For those of you wondering what the word Leibster means, it derives from the German word meaning “favourite” or “beloved”. In the blogging community a Leibster award is an award nominated by a blogger to a blogger, as a way to connect and support each other and a way to be discovered by new audiences and new followers.
As with other communities, we too support each other in our endeavours by reading, sharing and following each other's work. I was privileged to be nominated by the lovely Jennifer at World On A Whim, a self-confessed budget traveller like myself, specialising in travel advice about adventuring through Europe, after spending time studying in Barcelona, Spain. My other nomination came from fellow responsible travel blogger Tara from Hippie Hits The Road, who will capture you with her raw, tell-all stories about her alternative adventures abroad. Thank you for the nominations girls!
The award requires the nominated blogger to answer 11 questions posed to them and then give out 11 questions to the nominees of their choice. Read on to see my answers, and my nominated up-and-coming bloggers who I believe deserve a Leibster award.
Do you have any rituals that you do when you arrive in a particular city?
Generally the first thing I do is try to get my bearings, check how far away from the main attractions I am; jump on to Trip Advisor and see what restaurants and activities are nearby (they have a 'near me now' function which is super useful). Once I know where I am it gives me more confidence to plan where I will explore. The second thing I tend to do, as a responsible travel writer, is look for anything responsible or ethical happening in that city. I search for social enterprises, NGO's, animal sanctuaries, environmental initiatives, anything that would make a good story and allow me to share any good work happening in the area. This task is always rewarding as I tend to find some great philanthropic and altruistic stuff going in most of the places I visit.
Where in the world feels most like home to you, and why?
I would have to state the obvious and say my home town of Sydney. I spent too long in this lovely city to stop calling it home. It has everything I need, family, friends, perfect weather (not too cold), great choice of food, great communities of people with shared interests. I always count myself very lucky to have grown up, in such a privileged country, in a supportive environment so it will always be home to me, however I have visited a few other places that have felt like home and one of them is Siem Reap Cambodia. Although so completely different from the place I grew up Siem Reap stole my heart. I've been there three times and I still can't quite put my finger on why I love it so much. Maybe it's the contrast of western influence from home and the simplicity of the Cambodian lifestyle, full of wonderful people with such little materialistic values and such little concern to be part of the fast-paced consumerist lifestyle that I dislike back home. Life is simple there and I love it. It's definitely a place I could call home.
Have you ever hitchhiked? Would you/wouldn't you do it again?
Hopefully my parents aren't reading this but yes I have hitchhiked. I was in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, a beautiful area of forests and tea plantations 4 hours north of Kuala Lumpur. The city was quiet and easy to navigate but it had two separate areas, each about 5 kms away from each other. The main trekking paths started from the other end of town to where I was staying and my hostel advised me that hitchhiking was a common way to get from one place to the other. You do hear the horror stories about hitchhiking but anyone who's been to Malaysia will know how wonderful and kind the people are in this country, especially once you venture out of the main city centres. So I hitchhiked with another traveller from Prague who I met at the hostel. I still can't say if I would have done it as a solo female although I know many do and admit how safe it has been for them. We hitchhiked 3 times while I was there and each time I felt a connection of kindness and genuineness with the people who offered us rides.
What is the nicest thing someone has done for you while travelling?
Can I say a few? I really feel that travelling lets you see how much kindness there is in the world. I was in Langkawi, Malaysia and must have underestimated how far my hire car was parked from where I was. I was walking along a road for what felt like a really long time and a car stopped next to me. Inside was a local family. They asked if I was ok and offered to take me to my car. It was so kind of them as I honestly didn't know where I was. We chatted for the small ride and they dropped me right near my car. I was so grateful! There was also that time in Cambodia where a lady was offering her homemade snacks to everyone on the long bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem reap. And then the owner of the Sumatran homestay I was staying at who invited me to her cousin's wedding, offering me her sister's old wedding dress to wear so I didn't feel underdressed. There is kindness everywhere if you look hard enough.
How do you feel about Couchsurfing?
I think it's great, although I'm only speaking from one Couchsurfing experience. It's a great way for people to connect, it's also great if you're on a budget. It's very monitored in the way profiles are set out with reviews and options to filter searches. You can befriend your host before you arrive, you can read others' experiences with them. You can really make informed choices about where and who you stay with. It's one of those things that really brings us humans closer together, sharing our homes and our cultures and breaking down any social and cultural barriers. I can't wait to try it out in other countries too. I already have a host set up in the Philippines who has offered to take me to see the sites. Do as the locals do, Couchsurfing is one of the best options for this.
How do you fund your travels?
I am a very budget traveller so that's the first thing that makes it easy. For funding the journey I am on now, I spent a long time working in a corporate job and saved what I could. I believe in living a minimalist lifestyle so I tend to steer away from buying things I don't need. I usually buy second hand clothes if I need any, and make use of the buy swap sell pages on Facebook. If you really use the want verses need theory, that is realising the money you spend on things you want verses things you actually need, you'll be surprised how much you can save. In terms of earning money while travelling, I write some guest blogs for a few publications. They don't pay me much but it's enough to add to my savings and make my money last. I also do a bit of freelance web development and digital marketing so, again, that helps a little. I really think it's about managing what you spend. A friend of mine who is travelling for a year writes everything she spends in a little notebook, it was the best advice I got because it really does help to manage those funds and make them last.
What is your number one tip for sustainable travel?
I am a firm advocate for supporting local communities, choosing community-based tourism over outsourced tourism, home stays over hotels, social enterprises over high-class restaurants. If we are spending money to see the world, let’s also spend money to make a difference to the livelihoods of the communities we visit. I also think the experience we gain from this is so much more authentic and much more sustainable.
Where else on social media can we find you?
I'm pretty much everywhere. I love social media too much. Mostly because it's one of our generation's platforms to human connection, although one can argue the opposite. I'm regularly on Instagram posting pictures about where I am in the world. My Twitter is full of social activism, responsible travel tips and human and animal rights articles. My Facebook is up to date with my latest blog posts and inspiring posts I find along the way. I also love Pinterest and collaborate on a lot of travel related boards so you can find me there as well.
Is there a story behind your blog name?
Yes actually there is. My blog name was inspired by the book 'The Life You Can Save' and the TED talk 'The Why and How of Effective Altruism' by Peter Singer. The word altruistic means the selfless concern for the wellbeing of others. Seeing as the aim of this journey was to share stories about how we could help others while we travel, the word fit the theme perfectly. My passion is human rights, and have often been interested in philanthropy and ways that we can help others. I wanted to combine that passion with my love for travel and see if I can inspire others to make more informed choices when travelling, choices that positively affect the places and the people they meet. So far I have found many ways that we can do this, I've also seen altruism in all the countries I visit. There are so many people who are selflessly concerned for the wellbeing of others and it's wonderful.
What is the best thing you have ever eaten anywhere on the planet?
Chocolate. I will forever be grateful for the Cacao plant and the wonders it can produce. Admittedly, I am a chocoholic and since I've been travelling I've been trying chocolate from all over the world. In the case of chocolate, the West doesn't do it best. Until now the best chocolate I have ever tasted is in Bali, raw cacao chocolate from the plantations of northern Ubud. It's the most mouth watering, perfectly rich chocolate I have ever tasted. Until I travel to the Americas and try the chocolate there , Bali is on the top of the ladder for best chocolate in the world.
What skills do you think you have developed since traveling a lot?
I would definitely say patience. As a city girl I come from a fast-paced environment. We are used to always being in a rush, in a rush to get to work, in a rush to beat the traffic, in a rush to the train, in a rush for dinner. We are used to having what we want when we want because our countries work in an efficient way so that everyone who is in a rush can get to things faster. When you travel this is not the case. I remember sitting on a bus for two hours in Bangkok. No one on the bus seemed at all concerned that the bus was barely moving, except the Westerners. No one looked at their watches or clocks, except the Westerners. No one asked when the bus was going to get to the destination, except the Westerners. I sat there and thought 'I'm travelling, I don't have to be in a rush, the bus will get there when it gets there, nothing I can do will change that'. And that's one of the many many times that my patience has been tested. But I'm glad because I don't want to always be in a rush. I love my relaxed travel lifestyle and I want it to stay that way.
Who are your favourite people to spend time with?
People who care about the world. The people who aren't afraid to stand up and say 'hey, somethings not right here'. The environmentalists, the social activists, the human rights defenders, the LGBT rights defenders, the animal activists. The people who want to talk about the solutions and not only the problems. The people who can get lost in a conversation about ways that we can help the world, and ways that we can bring people together. Those are my favourite people to spend time with.
I now nominate the following bloggers for a Leibster award:
Here are my 11 questions for you girls -
What ignited your love for travel?
Tell us one of your favourite countries to travel to and why?
Have you travelled solo? If so, what was your favourite thing about it?
What was your least favourite thing about solo travel?
How have you changed/grown as a traveller over the years?
What is one way that you think travel can help to change the world for the better?
Have you travelled to a developing country? What was your experience like?
What is the nicest thing someone has done for you while travelling?
What is your number one tip for travelling responsibly?
Tell us about one of your most authentic cultural experiences
What is one piece of advice you could give to other travellers?
Thanks again to World On A Whim and Hippie Hits The Road for the nominations. I'm looking forward to hearing from the new nominees and continuing to share the Leibster love.