Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the first UK Blogger Ambassador for Papua New Guinea. Please meet Simon Heyes of Simon’s JamJar.
What is your name?
Simon Heyes. Although I have several nicknames…many people know me as Bambi…
Which country do you come from/call home?
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
All of the above I guess. I lived in North Carolina for a year, I travelled a lot for business between 2008 and 2012, backpacked around South America, Australia, New Zealand and China for six months in 2012/13, and currently backpack and travel around the UK for work and further abroad as a travel blogger.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
Mostly savings. I don’t spend a lot on material things like clothes. I’d prefer to spend money on exploring a country or city that I’ve never seen before.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
I remember driving to the West coast of France with my mum, dad and sister when I was 8 years old. I met other kids from other countries, learnt a little French (even if it was only to order two large portions of chips) and remember roaming around the campsite by myself. I guess that was my first taste of independence!
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Yes, specifically Colombia and Zimbabwe. Both have received really bad media coverage in their own way, and quite often our perceptions of a country are formed by what we see on TV and read about in the press. In both cases – and in complete contrast to popular belief – I felt safe, the people are some of the friendliest people you can meet and some of the sights and experiences in those countries far outweigh any negative publicity the UK media can throw at them.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
I fell quite ill when travelling through Bolivia. It took over 6 weeks for me to finally recover. Turns out it was a parasite that was zapping my energy and eating everything I put into my system! Oh, and I also had emergency root canal treatment in Argentina. That was quite the experience.
Do you have any funny travel stories?
I have loads of funny travel stories! I once travelled with a guy who was led over the Venezuelan / Colombia border, taken to a farm and made to have a chicken fight with former footballer Carlos Valderama. Another story from Papua New Guinea was all the local tribespeople don’t know the names of different plants and flowers. Despite being keen gardeners, they just generically call them all ‘flowers’. So when my dad and I travelled around Mount Hagen, we were supposed to be doing village tours but ended up spending more time naming plants so the local men could go and impress their wives!
One of my favourite travel stories happened at the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, on the Northern Colombian coast. After bathing in volcanic mud, I was led down to a river by an old Colombian lady to wash the mud off. This friendly but stern Colombian woman told me to sit down in the river and began washing off the mud. A few others from my tour group followed behind me, so we were all sat in the river together, memories flashing back to being washed in the bath as a child. That memory soon disappeared as the washer women then made us all take our shorts and bikinis off, as they demanded they washed them too. So there we all were, strangers a few days before, sat together naked in the shallows. It was quite the bonding experience!
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Brisbane Airport. For a place that has so many long layovers it has barely any amenities, and they all close early.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
South Island, New Zealand. Unspoilt nature at it’s best. Where else in the world can you hike on a glacier in the morning and then surf in warm seas in the afternoon?
You recently went to Papua New Guinea, and took your dad. Can you tell us more about the trip?
In December 2014 I won a travel blogger competition and became the first UK Blogger Ambassador for Papua New Guinea, one of the least visited countries on Earth. I got the chance to take someone with me on my trip there in May and chose my dad. He’s not as young as he once was, so to give him the opportunity to see part of the world nobody else has seen seemed logical to me. We spent 12 days travelling around the country and islands and it was like nowhere else on earth. You can read and watch more the trip here – http://www.simonsjamjar.com/p/papua-new-guinea-ambassador-blogs.html.
‘Adventure Travel’ is a phrase used by many travel bloggers. How adventurous have you been on your travels?
I’ve hiked around live volcanoes, done a bungy jump in Australia, skydived from 15,000ft in New Zealand, cycled the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia, tried guinea pig in Peru and dog in China (although I didn’t know it at the time) and swam in Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe where crocodiles roam. I’d say I’ve been pretty adventurous, but then again ‘adventure’ is pretty subjective.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?
Definitely. I’d love to travel across Central America, explore Russia, Mongolia, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Petra in Jordan, and I would LOVE to see Antarctica. So many places, so little time.
Can you imagine life without travel?
Not at all. It’s provided me with so many memories, so much inspiration, so many friends and shaped the person I am today.
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I’d still be doing geeky digital marketing work, and probably working outside, doing landscaping work. Something that is close to nature.
What is the name of your travel blog and the URL?
Simon’s JamJar. You can find it at http://www.simonsjamjar.com.
When did you begin your website?
I started the blog on the 1st January 2006. I used it as a testing website to see what I could make rank on Google, so none of the posts were particularly travel related until around 2011. It means it’s my 10th anniversary in blogging is next year!
Why did you call it ‘Simon’s JamJar’?
Good question. When I set it up (New Year’s Day) my brain was lacking a little creativity, so I looked around the open plan kitchen diner for inspiration. On the window ledge I saw an empty jam jar and my brain kicked into gear. I wanted to write content and stories that were short and succinct, much like what you could fit into a jam jar. Ten minutes later the blog was born!
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
To inspire more people to travel. If someone buys a plane ticket or a hotel based on the information and stories I’ve put on my blog, I would be a very happy bunny. It’s also a great way to share my stories with family. They live up in Lancashire and I live near London, so most of them keep up with what I’m doing based on what I put on the blog, and on my YouTube channel.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
I love telling stories. The blog is my storytelling platform. Unlike most other travel blogs, I try and provide a different perspective on travel and destinations. For instance, I wrote a post earlier this year about the terracotta warriors in China. It wasn’t a post about how to visit them or where to stay. It was about how they weren’t the biggest finding in Xi’an, and are simply part of a bigger discovery.
The blog is filled with stories and practical tips for South America, Australia, New Zealand, China, Zimbabwe, Iceland and more.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
Nope, not at the moment. Only travel and food stories from around the globe.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My most successful post has been either 13 spectacular images of Papua New Guinea before my trip in May 2015, or my post on the ultimate campervan route in New Zealand, which has been promoted by Lonely Planet a couple of times.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
Tough question! I enjoy writing all my posts as they are all personal to me, but my favourite one as to be about cycling down the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia. I was one month into my 6-month trip, and was footloose and fancy free. This was an awesome experience, so to write about it when I was still full of adrenaline made the whole experience even better. It was then picked up and used by Wanderlust Magazine, which added to my enjoyment!
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
Plane. Cars buses and trains are fun, but the process of arriving at an airport and knowing that everyone in the same building is heading off to a destination around the world is pretty special. You also get much better views of the world from high up in the sky.
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Just go and do it. Many first time travellers have doubts about spending money on travel and escaping from their comfort zone, but believe me it will be the best thing you ever do.
What has travel taught you?
It has taught me to be patient. It has taught me to be humble. It has taught me to appreciate the little things in life and always look at the big picture. It has also taught me about different cultures and given me a very different perspective on what is important in life.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Singapore Airlines. The A380’s are brilliant planes.
Favourite country? Colombia, closely followed by New Zealand.
Favourite city? Does Queenstown count? If not, New York.
Favourite beach? Playa Blanca, Colombia.
Favourite food? You can’t beat fresh Thai food. Or lomo saltado from Peru.
Favourite language? Spanish. It just has a sexy edge to it.
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://www.simonsjamjar.com
Twitter handle? https://twitter.com/MrHeyes
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/simonsjamjar
YouTube page? https://www.youtube.com/user/mg0srh