Hello from two very opposite parts of the world!
Earlier this week I, sitting in North Coast of Ireland, had the great pleasure of getting to know someone sitting in “cold” Sydney in Australia. Helen is the author of Travel and Food focused blog The Lite Backpacker; I was keen on interviewing her because this blog shows you how you can eat healthy whilst living the backpacker lifestyle.
So Helen, firstly let’s set the scene. Where exactly in the world are you and what time is it?
I am sitting in Sydney and its 10:30am on a cold Tuesday morning… that’s right it’s COLD. Sydney does occasionally have a few wintery weeks, and this week is a nose chiller. Thank goodness I am off to Thailand in a few weeks!
Thailand that is interesting! What brings you to Thailand?
Cheap flights! I am heading to Thailand as I saw a cheap deal on flights and thought why not take a break from the miserable Sydney winter (Sydney doesn’t know how to do winter like many Northern cities). Then I found an even cheaper flight from Thailand to Hong Kong, so I am also going there for a week before coming home.
You write and maintain a blog called The Lite Backpacker; it mentions “-a vow of finding a way to enjoy travel food without the weight gain.” Is this what inspired you into blogging?
Definitely, I have always kept a diary which was ten times more interesting when I was travelling. The more trips I went on, the more friends and family would ask for tips and advice. I started a travel blog years ago to just talk about my adventures in general, back then I think my only regular reader was my grandfather. I soon realised that the subject I tended to write most about was how to cook creatively when travelling on a budget, or my favourite activities when travelling that were healthy – like hiking or snorkelling. Focusing my blog on these subjects really helped my creativity – suddenly I am at the computer everyday writing or researching. I love it.
Can you explain the trip prior that brought you to making the above vow?
When I was 18, like so many Australian’s I packed up my huge backpack and headed off to Europe. It was the first time I had been away from home alone, the freedom was overwhelming, I over indulged… in everything. By the time I came home a year later I could not fit into any of my clothes. Like a lot of people who have sudden weight gain, I then went through a spiral of dieting compounded by body image issues.
The next trip I went on was to South East Asia, and it was there that I had the opposite problem. After having a few stomach bugs I ended up losing too much weight… I looked sickly and I felt frail and tired all the time.
When I got home from that second trip I had realised that I loved travelling and that it would always be a big part of my life, but my eating and exercising habits when travelling were hurting my body.
My next trip to the states, which was when I really took control and made the vow to be healthy. I taught myself to cook with limited ingredients and utensils and made sure to add exercise into my day – walking or cycling when sightseeing is one of my favourite ways to add in exercise. Since then I haven’t had any problems maintaining a healthy and comfortable weight that keeps me happy with my body while travelling.
Your blog is quite a foodie based blog, correct? Are there any foods that you simply just won’t eat?
Mushrooms! Yep, mushrooms. Most people love them… I can’t stand them. I keep trying to like them because they seem like such a delicious food. I will try them every couple of weeks in a different way (butter, garlic, fried, baked, stewed, and raw) but each time the result is the same. I don’t like them. Other than that I will try everything once… though maybe not tripe… the texture of that really freaks me out.
Pick a Letter (A-Z)
Name a meal from a culture not of your own with this letter.
Tostada’s from Mexico – I was there a couple of months ago and I now crave Mexican food constantly. I can’t find tostada shells anywhere in Australia which means I can’t even make them for myself… very heart breaking. Guess I just need to go back to Mexico…
What is your favourite Travel Memory?
Oh that is a hard one… there are so many. There are probably two that stick out the most.
The first one was when I arrived in Munich as a young 18 year old. Nervous and shy of all of the backpackers who all seemed to know what they were doing, while I still hadn’t worked out how to wash my clothes. I remember meeting a group of people in the hostel who took me to one of the beer houses with them. Seeing the giant beer glasses (I hadn’t really drunk beer at that point… like most teenagers I was all about the mixed drinks) and giant pretzels, laughing with complete strangers and then getting home safely and curling up in bed all warm and happy, feeling so different to the beginning of the evening – that is a stand out memory for me. I think it was the moment I fell in love with travel, of meeting new people, of trying new things.
The second memory happened a couple of months ago in Guatemala. I woke up VERY early one morning to do the sunrise tour of the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. I knew the chances of getting a good sunrise were slim as it had rained for the whole week. Well, I got lucky, it was the best sunrise they had in months. It was amazing. I can’t describe it, or how it felt to be standing on top of an ancient Mayan pyramid, completely surrounded by jungle, watching the sun come up while howler monkeys… howled! A breath taking, electrifying, amazing, soul searching moment – everyone should go. It is those moments that keep me travelling, that inspire me to save every penny, to get out of my comfort zone – it’s those moments that you realise it was worth it.
Plane, train or boat travel (and why?)
Planes get you there faster but are crowded and uncomfortable. Boats are pretty, but on big seas I get seasick. So if I had the time I would take the train, every time. There are so many great train journeys that I want to take in my lifetime. Some of them I am saving till I have become a grey nomad and have the funds to do it in style, others I am already trying to plan into my itinerary. Doing the reunification express through Vietnam was one of my favourite trips.
Do you have any advice for first time backpackers, looking to eat healthy?
Shop at markets, the produce is cheaper and fresher. Also it’s a great opportunity to do a little sightseeing and meet some locals. Also don’t try and cook a huge fabulous feast, simple ingredients can create delicious affordable meals. Chilli, lime, salt and pepper will transform vegetables in a heartbeat.
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