Today I’m delighted to interview journalist, full time travel blogger and contestant for an Ironman competition. Please meet Monica Stott of The Travel Hack.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?
I’m a bit of everything. I have a home base in England but I’m a full time travel blogger so I travel about twice a month. I usually travel for around 10-15 days a month and spend the rest of my time at home or somewhere around the UK.
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
The Travel Hack http://thetravelhack.com/
When did you begin your website?
I began blogging in 2009. I was writing for my local newspaper’s blog while I was training to be a journalist and then began The Travel Hack in 2011.
What do you mean by the term “travel hack”?
Initially I meant it as a travel journalist, using the word ‘hack’ as in journalist. And then the term ‘travel hacking’ become more popular so I guess it’s about this too. I’ve also write about ‘hacks’ and general travel tips so it means both.
How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
During my first big trip I spent four months in Asia which I saved for. I then went to Australia where I worked as I travelled and saved again for another few months in Asia. After that I worked full time and saved for shorter trips. These days I usually go on press trips and receive media discounts which help me travel as much as I do.
What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
When I was younger my uncle had an apartment in Menorca where we went for family holidays so these are the first trips I remember. We went every year from before I was even born and there are some very pregnant pictures of my mum on the beach. This is where I learned to walk, learned to swim, overcame my fear of the sea and eventually tried paella and sangria and other tasty treats for the first time. Menorca may not be very exciting but it brings back great memories.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Morocco was completely different to how I imagined. Most people I know have visited only visited Marrakech so I imagined the whole country would be busy and hectic and filled with exotic markets but once you’re outside the city it couldn’t be more different. The High Atlas Mountains are beautifully serene and peaceful and the Sahara Desert makes you feel like the last person on earth. It’s one of my favourite places in the world and I can’t wait to go back someday.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?
The only really bad experience I had was in Java in Indonesia. My boyfriend and I were travelling on an overnight bus and both of our cameras stolen. To this day we still have no idea how or when. The moral of the story is that thieves are clever and you have to be so careful.
It was mostly frustrating because we’d just climbed Mount Bromo, an active volcano that spews balls of hot lava into the air. Our photos were incredible and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity so we were so sad to lose those pictures.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to and why?
Java, see above.
I know one experience shouldn’t taint your overall perception but it always does.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I don’t have one favourite place but Thailand is definitely up there. I haven’t been for years but I spent 3 months there in 2011 and I have the most incredible memories. For me, Thailand has everything from food to culture, history, lovely people, incredible beaches, beautiful countryside, scuba diving and a friendly, welcoming and relaxed attitude.
You are about to head to Austria for a special event, please tell us about it?
I am. I’m going to Austria at the end of August to take part in an Ironman. I’m doing a team event with two journalists and I’m taking the run section. It’s a 13-mile run (the same as a half marathon) but I’m training hard because I don’t want to let my team down!
You’ve been dog sledding in Canada, what was that like?
It was incredible. I absolutely love dogs but I was shocked by the wild nature of the huskies. They have so much energy and they just want to run! It’s an amazing way to travel through the snowy countryside, it’s peaceful but exhilarating at the same time. I had a go at steering the sled but I was useless. I fell off immediately and my huskies were running wild!
What made you want to take a campervan holiday? Was it comfortable?
I wouldn’t say it was comfortable but it was a lot of fun. My boyfriend and I bought a campervan in Australia and spent just over a year driving around the coast. It was a great way to see the country because you have so much freedom. You drive until you find somewhere you like and stay for as long as you please. We’d fish for our dinner and cook it on BBQ’s on the beach and we stumbled across pristine beaches without a single soul on them. We met so many interesting people along the way and it’s great to get off the usual tourist trail and see a different side to a country.
Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it? Is there anything left to go on it?
My bucket list is so long! South America is at the top of it. Every time I go somewhere new I find something else to add to my bucket list so I don’t think it will ever get any shorter.
What do you do on a plane to pass the time?
I sleep. It’s both a blessing and curse that I usually fall asleep on planes before they even take off.
Can you imagine life without travel?
If you were not travelling what would you be doing instead?
I’d be bored out of my mind trying to think of ways to make life more exciting. I honestly have no idea.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I began writing for the memories. I love looking back through old journals and reading what my former self thought. It brings back great memories and I’m usually shocked at how much I forget. I then wrote because it’s therapeutic and a great way to sort through my muddled thoughts. I now write for a mixture of reasons including because it’s my main source of income.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
The Travel Hack is somewhere between a backpacker site and a luxury travel site. I began as a backpacker but as I’ve got older I appreciate a little luxury when I travel. I haven’t quite lost my backpacker roots but I’m not ready to pay for first class flights or 5* hotels either.
The site is filled with tips on how people can travel luxuriously on a budget.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
I previously worked in social media management so I offer social media consultations, mainly to clients within the travel sector.
What is your connection with gapyear.com?
I used to work for gapyear as a social media specialist. Gapyear is part of Flight Center and I worked on a number of different brands during my time there.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My most successful post is one I wrote at 3am because I couldn’t sleep. It’s ‘How to survive living in a campervan…for a year…with a boy’. It’s a light-hearted and humorous take on what it was really like and some tips for anyone wanting to do the same.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
The campervan post was my favourite. It brought back so many great memories and makes me laugh even when I read it now.
What is your favourite mode of transport? (plane/train/boat/car)
Plane. I love airports and the excitement before boarding a plane. I love sitting down to relax and watch a bunch of movies. I even love plane food!
Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?
Travel isn’t nearly as scary as you think it is. Everything gets easier once you’ve booked the ticket.
Also, pack light. Travelling is so much easier when you’re not weighed down with heavy luggage.
What has travel taught you?
You don’t need ‘stuff’ to be happy. Experiences and people make you happy but the latest gadgets and expensive possessions don’t.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Virgin
Favourite country? Thailand
Favourite city? London
Favourite beach? Whitehaven Beach, Australia
Favourite food? Thai red curry
Favourite language? English (sorry, I only speak English)
Please provide the following:-
Website url? http://thetravelhack.com/
Twitter handle? https://twitter.com/TheTravelHack
Facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/TheTravelHack
Google+ profile/page? https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MonicaStott/posts