Happy Feature Friday, and welcome back to Life with Larissa! Today we have the honor of getting to know a little about Michelle. Michelle is a fellow travel blogger, and has lived in several different countries. She enjoys adventure travel, learning the history and culture of places, and baking! Doesn’t she already sound like someone you could get along with? Continue reading to learn about some of her adventures, see some of her pictures, and get a taste of her humor!
1. Thank you for deciding to be a part of Feature Friday. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your blog?
Hi! I’m Michelle and I run MichWanderlust. I’m from Singapore, a country which many people think is part of China. Or they simply haven’t heard of it. Actually, it’s a small city-state in Southeast Asia, bordering Malaysia and Indonesia. So now you know 😉
I blog mostly about adventure and cultural travel with a focus on travelling responsibly and sustainably.
And I also blog a little about baking – what I do when I’m not travelling! I don’t pretend to be an expert baker (in fact, the very opposite) so it’s more like a diary of various baking failures. Definitely check out that section of my blog if you need a good laugh!
2. Why did you decide to become a travel blogger?
I have a terrible memory. As in, really awful, can’t-remember-what-I-had-for-lunch-two-days-ago, kind of memory.
So initially, I just wanted to record my travels so that I could remember what I did, where I ate, how much it cost, etc. It’s really frustrating to have friends and family ask for recommendations and not being able to remember anything in detail!
“I had the best steak ever in Luxor, Egypt – it was a few blocks down from my hotel, whose name I can’t remember. And I can’t remember the name of the steak place either. It was really cheap, though!” True story. #NotHelpingAtAll
After blogging for a while (and reading lots of other travel blogs), I realised that I have a preference for lesser-known, remote destinations with community-based tourism projects.
We’ve all heard about the evils of mass tourism. So it’s really good to see how tourism can actually benefit a local community, instead of jacking up prices and causing overcrowding!
Unfortunately, many of these projects don’t have the budget for much publicity and so they often fly under the radar, unnoticed.
I realised that I could use my little platform to raise awareness for these projects and hopefully inspire more travelers to visit them.
But the one place I’d really encourage the independent traveller to visit is Cloud Forest Adventure in Intag, Ecuador. They do eco-tourism and also provide volunteering opportunities. I volunteered with them for 6 months, teaching English to children, and it was life-changing.
(Okayyyy, I realise I’ve gone on and on for far too long! Er. Moving awkwardly on…)
3. What do you love so much about travelling?
First, you have to understand how small Singapore is. You can drive from one end to another (east to west) in about 45 minutes. So if we never travelled, we would spend our lives boring one another to tears!
Seriously, though, what I love about travelling is gaining new experiences and insight into other cultures and histories. And the simple thrill of seeing something with your own eyes after only having read about it all your life.
Like the first time I visited New York City.
Travel has, without a doubt, made me a better person. More open, more understanding, more appreciative of the many blessings I have.
4. Have you ever regretted doing something while travelling?
I regret doing so many things! Like leaving my phone on a bench in Bogota, Colombia, forgetting about it and wandering off…
5. What’s the scariest thing you’ve done while travelling?
Probably aerial obstacle courses like Aerial Extreme in the UK.
You’re strapped to a safety line at all times so even if you slip, you won’t fall – but it’s still pretty scary when you’re 14m (45ft) above the ground! And sometimes at the end, you get down via a pulley system, but the first few metres is essentially a free-fall. It’s one of those things – you take too long to think about it, you’ll chicken out.
It’s enormous fun though when you have a rope in a death grip, your arms are screaming and you’re inwardly cursing yourself for not working out more… or is it just me?
6. What is your most embarrassing travel story?
The time my husband and I missed our flight home from Fiji because we got the flight time wrong! It wasn’t even an understandable mistake like mixing up “am” with “pm”.
We were hanging out with a Canadian guy in Fiji who happened to be flying home on the same day as us. And for some reason, when he said his flight was at 5pm, my husband was like, “oh, ours too!”
So we happily spent the last day in Fiji hanging out and when it came time to leave the hotel, we checked our emails to find out the exact departure time. And were horrified to find out that the flight had left a few hours ago!
Learn from our expensive lesson. Double- and triple-check your flights, always! Maybe even quadruple-check. Can’t hurt, right?
7. Have you ever travelled solo? Would you do it again? If you haven’t, would you ever do it?
Yes! I travelled solo for 7.5 months through Ecuador and Colombia. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I like travelling with my family and friends, but I also like travelling solo. You experience a place in a completely different way when you’re alone, and you’re more likely to interact with other people.
That said, interacting with other people isn’t always a pleasant experience. I’ve had uncomfortable experiences with strange men refusing to leave me alone when I was travelling solo (and one was a police officer, even worse). So, like everything else in life, solo travel has its pros and cons. You live, you learn.
8. Out of all the cities & countries you’ve visited, which did you like the least? Why?
This is a really tough question! I’d have to say it’s between San Francisco and Paris (sorry, San Franciscans and Parisians!).
I was completely unprepared for how cold it was in San Francisco. And my most lasting impression of it is also my first: the smell of urine in the streets in the Mission District. (Who says first impressions don’t matter, eh?)
I think I was expecting to be more wowed after listening to so many friends rave about it, but I was just unimpressed. Expectations, meet reality.
My experience in Paris was similar. Not the weather or the smells, just the whole expectations vs reality thing.
But I take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in this. Have you heard about Paris Syndrome? People actually fall ill when they visit Paris and realise it’s not what they imagined!
9. Out of all the cities & countries you’ve visited, which did you like the most? Why?
Ecuador, hands down. I was there for 9 months, 6 of which I spent volunteering in Intag. And I just couldn’t bring myself to leave.
First, it’s relatively small (for a South American country) yet contains 4 very different regions. The Andes, the coast, the Amazon, and the Galapagos. This means that you can see and experience a huge variety of things in a short time. Between the colonial architecture of cities like Quito and Cuenca, and the unspoilt countryside, there’s something for everyone.
Second, it seems to be overlooked by many travellers. When I was in Colombia, I met many backpackers who were either skipping Ecuador altogether on their way to Peru or were just going to spend a few days in one or two cities.
Friends in the Ecuadorean tourist industry also point to a decline in the number of tourists they’ve seen over the last few years. I’m not sure why that is. I think it’s a great pity because the country has so much to offer, if you venture beyond Quito, Cuenca and the backpacker favourite of Baños.
Third, I loved the people. Ecuadoreans are generally reserved and take a little while to warm up to you. But if you take the time to get to know them, you’ll be richly rewarded. They are incredibly kind and generous, and will share what little they have with you.
I met some very poor families while volunteering, but they invariably insisted on giving me lots of food to eat and take home if I so much as stopped by for a chat.
10. If you had to choose one place to live for the rest of your life, where would it be, and why?
In an ideal world (where money wasn’t an issue), I would most definitely love to live in the community where I volunteered in Ecuador! Life there is as far removed from the hustle and bustle of modern Singapore as you can imagine. Most people don’t have regular internet access and it’s so liberating (ironic coming from a travel blogger, eh?). Instead, they actually talk to one another.
11. Are there any social norms or practices you’ve encountered on your travels that you wish were normal in your native culture?
Coming from a super modern city like Singapore, I often wish that we were friendlier to one another.
12. Is there anywhere you would not visit? Where, and why?
As a matter of common sense, I avoid places where there’s civil unrest or outright war, or where human rights are blatantly violated. Places like Venezuela and Yemen come to mind.
13. What is one thing that is too large/impractical that you wish you could bring with you when you travel?
I can live without it, but probably my hair dryer!
14. Do you think there’s a difference between people who deem themselves tourists vs. travellers? What do you consider yourself, and why?
To me, this dichotomy is a distinction without a difference.
I think some people use “tourist” to mean someone who just wants to sightsee and take photos without really appreciating or respecting the cultural and historical background of the places they visit.
But I feel that some people who insist on this distinction look down on “mere” tourists, when in reality we’re all visitors.
And I don’t want to spend too much time debating terminology. Actions speak louder than words. If you behave in a responsible and considerate manner to those around you, I don’t care what you call yourself. I’ll just give you a virtual thumbs up!
15. What does home mean to you?
Stealing a page from Thor: Ragnarok, home isn’t a place. It’s a people. 😀
16. What advice would you give an aspiring travel blogger?
I’d say examine why you want to start a travel blog. I see a lot of posts floating around like “how to travel the world for free”. News flash: travel blogging is a LOT of work (and time!). There are far easier ways to make money, so don’t do it just to get free trips or hotel stays. Do it for the love of it 🙂
Thank you so much Michelle for being a guest for Feature Friday! I had such a pleasure reading your responses, and I loved how I was able to see your personality in your answers. I’m so sorry to hear that Paris is on your list of least favorite cities. When I visited, it definitely surpassed my expectations! I was so shocked to hear about Paris syndrome – that people actually develop physical symptoms. Your embarrassing travel story gave me a chuckle, because I can definitely see that happening to me in the future. I love how you can look back on that moment and laugh about it though. Also, I love your advice for aspiring travel bloggers! It’s so easy to get caught up in the many facets of blogging, and lose the vision of blogging for the love of it. Thanks again Michelle for being a part of Feature Friday, and safe travels on your next adventure!
Did you enjoy what you read? Get to know more about Michelle!
Michelle is a travel blogger and aspiring tree-hugger who likes to check out lesser-known destinations (and then write about them). She has spent most of her life in Singapore but has also lived in Thailand, the UK and Ecuador. She recently got married after getting back from a 9-month stint in South America, and is looking forward to a new chapter in life. Connect with Michelle at the following: