Inspiration corner: interview with Katherine from Bright Lights of America

Katherine is an Australian expat living in San Francisco with her native other half, Michael (mostly referred to as Mr. M). Travel is her passion, and after more than a decade spent as a journalist in Sydney and London, she writes about life in the US at Bright Lights of America.

What inspired you to start traveling?

My Dad was born and grew up in Europe, before moving to Australia when he was 19 to look for work. So when we were young, we were always on the phone to relatives or writing letters to a little island called Malta in the Mediterranean. I think that early exposure to the idea of just how big the world is was the first thing that sparked my interest in travel.

We visited Malta for a long stretch of time when I was about seven and while the plane rides were draining (imagine taking four kids aged under 12, on what amounts to 22 hours on planes?), it was such an adventure. There was so much history to learn about and so much to see. It was an eye-opening experience for me.
As I got older I traveled a little more on my own, and finally decided to move to London to work and live for a bit.

What do you pack first?

Such a great question and I honestly haven’t thought about it before! I usually look through my wardrobe and try to work out what outfits I want to wear, and which tops, pants, and skirts that I can mix and match. That way I don’t have to bring heaps of clothes. It also helps me to decide what shoes I need.

Where do you go for the best view?

Up! Always up! If there’s a bell towner, climb it!

Don’t pass that scenic outlook sign without a glance. You almost can never go wrong if you find yourself climbing.

I got lost in Florence one day (I’ve been lost in Florence a lot) and found myself following a bunch of people to an outlook above the city. I’ll never forget the view I got from up there (don’t ask me what it was called because I honestly don’t know).

What’s your fave foodie destination?

Since I’ve never been to Thailand or South America, I’d have to say Italy. It’s a carb-lover’s dream!

All the pizza, pasta, Roma tomatoes, gelato, and basil that you can dream of! In Pisa, I had dinner at one of those restaurants that are listed in Lonely Planet guidebooks as being highly acclaimed and award-winning. It was the best dinner I’ve ever eaten. Show me an Italian restaurant and I’ll show you my happy face.

Name a place that most lived up to the hype.

When people would talk about Hawaii being paradise, I would roll my eyes (internally) and think “it can’t be that great”. I was so wrong. I’ve been to Maui twice now and have loved every single second of it.

From the amazingly laid-back people to the delicious seafood – there’s something for everyone in Maui. We went snorkeling with turtles and fish swimming around us, lazed on pristine beaches, climbed volcanoes, and did so much more. If you haven’t been, put Maui on your bucket list.

Name a place that least lived up to the hype.

This is the most difficult question to answer! My other half, Mr. M, had to call out names of countries and cities and I’d answer things like “no I loved that place” and “but what about the architecture and the weather”. I was worried that I wouldn’t have an answer for you. But then came to Los Angeles, and I was saved.
I don’t dislike LA to the core, I’ve had lots of fun visiting Disneyland or Harry Potter world at Universal Studios. But as a city, it felt so impersonal. Like it had no heart or soul. Maybe I’ve just seen the wrong bits of LA, and I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me. It’s just not for me.

If I had a one-way ticket to anywhere in the world where would you go and why? 

Probably Scotland. Apart from being a natural wonder (have you even SEEN the Scottish Highlands?), the people have fantastic accents that you sometimes have to strain to understand, there are history and stories everywhere you look, and they have the best comedy festival in the world. Plus, it’s attached to the rest of the UK, and you can road trip throughout England and Wales while you’re at it!

Tell us about a great little place you know?

Easy! Sonora, the California ‘goldfields’ is a little town with a lot of heart. It’s three hours’ drive from San Francisco and very close to Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest.

SO you already know that you’ll be in a beautiful part of the country. Sonora is as close as you’ll get to the old American towns of the gold mining era, complete with the main street of stores filled with antiques, cafes with good food, and bars with bourbon.

There’s also a mining ‘ghost town’ that recreates what it was like to live in Sonora during the famous Gold Rush. It’s the perfect weekend escape from the city and one that we love!

Where in the world have you felt happiest?

Well, I met Mr. M when I moved to San Francisco for work in 2015, so this would have to be my happy place. Nowhere is going to be perfect, but San Francisco is a beautiful place to live, surrounded by lots of parklands, green space, and beautiful beaches. There is always an event
going on somewhere, and it’s easy to head off on a road trip along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

Any horror/funny stories while traveling?

I visited Ireland for a few days mid-week while working in London. But I’d accidentally booked my return flight for Thursday afternoon, but only had an accommodation till Wednesday morning. I was convinced that my flight was on Wednesday night. So, of course, I arrive at the airport on Wednesday, hand over my passport, only to be told: “I don’t think we can check you in this early”. Cue confusion on my part. I had to find another room in Dublin (without any internet on my phone), and haul my luggage back there from the airport for another night’s stay. Whoops!

What places have you planned for 2019?

We’re getting married this year so that has put travel on hold. Although, we do get to plan our honeymoon, which is proving to be more difficult than we’d imagined. We’re tossing up between a northern California road trip or a visit to the Grand Canyon. There are just too many fantastic places in the US to see!

Ingrid is the author of IngridZenMoments, blending in travel, reading and loving in the life of a full time mutinational worker and encouraging people to live and love life to the fullest.
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