georgia are amazing!
__And in Goreme I took my first hot air balloon ride! I highly recommend it :) __
In Kyrgyzstan, we caught a game of goat polo!
And in Turkmenistan, we visited Darwaza crater - the gateway to hell!
Last year I did the Silk Road (Istanbul to Beijing) again but this time a slightly different route which included Armenia, Iran and Kazakhstan. It was for a different company but the same idea. Here are some of our stops…
The Silk Road is THE original overland route. It has so much history and the cultures along the way are extremely mixed so it's a great route to take.
Pakistan is starting to open up to tourists again. In the future, I'd like to do the trip again and include Pakistan and India. :D
Breathtaking! An enviable life you have! Tell me, what is the next road trip that you wish to make?
I'd like to buy a campervan and travel around Ireland this summer. Then later in the year it's "back to work" to run a trip from Colombia to Patagonia. Looking forward to going back to South America.
You surely will! Japan is one strange land that has so many things to offer. You mentioned you spent this winter in Japan. What is the most spectacular thing you witnessed there?
Yes, it really is. As a snowboarder, the big attraction for Japan is the endless amounts of snow they receive. Powder heaven! Perhaps my video show that best?
The views are pretty special too!
I would suggest you to start working on a documentary on the silk route! Going through your photography page, I found one picture of Northern Ethiopia that looked like a water body comprising beautiful colors. Would you elaborate on that? It looks so interesting.
Sure. That is the Danakil Depression. It's a depression created by the plates of Africa and Asia pulling apart. It's 125m below sea level and officially the hottest place on earth.
It's how I imagine Mars would look! Very hot! Must have been pushing 50 degrees by the time we left there. The average YEAR ROUND temperature is 34 degrees.
Oh no! Africa is one strange land. Your guide would prove useful there! Tell me, if you could take me to 5 most breathtaking places across the world, where would you like to take me?
It's a difficult one to narrow down but I would take you to
1. Perito Mereno Glacier, Patagonia
__2. Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina __
3. Ala Kul lake, Kyrgyzstan
__4. Volcanoes NP, Rwanda __
5. Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
Sadly, mine is a land of weak passport. I won't be able to go to these places perhaps, ever! We have almost reached the end of the interview. Tell me about the place you stumbled upon that could be your home anytime, at any point in life.
Oh no, that's not fair. Lake Tahoe will always have a special place in my heart.
I can well imagine you cycling all the way round the lake! How about you tell me about an embarrassing travel story that taught you many things about life?
Haha! Well of the ones I can mention on here, perhaps the time I arranged to fly from Mexico to Italy to meet my boyfriend. We'd talked about it and made plans and I realised when I was confirming flights with my passengers I'd booked my own flight for the wrong date! It was quite embarrassing as I was the person in charge of planning and organising everyone's trip and I couldn't get my own trip right! Anyway, it cost some money and caused some hassle but it got sorted in the end. Lesson-don't sweat the small stuff. Things usually work out fine!
Well! You are the second person to tell me this today. Hahaaah! It seems you have taken a sabbatical from traveling, right? What do you plan to do with this time?
Hahaha! I guess maybe it's true then! Yes I have a few months downtime. I'm mostly spending time in Wales with family and in England visiting friends. Hopefully squeezing in an Ireland trip too.
So, you really aren't taking a break. You are just doing small trips! What a life, Louise! Wish you all the best! It was great chatting with you, Louise. You have been extremely patient with me. I got to know about so many different places. And would like to ping you again for a detailed feature on your road trip! Really inspiring!
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