Hey everyone! This is the first of many Feature Blog Friday posts! I will be conducting interviews with travellers every week and hope to showcase some of the amazing bloggers and writers out there. Please get in touch via email if you have a travel blog and would like to be featured!
I love talking to people about their travel experiences, and one of the first things I ask when I meet new people is: where have you been? Everyone has a story, and it is so interesting to learn of others and their journey, especially if you are an aspiring traveller yourself. Whether you’re a backpacker, luxury traveller, the once-a-year holiday maker, or a Google Street Viewer, a travel story will always have appeal and relevance to your life, and who knows, it might just inspire you.
This week, I asked Matt a series of questions about his blog and travel experiences. Not only are his photography skills out of this world amazing, but his stories and adventures are interesting, informative and of course inspiring. Here are three of his posts to definitely check out! The Kilimanjaro Diary Series, Rome, an introduction & Uganda Gallery.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Hi, so my name’s Matt and originally I’m from High Wycombe, England. I’m a 21 year old BSc Biological Sciences student at The University of Surrey and currently that’s where I’m tethered to. I’m in my final year and so for the next few months I’m finishing off my degree, writing my dissertation and pull all-nighters in the library – not quite as glamorous as some of my travel adventures, but something I need to do!
My biggest hobby is photography, and I’ve been into it for a fair few years now. I started how I imagine a lot of people do, casually stealing their parents SLR and just going round taking photos of everything. As a kid I had lots of phases where I was really into something, be it a sport, or music, or what not. But photography was the only one that really stuck, and that I stuck at. Since getting my first film camera for Christmas over a decade ago, I’ve wanted to document everywhere I go to. The beautiful thing about photography is how well it go’s hand-in-hand with travelling. We all want to snap photos to show our friends and family our adventures, and for some people this may be a learning curve. But for me, I’ve already been working on it for years, so it comes naturally.
What inspired you to travel?
I wrote a blog post which touched on this subject, it’s titled ‘Dear Iceland’. I find it fascinating finding out why people do what they do. Why someone is so passionate about one thing, which another person could care nothing for. Travel, I think, everyone has a passion for. Nobody looks at a photo of the Maldives, with a white sand beach and crystal clear waters, and just shrugs. Everyone wants to visit different places and explore different cultures. There is definitely a scale, some people will be for more adventurous in their travels than others, but everyone, deep down, wants to visit somewhere new, somewhere exciting.
I’ve always visited ‘nice’ place. I count myself very fortunate that when I was a kid my parents took me to incredible places for holidays. Hawaii, Jamaica, St Lucia, Egypt, Arizona, Dubai… absolutely fantastic places. So, as I was exposed to exotic places from a quite young age, it meant that when I got older, I wasn’t phased by the prospect of going to somewhere ‘different’ or ‘adventurous’. This became apparent when I decide to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, a decision I made in September of 2014 and summited in September of 2015. That year build up got me so excited. So excited that I began looking at other places I could travel to, before I even visited Tanzania!
To quote my ‘Dear Iceland’ blog post; For me, it was like a Baader-Meinhof moment. Suddenly everything was pointing to Iceland. So, naturally, I begin to research. Flight tickets, hostels, points of interest, the language, the food, living, everything. I wanted nothing more than jump on a plane and go explore it.
The location I discovered was Iceland, and the rational behind wanting to go there wasn’t exactly the norm. I watch a film called ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and, despite the 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought it was an amazing film. In the film, Walter visits Iceland whilst on a wild goose chase trying to track down a photographer. For some reason that film really spoke to me, and all of a sudden Iceland kept cropping up everywhere. Visit Iceland adverts, musicians I listened to, in other Tv and film, my university work – everywhere. So I was like “okay, lets go to Iceland”. Now this is the point where I should say that I haven’t been to Iceland yet, I’ll be going in 2017, but that’s not because I’m delaying it or just saying “I’ll do it eventually”. It’s because suddenly, out of nowhere, I had so may travel opportunities pop up! I was invited to Uganda with a charity I support called Hope For Children, I registered to trek Morocco for charity after my successful summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, my girlfriend and I went crazy on city breaks, visiting Berlin and Rome within a couple months of each other. My Iceland trip will be me trekking solo across the country, after Kilimanjaro I’m full away of the planning required and safety precautions that need to be done when attempting something on that scale, that’s why I’m planning it for 2017. I want to make sure I’m fully prepared.
But that is where my passion for travel stems. From my parents exposing me to different cultures from a young age, to this goliath trip to Iceland that keeps me motivated, and everything in between.
What’s on your bucket list?
I feel like I may have answered this in the question above aha! So yeah, Iceland! But sooner than that, this year, I’m trekking the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. I cannot wait to visit Africa again, it’s my favourite place! But there are a fair amount of typical travel locations that I haven’t visited yet, such as haven’t done the whole Asia / Thailand ‘Gap Year’ thing yet – but it is something I really want to do eventually! I haven’t been on the road for longer than 3 weeks at a time so I would love to do a massive 6 week adventure somewhere, possibly Asia. One thing that is on my bucket list is the rest of the 7 peaks, these are the 7 tallest mountains in the world on the 7 continents. Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa, so then there are 6 more on the other continents. This does include Mt Everest, that, for me, is very much on my list.
Favourite country so far and why?
My favourite country so far has been Tanzania / Zanzibar. They’re incredible places. Africa, for those that haven’t been, it just something else. You can’t quite describe it. Everyone is so friendly and happy to help with anything. Also their way of life is so relaxed. In Swahili the phrase “pole pole” means “slowly slowly” – it’s the phrase for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, but it’s also used in day-to-day life. No rush, no worries, pole pole. And Zanzibar is the exact same, but with beautiful beaches and clear blue water. It’s paradise.
Best experience and why?
My best experience has to be summiting Mt Kilimanjaro, the tallest free standing mountain in the world (#braggingrights). The trek took 6 days in total, 4 days up and 2 days down, and I just loved it, absolutely every second of it. It’s strange, but I just loved that every day there was a singular goal, and that goal was getting from point A to point B. You’d get up in the morning, freezing cold, get dressed in your tent, have breakfast, purify your water, put on your pack, tie up your boots, and walk. It sounds so simple, but I loved it. Quite possibly the definition of “it’s the little things”. But looking at the bigger picture, to be able to say you’ve climbed one of the World’s Top 7, is pretty incredible.
Worst experience and why?
I haven’t actually had a ‘worst experience’ – nothing that bad has ever happened to be whilst travelling. There was a situation in Tanzania where someone fell very ill and had these medical bills which needed paying. So myself and her went into the city centre in the middle of the night to withdraw some money from an ATM. For some reason the money didn’t come out and the armed security guards got rather aggressive with us. So that was pretty eventful, but everything got resolved as it was okay in the end. There was another situation back in 2012 when I was in New York and Hurricane Sandy hit. I was on the only flight out of Newark Airport which wasn’t cancelled. The airport was dead and as we flew out we hit major turbulence. But again, that was fine. Naturally the Americans applauded the pilot as we flew out of New York like the Millennium Falcon escaping the Death Star. So apart from those, which actually were more exciting than ‘worst experience’ it’s just small things really, like security searches at the airport, having some money stolen, and others. Fortunately nothing disastrous has happened, hopefully it wont!
What’s on your travel playlist?
I am an avid music fanatic, and I listen to pretty much everything! I could talk for forever and day about music so I thought it best if I just make a Travel Playlist which is the merge of all of my smaller country playlist for you to listen to – hopefully that’ll give you an idea what I listen to! But I do want to plug a couple of artists I’m currently loving – a band called Like Pacific are amazing, cannot stop listening to their newest album, the same with The Story So Far, also HONNE are just something else! Such good music.
Tell us about some of your favourite dishes/restaurants from places you’ve visited?
Funnily enough, one of the main reasons why I wanted to visit Berlin was to try authentic Bratwurst. Bratwursts, for those that don’t know, are the best hot dogs you will ever eat. Not exactly exotic, but still amazing. Equally my girlfriend and I wanted to visit Rome primarily for the food also, as Italian is my favourite cuisine. Lots of people say that I’m a fussy eater, and I sort of agree with them. But when you travel you just have to try everything. Visit Africa? You’ve got to have a goat curry, you just have to. Equally you have to eat you’re own weight in rice – it’s just what’s done.
Are there any things you miss when you’re not at home?
Honestly? Not really. I don’t think I’ve been away long enough too. Perhaps I will when I’m in the centre of Iceland, freezing cold in a tent with another 2 weeks to go – maybe I will then, I’ll keep you posted on that!
Find me at all of these places too: