The Wanderer Collective: An Interview with Brooke McKone

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You know how sometimes in life you meet someone, and within five seconds of knowing them, you completely fall in love with them? Like, you just know this person is meant to be part of your posse forever?

Well, that's how I feel about this amazing woman. Fierce travel groupies/besties/adventurers from the second our mutual smiles smacked each other in the face and our eyes lit up in recognition.

Oh, hey there, fellow wanderer. Where've you been all my life? I think we *need* to be in each other's life. Whaddaya think? P.S. You fucking rock. 

This month we talk life, travel and adventure with one of my favourite travel babes/human beings on the planet, Brooke McKone, author of travel/lifestyle blog WANDER-FULL: stylish wanderer, intrepid traveller, unrepentant foodie extraordinaire and my dream travel partner.

I'm already your biggest fan (#girlcrush), but tell us a little about yourself so others can fall in love with you too...

My name is Brooke, and my greatest desire in life is to cover as many inches of the world as I can. Born in Auckland, New Zealand my family moved around a bit due to my Dad's work. This included living in a few different cities across NZ and two years living in Papua New Guinea. (I still remember our home made out of huge river stones, weekend trips to the markets in town, & the colourful traditional festivals). From there, we moved to Queensland, Australia which ended up becoming our permanent home - the Sunshine State is pretty special!

Being exposed to different cultures from such a young age and flicking through thick albums of photos of my parents backpacking across Europe, I grew up impatient to see the world.

My first big overseas trip was in 2010 to the United States. My Dad was taking part in the New York City Marathon, so I saved my pennies & joined my parents for a few weeks seeing NYC, Los Angeles, Kansas and San Francisco.

It was on this trip that I started blogging about my adventures, purely as a way for friends and family back home to read about what I was getting up to.  I received so much encouragement that I decided to keep it up. That's how Wander-Full became what it is today! I've found it to be a great way to fuel my love of photography, travel and writing and hope that I can make that grow into something more (who doesn't dream of a life outside of 9-5?!). Having the chance to inspire others and meet like-minded people (just like Shanny!) is a great bonus!

The bug caught me bad after that trip to the US and every year since I've planned another trip abroad - a solo adventure around Europe in 2011, Tokyo in 2012, Europe again with my partner in 2013 and Bali and New Zealand last year.

There's so much to learn from experiencing new cities and meeting new people and it's an amazing thing that travel is so accessible to us these days. I know I never want to stop exploring!

Finish this sentence: I’ve got29 stampson my passport, but I left my heart in...

Paris. NYC has a pretty firm grasp on it, but it took me a few days to get myself together there (it's a pretty overwhelming city). In comparison, I fell hard and fast in love with Paris - the food, the architecture, the history and unmatched beauty of the city.

We wanderers have a never-ending supply of interesting stories to tell. What’s the most memorable travel experience you’ve ever had?

There are so, so many! Cliff jumping in the Greek Islands, sky diving over the South Island of New Zealand, standing under the Eiffel Tower, on top of the Empire State Building, walking through the ruins of Pompeii or exploring the Vatican Museums... If I were to pick a few unique moments, one would definitely be from my solo trip around Europe.

While I was in Barcelona, I booked in to get my hair done at a salon. Because...why  not?! The receptionist spoke enough English to book me in, however my stylist and the rest of the staff there spoke none. Nada. Which was about as much Spanish as I spoke (apart from a few phrases I tried to learn before my visit). Who knows what possessed me to do it, but it wasn't a total disaster haha - definitely an experience I remember!

Another experience was the time I was in Tokyo, Japan and my two friends and I booked in for karaoke. We had our own private room, a three course meal and endless list of the greatest (and not so great) hits. When our time was up, the staff came to show us out, however, some wires must have been crossed and we were instead taken to another room, full of Australian and American lawyer grads. We joined their party and spent another two hours singing our hearts out before stumbling home in the wee hours of the morning. We got up to our hotel room and watched the sun rise over Shinjuku city. That sight alone was pretty special.

What travel essentials can't you get on a plane without?

My passport (of course!), a good book, my cameras, laptop (always optimistic I'll find time to blog while away), my phone, currency, and all of my travel documents/itineraries.

I'm one of those people that plans and packs for every scenario and have never managed to travel with cabin baggage only - I could go away for a weekend and be able to stay for a month.

On my first trip to Europe I carted 25kg across three bags with me the whole time - I was particularly annoyed at myself when I had to carry this up and down countless steps, navigating the maze that is Venice while trying to find my B&B! Traveling light is a challenge I'm setting myself for a trip down the track!

Toni Morrison got it right when he said… 

‘When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn’t love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.’

This quote is really about people from small towns/the country experiencing a city for the first time, but I feel like it applies in a broader sense to anyone visiting cities around the world. I know it rings true for me - travel awakens something inside of you that you sometimes never knew was there.

One time, I woke up in…

Cinque Terre.

I was staying in the small town of Monterosso el Mare as part of my solo European adventure. I had spent the entire evening before crying my eyes out, a few weeks in and growing incredibly lonely, questioning why on earth I thought doing this trip alone was such a great idea in the first place!

That next morning, I got up, ate a good breakfast then set off on a hike to the neighbouring town of Vernazza. That  is still one of the most stunningly scenic hikes I've ever done and it got me out of my head and in touch with my heart, serving as a huge reminder as to why I was there: because I was dying to explore the world, because this trip was making me stronger and because it was a blessing that I was able to be there in the first place.

The view over the bright buildings and rocky shoreline at the end of that hike is a picture that is firmly ingrained in my memory!

Top 3 items on my travel bucket list:

This is THE hardest question!! I have a seemingly never ending list going at the moment, as the more places I visit the more I discover that I'm yet to see!

If I HAD to name just three:

1// To get lost in the old city streets of Prague2// Dive with whale sharks off the Western Australian coast3// Explore the incredible landscapes & cities of Turkey

Fast Five:

Instagram or Twitter?

Instagram! I'm all about the imagery.

Hotel or hostel?

I'm definitely more of a hotel kinda girl (or Air Bnb/Homeaway apartment rentals).

I feel like it's so important to have a comfortable, quiet space to go back to at the end of each day so you can rest and sleep well before a day of more adventures.

I did stay in hostels with a friend while in Greece and that was loads of fun. We only spent a few nights on each island, and when you're waking up and rolling onto the beach each day (especially after spending all night dancing and drinking cocktails), it doesn't matter too much where you sleep. It's also a great way to meet other travellers and make some friends for your stay! In saying that, I think that's my stint in hostels done - I faced it, embraced it and will happily move on.

Best travel tune on your iPod?

I rarely use my iPod, and don't have any music on my phone. From time to time while I'm travelling I’ll hear certain songs playing and they tend to become part of a soundtrack for my trips.

Next on your travel itinerary?

My partner and I have been looking forward to an island getaway - hikes, coconuts, snorkelling and sunsets. It ticks just about every box! That's why we've just booked a trip to the tiny island country of Niue. I hear somebody utterly fabulous and fun happens to live there too (*wink*).

I would also love to go back to Japan, make a trip to Mexico or head over to Turkey. Stay tuned!

Raddest 'must-do' travel recommendation?

One of my favourite tour groups is Sandemann's New Europe tours. They're based in a number of major cities around the world and I absolutely recommend using them. Their free walking tours are a great way to establish yourself in a new city and learn some pretty interesting history about it too. It helps you to get your bearings a little easier as well, meaning you're likely to be more confident in finding your way around on your own after that and you might even make some friends for your stay!

A final question before we leave you: If you could give one piece of advice to first-time wanderers, what would it be?

Travel to feed your soul. This covers everything from picking the places YOU want to see, to choosing your travel companions.

I had wanted to see Europe since I was a little girl, and when nobody else was quite ready to go when I was, I decided to go myself! Why put it off any longer? It meant I could customise my trip exactly as I liked it and go about my days just as I wanted. It also gets you out of your comfort zone and allows you to meet new people; I absolutely realised I'm more capable and confident than I used to give myself credit for.

In comparison, I've also been very lucky to be able to travel with people who are up for the same adventure. I went on a trip to Bali early last year, with my cousin and a friend of hers (whom I'd never met). We planned out a rough itinerary and talked about where we might like to stay/visit early on and discovered that we all agreed on every single part of the trip (not an easy task, usually)! Long story short, those were some of the best 10 days of my life and I miss Bali immensely every day since having been home. I think we got very lucky as far as how well this experience went. I have heard of people who have gone overseas with friends, only to find when getting there that their friends aren't all that keen on doing anything that they had hoped to do. If you want to stick to the beautiful resort grounds, get pampered and not venture far from the front gates, that's totally okay. But if you're the kind of person that loves to explore and immerse yourself in a culture, then that's definitely something you need to discuss before locking yourself in with a group.

Be prepared for things to go wrong. Not that they always will; but if and when they do, stay strong, have a back-up plan (and cash) and keep on going. Things tend to have a funny way of working themselves out (and can sometimes lead to some pretty special moments/memories).

About Brooke //

Brooke McKone is the creator and blogger behind Wander-Full.com, a travel and lifestyle blog showcasing her love for travel, food and photography.

Connect with Brooke on Instagram for all her latest adventures!

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