Today we are traveling with Stephanie from Big World Small Pockets.
My name is Stephanie Parker. I’m originally from the small island of Jersey off the coast of Britain, but am now based Down Under in the land of Australia. My blog Big World Small Pockets is a travel blog with a keen focus on budget adventure – camping, road trips, hiking and recommended free attractions feature heavily, as well as money saving travel tips!
What type of traveler would you say are you?
So yes I’m definitely a budget traveller and always have been. For the whole of my twenties I was never able to work much between the demands of studying and the call of my itchy feet whisking me off to some faraway location. As such, I’ve had to learn how to see as much of the world as possible for as little as possible. Slow, solo backpacking was always my thing as I love spending a lot of time in one place or country and getting to know it really well. However, now that I’ve met a partner in crime and are in my 30’s, things have changed slightly! I still a definite budget traveller, but not sure if I qualify as a backpacker anymore – we’re about to head off round Australia on a year-long roadtrip in a Landrover Defender – so rather than carrying my life on one bag, it will all be in one car! We have any budget of $5000 and will work our way around the country to sustain ourselves – it’s going to be great!
What’s inside your backpack? What is that one thing that you ALWAYS have to carry
I’m a minimalist traveller and so normally travel long term with only a 40 litre backpack. In here are the usual spattering of clothes, a sleeping bag, numerous books, a few essential toiletries, some health foods, a couple of bandaids and a headtorch! Strapped to the outside is a tent and a yoga mat! The one thing I’ll always carry is a sarong. This incredibly versatile pieces of travel kit are super, light, quick to dry and sooo useful. From beach towel, to sunshade, dress to bed sheets, I always take at least 2 sarongs with me no matter where in the world I’m headed.
Are you usually traveling alone? Why?
In my twenties I travelled predominantly solo, but have also undertaken a few trips with friends, both male and female. In the last 18 months I’ve been travelling with my partner. All types of travel have their pro and cons and for me, whether I’ve travelled alone or not has broadly been determined by the period of life I’ve been in at that time. Loneliness is one of the major drawbacks to solo travel, but it’s hard to beat the feeling fo freedom that this way of travel allows you.
Did you find safe Morocco for a solo female traveler?
I’m going to be brutally honest and put myself out here a bit and say, no. I actually didn’t travel Morocco solo, but with a good girlfriend. And I was glad. Particularly on night buses it was a welcome relief to have someone sitting next to me that I knew. Much as I loved that trip and the country – we hitchhiked down through France and Spain, then caught a boat to get to Morocco – it’s not somewhere I’d be keen to go alone.
How was the experience of traveling Central and South America?
Travelling in Central and South America, mostly by myself, was one of those experiences that will shape me for the rest of life. It’s hard to put everything I learnt during that time into words, but let’s just say I felt like I matured a lot! I suppose the highlight for me will always be Little Corn Island – this magical destination off the coast of Nicaragua will always have a special place in my heart.
I turned up there planning to stay a week and ended up living there for a year – working with local people, volunteering at the school and making some wonderful friendships. The privilege I was given to live life in a different culture and to be immersed in that, rather than watch as a tourist on the outskirts, was very eye-opening. The local people were so welcoming and their island is certainly one the most beautiful places in the world. If you like white-sand Caribbean beaches, fresh coconut every morning, scuba diving with turtles or sharks or hammock-swinging you should go!
What was your best adventure while traveling?
Hiking the in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range in the north of Colombia was a pretty wild adventure. After befriending a local man, who normally leads tours in the area, he offered to take me and a friend I was with at the time, up to his hut in the mountain range for free. Normally visitors aren’t allowed to go here much, previously because of the narco-traffickers, but more recently because of the respect for the indigenous people of this area, the Kogi. The local man we hiked with was very friendly with the indigenous people and, while not a member of their tribe, he was given special rights by them i.e. allowed to have a hut up there. Trekking into this dense, wild landscape, camping up in the mountains for days, bathing in rivers and seeing how some of the Kogi people lived was an incredibly special adventure that few travellers would have the opportunity to do. I felt very lucky.
Which country did you find the most hospitable people?
I’ve found the Australian people very hospitable – and that’s not just because my boyfriend is an Aussie! The relaxed and very unpretentious culture here means I find people generally very open, non-judgmental and welcoming. Most would go out of their way to help you.
How is a day in your life when you aren’t traveling?
Like most people it revolves around work. I’m usually always saving for a trip, so I work hard to earn when I have job and often work big weeks. I’m top of this, I’m now blogging too. It’s becoming a second job! Outside of work, I try to meditate and practise yoga everyday, I also enjoy being out in nature, be it the beach or a walk in the woods I try to get some fresh air time everyday too. Of course spending time with my partner, friends and family, normally over food, is very important to me as well.
What’s the big reason why you are traveling?
I see travel as a gift, something I’m very lucky to be able to do. As such, I want to take full advantage of this gift and to use it in the best way I can. I know no better way to demonstrate my unending gratitude for this gift than to use it, so travel is kind of my way of saying thank you. I also want to see as much of the world before I die – that’s one of my real priorities. It sets my heart racing and makes me feel alive.
Can you tell us about your longest trip? How long was it and which places did you go to?
The Central and South America journey was over 2 years in total, although I did come home after the first 6 months, because I had 2 weddings to attend, a funeral to go to and a job to quit. I then went back out there and stayed a further 20 months. I had 4000 pound saved (through working freelance for arts charities in London) and made my money last. I worked along the way, volunteered a lot and stayed for free in a tent where I could, but the trip was all the more fun because of it.
In all the trips you’ve done, what has been your favorite so far? and why?
Australia, because my 1-year trip here has become my life! Now I’ve applied for my residency through my partner and hope to stay and travel from here! It’s hard to beat the climate, the outdoors lifestyle and work-life balance many people have here. There’s also a lot to see, do and explore within Australia itself. I’ve done quite a bit, but am looking forward to more! I love the open stretches of wilderness, the colours of the landscape and the possibilities for getting off-grid!
What’s your favorite gastronomy/food cuisine that you had in your travels?
I’ve been a vegetarian for over 10 years and a vegan for almost 3, so this is a hard question! I do love Australia, because it’s still easy for me to get a feed here! Particularly on the Sunshine Coast, where I’m based at the minute, there is a real emphasis on healthy eating and I love the choices of raw food, sustainable and local products and the great farmers markets. Noosa Farmers Market is epic!
Has there been any challenging and bad moments? Can you tell us about the experience?
Being held at gunpoint in Colombia, was pretty crazy, but weirdly enough not as scary as it sounds! I was left unscathed and nothing got taken from me, so I came out pretty lucky!
I was involved in 2 car crashes in Mexico while hitch-hiking, the second of which was pretty harrowing as the car flipped and we couldn’t get out for a while. Getting into any sort of bus or vehicle after that was quite daunting and made me anxious for a few weeks or so. But time is a great healer!
I was also involved in quite a full on storm when I was sailing between the coast of Mozambique and Madagascar. At one point the hull of the catamaran broke due to the force of the waves and there was water pouring in. We also had no lights or warning system due to an electrical failure, and just had to tough it out, while bailing out the boat, trying not to be sick and hoping not to die! We made it through though!
What has been you favorite destination on all the trips you’ve done? Please tell us why.
Golden Bay in New Zealand is an incredibly beautiful part of the world. There is a walk near there that takes you to Cape Farewell – the most northerly point of the south island. From here you can get to Wharariki Beach, which is the most incredible and atmospheric coastal landscape I’ve ever seen. It made me cry! Sunset there is something else and it’s beyond adorable to see the baby seals in their nursery pools while mum goes out fishing!
What’s the worst place that you have stayed in for sleeping? What’s the best? .
I think the worst place was in a guesthouse, of sorts, in Pemba, Mozambique. I was there in 2004, so quite sometime ago, and the country still very poor and recovering from awful civil war that had ended a decade earlier. The place we stayed was filthy, ravaged by malaria-ridden mosquitos and had no bathroom. Just a bucket, a hole in the ground and an old towel. One night was enough!
The best was probably a hostel called The Kraal in South Africa – with no electricity, composting toilets and Xhosa thatched huts for bedrooms, I loved the rural feel of the places and its setting along South Africa’s most untouched, remote and beautiful coastline.
Are you planning for a new trip or do you already have a new trip in mind?
Yes, in just under 2 months time, my and my boyfriend are packing up our lives into a Landrover Defender and embarking on a year-long road trip around Australia. We don’t know much about where we will go or end up, only that we’ll start heading north towards Cape York in mid March and that we will work along the way, in any way we can, to sustain ourselves. We have tent on the roof, a fridge in the back, an old map in the front and a wild sense of adventure in our hearts! What more do we need?
Its easy to find love while you are traveling?
No, it’s only happened to me once, but that’s enough I guess!
How do you finance your trips?
I work hard and save even harder while I can. I don’t buy stuff I don’t need! I’ve trained as a community theatre practitioner, but because almost all of my work is short-term and happens across the world, hospitality seems to be how I earn most money these days. It’s a good skill to have!
How many hours do you usually work in your blog? How do you manage blogging while traveling?
Too many! I reckon at least 25-30 hours a week. It’s a lot. When you’re travelling it’s easier in that you don’t have paid work to contend with so much as well, but it’s also harder as internet access can be a nightmare.
Do you have any recommendations which blogger/traveller should I interview next?
I really like the blog of Nikita at Life in Transience. Her writing is thoughtful, intelligent, engaging and unassuming. I share hers stuff quite a bit and also gets good responses from my followers.
Amazing story Steph, thanks for your time!
Stephanie is a real traveler! And not only that. She’s a real proof that you don’t need too much money for traveling. Amazing experiences in Central and South America. Now she is traveling around Australia. If you want to follow your dream, just do it! We are here to support you.
If you want to know more about Stephanie, check her website where you will find full information on how to travel around the world in a low budget. Be sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram, whatever your favorite channel is, for more updates.
Keen to read more travel stories? You can check our interview with Tomislav Perko, who’s been traveling around the world with a $1o budget per day while traveling. We also have Jeremy Marie, a French hitchhiker who’s been traveling around the world 5 years.
Enjoy you’re reading, and keep the travel fun going. x