Heather Cole is a history buff, published author and amateur musician whose passion for traveling started with a fascination with the Amazon rainforest as a young teen. She’s since been to nearly 30 countries on five continents while working full time. Together she and her husband, Pete, blog about their “luxury adventures” around the globe at Conversant Traveller.
NAME: Heather Cole
RESIDENCE: Lake District, UK
OCCUPATION: Outdoor Education Marketing
How have you made your life a “traveling life” and why?
My first job after graduating from university was for a small independent travel company, where I quickly realised that the world is such an accessible place. Whilst I no longer work in travel, I didn’t want to give that aspect of my life up, so each year hubbie and I make sure we take several trips, and usually one large long-haul adventure. We’re creative with annual leave and lieu days, work overtime whenever we can, and instead of presents on special occasions we buy flights! We also spend very little on ‘entertainment’ and get our kicks locally by going hiking in the mountains or kayaking on the lakes near our home. It really is easy when you have a focus.
Why is travel important to you?
Once you’ve seen a bit of the world there is no going back! I guess that’s why they call it the “travel bug.” I enjoy expanding my horizons and knowledge (I’m a bit of a history geek), and living in the UK, I often feel like an iguana, needing to go away every few months to get my fix of sun. Yet I also love coming home again after being away. Travel makes me appreciate what I have in life, and has made me realise I need a base, somewhere to call home, and somewhere I feel secure and happy. Best of both worlds.
How did you first get the travel bug?
My hunger for travel started when I was 13 years old with a bet. For actual money. My dad reckoned that my bedroom wall posters of the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic penguins would be replaced with pop stars by the time I was 16. He laid down a gauntlet of £50 (a lot in those days for a kid!), so I of course accepted. Three years later I won! Possibly not fairly and squarely (I had the popstars UNDERNEATH the National Geographic pin ups, sorry dad!), but nonetheless I was triumphant… I still have one of those posters, as it reminds me how far I’ve travelled in the 20 years since!
What is your most significant travel memory and why?
Oooh, where do I start? Probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done was learn how to plough rice paddy fields in Laos using water buffalo! It was really difficult wading through knee deep mud, trying to keep up with the eager beast (who was called Susuki!), but it was like nothing I’d ever done before, and I learnt so much about rice cultivation (previously I didn’t even know how it grew!).
Spotting two leopards whilst on a game drive at Ulusaba in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Reserve was also pretty special. We were up before dawn and tracked a young male for half an hour through the bush, watching him on the hunt for breakfast as the sun came up. He came so close that his tail brushed the leg of our tracker!
Finally I love hot air ballooning, and our most exciting flight has to be the one in Turkey, where we flew over the remarkable “moon-like” landscapes of Cappadocia. And of course it was champagne for breakfast after a precarious but smooth landing afterwards!
What are some misconceptions friends & family have about your travels?
That’s we’ve secretly won the lottery, or perhaps become a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. Sure, travel is a big expense, but it’s all relative. I’m sure if they had a few less evenings out, didn’t buy expensive cars, and prioritised travel they’d soon realise it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Hubbie and I have many misadventures on our travels, which generally we love because that’s what it’s all about, right? But some people see this as dangerous, and often can’t believe we visit places such as North Africa. The media also has a lot to answer for, and I do wish people would examine all the facts rather than simply fixating on all the bad stuff.
What advice do you have for others who want to incorporate more travel into their lives?
The key to making the most of travelling whilst working full time is to plan ahead, and use every last minute of your annual leave. Book flights about eight months in advance for the best prices and choices of flight times, travel to places out of their peak season for more competitive rates and fewer tourists, and don’t fixate on the cost of flight tickets. Instead concentrate on the cost of living in the country you are visiting. It might only cost us £30 to fly to Italy, but we’d spend as much there in just a week as we do over a whole month in South East Asia.
Where are you headed next?
Morocco this month – It will be our 7th visit but the first time during winter so we’re excited to experience a new side to our favourite country!
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
The life of the “digital nomad” is splashed around the internet a lot these days, and sometimes it feels that as travellers, we’re not quite doing it right simply because we still have day jobs. Yet think about this. By earning a decent wage and travelling just part-time, we don’t have to sleep in hostel dorms, live on noodle soup and worry about money whilst we’re away. We can afford a bit of luxury and really enjoy our time away, knowing that we’ve earned the right. So don’t feel guilty, or think that you’re any less of a traveller because you don’t do it full time. Just do what works for you, and enjoy!