On the Couch with travel writer Louise Southerden

06-Trekking-in-Mustang,-buffed-up-against-the-dust-storms-_300-225Louise Southerden, Australia's most awarded travel writer and good friend of World Expeditions, has just published an interactive ebook of her best-ever travel stories and photographs entitled 'Adventures on Earth'. The book features 135 pages of more than 300 images and 20 of Louise's best stories from destinations high on most people's travel bucket list - including 5 World Expeditions adventures in Madagascar, Mustang, Mongolia, New Zealand and Tasmania. View the video preview or download 'Adventures on Earth' from iTunes.

1. Which World Expeditions adventures have you travelled on?
I’ve had so many memorable trips with WE over the years I’ve almost lost count. Let’s see, there were treks in Madagascar, Mustang, Mongolia, Reunion Island and, closer to home, New Zealand’s Southern Alps and Tasmania’s Walls of Jerusalem; I’ve also done the Jatbula Trail in the Northern Territory. I’ve been to Kakadu and the Kimberley, rafted the Franklin River and kayaked Hinchinbrook Island in north Queensland. And I’ve been to Vietnam, biked through France and, most recently, went camping in the Masai Mara in Kenya.

05 With sea lions in the Galapagos_225 3002. Favourite World Expeditions travel moment?

That’s a tough one. Again, there are so many. In fact one reason I wanted to put together my ebook of adventure travel stories is that people always ask me, “What’s your favourite place?” (another tough question). But here are a few: having afternoon tea with the king of Mustang, in the walled city of Lo Manthang, five days walk from Jomsom in northern Nepal; being invited to sleep in a ger with a nomad family in Mongolia and waking up the next morning to find it snowing (in mid-summer); and swimming in huge freshwater pools at the end of every day on the Jatbula Trail.

3. Five things you never leave home without?
Something to read (on my Kindle or in printed form) and something to write with (and on) – both essential when travelling alone and in countries where things seldom happen on schedule. I always pack several muesli bars – they’re great for day trips, early starts and late arrivals (when the local restaurants are closed and you’re starving). Number four is a little superstitious: whenever I fly anywhere, I wear a pendant made of pounamu (New Zealand greenstone); it was a gift from a special friend and it’s supposed to keep you safe (so far, so good). And I’ll always have at least one camera with me: usually my Canon digital SLR (the smallest body I can find, so I can toss it in my daypack) and my Canon waterproof compact camera.

4. You’re committed to living sustainably, highlighted by your blog, No Impact Girl. What advice can you give travellers about how they can travel more responsibly?01 Hiking in California Sierra Nevada mountains 225 wide

The key to travelling responsibly, I think, is to keep one simple thing in mind: it’s all about respect. Respect for each other, the animals we share the planet with, the natural environment and the natural resources (water, for instance) we all depend on, whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s an exciting time in travel because there are more ways than ever before to be eco-conscious, offset your carbon footprints, volunteer, help out when you’re away. For 25 specific ways to travel more responsibly, see this story I did for the Sydney Morning Herald: Think big, start small.

5. One place in the world you haven’t been to yet that’s on the top of your wish list and why?
Patagonia is right on the pointy summit of my wish list, because it’s got all the ingredients of a classic destination: it’s far away from most of the known world, it has incredibly forbidding scenery and, well, Bruce Chatwin (a hero of mine) wrote about it. I’d love to lose myself down there for a month or so one day soon…

6. Which culture has surprised you the most on your travels?
I’m always fascinated by how people live, particularly in remote places, but I was probably most surprised and impressed by the nomads living in their gers on the Mongolian steppe, particularly the simplicity of their lives (all their belongings have to fit on the back of a truck or on a camel train, for instance, because they move every few months), and their connection to the land, and how they deal with the lack of privacy (when the entire family lives in what is basically a one-room tent).

Adventures on Earth COVER_150 wide7. What was the inspiration to release your Adventures on Earth ebook?

I wanted to do a collection of my very best adventure travel stories and photos, to get the stories out there again, since many of them are about dream destinations, and creating an interactive, multi-touch ebook seemed an innovative way to do that. It was so much fun to design, and I loved re-visiting some of my favourite places, including five that I visited with World Expeditions: those treks in Madagascar, Mustang, Mongolia and New Zealand’s Southern Alps, and the Franklin River rafting trip in Tasmania.

8. What are the three main attributes of a good traveller?
To really experience a place, it helps to be patient, curious and open-hearted, or at least to try to cultivate these things when you’re on the road (travel can be particularly good at teaching you about patience). A sense of humour is invaluable too, of course, and the ability to go with the flow a little, to experience the place as it is right now, for you, to be affected and come back changed in some way. That’s what travel’s really about.

Watch the preview video of 'Adventures on Earth' or download 'Adventures on Earth' from iTunes.

Louise Southerden, on the couch

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