The following is an interview with travel blogger Kellie Netherwood from Destination Unknown. Having traveled to over 50 countries, she photographs the amazing sights, places and people she has seen. Through her stories and photos, she inspires others to make the choice to live life to the fullest.
1. Did you dream of traveling the world since you were a little girl?
I remember having a hunger for independence, a thirst to explore other countries and I certainly was never one of those girls who dreamed about my wedding day, future house and names of my children! But I don’t remember being as passionate about travel as a little girl as I am now. I think this is partly due to growing up in a mining town in outback Australia in the 1970’s/80’s. We only had 2 TV stations and no Internet, so my travel inspiration was limited. But as I grew older and met people who had travelled or lived been abroad, my interest increased and by the time I left Australia for the first time (as a 24 year old on a three month accounting work exchange in Toronto) I was hooked. My passion for travel has only increased since then.
As I reflect on these two photos I find it hard to believe this little girl from outback Australia has been lucky enough to have visited all the continents in the world!
2. You love to share your adventures via your blog, Destination Unknown, especially to inspire other people to travel. What would be one of your favorite experiences to share to inspire new Fearless Female travelers to take their own journey?
It feels impossible to isolate one favourite experience! What I’ve enjoyed most are those memorable moments of insignifance - like the local woman at a bus station in Myanmar who insisted sharing an orange with me after I blew bubbles with her giggling child. Or the kindness of strangers – like the elderly Cambodian man who closed his curtain after looking out to see who had knocked on his door (I was barefoot, covered with rain and mud, holding broken shoes and nearly in tears after an 8 hour ‘adventure’ involving a broken down bus, local pick up truck, closed guesthouse and no mobile phone reception) – only to immediately open the door and hand me a pair of shoes. When the best things happen when things don’t go according to plan – like taking a wrong turn whilst cycling in Myanmar and being invited into the house of a local woman and her entertaining friends. And those surreal moments – like learning of Michael’s Jackson’s death from the 76 year old, blind village chief of a Malawi village.
3. Back in 2009, you decided to quit your job in finance to travel the world for 15 months. What made you decide to do this and why haven’t you looked back?
A year before I set off on my travels, I joined a group tour in Cambodia for a two week holiday to escape a busy and stressful period at work. I was sipping a mojito in a bar in Siem Reap when the concept of a career break entered my mind. I always know a big decision is the right one when I make it within minutes – and this was no exception.
It wasn’t just the dust that was under my skin within hours of crossing the border into Cambodia, it was the essence of the country itself. My introduction to the country was an eye-opening education into a nation that is embracing the future under the cloud of a traumatic past.
As I sipped my second mojito I realized the priorities in my life were out of balance. I began to question the material lifestyle I worked in a stressful career to maintain. I began to realize I was content with my lifestyle but it didn’t energize me. And not only was this holiday re-awakening my love of travel and meeting new people, it was introducing me to travelers from all walks of life, of all ages, living life in a variety of different ways. The reality hit me – there was nothing stopping me being one of them.
As I sipped a third mojito I realized how lucky I was to have been born in the country I was. I realized you are never too young to change your life. I realized you can always replenish your bank account but cannot reclaim time.
By the fourth mojito, the decision was made!
My career break was a life-changing experience. During fifteen months of travel, volunteering and adventure, I realized I value freedom more than security, appreciated flexibility more than routine and being outside my comfort zone energizes me.
I’ve never looked back and I’m now motivated to live life instead of existing through it.
4. In 2012, you ventured down to Antarctica. Can you share some of the highlights and any tips you have for travelers dreaming of a trip to this beautiful frozen continent?
Describing Antarctica with mere words does not do it justice. It is a continent like no other where the silence is deafening, where you can be alone without feeling lonely, and you live completely in the moment because the sensory overload you are experiencing leaves no room for reflections on the past or plans for the future. It is like stepping onto another planet, a continent that plays by its own rules.
It was a collection of highlights experienced it what felt like a magical bubble where time stands still.
I felt like I was part of my own wildlife documentary in South Georgia, as I walked on an island shared by fur and elephant seals and king penguins. I felt insignificant as I sat in a zodiac as it sailed through Pleneau Bay, home to giant icebergs, the scale of which has to be seen to be believed. I watched a skua steal and eat two gentoo penguin chicks at Neko Harbour, a reminder that this is wildlife in it’s purest form. I heard humpback whales before I saw them in Wilhelmina Bay, such was the silence of our surroundings. I approached a leopard seal on an ice flow who opened his big mouth wide to warn us we were the visitors and this was his territory. And I was constantly surrounded by what felt like a landscape painting, created with hues of blue and white.
My biggest tip for travellers dreaming of visiting this incredible continent? Make the dream reality – you’ll never regret it.
(my website is full of practical tips for those who decide to make this dream reality, in my Antarctica Feature section)
5. Photography is a big part of your travels. What are your favorite subjects to photograph on the road?
The more I travel, the more inspired I feel as a photographer. And the more I photograph my travel locations, the more drawn I feel to landscape and wildlife opportunities. I find myself increasingly inspired by the incredible locations this passion takes me. I also enjoy the challenge of overcoming the uncontrollable factors the natural world throws at me – a great landscape or wildlife photograph feels earned.
6. You’ve visited more than 50 countries. That’s amazing! Where are you heading next?
I am about to board a ship for two weeks to explore the Arctic, which I am incredibly excited about. I’m looking forward to continuing my love of landscape and wildlife photography and will be embracing the opportunity to enjoy a digital detox! A few days after that I’ll be living on a game reserve in South Africa for a month as a photography volunteer – exciting times ahead!