In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we speak with Megan Jerrard, the Australian journalist behind the travel blog Mapping Megan. We speak with her about what made her want to see the world, the unique place where she and her husband met, her most cherished travel memory, and much more. Check out her best advice for beginning travelers and find out what’s next on her travel itinerary!
How did your passion for travel get started?
I’ve been traveling since I was 18, back in 2007. On reflecting back, I can’t actually pinpoint getting the ‘travel bug’ to one specific experience. But I started traveling for the adventure, adrenaline, and excitement. And it didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to see the world in living color as opposed to watching it on a television screen. I wanted to actually feel, taste and experience the world instead of settling for the version I was reading in books.
As I started traveling I found myself thrust into new environments, immersed in entirely new cultures, hearing the English language spoken with an unfamiliar accent; and I realized this feeling of new discovery was what I wanted out of life.
How many days/weeks are you traveling in any given year? What types of places do you like to visit?
How much we travel really varies on the opportunities that present themselves; we don’t really define that we have to travel X amount of days in a year. Having recently wrapped up our lives as nomadic (full time) travelers, we’re now home-owners and it’s fantastic to have a permanent base for a change. We’re really focused this year on exploring our home state of Tasmania, so this year, for instance, it’s a lot of localized travel, as opposed to international trips. Adventure is around every corner though, even those close to home!
The types of places we like to visit are those off the beaten path gems that the tourist guides haven’t yet discovered – we love the sense of exploration and authentic discovery.
You and your husband, Mike, run a travel blog called Mapping Megan. Can you please tell us a bit about it? What makes it stand out among all the other travel content out there?
Sure! We’re an adventure travel blog that really tries to push that adventure means different things for different people, and can be achieved at every age. So we’re very much about finding the adventure for you. For some people, adventure might mean bird watching in the Amazon, for others it might mean hitch-hiking across the United States. We focus on really off the beaten path destinations, and on uncovering the hidden gems of a place – we’ve become quite allergic to the tourist trail!
In terms of standing out, I like to think this is about consistency (we’ve been consistently writing for the past 10 years), about the quality of writing and photography, and providing practical information along with inspiration so people can actually book trips and do the same. We really try to provide people with everything they need to know about a topic or place.
The story of how you and Mike met is fascinating and unique. Can you tell us about that?
It’s definitely different! Mike is from America, and I’m from Australia. We met in Africa (Tanzania actually) at the bottom of Mt Kilimanjaro. I still love the reactions we get when people ask “so you’re from Australia, he’s from America – where did you both meet?”!
After having both finished the Mt Kilimanjaro climb, we met through mutual travelers at the hotel at the bottom of the mountain. Before we knew it we had spent hours talking to each other and laughing together and found ourselves sitting beneath a starry African sky in the early AM hours.
Dinner had turned into breakfast and we forced ourselves to say goodbye before heading towards separate flights. We swapped emails and phone numbers, having only spent a total of 12 hours together, not having any clue that our wedding in Hawaii would be less than three years later!
You and your husband have gone on countless adventures together since the day you met. Of all the memories you’ve made traveling, which one stands out to you the most? Which was the most special or most rewarding?
Making it to Antarctica is one of the most cherished memories we have from traveling together. Antarctica is an epic adventure in itself, and we had both always dreamed of making the journey, but it was even more special for being our 7th continent (for both of us), and because the day we first stepped foot on mainland Antarctica was our wedding anniversary. We definitely don’t do things by halves!!
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
I’m hoping that my passion for travel is contagious and I can spread this wonderful disease they call the travel bug to everyone who reads our work!
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
Antarctica, Iceland, and Vietnam.
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, the best place to have lunch, the best sightseeing, etc.
We’ll go with a top 5 for Antarctica:
1- Firstly, take a smaller, expedition-style ship that includes land-based excursions. International regulations limit the number of people allowed on land at any one time, so large cruise ships with 500 passengers will only offer a “sightseeing” experience. In my opinion, it’s not worthwhile to pay all that money just to see Antarctica floating by. You’ll want to actually get off the boat.
2 – Kayaking; pay extra to take kayaks out while you’re in Antarctica; it’s amazing, and whales will often swim right alongside you!
3 – Camping; most people probably think it’s crazy to give up your warm, luxury ship cabin for a sleeping bag out on the ice, but camping for a night in a self-dug trench underneath the stars is beyond words – it’s spectacularly amazing.
4 – Polar plunge; pack your bathers – the water might be 2 below zero, but it’s a rite of passage for adventurous explorers to jump from the ship into the freezing water; you’ll only be submerged for a second!
5 – Wildlife observations; obviously the wildlife is the biggest thing that draws people to Antarctica; take a wildlife checklist and turn it into a fun game to spot as many species as possible; penguins, whales, birds, seals, and all their subspecies!
How many countries have you visited so far?
Around 60 odd – we’ve never really cared to keep count of the specific number, as I genuinely believe that travel should be about the quality of the experiences as opposed to setting your sights on a specific number. In my experience, when you count countries and that becomes your primary focus, you can lose sight of why you started traveling in the first place.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
Italian – because who needs more of an excuse to feast on pizza, pasta, and gelato all day. Australian – though I’m biased because I was raised on meat pies and vegemite on toast! And Chinese – I would kill over a dim sum!
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
The local grocery store, where-ever in the world we might be! We’ve never been big foodies, so we don’t typically eat out in restaurants, and therefore don’t really have a favorite. We do however love cooking our own meals with food from local supermarkets, and when it’s a country with a language other than English it’s always an interesting game trying to figure out what we’re buying!
What is your favorite travel movie?
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Love it!
What is your favorite international airport?
Singapore. There’s a butterfly garden, a full-scale canopy jungle, art installations, slides, sky trampolines, a mirror maze, a waterfall, even a rooftop pool where you can watch planes take off from the runway. It’s insane!
Which city had the friendliest people?
To be honest, I’ve found that the vast majority of the world have really friendly people, I think Reykjavík though, in Iceland, was a stand out for me – the people are so friendly and welcoming, and there’s a real atmosphere of community inclusion.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
Reading, I’m a sucker for a good book. And the great thing nowadays is that even if you’re one of those people who get motion sickness from reading while you’re moving (like on a plane or a bus), most books now have audio versions you can download to your iPod or phone.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
Bolivia – from visiting witches markets, to seeing women in bowler hats crafting straw boats, it was an incredible experience, and very far removed from home.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Just do it! Fear is often the biggest thing that holds people back from traveling; fear of the unknown, and fear of getting outside their comfort zone. But I firmly believe that the only things we regret in life are the chances we didn’t take, and the things we didn’t do, so my advice is to JUST GO – JUST DO IT!
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
My smartphone (camera, translator, communication, travel planning, etc all in one!), a good pair of walking shoes, noise-canceling headphones, and a clean pair of underwear in my carry on (because you never know when they might lose your baggage!).
What is your ultimate dream destination?
It was Antarctica, now it’s Namibia. Think elephants trekking across swaths of deserts, surreal ethereal landscapes, shipwrecks scattered along the coast, and one of the oldest remaining hunter and gatherer tribes in the world.
What is your favorite travel quote?
“The best stories are found between the pages of a passport”.
Where are you headed next?
Right now, we’re continuing to explore our new island State of Tasmania; it’s a combination of Iceland and New Zealand packed into a super small little island, though without the crazy tourism – we’re loving it!
Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist and the founder and senior editor of Mappingmegan.com; a niche adventure travel blog with a focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She visits off the beaten path destinations to cover corners of the globe which still remain relatively undiscovered.