In this month's Talking Travel series we had the pleasure of chatting to Naomi Dickinson (aka worldweave). One year, 17 countries, 44 blog entries, and almost 5000 photos later, Naomi's round the world weave has entertained readers with a range of cultural and gastronomic delights. A curious traveller, Naomi takes inspiration in the words: 'Life is precious, live it well!'.
You have recently come back from a 12 month round the world trip, tell us more about this?
Taking a year to myself was just what I needed. Although I am well-travelled through my profession, my career had involved international transfers, which created a holiday-like change but in the end was never really a proper break where I could switch off completely. After the sudden death of my brother in 2009, I had a burning desire to embrace life and live well. So it was an easy choice to travel around the world in the end. I'm a curious person by nature, forever intent on understanding and appreciating the world around me, and I was keen to go somewhere completely different, possibly learning a new language along the way. South America had always been a dream, as had Antarctica, so I quickly laid out my plans to facilitate getting to these places. I also hadn't been back to Germany in five years, so I was keen to meet up with dear friends over there and pretty much planned the route I took to accommodate all of this. For the first time since I was 18, I felt like I was stepping into the big unknown, and this was scary and exhilarating for me. My love for language, culture, and especially food helped me immerse myself in the countries I visited, and provided the kind of depth I like when meeting people. Being a talker, I learn languages pretty quickly, and I found that I was welcomed pretty much everywhere I went.
What I loved about the year is that I had no real goal. I could pick and choose what to do each day with no time pressure. If I wanted to sightsee I did, and if I wanted to follow any of my interests like cooking, hiking, or cave diving, I did. If I wanted a day off from my holiday, I would simply lounge about my accommodation, chatting with fellow travellers and making new friends. I made a conscious decision not to think about working at all, not until I stepped foot back in Melbourne...and only then a month later after the Melbourne Food and Wine festival was over...mission accomplished!
Your trip covered many different destinations and cultures. What were some of the cultural lessons you learned while travelling?
I learned a lot more about the history of the places I visited, rather than specific cultural lessons. I really began to understand 'whoever wins the war, writes the history'...especially with Australia's British influences in our schools, and tabloids not focusing on this part of the world, so I had a lot of catching up to do.
Although I loved all of the countries I visited in South America, the two that stood out for me were the two I least expected to: Chile and Mexico. The other countries were fantastic holiday destinations, especially Bolivia and Colombia, where I felt completely safe and could have spent much more time chilling out with the locals. I only intended to spend about 2 weeks in Chile but left 3 months later, speaking pretty good Spanish for a beginner. Chile is incredibly diverse in its natural environments, immigration history, and culture. My time there triggered my yearning to explore the history of the continent, the influences on the land, the people, and the political history, with all its complexity. Now, Mexico just made my heart bloom! My only goal for Mexico was to complete the highest level of my cave diving training, in one of the most famous and spectacular cave diving regions in the world. But Mexico grew on me. I went from indignation towards the cartels and the blatant corruption, to seeing the warmth and pride of an accommodating folk. The strong sense of identity and expression moved me. It is truly an amazing place and one I would easily spend a lot more time in. I guess the big cultural difference for me as a single female traveller, were people's reactions to me and utter amazement that I was travelling alone and for so long 'without a man' - for the umpteenth time! The further north I headed, the more the women would giggle at the thought. Generally, I found people to be curious, kind and protective towards me.
The Italian influence in Argentina was evident, and I couldn't walk down the street without some guy cat hissing at me...a bit disconcerting at first but you get used to it...it's meant to be appealing...yep.
Chilean men and women are amusing...criticising each other constantly. I was intrigued to learn that many Chileans simply don't marry, preferring de facto relationships...and this is apparent in marriage trends dating back a good 50 years. It was here that I felt the strong German and British influence...whilst walking to school each day I'd see people cleaning their windows and footpaths, I could buy kuchen (cake) at the bakery, and listen to German-influenced music!
Bolivians seemed to be really nice and gentle. This country is a real gem in the heart of the continent. Although I had seen a great difference in the economic diversity in the countries visited so far, it seemed that no matter how poor, the Bolivians had a solid house. I really admire their stone masonry and couldn't help but think if I were Bolivian, I'd be using this to my advantage; in my mind they are the builders of the continent.
Colombians were amongst the most welcoming people I met and keen to encourage safe tourism.
Then the peace of Mexico....in fact all the attention I had been getting in South America stopped dead when I got here. It took a few days to register this, and much to my joy I started to observe family and friends walking down the road, simply digging each other...fabulous and refreshing. Just like the food!
Across all the countries I could see a great depth in communication and thought, with many notable Nobel Prize Winners for Literature. Music and dancing were integral to the cultures of each country.
Where's your favourite place in the world?
I guess being a Melbourne girl, I'm in a pretty peachy position to be born in such a great city with so many offerings at my doorstep. There are numerous places I could mention that I love here but I think I'm going to have to start a new blog to do just that! Off the top of my head, the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens are stunning and I spend a lot of time there. Right down south of my state (and the country) is Wilsons Promontory...it is beautiful on so many levels and the place that our locals love to get to.
In the end I am intrigued by the world, and I don't really spend my time trying to contemplate or compare which place is better than the next. Each place I have ever been to has been beautiful in its own way. I'm a strong believer that you can find beauty if you simply look and see. When a local shows you something that they are proud of then there is a reason for it, and it's my job to respect this and understand why. That they actually took the time and interest to show me, is something I cherish and enjoy giving back.
Your blog entries include many beautiful (and delicious!) photos, what is it you love about travel photography?
Photos can express so much. If I manage to capture what I am experiencing at that moment, then I can't help but be pretty pleased with myself. I'm more of a snap shot taker than a photographer. It's an obsession really..I'm like a kid in a lolly shop sometimes, taking one of those, and those, and ooh yeah..that one too. Admittedly, I have far too many photos of the same thing but I also had a lot of fun taking those shots. Using Travellerspoint to write my blog and publish photos, provided me a forum to experiment with both writing and photography for the first time. It has been inspiring for me to see the perspectives and skill that other users have, and my style and interest in photography has developed in the course of the year. It has been really encouraging and welcoming to receive feedback from fellow TP members, and I feel like I have blossomed as the year has progressed.
My food shots really took off for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I have a food obsession (including cooking my way through each country as well as adding to my already mammoth cookbook collection, as I went). Secondly, it was easier taking photos of the recipes than writing it all down in a language I was just becoming accustomed to. Food is great. I'll try anything, and on my trip I was fortunate enough to sample the most amazing fresh produce..how could I not take a photo of it?
Something that I thoroughly enjoy when travelling is really seeing what is going on around me. So many of us get busy in our lives forgetting to take a moment. When I'm walking through a city, I might stop for a second and stare at the buildings around me...after the initial impression of the magnificent architecture, I start to see the detail that someone put a lot of thought into when creating the building, and it's the sum of all these parts that led to the overall beauty...before I knew it, I found myself, capturing these moments. Now that I'm back, I'm planning to take a professional course with the aim of getting to know my new camera and improve the quality of my shots.
Do you have any tips for travellers contemplating a RTW trip?
This really boils down to the individual trip the person is taking. Anybody is welcome to write me a message if they have specific questions about places I visited.
My concerns were around safety and finances mostly. I'd heard many a horror story and even seen a documentary or two but in hindsight, these came from people who hadn't actually been to the places where I was going. Having said that, I arranged a travel card, so that if it was stolen or I was kidnapped that my main finances weren't going to be hit. Further, I updated my Will..a bit of a sombre topic for some but I gained a lot of peace doing this. After all, I didn't expect anything to happen but I knew that everything I wanted had been clearly regulated if something did. Of course I had travel insurance. Mostly I found, like I do in life, that respect goes a long way. If you are genuine, ready to learn, and listen, and especially treat people as you would hope they do you, then you'll find that they are usually wonderful, welcoming and caring. I have found this everywhere I have been in the world.
Give yourself time to go with the flow. Nothing really works out as planned but as it should be. The rest you learn as you go. So, just do it!
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Check out these recent interviews in the Talking Travel series: