1. Please tell us who you are, where you’re from and what you were doing before you went travelling?
Hola, I’m Amanda (most of my mates call me AJ), I’m from Taree in Australia, but have lived in Sydney for the past 9 years. Before taking off on my world adventure I was a Senior Lawyer for Perpetual.
2. What sparked your interest in giving up work and travelling the world?
It was a book I read in Africa a couple of years ago…It basically said that when you’re 80 years old are you going to tell your grandkids about the time you negotiated a deal with your client at work, or are you going to tell them about the time you slept in a tree house in Sri Lanka and watched the fireflies in the trees as you went to sleep? I realised that after 9 years of being a lawyer I needed to do something adventurous and outside my comfort zone. It was the best decision of my life!
3. What would you say to other people considering doing the same?
Just freaking do it. There is no excuse! I met single mums travelling with kids, travellers with no money, older men and women travelling on their own, there really is no excuse not to do it.
4. Finish the sentence “I just won’t eat”…
Olives. Yuk. Give me deep fried crickets, sea urchins, calf skull, yak steak, cow penis and testicle soup and snails from street vendors (just some of my delicacies from my year away), but keep olives away from me.
5. You won’t travel without…
Boring I know, but my Steripen. It looks like a big vibrator so I’ve received many funny looks taking it through airport security, but it’s been a lifesaver on many occasions. It uses ultraviolet light to sterilise a litre of water in 90 seconds. It’s saved me from many hangovers…oh and dehydration in the Himalayas. Gold!
6. Favourite takeaway any night of the week?
Pizza. Ham and pineapple. I spent 3 months in sicily and it was sacrilegious to put pineapple on a pizza…clearly the Italians don’t know how to make a good pizza.
7. Person who inspires you the most and why?
A Nepalese guy I met whilst trekking Everest Base Camp. He was a tea house owner who had summated Everest as a porter 8 times, and completed the Everest marathon (42kms at altitudes topping 5184m) four times with a top time of just over four and a half hours. It took me four days to trek the same distance, 6-8 hrs of trekking a day! A.W.E.S.O.M.E. All the porters in Nepal are truly inspirational.
8. If you were holding a dinner party what would you serve?
I’m holding one tomorrow, Aussie style for my spanish friends. I’m serving scones, meat pies and ANZAC biccies.
9. Most memorable travel destination and why?
CUBA!!! It’s a different world. It is set back in the past like from a movie set. The nurses wear those sexy white short nurses outfits with little hats, banks have old school typewriters (it took three days to get money as there was electricity blackouts, no ATMs and no credit card facilities) and most cars are vintage. In one place we visited, Baracoa, the furthest town east of Cuba, I saw maybe two cars the entire time I was there, it was all horse and carriage. Incredible!
10. What is your secret shameful food love?
Any food from street food vendors – the dodgier looking the tastier usually. But there’s nothing shameful about any of their food, it’s cheap, super delicious and the most authentic way to eat what the locals eat. Only last week I wandered out of the touristy area in Marrakech in Morocco, and ended up eating a pile of snails with a bunch of locals for 30 cents from a toothless street vendor, it was delicious!
11. If you had to relocate to another country today where would it be and why?
Spain, I have kind of relocated here…hi mum. I’m about to embark on a 3 month spanish course. The people, food and vino just can’t be beaten! It’s time to become a tapas eating vino alcoholic!
12. What have you learnt about yourself on your travels?
That I’m even more awesome than I originally suspected!! Haha, that and also that I’m seriously capable of making friends with absolutely anyone, I have friends now of all different ages and backgrounds from all over the world.
13. What is your proudest achievement?
Apart from giving up a stable, comfortable life and travelling all on my own around the world for a year, it would have to be completing the Annapurna circuit, Annapurna Base Camp, Everest Base Camp and Gyoko Ri trekking circuits in Nepal (and climbing 5632m!!) in 25 days, what would normally take a person 49 days to complete (over 400kms). It was the most strenuous, physically demanding, dirtiest (rare showers), and mentally draining thing I’ve ever done, but the views were beyond spectacular every single day and the people I met made every step worth it.
14. Most awkward or funny travel moment?
There were two, one I was boarding down a huge and steep volcano in Nicaragua on a snow board (but with no snow, just down the black volcano rock!), I was going way too fast and I caught up to the guy boarding in front of me, we collided and I did these huge rolls down the rest of the volcano before standing up and vomiting everywhere. Funny now, definitely not at the time! Secondly, New years night. My spanish is terrible and to pronounce Happy New Year in spanish is “Felith Anyos”. I was pronouncing it “Feliz Anos”, so I realised at the end of the night that I was wishing everyone a Happy Anus!
15. Most memorable foodie moment?
Soooo sooooo many!!! This year has been a year of orgasming in my mouth from food! From eating alpaca kebabs from a street vendor on the streets of Bolivia, sharing monster piles of paella in the backyard of a family’s home in Spain, sipping on a masala tea whilst admiring Mt Everest in Nepal, eating delicious curry in my very own Tree House in Sri Lanka, and enjoying the most mouth watering juicy fresh steak with gauchos on an Argentinian horse ranch.
However my every day most memorable foodie moment was eating in Sicily. By far the most unbelievably freshest, simplest most powerfully delicious tasting dishes in any country I’ve ever been. Becoming friends with all the chefs in town I got to experience seafood fresh off the boats, sardines, mussels, prawns, anchovies all beautifully cooked with delicious sides of eggplant, basil, tomato and fresh goats cheese salads whilst sitting watching the amazing sunsets with my wonderful Sicilian friends. That is what travelling is all about.