I’m delighted to introduce Australian traveller Mark on today’s installment of world travellers. Mark runs the highly informative and insightful website Travel Wonders and jaunts to some awesome places in between plying a trade working in IT.
Who are you?
I am Mark, a 40-something Australian, living in Sydney who loves travel and the outdoor. By day, I work as an IT Consultant.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Brisbane, a friendly lively city located not far from some of the world’s finest beaches and watched Brisbane grow from a town to a city.
Where have you been?
I have been fortunate to travel extensively, living in Europe for several years, spending a year traversing Africa top to toe, travelling overland from Morocco to Zimbabwe and Mauritius and walking some of the great trekking trails of the world including the Inca Trail, parts of Mont Blanc Trail and path to viewpoints of Mt Everest. I have been to all seven continents and 80+ countries.
Where are you now?
I live in Sydney, one of the world’s finest cities with its famous glistening harbour and with lots to see and do and enjoy.
What are the top 3 places you’ve visited?
This is such a difficult question to answer with so many interesting places to choose from. I guess three favourite countries that stand out are Iceland and Antarctica with their exceptional landscapes and natural beauty and France for its richness of culture in all the senses of the word (history, food, people, natural beauty, museums, art, …). Paris is a favourite city (along with Prague and Florence and Fes, Morocco) while Yosemite National Park in California and Iguazu Falls on the Brazil/Argentina border are favoured natural wonders. I guess that is a fair few more than three!!
What is the best travel experience you’ve had?
My favourite kind of travel is to get out into nature and the natural world. My finest single day of travel was to trek for several hours to spend an hour with a group of mountain gorillas in Eastern Congo (dangerous place by the way!!). Most endearing are the human-like qualities of family care, fun, intrigue in all around them of these giant primates and the fact they are so endangered (read more at http://travel-wonders.com/2009/09/07/gorillas-in-the-mist-congo/)
What is the worst travel experience you’ve had?
Though it makes for a good story today, it is the same as the scariest travel experience (see below). Besides that, I think the worst aspect of travelling is being somewhere remote in an underdeveloped country, being badly ill and having to consider local medical “care”. I’ve had two horrid medical incidents over the years and that is one time when home seem the best place of all! The good news is that there are always good people that try to help in the worst of situations.
What is the funniest travel experience you’ve had?
In northern Norway, I arrived by ferry into a small town with nothing stirring at 2am. Already half light in mid summer and not wanting to shell out for a pricey hotel for just a few hours (catching a train mid-morning), I found a comfy spot to sleep in the scoop of a front-end loader sitting on the wharf only to be awoken a few hours later as the vehicle started to move. That wakes you up fast!!
What is the scariest travel experience you’ve had?
Only a week before visiting the gorillas, I spent six hours under the control of Congo’s armed Presidential Guard in central Congo having taken a photo around a presidential home (of a river at sunset). Seriously scary having five soldiers that look like they should be at school running at you waving sub-machine guns in your face yelling and screaming instructions in a foreign language.
What is the most random job you have had on your travels?
Nothing overly interesting as I have mostly saved at home and then travelled. I bailed straw in the short summer months in north-eastern Iceland for a couple of days.
How do you fund your travels?
Uninterestingly, I work and save money. Not easy at times but if travel is an important goal, then there are ways to save and to travel economically (lots of places in the world are very cheap to live on a day to day basis). The internet has loads of advice to assist with helping people reach their travel goals.
What 3 tips would you give a new traveller before they set off on their adventure?
1. Don’t plan too much. Give yourself time to enjoy the vibe and spirit of a place, wandering the streets (getting out of the main tourist areas), scratching below the surface and sensing and experiencing a location. Try to understand a little of the history to help put what you are seeing in context. Take advantage of unexpected opportunities and don’t stick too much to plans – the unexpected is often the best travel experience of all.
2. Don’t try to see and do too much in one trip. With travel, less is typically more.
3. If you apprehensive about your first trip, go to a place that isn’t as dramatically different from a living and cultural viewpoint as a first experience. Maybe one that has prevalent English, is politically stable and reasonably safe. A taste of that will ensure that travellers will want to experience more on their second journey and venture further afield.
What are your future travel plans?
I have lots of different trips in mind though i don’t get away as much as I used to. One that I am planning for is to walk the pilgrimage trail called Camino de Santiago (Way of St James). It starts in southern France among the Pyrenees and goes for around 800 kilometres through northern Spain to a cathedral that holds the relic of St James. It takes around five or six weeks to walk the path. Religious pilgrims have been walking this trail for over a thousand years and the small villages and towns on the way are rich in history.
Also, Australia is a huge country with so much to see. Too few Australians get to see much of their own country, and I don’t want to be one of them.
Mark Heers is an Australian with a passion for travelling and is the publisher of the popular blog (started in Feb, 2008), Travel Wonders of the World. Having visited over eighty countries and all seven continents in over 25 years of travel, he loves to seek inspiring out-of-way places, interesting people and unusual aspects of a city or region. You can subscribe to his blog at Travel Wonders of the World subscription and follow him on Twitter.
http://travel-wonders.com/ Travel Wonders of the World
Thanks to Mark from Travel Wonders for being the latest in my series of World Travellers! If you travel the world and run a travel blog or are a travel writer, please get in touch, you can be featured (there’s a HUGE waiting list at present), either e-mail jonny (at) dontstopliving (dot) net or head to my contacts page and get connected! You can also subscribe to Don’t Stop Living by filling in the form below! Safe travels!