Living out of a suitcase since 2012, travel blogger Brooke Saward knows what she is talking about when it comes to travelling around the world solo and being a successful blogger. HOLR recently asked Brooke some questions and got some insight into her expertise on all things travel and photography.
What experience first sparked your passion for travelling?
I was thirteen years of age when I boarded my first plane leaving Australian waters. I was selected as part of a group of children to sing at a movie premiere in Hong Kong, having previously never ventured beyond my home country. Being so young and impressionable I was completely enamoured by the sights, sounds and smells of Hong Kong.
When did you start capturing your travels in a more stylized way?
When I was twenty years old I started a blog to document my adventures online. This was a really fun way for me to relive trips but also felt really meaningful by giving actionable advice and inspiring other people my age to travel. This was at a time when international travel was only just becoming affordable and accessible and social media was becoming more popular. When I started receiving offers to travel to new places in return for photographs and features on my blog, I started to take it more seriously and see a future for my place in the social media landscape.
Do you have any tips or tricks for capturing a captivating landscape photo?
Lighting is the biggest factor in taking great travel photos. I always try to shoot at sunrise and sunset, before the light becomes too harsh. Also never being afraid to create “bad” work has really helped me in this industry. Rather than getting bogged down in the details of photography, I just like to go out there and create. It has inevitably made my work a lot better through trial and error.
What is one of the most memorable places that you’ve been to?
I really loved Russia and have been wanting to return since my first visit. I ventured to Moscow and St Petersburg at the beginning of my blogging career so my photos are pretty forgettable. I’d love to go back and recapture traces of Eastern European aristocracy – I find the social history of Russia to be fascinating.
How do you decide where to go, eat etc. when you get to a new destination?
I’m most attracted to cultures that are foreign to my own. Some of my favourite destinations recently have been Pakistan, Morocco and Ethiopia. This year I’d love to visit Georgia, Uzbekistan and Iran. As far as planning what to do and where to eat in a new destination, I mostly ask locals when I arrive. I love landing in a foreign place without prejudice or expectations – it leaves me more open to discovery.
What’s the most off the beaten path spot you’ve been to?
Definitely Northern Pakistan last year. This was a country I knew very little about and to be quite frank, had a very Western-impacted impression of the country before I visited. It challenged my perception toward what I think I know, including what I studied at University during my studies of International Relations and Foreign Affairs.
How did you discover it?
I was invited by a local guy named Zeeshan. He paid for my ticket (and a bunch of other content creators) to travel with him around the country and share what we experienced. There were no regulations on content and no deliverables or deadlines we had to meet, we were just encouraged to come along and share what we experienced – good, bad, landslides and all!
What’s a valuable lesson you’ve learned through your travels?
There are so many both inward and outward facing lessons but I think more than anything, travel has taught my gratitude in the realest sense of the word. I love meeting people from all walks of life and cultures different to my own as it helps me to understand my biases and my privileges. While I don’t think a single person can change the world, I believe each person can do their best to understand it. I think understanding is the key to positive change in relation to many of the problems we face in the 21st Century – race issues, sexism, homophobia, migration. By travelling and seeing how other people live and not just accepting but embracing diversity, we begin to truly see change.
What places are on your bucket list?
Greenland, Faroe Islands, Egypt, Mongolia and Iran.
What culture have you experienced that’s left a lasting impression on you?
I’m always fascinated by happiness in different cultures in the sense of creating a liveable approach to everyday happiness. In that sense I find the Nordic countries quite interesting from a governance point of view, but then on the other hand you have the Italians basking in the sun all summer long (who could not be happy with that?) I tend to look at cultures in search of a deeper understanding toward their social construct, legacies and of course their histories. It’s a difficult question to answer because I honestly cannot choose just one!
Location-Specific Travel Tips:
What’s your favourite spot that you travelled to last year?
I went back to Japan last year and completely fell in love with the country. I think on my first visit I was too young to appreciate the culture and heritage of the country, so it felt really great to be back in the same place but within a different version of myself. Kyoto was definitely my favourite city to spend time and I’m desperate to get back to a simplified lifestyle after my time there.
If someone had 24- hours there what would you recommend they do?
Start your day early and head to Fushimi Inari Shrine before the crowds arrive. This is where you will find the 5,000 Tori gates leading toward the mountain peak. The full hike takes 2-3 hours to complete or you can just stroll part of the way. The higher you go, the less crowds you will encounter.
Vermillion Cafe is the perfect breakfast spot to refuel after your hike. It is at the base of the shrine and has a really beautiful outdoor pavilion.
Next make your way to Matsubara Dori, one of the oldest streets in Kyoto with beautiful old shop fronts that feel as if you have stepped back in time. There are a lot of lunch options along this street so be sure to stop for a spot of sushi as you wander around.
After lunch make your way over to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto’s famous bamboo grove. This area has become incredibly popular since the age of Instagram travel, so be sure to expect crowds instead of a serene walkway. Because of the popularity, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the area in case you have an appetite. This is also a popular neighbourhood for Kyoto’s infamous green tea soft serve.
Finish your day back in Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district. This is a very unique way to understand the history and culture of Kyoto on a deeper level should you choose to visit an ochaya (teahouse) or ryōtei (traditional Japanese restaurant).
What area would you stay in? Gion has a vast range of traditional ryokans.
What’s the best place to grab a drink? L’Escamoteur is a really cool bar who does an amazing smokey old fashioned.
What’s the best place to have a coffee? Vermillion cafe
What activity would you choose to do for fun? Visit one of the sake breweries
Where’s the coolest photo to take a photo? Gion District