Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interview for Women on the Road

Over this last year I've been privileged to have interviewed some amazing and inspiring women including seven times world surfing champion Layne Beachley and Australia's favourite jungle girls Bindi and Terri Irwin. Recently though, the tables were turned and I became the subject of a similar interview for Women on the Road. Edited by Leyla Giray, Women on the Road is a fantastic website aimed at women who love to travel. Along with practical information on planning, safety and money, the website features interviews with inspirational women travellers who share their experiences and philosophies on travel. Other interviewees have included Hilary Bradt, the co-founder and chairperson of Bradt Travel Guides, Beth Whitman, publisher of Wanderlust and Lipstick (another great website for wild, wandering women), and Fawzia Rasheed, who is the author of Rough Guides' new book, Travel with babies and young children, so I'm certainly in good company. You can read my full interview here.
Picture: That's me standing on John Ford's Point in Monument Valley, Arizona.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Women CAN read maps, men just DON'T listen

I've just finished writing an article for MSN New Zealand titled Are men better travellers than women? (yes, a minefield I know, but I can't wait to see the reader comments on that one!), and one of the arguments that kept popping up time and again in my research against women was the old Women can't read maps chestnut.

While this notion has certainly been bandied around for as long as I can remember, it was made popular by Allan and Barbara Pease in their 2001 book, Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps. It was then given more credence by a report released by the University of Warwick in 2007 that claimed that women are apparently genetically predisposed to remain forever lost.

Really, I'd just like to say what a load of rubbish! I for one am very adept at reading maps (road maps, that is) and love nothing more than plotting a route and hitting the highway with a map close at hand. Perhaps it is because I've spent so many hours following and drawing up maps for the travel guidebooks I have worked on, but I pride myself on being able to get from A to B without getting lost. I've even, with my trusty map in hand, managed to have a fight with a GPS and been proven to be right (it's a long story).

Personally, I think it is more a case of men not listening to the women who are reading the maps. I have had this happen to me on several occasions while travelling for work, when in spite of the fact that I had a perfectly good map and was providing accurate directions to the destination I was seeking my male driver refused to listen to me and instead continually stopped to ask other men for directions. In one particular instance, the driver had blindly driven past the place we were trying to find, but rather than following my advice to turn around and go back he simply ignored me and continued on down the road in the wrong direction!

So what do you think? Can women read maps? Or are men, as the University of Warwick claims, genetically predisposed to be better travellers than women?

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Will your relationship pass the travel test?

By now you all should know that I am a strong proponent of travelling solo. While I love the freedom I feel when grabbing my backpack and setting off to explore the world alone, there are of course those times when I want to share the experience with someone else. Few things though, test a relationship like travelling together. Whether you are travelling with a friend or a romantic partner, the challenges you'll face being on the road together 24/7 will be unlike anything you'll have ever faced at home. So here are my five tips on how to ensure that your relationship passes the travel test:

1. Communication: The key to avoiding disappointment is communication. Discuss what you both expect from the trip and from each other. Determining these things at the start will prevent you from getting into unnecessary arguments and playing the blame game later if the trip doesn't go to plan.

2. Money: Before you think of packing your bags, make sure you have an open conversation about money and your spending habits. How much money are you both taking? Will you be travelling on a shoestring, moderate or top end budget? Who will control the money? Will you split all costs, or rely on one person?

3. Time apart: Travelling in such close proximity for an extended period is bound to drive you a little stir crazy. So before cabin fever sets in, make sure you plan some time apart. Whether it's a short stroll or a quiet cup of coffee or you want to try a different activity or need a few days to go off exploring by yourself, spending some time alone is a great way to recharge your relationship batteries.

4. Sociability: You need to be clear from the start about whether you are seeking exclusive one-on-one time together or are after a more social travel experience. And if you do want company set boundaries for new friendships to avoid upsetting or betraying your partner.

5. Compromise: You're not always going to want to do the same things or go to the same places – you might want to spend the day lazing on the beach while your partner wants to go trekking in the mountains. No matter what the situation, if the travelling partnership is going to work you both need to make some compromises. The key of course is striking the right balance.

Happy travels!

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