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Where's the best place you've ever stayed?
In terms of grandeur it would have to be the Burj Al Arab in Dubai - the famous hotel that looks like a sail. The first thing I remember seeing after arrival in a Rolls Royce was the huge fish tanks in the lobby being cleaned... by scuba divers! At the other end of the spectrum and closer to heart, I will never forget staying at Ayers Rock Campground in Australia’s outback. It was one of those surreal moments as I had wanted to stay there for so long! Beautifully simple with the most incredible sunset and sunrise over the rock.
What's your oddest travel moment?
Oh this is easy. Going on a helicopter flight just to get phone signal in the middle of the Australian outback! I still can’t believe it. I worked in a remote hotel in the West MacDonnell Ranges, where we also ran helicopter tours. Needing signal to contact my family and let them know I was alive, I jumped in the next flight and spent most of it on WhatsApp to the family. Awful! But it was that or the 130km drive to town for signal. In the outback things like that became the norm - what a strange but incredible place.
Have you had a perfect travel moment?
My mind is immediately taken back to Fiji when thinking of a perfect travel moment. I spent the first half of the trip in the Yasawa island chain. It was an iconic Fijian island getaway, with seaplanes landing each day and staff welcoming more guests with a traditional ‘Bula!’. The other half of my time in Fiji was spent in a small village on the mainland, staying with the owner of a local homestay. It was very basic and totally not how people would ever think of Fiji - but it was the real Fiji. I was followed around and given a village tour by the local children, who stole my camera and made hilarious videos on it for me to treasure. I ate dinner with the church pastor and was filled to bursting point with our hosts traditional Fijian cooking. “More food Shannon!” she would shout at every meal with a huge smile. It was such a special experience to have and one of the hardest places to leave. A true example of how the people you meet on your travels can really leave a remarkable imprint!
What are your suitcase essentials?
Packing cubes! These things are a dream for anyone who likes to keep their luggage all organised when moving around frequently. They are how I managed 10 months of travel with a 50l backpack. Also my ‘jungle shoes’ that I bought in Sumatra for orangutan trekking. They cost 90p and are the comfiest and most resilient walking shoes I own!
Where's next on your wishlist?
After our 2018 wedding in Slovenia, I’m hoping to get to either South America, China, or Africa. Places like Guatemala, Nicaragua and Ecuador just look so exciting in terms of culture, landscape and food. The other plan is a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Mongolia to Beijing, followed by camping on the Great Wall of China and a few nights in Hong Kong. I’m also really starting to crave a safari in Tanzania or Kenya, something I’ve only experienced a little taste of in Sri Lanka. Who knows which one of these trips I’ll do first!