Wanderluster of the week: Kiwi Travel Writer

Heather Hapeta, swimming with manatee in Florida, USA.
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Heather Hapeta, swimming with manatee in Florida, USA.

When Heather Hapeta turned 50, she bought herself a round-the-world ticket.

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Wanderluster of the week: Travel blogger The World is a Circus

A statue of Lao-tzu in Fujian province, China.
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A statue of Lao-tzu in Fujian province, China.

Wanderluster of the week: Travel blogger Following Amy Mary

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Christchurch, and for the past five years have lived in Wellington.

What's your day job?
Travel writer and photographer, as well as a blogger.

Families have long walks for fuel on the salt plains of Gujarat, India.
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Families have long walks for fuel on the salt plains of Gujarat, India.

When did you start travelling?
My serious travels started on my 50th birthday. That's when I gave myself a round-the-world ticket, a backpack, and 12 months to explore the world with no bookings – and I'm still travelling.

How did you get into travel blogging?
I love reliving my adventures and, as print travel pages shrank, I decided to blog in 2008, so now share fabulous places with worldwide readers, and have written more than 1200 blog posts.

Where or what is the main focus of your blog?
I only blog about places I've been, things I've done, with my own, untouched, photos – many of which I also share on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. I also give tips about packing!

Enjoying a cup of tea at a fish market in Oman.
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Enjoying a cup of tea at a fish market in Oman.

What are the perks of being a travel blogger? Do you get paid?
The perks are a fabulous lifestyle but we are at the bottom of the food chain. I'm not paid for my blogs, but they often result in invitations to visit interesting places. I get paid for my travel stories in newspapers and magazines, and for my two travel books, Naked in Budapest, and A Love Letter to Malaysian Borneo. I've also been paid to teach travel writing, and have escorted small group travels.

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Are there any downsides to being a travel blogger?
Not for me! I only go to places I want to visit. In that way, I'm not a PR person – I have refused a few international trips.

Where is your favourite place you have travelled, and why?
Malaysia is my favourite Asian country. I also love India, Turkey, Egypt, Botswana, and Namibia. Why? Mostly because of the people I've met, the food I've eaten, the festivals I've attended, and the sights I've seen. Usually my favourite place is where I have just been, or where my next ticket is  for – planning is half the fun.

An orangutan and its baby in Malaysian Borneo.
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An orangutan and its baby in Malaysian Borneo.

What's the most memorable travel experience you've had?
Too many to name. Travel has taught me to stay in the now, live in the moment, and value every experience – that makes everything memorable, even the scary parts. But canoeing down the Zambesi rates highly, as do animals in some national parks in Borneo.

Where are you headed next?
I have tickets for New York, Los Angeles and, in 2017, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (hopefully with side trips to Japan, Korea, and maybe even get to the amazing Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Borneo, on my way home).

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start travel blogging?
Read lots of travel blogs and decide what sort of blogging you like to read – that's the sort you should write.

Share your top three travel tips:
1. Travel light! Anything you have packed for "just in case" should be left behind.
2. Travel alone. You have 100 per cent of the pleasure and 100 per cent of the pain and frustration of not speaking the local language – but you will interact with locals.
3. Respect local customs. Respect does not mean you approve or condone many practices, however, do what they want you to do – remember the old adage, when in Rome do as the Romans do.

Check out Heather's blog at kiwitravelwriter.wordpress.com.

Are you a travel blogger with a story to share? Email travel@stuff.co.nz.

 - Stuff

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