Heather Cowper is the brain behind the extremely successful heatheronhertravels.com. She shares her inspirational travel experiences in the form of blogs, photographs, videos and podcasts. She has travelled extensively and written, in great detail, about different fascinating places she has been to; her blog is a great resource for potential travellers to gather valuable, useful information.
The English blogger is best known for her motivating blog posts that deal with unique aspects of every travel destination, the food, the culture and the locals. The blog covers family travel in the European continent and other parts of the world, as well as accommodation reviews, outdoor activities etc.
Heather has been travelling all her life, first with her parents, then as a student and later with her husband and children. Her blog has been highly applauded across dozens of online forums. Heatheronhertravels.com has been recognised as a leading UK travel blog by entities such as The Expeditioner, Trekeffect, Nomadic Samuel and 101 Holidays Blog.
You have been a traveller all your life. From travelling with your parents as a child to travelling with your husband and kids, you have experienced it all. When did you enjoy it the most?
I must have got the travel bug through our family camping holidays as a child. I don't remember particularly enjoying the camping, since we always seemed to get up really early and pack up the tent so that we could drive to the next place in Europe, but I do have snapshot memories of some of the things that we saw. When my own kids were younger we travelled as much as we could afford, to places we could get to easily, so we spent a lot of holiday time in France and Spain. I think that since my children have been older and especially since I started my blog I've been able to travel more widely and do more adventurous things both on my own, with friends and with the family. I think that writing, photographing and shooting video for the blog also makes the travel experience more memorable and intense, plus you can re-live it afterwards on the blog! For me these last 6 years since I've been blogging have been golden travel years.
Your tryst with Tour de Mont Blanc was somewhat unique; you completed the journey in four years, covering a portion of it every year. How was that experience?
I started walking the Tour de Mont Blanc with my friend Julia in 2010 as we had a friend who had walked and told us it was an amazing challenge. The problem was that since we both work fulltime, we couldn't afford to spend the full 12 days it takes to walk the circular route around Mont Blanc, so we decided to just walk part of it that year. Of course after that first year we were hooked by the fantastic Alpine scenery and the sense of achievement when you get up to the top of the mountain. We went back each year, always in September and always had glorious weather, finally completing the trail in September 2013. We had a few mishaps such as the time Julia got altitude sickness and some of the mountain refuges were quite basic but overall it was an amazing experience.
"I am living the adventure I left behind in my twenties!" Tell us a little more about your adventure in the twenties.
I took a year off to travel between school and university, spending a few months working in a ski-resort in France and another few months staying with family friends in Hong Kong. Looking back it all seems a bit tame compared to my daughter's year off, who at 19 spent several months before university travelling through South America with friends, ending up in Brazil during the world cup! My wanderlust took hold when I was at university and became part of the Explorer and Traveller's club, organising expeditions to northern Kenya and Papua New Guinea in the summer break. Staying in a remote part of the highlands of PNG was a real eye-opener and I took another year after university working for the expedition organisation, Operation Raleigh, helping to organise the different exhibitions and taking part in the one to Honduras. I remember trekking inland, deep into the Honduran rainforest and coming across an ancient site all overgrown by the jungle and canoeing up a river with amazing petroglyphs carved into the rocks. Of course this was well before my blogging days and I doubt if I'd even have any photos of it now.
Your trip to Ecuador was the longest time you stayed away from your family. Tell us a little about the best of Ecuador you explored in 3 weeks.
The trip to Ecuador was the one that prompted me to start my blog, since I came back feeling inspired to share my travel experiences beyond my immediate friends and family. I was travelling with two girlfriends, following the journey of Isabel Godin, an 18th century lady who tried to travel down the Amazon from Ecuador to rejoin her husband who had preceded her many years before. Unfortunately all her party perished on the way and she was rescued by local Indians and taken down to French Guyana where she eventually found her husband. We started in Quito, visited her former home of Riobamba, enjoyed the hot springs and waterfalls of Banos and then travelled down the Amazon tributary on her route as far as the Peruvian border. The river journey in dugout canoes was amazing as we stayed in the rainforest community of Sarayaku and slept on the sandbanks beside the river hearing stories of jaguars and anacondas. It was quite easy to imagine how her party could have met with disaster in such a remote area although luckily nothing untoward happened to us.
You were featured in the Woman and Home magazine in April 2014. How was the overall experience? Referring to your first reaction, were you able to lose a stone in 2 weeks?
Unfortunately my love of food is too great and I wasn't able to lose much weight before the Woman and Home photo-shoot, so what you see is what you get (enhanced a little by tight spandex to hold in all the wobbly bits). I did have a fabulous day though, being dressed up from a rail of lovely clothes, having hair and makeup done and posing like a top model. It was all great fun although not really how I actually travel, since I was given impossibly high heels to wear and a large leather case that would never have cut it as a carry-on bag. Of course I basked in a rosy glow when friends and strangers told me afterwards how much they enjoyed the article.
Copenhagen! "Two visits to the same place in one year (2014) must mean that I really like a place". You have been to Copenhagen four times now. What are the things that have you drawn back to the place?
Copenhagen is a city that's both accessible and beautiful with a mixture of lovely old buildings and stunning modern architecture. Everywhere you look there's sparkling water, from the harbour to the lakes and most of all I love the relaxed lifestyle with everyone including the Royal family cycling about town. The food is amazingly high quality and inventive, it's quite difficult to get a bad meal not to mention the tradition of Scandinavian design. Everyone speaks great English so it's especially easy for us Brits and I just enjoy being in a place where everything just seems to work.
From River Rhine cruises to winter breaks in Sweden, you have travelled extensively across the European continent. Which part of it would you recommend to our readers the most?
I find something to enjoy everywhere I go but there are some places in Europe that I find myself drawn back to over and over. Since my sister lives on the Greek island of Zakynthos we tend to go as a family every summer and I love getting my Greek island fix of beaches and sunshine, sitting in a shady beach bar for a lazy long lunch and hanging out on the beach with my niece, daughter and all the cool kids! For quite different reasons I also love Scandinavia, where the food and design are so beautiful and especially the coastal cities like Gothenburg or Copenhagen where both nature and sparkling water is never far away. Budapest is also a favourite city which has beautiful architecture, fascinating history and is very affordable to visit. Finally after walking the Tour de Mont Blanc I've become addicted to mountain landscapes and loved the northern Italian province of South Tyrol which I visited last year where I climbed my first Via Ferrata in the Dolomites, as well as Austria where I spent some time in Salzburg and Lake Wolfgang in the lakes and mountains that give you such a great sense of wellbeing.
Where have you travelled to in Asia and beyond? We note that you have visited India and even sponsored Indian kids. What has been the driving force behind your charity F.I.F.I. (Families Initiative For India)?
The charity is one that I set up some years ago to support childrens' education and other projects that support poor families in rural Andhra Pradesh. We channel the donations, especially for child sponsorship through our contact on the ground and this February I was in India for the third time to see some of the projects that we've funded and to meet the sponsored children. I've found it incredibly rewarding to have this kind of personal contact with the individuals in India who we have helped. I travelled with another trustee and we met the farmers who had benefited from bore wells which enable them to irrigate their fields and grow crops all year round, rather than just for a couple of months when the rains come, which make a tremendous difference to their income. We visited a mango plantation that now provides a good income for the village to fund education and other community improvement projects. We also presented sewing machines to ladies in a tailoring project who had completed 6 months of training and could now use their skills and sewing machines to work from home taking on tailoring commissions to earn additional income for their families. The biggest thing I've learned is that the joy and satisfaction you receive from these life-changing projects far outweighs any contribution of time or money you put into them.
You have travelled widely within the UK. What is your favourite destination back home?
I'm continually drawn back to Devon and Cornwall, especially to the coast since I love walking the coastal paths by the sea. Being 2 hours from me in Bristol it's perfect for a weekend break to get some fresh air and spend some time with the family. For rugged adventure and walking I love Dartmoor but I also enjoy the great restaurants, shops and general air of style that you find in Cornwall. I've also been exploring more of Wales and the beaches of the Gower peninsula and the cliff walks on the Pembrokeshire coastal path are fabulous. Of course you can't beat Bristol where I live, for the historic harbourside area and vibrant cultural scene and street art.
You managed to visit many places in the UK and Europe during 2014. What plans do you have for 2015?
My next trip is a weekend in St Mawes, a part of Cornwall on the Falmouth Estuary that is beautiful and I'll be staying in the fabulous St Mawes Retreats who have some of the most amazingly luxurious holiday properties I've had the pleasure to visit, all with wonderful sea views. I'll also be in Venice just after Easter with the family. Last time we were there I dragged them around the island of Murano in the burning heat, so I could buy a glass chandelier and they haven't quite forgiven me, so I hope that by staying in an apartment we'll get more of a relaxed, local experience. I'll also be spending a week on the Greek island of Zakynthos with my sister and family, for my annual fix of beach and sunshine as well as some mountain walking, possibly in the Dolomites with my friend Julia who I walked the Tour de Mont Blanc. Apart from that I'm trying not to plan too far ahead so that I can see where the fancy takes me. There will probably be a cruise or two, some hiking or cycling in Europe and I'm always up for anything that involves eating great food.
You can find Heather's blog at Heatheronhertravels.com and connect with her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook
This interview with Heather Cowper is a part of Travel Trolley's ongoing 'Best of the Travel Bloggers' series. We are interviewing and showcasing popular travel bloggers who encourage and inspire people to travel. Check out all the bloggers we have interviewed and showcased and learn about their interesting experiences, adventures, travel stories as well as useful holiday tips.