Megan Jerrard or Meg as she is fondly known, is an Australian Journalist. She is the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan – an award-winning adventure travel blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe.
With the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure, Megan and husband Mike believe travel has the potential to inspire change in people, and in turn inspire change in the world. They embraced travel as a lifestyle in 2007, and are dedicated to documenting their journey and observations through entertaining, candid articles and brilliant photography.
Adrenalin junkies and incredibly active travellers, from mountain biking the most dangerous road in the world (Bolivia), to skydiving over the Swiss Alps and summiting Mt Kilimanjaro, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.
Read on how Meg begin her journey of being a ‘Happy Travelling Girl’
Let us get to know you. Tell us something about you. Inspire us! (your work, interests, anything you want to share)
I am a 26 year old travel addict, an outdoor adventure enthusiast and adrenalin junkie with an incurable disease called “the travel bug”.
From Australia, I have a degree in both journalism and law, though my passion for traveling and writing overtook my desire to sit in a corner office, and instead I am now a professional travel blogger, my office ranging from villa’s in the Galapagos Islands, to beaches on the Great Barrier Reef, bungalows overlooking volcanoes in Costa Rica, and everywhere in between!
When did you start travelling? Or rather why did you start travelling?
I began traveling in 2003 when my year 9 High School class took a language trip to Japan. Having caught the travel bug then, I took a gap year in between finishing High School and starting University (college). I lived and worked in the UK for 12 months with the ability to travel throughout Europe over the course of the year.
I started traveling for the adventure, adrenaline and excitement because there is nothing monotonous about travel! It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to see the world in living color as opposed to watching it on a television screen. I wanted to actually feel, taste and experience the world instead of settling for the version I was reading in books.
It’s a completely different experience to journey to the Pyramids of Giza than to watch it on a History Channel documentary. It’s a completely different emotion to watch the sun set over the African Plains while on safari than it is to see someone else’s photo and think “wow!”
Tell us about your exciting, quirky, inspiring travels adventures?
I love this question, though I never know where to start! Mike and I are suckers for adventure, so whether it’s summiting Mt Kilimanjaro (which is where we actually met), blitzing down the tallest sand dunes in the world on a board, or taking a mountain bike down the most dangerous road in the world (Bolivia), there’s no mountain too high or fete too extreme!
My first big travel adventure was skydiving over the Swiss Alps – I made sure I paid for it the day before so I couldn’t chicken out – and the adrenaline from that jump was so intense that I’ve been an adventure junkie ever since. Think snorkeling with giant sea turtles and sea lions in the Galapagos, bungee jumping in Costa Rica, white water rafting in Iceland, rappelling down a 17 story building in the city center of La Paz, Bolivia – it’s been a pretty wild ride! Hopefully we’re not done quite yet!
Do you travel solo? Or with friends, partner, tour companies?
I traveled solo from 2007 until 2010 when I met my now husband Mike – we now travel together as a couple. There were a few tour companies thrown into the mix during my solo travels, because ultimately, there’s really no right or wrong way to travel, and I have found that putting yourself on a group tour if you’re traveling solo for the first time is a great way to dip your toes in the sea so to speak; to gain an idea of what travel is all about before jumping in the deep end and taking over all of the planning yourself.
Are you comfortable traveling solo?
Absolutely – as a generally outgoing and confident person already, the decision for me was a fairly easy one to make. I’ve always been of the mindset that I’m not going to rely on other people when it comes to doing something I want to do, or let their choices dictate my life. I was never going to miss out on a life-changing experience because I didn’t have the guts to do it alone.
Faced with the idea of embarking on a journey to faraway and very foreign lands all alone, a lot of people decide they’re not up for the challenge. Many decide that they don’t have the courage to survive as a solo traveler, so the trip doesn’t happen at all. Others might even postpone the trip hoping that they’ll find someone to eventually tag along. But I mean, why should you miss out just because your friends don’t want to do it with you.
Do you think travel for women is different from travel for men?
In certain countries, yes, there are greater challenges for women traveling alone as opposed to men, and this is usually always due to a more conservative cultural background.
For instance The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country with very strong religious roots, and as with any country, travelers are expected to respect the local culture and customs while there. The UAE is one of the safest places in the world to visit – however I learnt pretty quickly while in Dubai that women travelling alone are somewhat of a novelty, and attract a LOT of unwanted attention. Never once did I feel unsafe while in the UAE, and my trip overall was a phenomenal one; however there were many instances where I did feel incredibly uncomfortable, and I have since written a guide for women traveling alone in the UAE.
Having said that, certain countries does require extra safety precautions for solo female travellers. However I’ve generally found that if you travel with common sense everything turns out fine. Be aware of your surroundings, trust your gut instinct, and don’t take any risks you wouldn’t take at home. Just because a country may be more challenging to travel through as a woman doesn’t mean that women can’t or shouldn’t get out there. The world in general is a very safe place, and in reality no one ever really travels alone. You make friends and meet people along the way.
Would you recommend solo female travel?
Absolutely. Not only does travelling alone completely push you out of your comfort zone, challenging your insecurities and helping you overcome your fears, it forces you to interact with those who you wouldn’t normally interact with. You speak to strangers, you experience new things, and as I mentioned above, I’ve learned that even if you’re traveling solo, you’re never really ever alone – there are ALWAYS other like-minded travelers you meet along the way – friends you haven’t yet met!
You’re free to wander at your own will, and don’t have to compromise your bucket list or itinerary to suit the needs of others – it’s amazing being able to travel with literally zero drama! Solo travel teaches you confidence, you have time for reflection and self knowledge, to discover parts of yourself you hadn’t yet discovered, and learn more about yourself.
While travelling alone as a single woman may have been a strange concept in the past, today it is very normal and quite common – everybody’s doing it!
How do you think, travel has shaped you as a woman?
I absolutely believe that travel has shaped me into the woman I am today. It’s how I originally discovered who I was, and is how I continue to discover who I am. While I spent 5 years completing two college degrees, I believe I am truly educated because of travel. The lessons I have learned from the road are far more applicable to life than anything I learned from a text book.
Travel taught me to be accepting of all people and opinions. It taught me how to survive by myself – taught me to become street smart. It taught me that kindness exists in the world, and that strange cultures should be explored and not judged. It continually teaches me new skills, and has opened my mind to new perspectives on history and politics. I will forever be curious, forever be intrigued by different cultural norms, and forever have a thirst for world knowledge and new experiences.
How do you deal with feeling lonely if you are traveling solo?
As I mentioned above, you’re never really lonely. There are genuinely so many travelers out there wandering around the globe, and even if you only stay together for the day, you’ll find the people you meet will be, in that moment, some of the best and most supportive friends of your life. I equate the experience of meeting travellers along the road to what it’s like making friends in kindergarten.
“Do you remember in kindergarten, how you’d meet a kid, and know nothing about them, then 10 seconds later you’re playing like you’re best friends, because you didn’t have to be anything but yourself?” That’s meeting other travellers through solo travel.
When I was traveling solo if you wanted to meet other travelers you were forced to be an outgoing person and were generally limited to interacting with those who were staying at the same hostel. Though nowadays there are a sleuth of technology, apps and start-ups which make it easier and easier to connect with all travellers around you, and you can find and interact with like-minded travellers before you even arrive.
Can you share an anecdote of how you have seen travel help in women empowerment?
It was during my time working as a Family Law Paralegal that I overheard the Partner of my firm say, “the only thing you ever have to say if someone questions a recent gap in your resume is that you were traveling. No questions asked.” And it was then that the realization struck me and really hit home that you actually can have it all. You can take time off to travel and not necessarily have it negatively impact upon your resume.
We’re conditioned from a young age to believe that the rules of life mean we need to do well in school, gain a university/college degree, get straight A’s, and work hard to finally achieve that elusive career. And living in an age where women are finally being recognized as equal to men in the workplace, becoming a successful career woman is seen by many as one of the biggest accomplishments in life.
Though with fierce competition for the same jobs and the same careers, it’s very easy to get swept up in the mindset of “I’ll travel later”, not wanting to leave a gap in your resume and fall behind everyone else.
But since that point I’ve realized that it is an absolute myth that a large gap in your resume will mean you are treated unfavorably by a prospective employer – especially if your explanation for the gap is “I was traveling the world”.
One advice you would give away to encourage more women to travel?
It’s one of the most amazing and empowering experiences you will ever undertake, and the benefits will always far outweigh any perceived cons. If you’re worried about being set back in your career, don’t. The life skills you will learn from travel may actually put you ahead and make your resume stand out. If you’re worried about being lonely, don’t. I haven’t met a single person who traveled solo and came back to report they felt as if they were alone.
Every single one of your worries and fears pales in comparison to the benefits you will receive from travel – you’ll jump on that plane and never look back.
Inspired? We are! We salute the spirit of travel that Megan has choose to live. And love how Mike has joined this Happy Travelling Girl 🙂
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