With a naturally inquisitive mind and a love of the great outdoors, it was clear from an early age that adventure travel was going to be a passion of Louise’s. A gap year provided her with the opportunity to live and work in India, gaining experiences that would prove invaluable in her current role as a Product Manager at Exodus Travels. Uniquely suited as someone who not only works for one of the UK’s leading adventure travel providers, Louise also has a wealth of travel experience of her own making her perfectly suited to advise you on how best to enjoy your next cultural, walking, cycling, photographic or wildlife holiday.
What has been your favourite kind of trip? A cultured city break, sunny beach holiday, an exotic trekking or camping experience?
A mixture of culture, staying active with a trek or cycle and relaxing on a beach.
Kerala, a state in South India, has been one of my favourite places to visit because it offers all of these things. Kochi (also known as Cochin) is one of South India’s most interesting towns, rich in history and culture. It was once an important spice trading centre and has seen Jewish, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British settlers. Within the town is an intriguing mix of ancient mosques, Portuguese houses, crumbling remains of the British Raj, a Jewish synagogue and giant fishing nets from China.
The trekking near the hill station of Munnar is fantastic, passing through tea plantations, grasslands and lush dense forests. Then on the coast you find the relaxing sandy beaches. Varkala, for example, is a small hippie community with a sandy beach and plenty of coffee bars and yoga schools perched along its cliff-top. Kerala really does offer everything!
When backpacking, what indulgences can you not live without?
If I’ve been travelling on a budget in a country where the local food has been cheap, then I’ll splash out on a good restaurant at some point, to sample the top end of the local cuisine. If you’re travelling the world, why not try out some of the world’s best restaurants.
What’s the most common mistake people make when booking an adventure holiday?
Booking themselves onto a trip where they’re not suited to it. For example, if it’s a cycling or trekking holiday, people can sometimes make the mistake of overestimating their fitness and ability. We provide an activity grade for all of our trips to help guide people in choosing the right style of holiday for them, but with the adventure market growing, we naturally get more people trying this style of holiday for the first time.
What’s one travel lesson that’s taken you a long time to learn?
Backpacking puts your body through a lot; long journeys, sleepless nights, budget accommodation, trying all of the local food, a hot climate and of course carrying that hefty backpack. Sometimes your body has had enough and you get tired and ill. I’ve now learnt my lesson and carry all sorts of medication and a first aid kit on me, so that it’s there when I need it. I’ve been caught out a few times!
How does your personal travel experience help you in your current role?
As a Product Manager, personal travel experience and a good understanding of the countries you look after is crucial. I look after India and had spent a lot of time in the country before this role. I spent a year teaching English there for my gap year and had returned a few times since then. Understanding the culture and people has really helped me with establishing a good working relationship with our Indian suppliers. Having good geographical knowledge of the country means I have plenty of ideas for developing new product there, knowing what itineraries would/wouldn’t work.
What advice would you give to young people looking to take a career in the travel industry?
Travel as much as you can. Good all-round travel experience puts you in a good starting position. On top of that, spending time in one country or region (whether it’s voluntary work, teaching English, tour leading or seasonal work) makes you stand out and gives you that ‘expert’ knowledge of a destination.
Where is your favourite beach?
Akwidaa Beach, Ghana. It’s a beautiful palm-lined beach close to the small fishing village of Akwidaa. The beach is home to Green Turtle Lodge, an eco-lodge built using local, natural materials and traditional in style. They have initiated conservation projects to protect the marine turtles that nest on the beach, and they employ staff at all levels from the local community. It’s a good example of how tourism can have a positive impact on the local area.
Do you prefer Safari or Skiing?
I love to stay active, so I prefer Skiing. I’m actually quite new to skiing; I put myself in ski school last Christmas and I absolutely hated it at first. In the end, I loved it so much that I booked another ski holiday as soon as I returned home.