This week’s guest post comes from Helen, travel blogger behind Destination>Differentville. She explains ‘Destination>Differentville is the travel blog of frustrated journalist Helen Foster. I use the word frustrated because a long, long time ago when I was at a crossroads in my career I had to make a decision. I’d been a travel editor of a glossy magazine and upon being dealt the happy hand of redundancy had done a few travel pieces for newspapers and magazine but at the same time I was fast developing a reputation for writing health stories. So, my second choice was to go into health – and just take a lot of holidays to indulge my love of travelling. For many reasons, I chose the latter and it’s gone well – not just the writing bit, but also the taking a lot of holidays – at one stage, I nearly wasn’t allowed on a flight as my passport was falling to bits from overuse (that was a hairy few hours). Fact is, I’ve always loved to travel – but recently, I’ve also started to enjoy writing about travel again. I’ve had pieces published in Sainsbury’s magazine in the UK, in the Sunday Telegraph in Australia and on websites like Passport Stamps and The Carousel but I wanted to have somewhere else to write about the fun stuff I was seeing and doing – and decided a travel blog would be the perfect place.’
1. What is your name and where do you come from?
My name is Helen Foster. I was born in the UK but I’m pretty sure that was some kind of accident and the stork dropped me off early as I hate the cold. Eventually, I had enough of the winters and emigrated to New Zealand. That was still too chilly so I now live in Sydney.
2. What sort of traveller are you? Full time / part time / business / backpacker etc?
I’m a part-time traveller as I have to fit trips around my day job as a health journalist – although, if you ask my friends they will say I’m always on holiday. However, as I’m lucky enough to live somewhere people want to travel to, I also get a chance to play tourist in Sydney most weekends trying to find a side of the city people don’t always see.
3. How do you fund your travelling?
From my day job although I have this lovely image that one day I’ll have the courage to quit that and just see what happens… or that I’ll find a unicorn that poops gold – one of the two.
4. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?
Japan. I describe it as the spiritual home of my blog Destination>Differentville. I love the madness of it – no matter where you are in the country you’ll find something that just makes you say ‘what the heck?’. That might be an entire island full of cats or rabbits; something mad to eat you find in a convenience store, a café where you cuddle hedgehogs or a spa where you get buried up to the neck in sand. I’d love to spend a year or two exploring the whole place properly.
5. Where is the worst place you have ever been and why?
Mount Teide, the volcano in Tenerife. I couldn’t afford a proper tour so got the public bus to the top – and it was a five hour wait until it went back down. I was about 18 at the time and hadn’t yet learned that mountains were high – and high places are usually cold! I was in shorts, t-shirt and sandals – and it was freezing. I think I lasted about 20 minutes outside – then spent the next four and a bit hours sitting in the café with only enough money for one cup of tea – and nothing else to do! Shame as it looked fantastic from the window!
6. Do you have a Bucket List? If so where are the 3 top places on it?
- The Taj Mahal – I was supposed to go here a couple of years ago but it all went wrong. Instead of spending ten days exploring Delhi and Agra, I literally flew into Delhi airport, sat there for two hours and then got on a plane to Bangkok. I nearly cried.
- Coober Pedy in Australia – this is an opal mining town in the middle of Australia and it’s so hot most of the year most of the town is underground – including the houses, a bar, church and at last one hotel.
- Chengdu in China. I’d love to go and see the Panda Research Base.
7. What 3 things (apart from the essentials – food/water etc) do you always travel with?
I actually pack really light, until you get to my toiletries bag which is ridiculous. The health writer in me comes out and I’ve developed a massive list of ‘essentials’…
If it’s somewhere hot where I’m going to eat street food I pack Bimuno Travelaid Pastilles. These chewy sweets are prebiotics and help populate your gut with bugs that somehow help you avoid food poisoning. I’ve literally eaten from the same plate as my partner while taking these and he’s got sick and I haven’t.
Aromatherapy Associates Revive Morning and Relax Deep oils – they are the most potent aromatherapy oils I’ve ever found and are brilliant when you need to sleep or wake up at the wrong time for your body clock. They come in handy small sizes too.
P20 sunscreen. I hate applying sunscreen, but this only needs applying once a day. I can cope with that.
8. What makes you happy and why?
I’m basically a big kid in an adult body so the simplest things make me clap my hands with glee! I recently spent my birthday at Goro’s a Japanese izakaya bar in Sydney purely because it has a giant Garfield you can share a booth with – and the cocktails have tiny jelly balls in them that pop in your mouth. I was in my element! I describe myself as very easily pleased!
9. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I started Destination>Differentville in Sept 2017. I’d wanted to do a travel blog for ages but kept making excuses. Then, I got the chance to go to Taipei.
A year or so before I’d had to write a magazine article on how fear was holding us back in life and I started it by talking about my own dream. How if I wasn’t scared of anything I’d give up my job, jump on a plane to Taipei, go to Modern Toilet, the restaurant themed around poop and then write the first post on my blog about the world’s oddities.
In July 2017 I got to go to Taipei for 48 hours and as I sat in Modern Toilet restaurant (on muy toilet chair, eating ice cream shaped like a poop), I thought, ‘what the heck’ and launched the blog a few weeks later. I’m having an absolute blast and wish I’d done it sooner.
10. What makes your blog unique and why should people read it?
Erm, it was born while I was eating from a bowl shaped like a toilet, will that do?
No, seriously, I like to think of Destination>Differentville as the blog you turn to when you want to find some really fun, quirky, original ideas to do in a place.
I try and feature things where when you read it you think ‘I had no idea that existed’ and that if you actually do get the chance try them will hopefully mean years later you say ‘do you remember when we did xxxxx…’
That doesn’t mean it’s all ridiculously weird – a unique angle can be as simple as finding the chicken restaurant that sells beer with whipped cream on top in the middle of Kuala Lumpur or letting people know that there’s a wild seal that lives on the steps behind Sydney Opera House.
My theory is if it makes me jump up and down with excitement when I see it or hear about it, it will hopefully do the same for someone else…. and I jump up and down a lot!
From ESLT – thank you, Helen, for taking the time to answer our questions. Safe Travels 🙂