Welcome to today’s installment in my new travel blogger interview series! The goal of this weekly series is to help spread the blogging love and introduce you to some other awesome travel bloggers! Any travel blogger, whether new or experienced, can sign up to be featured in this new series. Today I’m happy to share that I’m featuring Laura from What’s Hot?.
I’m Laura, a blogger and trainee solicitor based in London. I’ve been blogging for almost ten years and have slowly evolved What’s Hot? into an award-winning book and travel blog. I’ve always been an avid reader so when I later developed a passion for travel, the combination of the two created my niche – literary travel! My other passions include bubble tea, Harry Potter and pointing at dogs with tiny legs.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BLOGGING FOR? WHY’D YOU DECIDE TO START A TRAVEL BLOG?
Over the years I’ve written about lots of different things including books, films, lifestyle, fitness, food, travel and more. But now I’ve found my groove and it is books and travel, or ideally, literary travel! I love discovering literary places to visit in new cities including bookshops, places mentioned in books and places that inspired authors.
I love that you can “travel” through the pages of a book and seeing these places in real life always filled me with wonder. There aren’t too many articles about literary travel destinations out there, so I love sharing the places I’ve found with other book lovers.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW TRAVEL BLOGGERS/ASPIRING TRAVEL BLOGGERS?
My advice to budding bloggers is always to just start. People often ask me for advice on how to start a book blog or travel blog but a lot of it is learnt by experience. I cannot tell other people what to write or what niche to choose, that’s something you learn when you get going. I know it can be daunting when it seems like there are already so many bloggers out there but if you focus too much on how to do it, you may end up never starting. There is no “right” way to blog, so whilst others can offer you anecdotes from their own experience, nothing compares to just getting stuff out there for yourself and seeing what works for your audience and what inspires you.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WISH YOU KNEW BEFORE YOU STARTED TRAVELING?
I wish I’d known that with every new place you visit you realise how much more there is to see and discover in the world. It’s a never-ending cycle of wanting to revisit old favourites and wanting to explore new destinations! A pleasant kind of torture.
WHY DO YOU LOVE TO TRAVEL?
Whilst I love educating myself through reading, nothing beats actually experiencing a new city for yourself. It’s not until you travel that you can really understand the “vibe” of a city and I love that each is so different. Whilst each country has its stereotypes, you find that each city within that country will often have hugely different customs and personalities. I like discovering new things and challenging my existing way of thinking and travel is a great way to do that. If you don’t expose yourself to new things regularly, you won’t grow as an individual.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST AND WORST TRAVEL EXPERIENCE?
I’m not sure I have a worst travel experience, so I’ll focus on the best! Two of my best travel experiences involved just rocking up somewhere that I’d found via googling and then being given a private tour of the location, even though it was not really open to the public. Since this has happened to me twice now, it’s instilled in me the importance of trying to go off the beaten track and just turning up and seeing what happens.
In the first instance, I turned up at a library in a small Italian town. The receptionist didn’t speak English, so I was standing in the lobby for 15 minutes waiting for something (I didn’t know what) and was very confused. Then a man appeared, and he said he would let us in and show us around. His English was rather broken but in introducing ourselves, I quickly learned that he also spoke French. He conducted the rest of the library tour in French, which I studied at university, and it was a truly bizarre but wonderful experience I’ll never forget!
The second time this happened, I turned up at a “bookshop” I found on Google, but it actually turned out to be a man’s personal apartment. I only realised this when I left (after having poked around his shelves!) but he was so kind and generous he even gave me a book to take away with me even though I didn’t have any change.
DO YOU PREFER SOLO TRAVEL OR TRAVELING WITH OTHER PEOPLE? WHY?
Generally, I much prefer having someone to share experiences with. I’ve been on a few trips with friends now so I have figured out which ones like to travel in a similar way to myself so we all have the best time. I think this is quite important as people who are good friends normally might not be well-suited travel companions. However, I often prefer to explore the literary aspects of a destination by myself so I can take my time and not worry that my companion is bored. Few people are quite as into this niche type of travel as I am…
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE YOU’VE EVER BEEN TO? WHY?
Picking favourites is always so tough! Last year I visited Indonesia and think that was one of my favourite trips ever. There’s a real mix there of cultural sites you can visit, such as Borobodur and Prambanan, as well as the beautiful Bali hangouts that you see on Instagram. Plus, when you come from Europe, everything seems so cheap!
WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST TRAVEL TIP?
Get up early in the morning. I know lots of people might groan at this one but if I’m on a city break where there’s lots of exploring to do then I like to wake up early so I can arrive at popular attractions when they open. Exploring places that are already packed full of tourists is much less appealing and I prefer to go bright and early when it might be slightly more peaceful. This also means there’s more of an opportunity to speak to the staff dotted around for additional fun tidbits that might not be well-known.
IS THERE ONE SPECIFIC THING YOU LIKE TO DO, SEE, OR BUY IN EVERY PLACE THAT YOU VISIT?
I like to bring back a local delicacy for my family to try. It might be a spirit, a block of cheese, sweet treats or something else entirely. Even if it’s a type of food that’s available in the UK, I like to buy something from a local store or market so I can see what the authentic version tastes like!
IS THERE ONE PARTICULAR FOOD THAT YOU’VE TRIED WHILE TRAVELING THAT YOU LOVED? WHAT FOOD WAS IT AND WHY DO YOU LOVE IT SO MUCH?
Whilst in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, I woke up at 5am to go and visit Mbah Satinem’s food stall. Her stall has been incredibly popular since it was featured on Netflix’s “Street Food” and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about! She makes sweet treats, known as jajan pasar, from a combination of sticky rice, cassava, rice flour, coconut and syrup. It’s delicious. There are a number of different types that you can buy and since I queued for an hour, I decided to buy them all! Each was a delectable combination of textures and flavours that I hadn’t experienced before. It was really special watching her make them fresh before my eyes and then eating it on a stool by the roadside too.
Plane or train? Train
Hotel or hostel? Hotel
City or nature? City
Popular site or off the beaten path? Off the beaten path
Suitcase or backpack? Suitcase
Fast travel or slow travel? Slow travel
Professional camera or iPhone photography? Both!
Warm or cold weather? Warm
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All photos used throughout this post are taken by Laura from What’s Hot?.