Born and raised in one of England’s most famous university cities, Cambridge, Kiara Gallop now lives in the medieval English town of Shrewsbury, famous for being the birthplace of Charles Darwin. Much as she loves her hometown, she satisfies her passion for travel by escaping as often as she can.
She’s been travelling regularly since she completed her English Literature degree at Chester University, but it wasn’t until 2006 that she discovered the joys of solo, independent adventure. And although she doesn’t always travel solo nowadays (her boyfriend Stu likes to accompany her on trips as often as he can) she still prefers the freedom of planning her own itineraries.
She blogs primarily about budget travel (although this isn’t limited solely to staying in hostels and eating street food, much as she loves both of these!), about enjoying the great outdoors, connecting with nature, and about using travel to explore her full potential and to face her fears. She’s skydived over Fox Glacier in New Zealand, mountain-biked down the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia, and battled through altitude sickness on a hike through the Cordilleras Blancas in central Peru.
Equally at home in big cities as she is in remote mountain villages, she always makes it her mission to learn as much as she can about local food, culture and customs, and is passionate about seeking out authentic and unique experiences wherever she goes.
Aside from two stints of long-term travels to Southeast Asia and South America, using redundancy money from two separate jobs, Kiara fits all of her travels around her full-day day job in local government administration. When she’s not busy working on new material for Gallop Around The Globe (which she’s been running since November 2013), she can usually be found hiking up mountains, getting lost in the cobblestone streets of her favourite cities, making friends with a furry feline or two, photographing cacti, or grazing on olives and cheese.
What's usually in your carry-on?
Depends on whether or not I also have a checked bag! But either way, I'll always carry my DSLR camera (an essential!), my laptop, a guidebook, notebook and pen, earplugs and an eye mask (although I rarely manage to sleep on flights!), a few toiletries, and a change of clothes. If I don't have a checked bag, I'll also have a few more items of clothing, a selection of electronics, and another pair of shoes/sandals/flip-flops.
Tell us about the usual type of clothes you bring when travelling? Do you pick your wardrobe meticulously, plan a day by day outfit, etc.?
This depends on the climate of the country or region I'm travelling to, but essentially I'm all for the mix and match kinda wardrobe. What I pack has got to be comfortable, versatile and practical (if it creases easily, it's out!). I generally pack a pair of jeans, a pair of harem pants (because they're super comfy), and a pair or two of leggings for hiking (you can read my hiking packing list here). If I'm going somewhere hot, I'll add in a pair of denim shorts. I normally pack twice as many tops - a combination of vests, t-shirts, and long-sleeves, as well as a couple of cardigans. I'll also squeeze a dress in, just in case an occasion arises where I need to look smart (or smart-ish).
In terms of footwear (again, depending on the climate or activities planned), I'll bring any one of a combination of: snow boots, hiking boots, walking shoes, walking sandals, ballet flats, and flip-flops. A lightweight waterproof jacket with a hood is also an essential wardrobe item when I travel.
What's the best packing tip anyone has given you? Who gave it?
So simple but basically, use packing cubes! I think I first read about them via fellow travel blogger, Amanda Williams (A Dangerous Business) and I swear by them now! I have packing cubes of varying sizes (depending on the length of trip I'm taking), but generally, I'll use one for tops, one for bottoms, and a smaller one for underwear, nightwear and bikinis. They help keep my backpack tidy and organised, and as a result, all my items of clothing are easy to find and instantly accessible.
What’s the best thing about packing light/heavy?
The best thing is probably the convenience. You can hop on and off public transport with ease, and it eliminates all those hours of waiting at the baggage carousel. It also forces you only to pack what you really need.
How does your packing for a travel routine look like?
I'd like to tell you that I have a routine (especially because, after all these years of travel, I most definitely should have one!), but the fact of the matter is that – aside from making sure that the clothes I'm taking are washed and ironed beforehand – all my packing is usually completed an hour or two before I leave for a trip. And there's always something I cannot find because it's not where I thought it was. I've had to leave sunglasses behind, my portable battery pack, even a guidebook I'd bought specifically for the trip just weeks beforehand!
How do you deal with "excess baggage" situations? Do you pay extra? Lessen your load?
Fortunately, I've never had to deal with an excess baggage situation. Although in my earlier days of travel, that's only because it was so cheap to post packages (clothes, souvenirs, gifts for friends and family) back home from Asia. I was also lucky that, although my 85-litre backpack (I now travel with a 55-litre pack for longer trips) was 3kg over the weight limit when I flew back to the UK after six months in Southeast Asia, it wasn't mentioned by the staff at check-in. I think airlines have become a lot stricter with enforcing weight limits these days.
What's your best-kept packing secret?
I always wear my heaviest, most bulky items of clothing and footwear when I'm flying, although this can make going through security a little more long-winded than it would otherwise be. "Please ma'am can you remove your coat. And your jacket. And your cardigan/hat/boots etc..." ;-)
Favourite region? Asia
Favourite country? Thailand and Peru
Favourite city? Sucre, Bolivia
Favourite beach? Arcoudaki, Paxos (Greece)
Favourite food? At the moment, broccoli stir-fried with garlic
Favourite mode of transport? Long distances - train. Short(er) distances - my own two feet
Favourite book? So difficult to choose just one! But I'll go with one that I've loved since childhood: 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee
Window or aisle seat? Aisle (I'm scared of flying)
Carry-on or check-in? Carry-on
Hostel or hotel? Hostel
What's your favourite design from the Cabin Zero collection? The Mysore Red 44L