For this month's installment of the Talking Travel series, I got in touch with one of Travellerspoint's most active members. Heather (aka Purdy) has been a part of the Travellerspoint community since early 2006. From Belfast, Northern Ireland, she told me about her previous trips, the Travellerspoint members she's met in person, and her future travel plans.
Heather enjoying a beer in England.
Did you travel a lot as a kid?
I'm the eldest of a family of 4 girls, so money was tight but my mum and dad made sure we did get holidays - always within the UK though. I didn't get my passport until l was 19! We were lucky though, as a lot of my friends got nowhere! Usually it was to a caravan site, sometimes within Northern Ireland or in Scotland around Ayrshire, and generally it rained!! It always involved bundling my 3 sisters and l into the back of my dad's car along with what we would need for the week - it was a tight fit at times!! At the time l didn't appreciate that l do actually live in a beautiful country with lots of spectacular scenery - l suppose as a child you don't necessarily. After that my parents bought a caravan in a Northern Irish seaside town called Castlerock. There is nothing there but a beach and a shop that never seemed to open! Again something that wasn't appreciated by my sisters and l, plus the plot the caravan stood on resembled a quagmire most of the time! They sold the caravan after about 5 years!!
One trip that sticks out in my mind - as it was hellish - was a family trip to Butlins (holiday camp!) in Pwllheli in Wales. l was 15 and was at that age where l didn't want to be seen with any member of my family! Butlins was awful we shoved into this chalet 2 bedrooms - my sisters and l in one room my folks in another! The holiday camp was the usual dire stuff - red coats trying to be jolly and get people to participate in daft games and pagents. l cringe even now at the thought of it!! My poor parents I'm sure after they saved all year to take us away regretted every second, the ungrateful lot that we were!!
What was your first big overseas trip?
The first time l actually went out of the UK was to Spain - Ibiza to be honest - and yes it was a Club 18-30 trip - which really says it all about what that trip was like! My first big overseas trip l guess wasn't really that long ago - that would be to Thailand where l spent 2 weeks over my 30th birthday. Even then l stayed in hotels and didn't really rough it as such!! In 2006 l went to Australia and New Zealand and l guess that is what l would call a proper trip - stayed in hostels and B&Bs to keep the costs down and actually travelled around. I really enjoyed this - from the research of what l wanted to see in my allotted time, to not being stationary, stuck in one "resort" and moving about the countries visiting different areas - seeing what they had to offer. Oh and it also taught me to pack lighter - it's funny l can pack quite easily for a 3-4 week trip into a single bag with limited capacity, yet if l go on a long weekend break my luggage usually is over limit!!!
What do you look for in your travel destinations?
Something needs to whet my appetite. l love Asia, I've been to a few different countries now in Asia and l love the culture, the food, the people, the general hustle and bustle - it's so different to what you experience in the West. Whilst l love cities, to be honest a city is a city wherever in the world it may be (maybe except London- l don't know why but l love London). I've had enough after few days and want to move on. Natural scenery really blows my mind much more than something man-made. Halong Bay in Vietnam being one area l simply adored. It's so spectacular and ok when you get on your boat to cruise around the area it is overly populated with tourists. But so what? What am l if not a tourist, so what gives me the right to criticize? Apart from that, anything is an option - after a bit of reading and research I'm bound to find areas that pique my interest and desire to visit to see the area for myself!
You've met quite a few Travellerspoint members at meet-ups and while travelling. Be honest: Are they scary?
Yes - they are all a bunch of egotistical manics that have scarred my life permenantly!!! No, seriously I've been really lucky I've met TP members in Dublin, London, Vietnam, Chicago, Montreal and Belfast and I've even met some of them more than once! I've even been honoured to visit the world famous Isa Manor and spend time with our TP maw & paw! It's something l love doing now - l remember though being slightly nervous before the Dublin TP meet up, thinking "Me and my big mouth, what have l gotten myself into?"!! I'm glad l did though, as I've made some very good friends through TP, for which I'm grateful.
Now, stroke our egos a little... What's your favourite part of Travellerspoint?
Well everything of course, but if l HAD to pick one element it has to be that of community spirit. New members are made to feel totally welcome, people are friendly and go out of their way to help the worried traveller on their way. I would of course say that it had something to do with the amazing moderators on the site - but does that count as stroking my own ego!!!
Do you have any future trips planned?
Well, usually by now l would have a trip planned for the autumn winter but this year is all change! My own personal life has changed quite a deal in the last 12 months, and I'm starting a new job in August which has quite a great deal of responsibility and challenge (plus I've also got another year of college to complete too!) which is really cutting down on the time available to me to travel. If I'm lucky l will get a few trips across to maybe Edinburgh or London before the year is out. I do have a few options on the cards for next year - a few friends and l have been looking and checking out South Africa (specifically Cape Town) for late January early Feburary 09, and l have been researching quite a bit on Brazil maybe in April, and if l don't sort that out then it will be Morocco after Easter l should think. I also remember a drunken conversation with Gretchen & Kris (Kris & l celebrate the same birthday) about repeating the Chicago visit again so you never know!!
Check out these past interviews in the Talking Travel series: