From sleeping in the deserts of Jordan to witnessing the Northern Lights; the life of Flora Baker is anything but ordinary. Traveller, volunteer and writer, Flora pens wonderfully weird stories in her travel blog Flora the Explorer.
We caught up with Flora to discuss visa nightmares, Mongol rallies and her favourite travel destinations.
What made you want to travel the world?
I’ve always loved travelling – my parents both worked in the theatre and used to travel on tour a lot before they had me, then we travelled a fair bit as a family when I was little.
You certainly have an ambitious bucket list, which activity are you most keen to cross off?
I’d love to go to Burning Man in the Nevada desert before it gets too commercialised! I’m also really keen to take part in the Mongol Rally (driving from London to Mongolia in a pimped out car) – although I should probably get my licence sorted first…
What’s your best advice to anyone wanting to see the ‘real’ side to a destination?
Befriending local people, which usually involves spending a fair bit of time in one place. I’ve found that volunteering usually opens up a social side with locals that I wouldn’t otherwise have.
You’ve been learning Spanish, what embarrassing mistakes have you made trying to speak the native tongue?
It took me a long time to actually feel comfortable with trying to speak to strangers. Once I got over that boundary, I chattered away so much that I thought I was basically fluent – until I was working as a journalist in a Colombian newsroom and had to conduct phone interviews in Spanish. The ensuing awkward silences reminded me I still had a lot to learn!
Travelling for such long periods must be tiring, what one indulgence do you allow yourself to wind down?
Sharing your personal space all the time in dorm rooms can get stressful, so every so often I’ll splurge on a hotel room for myself and spend all day chilling out and having some alone time!
You’ve challenged yourself to walk the Camino de Santiago route. Can you explain why and what this will involve?
The Camino is a pilgrimage route through Spain that people have been walking since the 9th-century – although I’m not walking for any religious reasons! There are a few different routes but they’re all about 500 miles in length, so it should take me around a month to reach the city of Santiago in north-west Spain.
Your travels stretch from India to North America, but which country has most surprised you?
Before I decided to travel into Colombia, I was rather worried about how safe I’d be and whether I should only go there in a group. Once I arrived, I fell head over heels with the country and its people and ended up going back three times. It’s now one of my favourite countries on earth and I can’t wait to go back yet again for longer!
You’ve had some visa nightmares in the past, what’s the one thing you always make sure to do before a flight now?
I write down every single detail of my flight in a notebook and check it obsessively! I also leave plenty of time to reach the airport and get through security etc. It’s way better having too much time than not enough.
What do you personally think is the most underrated destination in Europe?
I’ve visited Romania twice in the last six months – once in summer, once for New Year – and I’ve been really amazed at the beautiful landscapes and generous people. It’s made me think of that part of Europe in a new way and now I’m looking forward to exploring it more.
Where are you heading to next?
I’ve got various short trips on the immediate horizon, like a weekend in Paris and a few days in Fez, Morocco for my birthday, before eventually spending a month in Spain for the Camino in the summer.
All images courtesy floratheexplorer.com