#8 Emily “Luxury Backpack”
13 minute read
What image comes to mind if I were to mention the word backpacking?
Is it an image of walking exhaustedly through bustling crowds with a heavy backpacking pulling you down while you search desperately for cheap accommodation? Maybe it’s an image of staying in dirty hostels with cold showers, pick-pockets, and cockroaches for company? Or maybe it’s an image of having to live on a diet of Super Noodles and a number of unidentifiable foods, all because they’re cheap and within your daily budget?
But while all of the above can often be the reality of some backpacking adventures, what if I were to tell you that there’s a whole other side to backpacking; one that involves luxurious accommodation, top quality cuisine, and a myriad of unforgettable life experiences, all of which are achievable on a relatively low budget?
Meet Emily of the website, Luxury Backpack; a lady that has found ways to enjoy the finer things in life, all while travelling as a backpacker and without breaking the bank.
Emily is here today to share her wisdom and to help explain how you can do this too. But be warned, the following interview will leave you with some seriously itchy feet and an urge to get out there and see the world; including some places that you perhaps never saw yourself going.
Elliot – Hi Emily, and welcome to Lossul.com! It’s a pleasure to have you here and to have you taking part in this ‘people’ section.
From reading your blog it’s immediately clear that we’ve so much ground that we can cover in this feature and you’ve a wealth of knowledge to share with my readers. But to get the ball rolling, could you please give us a little bit of a background story as to how you got started with what you do, and also as to what the concept of Luxury Backpack is and how that began?
Emily – Hi Elliot, I have travelled for most of my adult life, as both my career and for pleasure. It all began when I was 18 and I undertook a typical ‘Gap Year’ to Costa Rica which left me with a longing for adventure. Every time I found myself at a cross roads, such as part-way through University when conflicted about my subject choice, after a break-up, and after leaving a job, I always turned to travel to find my feet.
My biggest adventure came when I packed my bags and headed to Spain to begin working on luxury yachts. I had no idea what I was doing, I just felt like it was the right path having heard about this as a career. What followed were two years of constant travel to some of the world’s most luxurious places and far corners, followed by a long backpacking trip through South America when I finally decided to say goodbye to yachting.
From these experiences I got more of a taste for the finer things in life, but my love for backpacking and hostels never ceased. I came up with my blog ‘Luxury Backpack’ as a way of sharing my travels with others, to show how you can travel the world in more comfort and luxury on a backpackers budget. From the best hostels which feel more luxurious, to places which allow you more luxury for less, to jobs that can allow you to see the world; there are many ways to start luxury backpacking!
Elliot – It certainly sounds as though travel is in your blood and I can totally relate to what you say about finding your feet through travel. Whenever you hit those crossroads it’s so easy to just look off into the distance and to wonder what is waiting for you out there. For those of us who have that inner calling, would you say it’s something that’s ever likely to go away? Or is it a case that when you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, it’s there for life?
And where would you say your love of travel began, and how did you make that initial decision to take a gap year at 18 years of age?
Emily – I really think once you have been bitten by the travel bug there is no going back. Travel, especially at a young age, opens your mind so much and shows you a way of living that is completely out of your comfort zone. It is not easy to go back to a previous way of thinking and accept the mundane after that; the traveller will always want to seek out new adventure. For some people, it is just enough to have had that experience, and they can go on to settle down having ticked it off the list. But this isn’t many people!
I initially made the decision to do a gap year because I felt there was a whole world out there I had never seen and suddenly I was free and able to go and see it on my own! It was more of a calling than a conscious decision, and I planned most of it without even consulting my parents (Sorry, Mum). I always knew I wanted to study more and go to University, so being able to defer my university entry was a really easy way to have an adventure with the comfort blanket of university to come back to once I returned (not that I ever wanted to come home!).
Elliot – Well you have certainly lived a pretty interesting lifestyle and have a lot of different experiences under your belt. You’ve worked on luxury yachts, been involved in VIP parties and big events planning, and you were also once a singer in a party band. That’s a pretty impressive CV right there! But from what I gather you’re now living a much calmer lifestyle in the Florida Keys.
When did that change take place in your life, and what would you say inspired it?
Emily – I made a big change in my life when I decided to take the time out to write my first novel. It has always been my goal to become a fiction writer, and so taking the time out and changing the pace of my life was important. We moved to the Florida Keys after getting married in Miami last year, and I am currently working on the final draft of my novel. It has been a really exciting experience, and the Keys have proved to be the perfect inspiration!
Elliot – I’d actually had my next question lined up already but you’ve completely thrown me with mentioning your novel. With that in mind I’ll hold off asking this question for now and take a little detour to your novel instead. This is really exciting!
What can you tell us about your novel? And when can we expect to see this available?
Emily – My first novel idea came to me when I was working as a yacht stewardess. I got a glimpse into this whole different world, travelling around the stunning ports of the Mediterranean and meeting all these unique individuals from all walks of life. I wrote a story loosely based on my own experience, giving a glimpse into what really goes on on-board those luxury mega-yachts.
It was a lot of fun to write, drawing from my own experience and using a lot of imagination to create a whole network of crew and guests. It is kind of a travel/bildungsroman tale and I am currently in the editing phase so watch this space!
Elliot – Now that really does sound like a book that I’d like to read! A nice combination of personal experiences combined with an element of fiction, but all based upon an environment that you know so well. Good luck with the editing and please do keep us posted as you get it closer to publishing.
Your niche at Luxury Backpack is about travelling in luxurious ways but without having to break the bank; through being frugal and planning things better. What top tips can you give that would allow aspiring luxury travellers to really start making their money work better for them?
Emily – Thank you!
Having travelled in total luxury when I worked as a yacht stewardess (whilst doing a very unglamorous job like cleaning toilets) I got to see some of the most glamorous destinations and it really gave me a taste for luxury travel. However, I am a backpacker at heart, and really love the vibe of hostels. My blog was born from realising one ‘type’ of travel didn’t have to exclude the other. For instance, a lot of hostels are much more luxurious than budget hotels. This is nearly true for everywhere I have ever travelled to. You can find stunning hostels with pools, gardens, bars, and private rooms for much less that a budget hotel which is probably going to be rather grim.
I also am a massive advocate for the ‘happy hour’! Finding out when upmarket bars and restaurants offer better deals is always worth it, because when you travel, let’s face it, none of us really have any schedule to stick to when it comes to eating and drinking (margaritas for breakfast, anyone?).
When it comes to saving money during your travels there are hundreds of tips I could give you. It is just about research, being savvy, and discovering where your money will go further. Destinations such as Colombia, or Eastern Europe, for instance, offer much cheaper luxury getaways for less than a lot of more popular destinations.
Elliot – Well you’ve certainly opened my eyes there and have made me think a little differently about hostels. The ones I’ve stayed at in the past have tended to fall within the ‘grim’ category, but it sounds like if I look hard enough then I could find some pretty decent places.
You’ve mentioned a fair amount of travel destinations on your blog; perhaps too many to be able to cover in this interview. Would you say there is any one place that has captured your heart more than any other? If so, where was it and what was it about that place that made you connect with it so strongly? And finally, would you say there was anywhere that completely failed to live up to your expectations?
Emily – Colombia for sure was the country that both surprised me the most and captured my heart. I ended up going on a whim, via a catamaran journey through the San Blas islands, Panama, with little expectations. What I was met with when I arrived in South America by boat that day blew me away. From the city of Cartagena, which has a real European feel, to the jungles, beaches, mountains, and large cities, I just loved every minute of my adventure through Colombia. In fact, I loved it so much I stayed 3 months!
The only place I didn’t love was the touristy beach town of Taganga – I found it sketchy to say the least, and riddled with the dark side of tourism – drugs, partying, hook-ups. Apart from that one place, Colombia is always my go-to suggestion for an incredible travel destination!
Elliot – I really liked that answer and it’s something that’s really made me stop and think. For some reason we tend to often hear about the negative aspects of a destination before we hear about what can actually make it such an attractive place to visit.
Colombia has been one of those places that I’d only ever heard stories about the potential risks rather than the incredible things that you’ve just mentioned, and that’s really got me thinking about things differently. South America is a continent I’ve still not visited, but I’m itching to get there now!
With this in mind, do you feel that the horror stories we get fed are a true representation of travelling? Or would you say there’s an element of sensationalism at play? Do you have any stories to share on this subject? And are there any top tips you can share for staying safe on your travels?
Emily – I really do think that we do tend to remember the ‘horror’ stories when it comes to certain destinations. It is likely that for every not so nice experience there are a thousand great ones, but of course it is usually only the bad ones we hear about. I would definitely think that sensationalism is at play with a lot of these anyway.
When I was a very young traveller in Mexico, my final destination was Mexico City, and I couldn’t even keep count of how many other travellers told me to avoid it and not bother going because of it being unsafe. I almost listened and changed my itinerary, but I’m so glad I didn’t as I absolutely loved it.
My biggest piece of advice if you are worried about what you have heard about a certain destination is to check your governments website to get the green light, especially when it comes to border crossings and health (follow this link for the UK).
Secondly, and it might sound obvious, but use your common sense. I’ve been to places which are not recommended for travellers due to crime, but have had a perfectly safe experience and this was due to using basic common sense; hiding valuables, not venturing out of my hotel after a certain time, being aware of my surroundings. One such place was Belize City, well known for being not a very safe place.
Due to bad timing I ended up spending an unplanned night there with no accommodation. A local taxi driver took me to a safe hotel, but I was very cautious before getting into the cab, and used my common sense to tell whether he seemed trustworthy or not. I think most of the time it is easy to tell. Not always, but most of the time. Everything was totally fine, but of course I didn’t go stumbling around the streets drunk or flashing my camera and valuables. You just have to be aware.
Elliot – I really like that answer and I agree with you completely; in almost all circumstances, no matter how much planning you do beforehand, more often than not the number one thing that will help keep you safe is common sense; that human instinct.
Thank you so much for that Emily.
Well sadly we’re going to have to start wrapping things up now. But, before we go, you’d mentioned previously about your plans for the novel you’re writing, but could you also give us an idea of what else we can expect to see from yourself and Luxury Backpack over the coming months?
And finally, how can the readers follow up with you and get to hear more from Luxury Backpack?
Emily – I am about to embark on a new adventure which is probably my biggest to date, as I am expecting a baby in just a few weeks! I have no plans to stop exploring the world, and am planning on travelling with my baby as and when it feels right to begin to do so.
I am so excited for the new direction that the Luxury Backpack blog is going to take, and plan to continue showing my readers how to travel in luxury for less, but now with a baby in tow too!
I have also planned some motivational lifestyle posts to accompany the travel aspect of my blog, and want to inspire new mums to start their own blog, follow their dreams, and just get out there and adventure with their babies. Motherhood is a huge adventure in itself, and I will be featuring my experiences via the blog and my social media channels, so be sure to follow along with Luxury Backpack on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and give me some tips!
Elliot – Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful news with us! Congratulations! Not only is it such a huge and exciting time in your life, but I love how you’re also planning to create a whole new angle for Luxury Backpack. I wish you all the very best for the future and please do come back and let us know how you’re getting on!
Before I let you go, there is a long standing tradition here on the Lossul.com ‘people’ features, and that is to ask a completely random and totally off-topic question. Are you ready?
I’m not sure whether you’re a movie fan or not, but if you could be any movie character for a day; who would it be, and why?
Emily – I love movies but am a huge reader and prefer to read a book than watch a movie. My favourite writer is Truman Capote, and so if I had to be a movie character for a day it would be his infamous character Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I can only aspire to be half as stylish as Audrey Hepburn in this role, but I absolutely love her sense of adventure, her whimsical nature, and quirkiness. And I would love to live in a brownstone in New York for a day!
And there we have it dear readers and I hope you enjoyed this feature. I intentionally avoided pushing too much on the subject of living the good life while travelling on a budget because this was intended just to be a taster.
If you’re interested in finding out more on this subject then please head over the Emily’s website, Luxury Backpack, by clicking here.
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