Travel opens up a world of opportunity for many. However today I’d like you to meet someone who does not travel for the city or the beach. Please meet Neil Fahey who travels to go hiking.
What is your name?
Which country do you come from/call home?
What is the name of your travel blog and the url?
Bushwalking Blog – www.bushwalkingblog.com.au
When did you begin your website?
Bushwalking Blog launched in November 2008, which means I’ve just had my 5th anniversary. Whoa. The last 5 years have flown by.
Your blog is focused on hiking. How did you get into hiking and what do you love about it?
I’ve always been a nature-lover, but only went hiking sporadically for over my first twenty-something years. In 2008, I started planning travels around South and Central America for mid-2009, including a 4-day hike on the Inca Trail. That was when I realised that I was completely unprepared for such an undertaking, and started hiking every weekend in an attempt to get my body ready.
After returning from my first few hikes with some magnificent photos, I decided it would be a shame not to share the magnificent places I was visiting, and Bushwalking Blog was born.
There’s a lot to love about hiking – the exercise and sense of achievement, the peace and quiet, the clean air and headspace, and the incredibly beautiful places I get to see.
How do you fund your travel/hikes (savings/work whilst travelling/other)?
Hiking is a hobby that has the great advantage of being very cheap to get into, so I’ve had plenty of time to build up my kit. While I probably now have a few thousand dollars’ worth of hiking equipment, I’ve collected it over the space of about 5 years. I only need to drive for an hour to get my hiking fix, so the real costs only come if I want to go hiking interstate or overseas. I work full-time and freelance, as well as running Bushwalking Blog, so I don’t have too much trouble funding a bit of travel. Since starting Bushwalking Blog, I’ve also been very fortunate to be sent on a few famil and comp-trips, which have taken me around the country a fair bit with very little cost at all.
What is the first hike you remember taking and how old were you?
I have very vague memories of hiking with family when I was probably only 5 or 6 years old, at a place called Killawarra Forest in Warby Range State Park (now renamed Warby-Ovens National Park), near my hometown of Wangaratta. The memories may be vague, but my recollection of the sense of wonder I felt is still strong… I still feel that same sense of wonder when I hike now.
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?
Whenever possible I really like exploring new places with no preconceived ideas of what they’ll be like, so I guess I try not to imagine too much.
When I hiked the Inca Trail, I knew very little about it other than the fact that it ends at Machu Picchu. I was so focused on the end-point that I didn’t put much thought into what the scenery along the trail would be like. It turned out to be incredible – so many other ruins along the way, incredible glacier-capped mountains, and cloud forests. Machu Picchu is a wonderful place, but it certainly wasn’t the highlight.
Have you had any bad experiences whilst hiking?
I’ve had some close calls, especially while hiking solo – realising I’m not where I think I am, nearly stepping on snakes (about a thousand times), falling in rivers, minor head injuries that could have been much worse – but I’ve always returned from my hiking trips relatively unscathed.
Sometimes the worst hiking experiences are just when your head isn’t in the right place, or even worse, when one of your fellow hikers has their head in the wrong place. I’ve certainly had a few of those trips
Do you have any funny travel stories?
The whole experience of being in a country where nobody speaks your language, and you speak very little of theirs, is kind of hilarious in itself really. It’s incredible how much conversation you can still have, with a bit of persistence (and sign language), and there’s always much hilarity along the way.
Visiting Belize as a white man with dreadlocks was also a pretty funny experience for me. The Rastafarians in Belize seemed to make the assumption that I too was Rastafarian, and treated me accordingly. I’ve never had so many strangers be so nice to me. I couldn’t go to the supermarket without stopping for a 15 minute chat with someone.
Which is the worst place you’ve been to hike and why?
I’ve thought about this question for a long time and I can’t come up with a ‘worst’ place at all. Sure, some places are nicer than others but I think, when I’m hiking, I’m just so glad to be outdoors that I love it all no matter where I am. Or maybe I just do a very good job of choosing my hiking destinations.
Where is your favourite place in the world to visit or hike?
My favourite overseas hike has probably been the Colca Canyon in Peru. Apparently it’s the second-deepest canyon in the world, which was believable as I struggled to hike out of it on that final day.
While the hike in and out of the canyon was very challenging, the rest of the hike was almost luxurious. We spent our first night at a homestay of sorts in a small village, and our second night at a ‘resort’, complete with swimming pool and bar. This was particularly bizarre, contrasted against the desert landscape. You can see why this hike stands out from all the others.
Do you have a hike bucket list? If so what is on it?
I’ve always wanted to summit Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, possibly because it’s the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world… Or possibly because of its mention in Todo’s Africa, which I seem to permanently have stuck in my head.
Aside from that, there isn’t really anywhere in the world that I don’t want to hike. For some reason, nowhere stands out as much as Kilimanjaro
When you plan trips at home or abroad will the opportunity to hike be a deciding factor as to whether you will go there or not?
Always. Unfortunately though, my partner isn’t quite as into hiking as I am (I’m working on that), but we at least try to fit in a few short hikes wherever we go. These days, if I travel solo, it’s always to go hiking.
Can you tell us a little bit about the short films that you’ve acted in?
Some friends and I used to have a tradition of taking part in the annual 15/15 International Film Festival. The idea of 15/15 is that you have 15 hours to make a short film lasting up to 15 minutes. Each year had a set filming day when participants would collect a phrase and an object from a secret location, which would then have to feature throughout the film. This usually dictated the direction we’d take with the film. For example, the object one year was shoelaces and our resulting film was Laces of Glory.
I took part 3 or 4 times, with varying degrees of success, but it wasn’t really about that. It was just a great opportunity to get together with mates and get creative. I did some soundtracks, camerawork, editing, and (terrible) acting. Our films were thrown together and we didn’t bother with minor details like continuity and solid storylines. We were more about making people laugh and, as a result, our films were usually quite popular. We won a bunch of awards and had our films screened all over the world.
You’ve won some awards for soundtracks (congratulations), will we know any of these soundtracks?
Thank you! Unless you went along to any of the 15/15 Film Festival screenings, or have stumbled across our films on YouTube, you won’t know any of them. I have to say though, while I was very proud of the achievements, I don’t think any of the soundtracks were all that worthy of fame.
Why did you wear a school dress on a hike?
In 2012 I became aware of a charity called One Girl, which works to give young girls in Sierra Leone access to education. They run a yearly event called Do It In A Dress where they encourage people to do just about anything in a school dress, to help raise money for their education programs. Another hiking blogger, Dustin Main, was already organising to do his hike in a school dress, so I followed suit and we formed a team called Hikers Without Pants. Although we only ended up being joined by one other hiker (an Aussie called John Evans), we raised quite a bit of money between us, and had a bucket-load of fun in the process.
What is the Youth4Youth Challenge and how are you involved?
The Youth4Youth Challenge is a team hiking race event, which is run by World Expeditions in order to raise money for the Starlight Foundation. The 2013 event is only in Sydney, but the guys at World Expeditions wanted to bring the event to Melbourne in 2014, so they asked me to help them find a good location. I loved the idea of what they’re doing so much that I’ve offered them assistance with their marketing, logistics, and anything else they need.
Why do you write (for money/connecting with people/therapeutic/fun)?
I’ve always looked for ways to satisfy my creative urges, and writing is one of my favourite ways to do so. Bushwalking Blog, as a whole, is the creation I’m most proud of, which I guess is why a big part of the last 5 years of my life has been devoted to it. I love sharing my passion for hiking, nature, and conservation. I also find writing very therapeutic, but more-so when I’m writing for myself rather than an audience.
What makes your site so unique and why should people read it?
I write about more than just my latest hike, so that’s the main thing that sets me apart from the other currently active Aussie hiking blogs. I also try to run competitions as often as I can.
I see the blog as an expression of my personality, and I love interacting with my readers. I regularly go out of my way to help them in any way I can.
Aside from all of that, the number one compliment I get about Bushwalking Blog is on the design and how easy it is to find somewhere to go hiking, so I guess I must be doing something right there, too.
You’ve won or been nominated for various blogging awards, please tell us about some of them?
I’m stoked to say that I’ve been nominated for 3 awards in total, all of them this year. It’s been a very good year.
Just last week, I found out I’ve been nominated for Wego Health’s Health Activist Award in the Blog category. Obviously, the winners haven’t been decided for this one yet but it’s an international competition so I certainly won’t be holding my breath but you never know.
I was thrilled to be nominated for The Australian Writers’ Centre’s Best Blogs 2013 competition. Unfortunately I didn’t win, but just for being nominated I received a $400 voucher to put towards a course at the Writers’ Centre.
My biggest achievement so far has been winning the Healthy Lifestyle category of BUPA’s Health Influencer Blog Awards. I was a bit speechless when they read my name out, which is kind of a problem when you’ve got a room full of people staring at you expecting a speech. The prize was a very swish trophy, which has pride of place on my bookshelf, and an iPad, which I gave to my lady because, well, that’s just the kind of guy I am.
Do you have any products or services to offer?
I have a few things in the works but nothing I can talk about just yet. Aside from the usual sponsored posts, sidebar advertising, and affiliate programs, my main blog-related income has been from freelancing with the various skills that my blog showcases – writing, WordPress, content marketing, SEO.
What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?
My most read, shared, and commented on post is about a popular tourist trail in suburban Melbourne, The 1000 Steps & Kokoda Memorial Walk, where a lot of people go to exercise on the weekends. Since most of the attention it’s received is due to the popularity of the trail, I shouldn’t really take the credit.
The second most popular was actually a guest post by a nudist, on the subject of nude hiking. I can’t really take all the credit for that one either, but the third most popular was all me. It was about the time I went hiking in a school-dress to raise money for a charity called One Girl, who run education scholarships for young women in Sierra Leone.
What has been your favourite article to write either for your blog or another publication?
I co-wrote an article for the Australian hiking magazine, Great Walks, about hiking in Gippsland (a region in the Australian state of Victoria). In order to do so, they sent a friend and I on the most luxurious family trip I’ve ever done, including luxurious accommodation and expensive restaurants. Definitely the most fun I’ve ever had while doing my job.
Do you have any advice or tips for people aspiring to hike when travelling?
Keep in mind that conditions might be very different from what you’re used to at home. Do your research and make sure you’re well prepared, especially in the physical sense. If you’re taking a guided tour with porters, try to find a company that treats porters well. And as always, leave only footprints, take only photos.
What has travel taught you?
I could write a novel on what travel has taught me. The biggest thing is probably the shift in perspective it’s given me. It’s taught me to practice gratitude.
Quick fire questions:-
Favourite airline? Air New Zealand – for their nice planes and friendly service, but probably just as much for their awesome safety videos.
Favourite country? How do you choose a favourite? Guatemala would have to be up there on my list – beautiful scenery, incredible history, and some of the friendliest locals I’ve ever met.
Favourite city? If I had to pick one outside of my home country it would probably be Buenos Aires (Argentina), but to be completely honest I think Melbourne will always be my favourite city in the world.
Favourite walk/hike? It’s always hard to choose a favourite, but the hike I keep going back to is the southern circuit of Cathedral Range (about two hours north-east of Melbourne). It’s a stunning location but there’s something more than that drawing me there. It’s where I feel the most relaxed and comfortable.
Favourite food? Poutine – I’m generally pretty healthy but when I need comfort-food (aka hangover-food), nothing beats Poutine.
Favourite language? Spanish is the only language, aside from English (obviously), that I’ve ever learned. I won’t say I was ever very good at it but during my 3 months in South and Central America, I really grew to love it. I’ve forgotten most of it now though.
Please provide the following:-
Website url? www.BushwalkingBlog.com.au
Facebook page? www.facebook.com/BushwalkingBlog