Twipper of the Week: Kiara Gallop from Gallop Around the Globe

Current City: Shrewsbury – a large medieval town in central England, whose claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of Charles Darwin!

Age: 42.  Although I still think I’m 24 most of the time!

Total countries visited: I actually had to check this, as the last time I counted was when I arrived in Bolivia (country number 34) in 2004! I had a vague aim to visit at least 40 countries by the time I was 40 and I think I made it! I’m now on 44.

What makes you interesting? This is probably a question I should be asking my friends! It’s really difficult to know how other people see you! I’d like to think I’m interesting because I’m curious, quirky, enthusiastic, intuitive, positive, intelligent (although my boyfriend will tell you that what I have in intelligence I lack in common sense!) determined, and independent.  I’ll also happily talk to you for hours about travel, blogging, photography, music, books, and food.

What brands do you love: I use a lot of brands, but I’m not sure I know too much about the people behind the brands and their business ethics / personal morals.  But based on the fact that they offer great products or services, Booking, Airbnb and Skyscanner when it comes to travel planning, Dr. Martens and All Saints when it comes to fashion, Cotswold Outdoor for outdoor and hiking gear and Lush for beauty products.

What’s your favorite passport stamp? Ahhh, that’s so difficult to answer! But I’ll probably have to say the first one! As I’m from the UK, we don’t get passport stamps when we travel to EU countries (at least, not at the moment; with Brexit looming, things may change) so the first passport stamp I got was the first time I traveled outside the EU.  It was 2002 and I went to Thailand.  It was the beginning of a very long love affair with the country.

What does “Travel” mean to you? So much! The anticipation of travel lights a fire in my soul. Travel satisfies my hunger for new experiences – new sights, new sounds, and new flavors.  Each day brings with it a new discovery, a new adventure.  The people, landscapes and situations I encounter are an endless source of inspiration to me, and constantly provide me with knowledge, appreciation, and understanding of a country which is often so very different to my own.  I have a favorite quote about travel which you’ll find in my “about me” section of my blog and it pretty much sums up what travel means to me – “Travel is not a reward for working; it’s education for living.”

Describe your most unique or funniest travel experience: Jees, these questions are getting harder and harder!! I think in a way all travel experiences are unique.  Even if we visit the same places and follow the same paths as others, we all take something very different from our experiences.  However, I can think of a couple of funny stories from Southeast Asia involving monks.  Neither was funny for me at the time (one was awkward and the other was embarrassing), but they make amusing tales to tell.  The first was the time a monk tried to seduce me at a deserted temple in Savannakhet, Laos.  He lured me in with the well-versed line about helping him to practice his English, but once inside his study he kept wanting to hold my hand, touch my leg and hug me.  He subsequently became rather ‘aroused’ – which is a bit difficult to hide under loose saffron-colored robes! I promptly made my excuses and ran! The second was when I got on to a crowded bus in northern Thailand. I did as I normally do when I get on a bus – sat down in the first available seat I could see.  My bottom had barely touched the seat and EVERYONE on the bus lurched towards me, a mixture of horror and shock on their faces, and removed me from my seat.  I’d only gone and sat next to a monk.  As a woman, this is not just frowned upon; it’s considered hugely disrespectful.  One of the ladies on the bus took me to one side and kindly explained my mistake.  It’s one I never made again! I also feel I should mention that the first incident happened AFTER the second.  If it had been the other way around, I think I would’ve avoided sitting next to a monk anywhere!!

Is there anywhere you will not travel to and why? Although I do love to travel to off the beaten path destinations, I always check the Foreign Safety Advice for the country I’m planning to travel to on the gov.uk website, and if they advise that it’s not safe to travel there then I won’t.  I’m not prepared to risk my life for the sake of travel so I will avoid countries or regions where there is social, political or religious unrest. Other than that though, I’m open to traveling pretty much anywhere!

What are your travel rituals: My travel rituals? If you mean something I always like to do regardless of where I travel to then I love to browse local produce markets.  They’re always so vibrant and colorful and can teach us a lot about a country’s food and culture.  Trying a few of the local delicacies is obviously a necessity too.  Something I also love to do when I first arrive in a new place is head to a high point in order to gaze down upon the city/town/village below.  It helps me get my bearings and to orientate myself with my home for the next few days.

If your personality was a city or country, which one would it be? Wow! Um…can I pass on this one? I think it would have to be a city of contrasts.  I love the great outdoors but I’m just as happy snuggled up indoors in front of an open fire with a bowl of hot soup and a good book, I’m an introvert but I love nothing better than a great night out with friends, and I love the energy of cities as much as I love the quietness and solitude of the mountains.

Next travel destination: At the end of this month I leave for a 10-day adventure around the Puglia region of Italy.  My boyfriend and I have got a few days in the cave city of Matera and then we pick up a couple of bikes for the remaining week.  We’ll be staying in a traditional Truli house in Alberobello and subsequently cycling along the coast of the heel of Italy, visiting Ostuni, Gallipoli, Santa Maria di Leuca, Otranto, and Lecce.