This week, We caught up with Megan Claire Jerrard from Mapping Megan.com, who is an Australian journalist who has chosen to travel since 2007. Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan has accumulated a wealth of firsthand knowledge about what the world has to offer.
Her articles have been widely published and acknowledged by publications such as National Geographic, the New York Times, Forbes, and British Airways High Life. Megan thrives on adrenaline and adventure travel whether it be skydiving, bungee jumping, climbing the world’s tallest peaks, mountain biking the world’s deadliest roads, or diving with Great whites.
There is nothing Megan is afraid to try in order to share her experiences as she dedicates herself to encouraging others to get out and travel the world. Let’s hear from her about her experiences so far.
1. What was the major driving factor behind starting “ Mapping Megan ”?
I’ve always had a passion for storytelling, and I completed a double degree in journalism as well as law. When I began traveling in 2007, I started a blog so family and friends could track my movements. It wasn’t until 2013, however, that I realized this platform had the potential to bring in a full-time income. So I put everything I had into transitioning from a hobby blog into an adventure travel brand.
I have been writing in the travel niche ever since; guides, videos, interviews with people we meet on the road, and narratives about our adventures.
2. What has been your favorite memory on the roads so far?
Kissing a Giraffe while in Africa has been my most amusing memory on the road so far – and one which always makes me laugh! … well, actually she kissed me! We visited the Giraffe Sanctuary while in Kenya, and part of the experience was being able to feed the Giraffes. Pellets were provided and the normal way to go about feeding them was to let them eat from your hand.
I, on the other hand, thought it would be fantastically funny to place a pellet in-between my teeth, not realizing that a Giraffes tongue is about as big as my face itself! (Slight exaggeration but that’s what it felt like!) I was wiping saliva off my face for what felt like a week!!
3. Where was your most recent trip to?
I took a cruise from Australia to New Zealand which circumnavigated both islands, and it was a fabulous way to get a taste of the country in a relaxed way, sample some of it’s incredible scenery. We’re really looking forward to getting back at some stage, this time flying in and renting a car so we can immerse ourselves inland now having taken in the main coastal ports.
4. What are the top 3 destinations that stands high on your bucket list and why?
Namibia, Sudan, and Mongolia. All three have a really exotic appeal, Namibia for it’s incredible landscapes and wildlife, Sudan (albeit might be a bit dangerous at the moment), for it’s ancient history (it has more ancient pyramids than Egypt, that just lie there forgotten, with virtually no tourism) ,and Mongolia to experience it’s nomadic culture.
5. How do you determine where to go next? what kind of places appeal to you?
We choose our destinations based on opportunities and cheap flights on offer at the time. We constantly keep our eyes out for deals and discounts, and usually let cheap travel trends dictate where we head next.
I find that this level of spontaneity means we’re open and able to experience places we might not have ever heard of before. And it allows us to discover some truly hidden gems – the most popular destinations are always the most expensive – Paris, New York, Tokyo – because everyone is traveling there. But we love visiting regions which are untouched, very authentic, and off the beaten path. So we’ve caught flights to country’s like Bolivia, and the Faroe Islands, and had a truly fabulous time!
6. Tell us about your worst travel experience till date!
Being sick is always the worst. Sickness completely ruins a trip! Not only are you in a horrible mood feeling sorry for yourself, sickness often means you end up holed up in the hotel instead of being out there experiencing a city.
Between a mild case of malaria in Kenya (mild meaning you pass out but not badly enough to be hospitalized!!), heat stroke in Paris and an asthma attack in Budapest I’ve had my fair share of illness overseas! Plus I’m a woman so we’re “sick” at least once every month!! The challenge is making the best of the time you do have and not letting your sickness and subsequent bad mood completely ruin the destination for you!
7. Let’s talk fashion, what has been your most stylish buy ever and from where?
I landed in Venice last year to find that the airline had lost my bag, so used the compensation as an excuse to hit the boutiques on a bit of a shopping spree! You can pick up some incredible Italian fashion in Venice for surprisingly affordable prices. I bought this BEAUTIFUL black leather jacket which I wear everywhere to this day!
8. What are some packing hacks that you swear by?
Packing cubes!!! I’m obsessed. These are fabric cubes which come in different shapes and sizes usually secured and fastened with a zip. They’re a great way to keep your clothes, accessories and toiletries separated and compact whilst travelling. And they’re such a fabulous way to keep your luggage organized, and instantly be able to find things. They also reduce your impact on the environment, and mean you don’t have to travel with plastic bags which is something we’re very conscious about.
9. What are your 5 must have travel essential items that you can’t travel without?
Clean underwear: you would think that this is a given, but I make a point of carrying an extra pair in my carryon when I’m in transit, and in my day pack when I head out each day – you never know when/if you’ll need it!!
Noise canceling headphones – because I’m always seated next to a crying child!
A travel pillow.
Smartphone; it has everything you could possibly need when you’re traveling in one handy device! Think calculator, clock, social media, the web for information, camera, e-reader, music, banking – literally everything you could ever think to need is usually available via an app.
Portable WiFi hotspot; Staying connected at all times is essential as someone who works online while I’m traveling, so a portable WiFi hotspot makes it possible to access a high speed Internet connection anywhere I am.
10. How do you manage to keep your skin healthy and fresh while traveling? What is your everyday beauty routine while travelling?
I don’t have so much of a beauty routine for keeping my skin healthy as a dedication to eating healthy. It’s very tempting when you’re overseas and on the go to eat junk, stop at fast food stores, and splurge, but we make our best effort to visit markets and local grocery stores when we’re traveling and cook for ourselves. This way we’re still getting our fruits and vegetables, and fish, as I truly believe healthy food are essential for healthy skin.
11. How do you manage travelling to new places, not knowing their local languages?
I’ve gotten very good at pictionary and charades!! However I always make the effort to learn a few key phrases in the language of the destination I’m traveling to, and then I let apps make up the gap for the rest.
Though if I can offer a tip – there are hundreds of language translation apps available for Apple and Android devices, and it’s easy to impulse buy in the app store, but to avoid wasting money, do your research. Read customer reviews and look at star ratings, including the total number of ratings as a single five-star rating isn’t as reliable an indicator of quality as 100 4-star ratings.
Look for apps that store the information locally rather than requiring you to access the internet every time you look up a word, to reduce roaming data costs and to prevent you getting stuck when you’re out of reception range. Make sure you download all the relevant data when you have access to WIFI.
12. Share any experience you faced because of communication gap.
In 2010, I traveled to Kenya as part of a multinational camp. We were split up into smaller camps of 50 for two weeks. During the day we would complete volunteer projects like building bus stations and visiting local schools, and each evening we were given raw food and told to figure out dinner as a group.
This was more of a challenge than you might think, and on that first night we all went hungry. With 50 different nationalities, cultures clashed, there were language barriers, and immense hunger made our tempers run high. Opinions varied on how we should cook, we had different standards of hygiene and sanitation, and ingredients that those from Western nations considered waste (like bones), kept getting thrown back into the pots. It was an absolute mess, and everyone stormed off without eating and went back to their tents.
Though frustrating, it only took a day to realize that we needed to work together and communicate properly if we wanted to eat. And as we began to work together, it wasn’t long before dinner became a really enjoyable time. A time for chatting, laughter, dancing, and enjoying samples of cuisine from all over the globe.
13. Do you follow travel blogs? If so, name some bloggers that you personally like?
Gary Arndt runs Everything Everywhere and was the reason I started blogging. He is a world famous travel photographer, and has a truly fabulous blog.
Hannah Logan runs Eat Sleep Breath Travel and constantly publishes really thought provoking articles and entertaining reads.
Shane Dallas from The Travel Camel documents his travels to some of the most dangerous countries in the world, and destinations others dare not visit, and has a really fascinating blog with fantastic photography from his journeys.
14. How do you afford to travel?
We’ve simplified our life down to the very basics so that our savings goes towards travel experiences. We don’t drink coffee (I know!!!), recycle our wardrobes, buy meals from the grocery store instead of eating out, and don’t upgrade our technology just because there’s a new iPhone out. We also don’t drink or smoke.
It might sound like our existence is boring, but the money other people spend on cocktails and eating out, we spend on flights to the Galapagos Islands. Or Iceland. Or Antarctica. A lot of the expenses of everyday life are things you genuinely don’t need, and you would be amazed at how much money you save by cutting the above out. It’s always about priorities.
15. Is there any travel tip you would like to share with us?
Just go! I started my travel blog with the intention of inspiring others to embark on their own adventure. Everyone has what it takes to travel – you just need to act on it, and you need to truly want to do it. There’s no point in waiting for an opportunity to arise… MAKE one arise! Otherwise one day you will wake up and there won’ be enough time to do the things you’ve always wanted. So do it now. You would be surprised at how easy it is once you decide to let yourself do it. I think fear is what prevents a lot of people traveling, but once you push past that fear you realize that the possibilities are endless – and to hell with anyone who tells you you can’t achieve something or live your dream!!
16. Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
Food: Italian lasagne
Outfit: I have a tight plaid flannel shirt which I’m loving at the moment, paired with jeans.
Adventure sport: Skydiving