Pirates, welcome to 2019! But more importantly, welcome to the third instalment of Travel Tip Tuesday! In this weekly series, we interview inspirational travel personalities in a bid to inspire you to take off on your own adventures. Ok, ok - we know this week's interview is on a Wednesday, but we assumed that yesterday you'd be too hungover to concentrate on the nuggets of travel wisdom coming your way....right?
This week we were excited to chat to Kirsty Leanne of KirstyLeanne.com, a 25 year old travel blogger and digital marketing freelancer from the West Midlands. Not your average travel blogger, Kirsty is passionate about plus size representation in the travel industry, busting taboos and ensuring the diverse voices of plus-sized travellers are recognised. She also blogs about plus-size fashion, blogging tips as well as her adventures across the world.
Tell our readers a little more about how your love affair with travel began!
It may seem a little strange to admit this, but as a child I was scared of ABSOLUTELY everything. Whether it was going fast in the car, driving in the rain, tackling the smallest of heights - I’d be in tears straight away!
Lately, I am not AS scared, but as I got older I started to realise that I’d missed out on so much because of my fears and I didn’t want to let that stop me anymore. To help fight some of my biggest fears (flying being one of them), I booked my dream trip to live in America for 4 months when I was just 19. After having such an incredible, eye-opening trip, I have wanted to explore absolutely everywhere.
I still haven’t conquered 90% of my fears, but I’m ticking them off one by one.
You’ve written candidly about your experiences as a plus size traveller. Tell us more about that and what you think our users should know.
I haven’t always written about plus size travel on my blog, however over the last year or so I have noticed that there is a real lack of representation when it comes to plus size people in travel media. Whilst I can’t change what travel companies are doing in house, I thought I could use my platform to talk about the things people don’t talk about. Whether it’s small seats on planes, being made to feel uncomfortable by different cultures or struggling to walk around for the day - I feel like it’s something I need to be open and honest about so people like me can relate. There are so many people that are plus size that feel like that can’t go on holiday or travel due to their size and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Hopefully, if I’m as honest as I can be about my own experiences, I’ll encourage people like to me to go out and live their best life too.
You’re a full-time freelancer and blogger, AKA living the dream. How did you end up on this path? Is it easy to combine with a lifestyle of travelling?
I always wanted to work in the media, however when I was younger I was more focussed on becoming a journalist or editor of a magazine. As I got older, I started gearing towards online media and so I did a degree that focussed on Digital Marketing. After graduation I spent a couple of years working in the industry, however it just didn’t feel right. Having been running my blog alongside my studies and my job for years, I knew that this was the path I wanted my life to take.
After years of working towards working for myself, I was finally able to leave full-time employment and start a career as a freelancer and travel blogger the day before my 25th birthday. Such perfect timing!
Yes, it’s so easy to combine my new job with a lifestyle of travelling as I am able to work the hours that I choose. Whilst I am still trying to find a the perfect work-life balance, I love my new flexible schedule so much.
Do you prefer budget travel or glamming it up in luxury hotels?
I think if I could afford to travel luxury I would probably say I love that more, however, I travel on a budget 90% of the time and I don’t think it has ever had a negative impact on a trip. The way I look at, the less money I spend on each trip I take, the more trips I can take!
I love shopping around to find the best deals, cheapest flights and some ABSOLUTE bargains when it comes to travelling.
You’re a big fan of America! What is it about the States which draws you in?
I really am! It was always my goal to travel there and so when I moved there for four months during University I felt like I was living in a dream. I don’t know what it is about the country I loved so much, but it holds a special place in my heart.
Since my first visit I haven’t had the chance to go back, but that’s changing next year as I’ll be spending three weeks doing a tour of several different states, ending with a week in Disney World Orlando.
You’re taking part in the 30 Before 30 challenge. What’s your progress so far?
Oh gosh, I really haven’t visited as many countries as I’d have liked to at this point, but I am confident I am going to complete it, if I finally stop going back to destinations I have already visited and love so much.
So far I have visited France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Poland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Czech Republic, Bosnia, Croatia, Indonesia, America and Mexico. I’m halfway there, with just over 4 years to go!
I suppose I better get planning...
Your top three destinations you’ve visited so far? (I know, we’re mean!)
You are mean! This is so hard!
- Bali - I absolutely loved Bali as it was first time visiting Asia and it was so different to anywhere else I have visited before. I loved hearing about the culture, walking around the many temples, swimming with the sea turtles, seeing the stunning rice fields and watching the sunset on the beach. It’s one of those trips that I never thought I’d be able to do but I am so glad that I had the opportunity. I also hope that one day I get to go back and explore more.
- California - As I mentioned above, this has probably only made my list as it is somewhere that is so special to me. Whilst it’s not for everyone, I loved the stunning beaches, the bustling city of LA and the friendly people.
- Wroclaw - Poland was somewhere that I was overly fussed about visiting for a long time, but after my first visit to Wroclaw it quickly became one of my favourite places. In the last 18 months I have visited this incredbile town four times, and I still don’t think I am bored! I love it’s whimsical streets, the colourful buildings and incredible history. If you ever get the chance to go to Poland, I highly recommend spending a long weekend there.
Other cities I love are Amsterdam, Paris and Prague (sorry that’s cheating I know).
Do you prefer travelling solo or with friends?
I haven’t travelled solo since I went to America, but I am dying to do it again. Whilst I love travelling with my friends, I think that travelling solo is amazing as it gives you a chance to experience a country in your own way. All the decisions are yours, you can come and go as you please and you get to meet some incredible people along the way. I am hoping to do a couple of solo trips next year, so watch this space.
What trips do you have lined up?
Ah gosh! I have actually only got one that is physically booked as I have told myself I am not allowed to book anymore until I have paid off my three week trip to America. After I have paid that off I am hoping to book a few days in Paris with a friend, a weekend in Bucharest with my boyfriend and a couple more European breaks here and there. I am also sure I’ll have a couple more press trips to add to the list as we go into the New Year, but at the moment my calendar is pretty empty until May.
Finally, what’s your number one travel hack?
This is another difficult question as I have quite a few! My number one has got to be if you’re withdrawing cash from ATMs in a foreign country, click ‘no’ when they ask if you want to accept the exchange rate! Usually, you’ll end up saving loads on commission costs!
Thanks for the chat, Kirsty, and keep fighting the good fight! You can keep up with her adventures and activism at kirstyleanne.com, follow her on Twitter at @kirstyleanneuk or Instagram at @kirstyleanneuk.