MyTravelMoney.co.uk caught up with the lovely Laura Mannering – night-time news editor, features writer and founder of travel blog World Out There – to pose some interesting questions.
Here, she reveals how India and Spain are full of surprises, her high hopes for World Out There and why she was questioned by Bali police…
1) How often do you travel, Laura?
As often as I can! I usually go somewhere once a month – that might be at home or abroad. I write as much about the UK for World Out There as I do about far-flung places. There’s so much of Britain that I’ve still to explore.
2) Who do you travel with?
It depends – often I’ll be travelling on my own to spend time with friends abroad. I’m lucky to have mates all over the world who I’ve either met travelling or who have moved away from the UK.
There’s nothing better than staying with someone who really knows a place to get a non-tourist take, which is one of the reasons I came up with the idea for World Out There. I realised how local tips really can enhance a trip.
I also travel quite regularly for my blog and for other travel-writing projects – I tend to do that alone, or with a group of other journalists on an organised press trip. I’ve had great holidays with friends and boyfriends, but I think I’m a solo traveller at heart. I like to have the freedom to choose what I’d like to do next and to really engage with a place.
3) What kind of traveller are you? Describe yourself in five words.
Adventurous, active, engaged, respectful, low-maintenance (most of the time)
4) What’s been your favourite destination so far and why?
It has to be India. It was my first stop on a solo round-the-world trip I took in 2010 and I had been plied with many a horror story from friends who had been. So I was bracing myself.
For the first few nights I was in bed at 8pm, swathed in long-sleeved trousers and tops, despite the stifling humidity, for fear of mosquitoes. I was terrified of thieves and of developing some hideous illness, fading away in a lonely room at the Mumbai YWCA.
But I soon relaxed and started to enjoy myself. The food was incredible, I met some fantastic people, the country was full of people, colour, chaos and life. From the spice markets of Delhi and the cosmopolitan hustle of Mumbai, to the coast, waterways and hill-top tea plantations of Kerala, the havelis of Rajasthan and the snow-capped Himalayas – I have so many very vivid and treasured memories of India.
5) What’s been the most surprising destination? Can you explain?
Strangely, it’s Spain. I know it’s not exactly exotic, but until I moved there in 2001, I had never realised how diverse the country was – most of its regions have their own language, they are fiercely proud of their local cuisine, there is a clear regional identity and brilliant fiestas define particular areas. I had a very British view I guess, that it was all sun, sand and sangria. But there’s much more.
I particularly love the dramatic ship-wrecking coastline of Galicia, with its delicious seafood (the first place I ever tried fresh crab); the Moorish heritage of Andalucia; and the terracotta landscapes of Don Quixote country Castilla-La Mancha, with its fortified hilltop towns. I lived in Madrid for almost three years and return to Spain regularly.
6) What has been your worst travel experience?
Being quizzed by immigration police in Bali. It was completely my fault – I had overstayed my visa by one day through a cock-up. I knew that they would probably give me a hard time – the rule is that you pay US$20 for every day you overstay. It’s only once you’re over by 60 days that you’re in big trouble. I got to check in and was immediately sent through to the police section, where my passport was taken from me. I sat in the waiting room with other hapless travellers before being called in to a room filled with smoke and policemen. They told me I had made a big mistake and I spent 20 minutes apologising and promising never to do it again. A very unimpressed policeman smoked in my face and looked disdainfully at the $20 I was trying to offer him. It helped that I knew my legal position – it made me confident to stand my ground and not give in to pressure to hand over more cash – but it was pretty stressful!
7) How do you normally buy your travel money?
I tend to buy a bit before I go, usually at the airport, then use ATMs the rest of the time. If I’m going somewhere where there won’t be ATMs, I usually buy US dollars to change when I get there – again, I usually do this at the airport, or at Marks and Spencer currency exchange if I’m being organised. For my round-the-world trip, I also had an emergency supply of travellers’ cheques in US dollars.
8) What’s still on your bucket list?
So many places/experiences… near the top of the list are: Japan; Korea; Patagonia and Iran. Like everyone, I’d also love to see the Northern Lights.
9) What’s your dream for World Out There?
What I really want is for whoever reads World Out There to enjoy it, to discover something new, to be entertained and to feel inspired to go out and see those places for themselves. Continuing to build up the blog’s readership is hugely important – I want to reach as many travellers as possible.
10) Did it take a while before you got it exactly how you wanted it?
I think it will and should always be a work in progress. I’m proud of where it’s got to in just a year but I have ideas every day for new elements I’d like to feature! I believe 100 percent in the content: great writing, stunning photography and well-informed, authentic insider tips. I’m also really pleased with the look and feel. The design is very clean and I love the colours and the logo. I developed it with two friends of mine at a design agency called Irish Butcher and I’m really pleased with what we achieved. I wanted it to have a magazine feel – full of colour, quality content, a real treat to read.
11) Can you describe its ethos/focus?
It’s all about providing well-informed, original and authentic local tips for travellers who want to get off the tourist trail. I came up with that idea because I hate following the crowd and find my most memorable travel experiences come through recommendations from locals – a hidden café, an obscure festival, an out of town market, a late-night dive bar. On World Out There, I blog about my own offbeat local discoveries, from my favourite Northumberland pub to Balinese cremation ceremonies and seduction school in Buenos Aires. I also have guest writers from all over the world who reveal a completely different side to well-known travel destinations in their posts.
12) Please share a funny travel anecdote with us…
I arrived in a tiny Outback town in Western Australia to meet my host for a two-week placement on a remote cattle station. He was gruff, bearded, and called Malcolm. As we drove off into the wilderness in his ute, I wondered whether conversation might run dry rather quickly – the isolated station was four hours’ drive away. But I needn’t have worried. It turned out the cattle station was hooked up to TV and internet via satellite, and consequently Malcolm had developed an unlikely appetite for and in-depth knowledge of all things celebrity. A bit of a celeb trivia fan myself, as we drove across the Martian landscape of WA, we bonded over Jamie and Jools, Cheryl and Ashley and our theories about what ‘really’ happened to Princess Diana. By the end of two weeks, we were firm friends.
13) What’s your advice to other female travellers/travel bloggers?
As far as travelling goes, I don’t thing there’s anything to be afraid of if you use your common sense and stay aware of what’s going on around you. I’ve experienced so much kindness as a female solo traveller – keep an open mind and go with your gut instincts. With blogging, I think that it’s important to develop your own niche – whether it’s a particular area, activity or angle. Think about what’s going to make you stand out from the crowd. It’s important to post regularly and promote yourself on social media but I also believe that it’s worth spending time honing a quality piece, rather than bunging up something mediocre. Although travel bloggers’ voices are very much valued nowadays, there’s still this idea that they can’t write ‘properly’ and are somehow the poor relation of ‘real’ travel writers. By putting together intelligent, well-written copy with fantastic photos and original video footage, that stigma will continue to fade.
Laura is always looking for other passionate travel bloggers to guest post on her site and would love to hear from anyone who thinks they fit the bill. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.