Who doesn’t love finding fab new things to read? That is why I love sharing amazing bloggers from around the world!
Today, we are wandering with Melissa from High Heels and a Backpack. Hi Melissa, please tell me a little about yourself.
Hello! Melissa here. I am the Writer behind the solo female travel blog www.highheelsandabackpack.com. I started the blog with the intention of inspiring other women to travel alone, but I focus mostly on “non-conventional” places such as those in the Middle East, or places considered off limits to most solo females. I believe in pushing the boundaries of solo female travel and I want to show people that many of these countries are not as intimidating as the media would have them believe. So far, I’ve been to 31 countries and 18 US states.
Where are you currently?
I’m in Naples Italy, where I like to base myself in between trips as I work as a freelance writer. Italy is beautiful, and the cost of living in the south is relatively affordable.
Where do you want to go next? What are your future travel plans?
I’m going to be travelling to Iran next, and then on to Bhutan, and Indonesia later in the year. It is a long and painful process trying to organise an Iranian visa (I had to get a whole new passport since I’ve been to Israel) but I’m sure it will be worth it.
Where is home? Name one thing that you always recommend to people that visit?
I’m from Nottingham in the UK originally (we are famous for Robin Hood!) I always recommend that those who visit the UK visit more than just London. London is very expensive and crowded and when you leave the city limits, the rest of the UK is almost like a completely different country! In particular, I recommend the Cotswolds area (beautiful villages and countryside), and Stratford-Upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace)
Where has been your favourite place to visit? Why?
I recently got back from Jordan and I completely fell in love with the place. I had always dreamed of seeing Petra but the rest of the country’s history was so fascinating too. The people were incredibly friendly and hospitable and the food was excellent. People are concerned about travelling solo in the Middle East but I had no problems.
Where didn’t you like/where were you disappointed with? Why?
I know it’s a popular place and this may upset a few people but I really wasn’t blown away by Thailand. I had a great experience there volunteering in a small village on the border with Burma, but when I travelled around the country, I found it overcrowded with drunk backpackers and it seemed difficult to find something authentic. That’s personal preference though. I don’t drink alcohol so it was like Grandma on tour.
What is your favourite picture you have ever taken? Where was it taken?
Hmm. I’m quite pleased with some of the photos that I have taken at food markets in South Korea when I was living in Seoul. I like photos that capture the local life and people.
What has been the craziest thing you have done/place you have been on your travels?
Many people were quite concerned when I travelled to Palestine’s West Bank, but I found it very safe. It was quite moving because though they don’t see a lot of tourists, the locals really do want people to visit so that they can share their stories and show the beauty of their country.
Three things on your wander list
That’s a tricky one. I would really like to visit every country, but in particular I would have to say:
- Take the Trans-Siberian railway from Beijing to Russia, taking the time to hop-on and hop-off at certain points. (Would certainly spend a month or so in Mongolia)
- India – I have always wanted to go, but every time I start planning a trip, something else comes up!
- Peru & Bolivia – I’d love to hike Macchu Picchu
Weirdest/most interesting form of transportation you have taken?
I’ve ridden in peculiar motorbike & sidecar style taxis in Thailand and Vietnam, and in Egpyt, I took a horse and carriage cab and the guy just let me drive it myself down the Egyptian motorway – terrifying!
What is your best travel hack?
I never travel with more than a carry on so I don’t have to pay for (or have to carry) bags. I just keep re-washing and reusing the same few clothes. To get cheap flights, I usually use Kiwi.com which combines all the results of various comparison sites together to give you the cheapest possible route.
What items do you never leave behind when you travel?
My hair straighteners (I know that’s vain, but my hair is SO curly normally that I look like a white Diana Ross, i.e. not good!)
My phone – I have SO many useful apps on here like couchsurfing for meeting locals, maps.me for helping me find my way around, language converters, etc. I’d really miss them!
My camera – I love to capture pictures of local people in their daily lives. Things that seem so ordinary to them often look so beautiful from the outside.
How much does your luggage weigh?
10kg or less! I never travel with more than just a carry on case, and then I carry my essentials in a tiny backpack.
How do you track your expenses whilst you are away?
I try to stick to a budget, which is usually no more than £10/$12 a day (after accommodation). Longer term though, I track it all in an Excel spreadsheet and always try to keep a buffer in case something goes wrong.
What is one weird thing you miss when you travel?
Food! Sometimes I really miss the most random snacks from home and then when I get home and see them I’m like “ehhh I don’t really fancy it now”
What are your top tips for staying fit and healthy on the road?
I personally opt to walk EVERYWHERE over taking taxis and public transport. Even if you’re busy, try to eat a proper meal locally rather than snacking or opting for fast food and consider cooking for yourself from the local supermarket occasionally (sometimes I’ll make myself a lunch to take out with me and it saves money too!)
What are you reading/listening to at the moment?
I’ve been reading The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac as I love literature that inspires me to travel and I’ve been reading a lot of his books lately. My music taste is an odd mix of things I’ve heard while travelling – a lot of it is Korean KPop or Arabic. I don’t even know what’s popular back at home anymore.
If you could go back in time and be the first person to explore/find a place in the world, where would you want it to be?
I’d love to have been like Howard Carter, discovering tombs and artefacts in Ancient Egypt (minus the suspected curses and mysterious deaths of course) I am so fascinated with Egyptian history.
Thank you so much, Melissa!
Find more ‘Wander With’ interviews here.
Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger who left her corporate job in favour of a more adventurous lifestyle. She believes in pushing the boundaries of solo female travel and hopes to disprove the stereotypes of countries around the world that many are afraid to travel to. She writes for Forbes Travel Guide, The Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and a number of other travel publications.