Interview With A Travel Expert: Megan Jerrard

Fantasize about traveling around the world? You can get your dose of travel inspiration from expert Megan Jerrard and her blog, Mapping Megan, which follows her adventures traversing the globe. Read on for tips on finding the best flights, saving money on food, and the scariest thing Megan’s ever done while traveling!

Your blog, Mapping Megan, details your many travels around the world. What gave you the inspiration to blog about your experiences?

I started traveling in 2007 when I was 18; I decided to take a gap year before starting university and spend a year working in the UK, traveling throughout Europe – it’s something most Australian’s do after high school. Being away from home for so long, I thought a blog would be a great way to keep everyone up to date with my adventures. I mainly didn’t want to have to type 20 different emails about the same event, so a blog worked brilliantly!

I kept traveling frequently after that first year abroad, and over time my blog evolved from a hobby blog into a professional one. I realized in 2012 that (a) more strangers were reading about my travels than my family and friends were back home, and (b) that people out there actually made money off their blogs, and did it as their full time career. So I thought, if other people are doing it, why can’t I? After a lot of hard work and dedication turning my hobby blog into a business, this is now what I do for a living.

You’re from Australia, but first caught the traveling ‘bug’ when you traveled around the UK and Europe back in 2007. What made you realize that travel was a passion of yours?

It was the feeling of truly being alive, mixed with the adventure, excitement, and the escape from monotony, which truly ignited my passion for travel. I realized seeing the world in living color far surpassed settling for watching it on a television screen or reading about it in a book. My initial trip made me realize that I wanted to actually feel, taste, and experience the world instead of settling for the version I was reading in books.

During the time you were in school (getting a degree in journalism and law), you were able to visit more than 30 countries. What were some of your experiences like? And what similar opportunities could other students take advantage of if they want to travel while in school?

I’m a big advocate for not letting anything stand in your way of travel, and studying full time wasn’t going to stop me once I had been bitten by “the bug.” I took every opportunity I could to study and volunteer abroad, and worked the equivalent of two full time jobs while studying to have enough money to travel during each semester break.

Family events back home meant I was never able to participate in a full 6-12 month student exchange, though I did have the opportunity to attend “summer courses” in Europe twice throughout my degree, which is a 4-week intensive course which is credited back to your university degree.

I studied International Law in Prague and International Politics in the Netherlands, and the best part was, because these courses were being credited towards my degree, the Australian government covered my expenses and added it to my student loan. There are so many opportunities nowadays to study or volunteer abroad and have that experience credited back to your degree, and in many cases, you may even find a sponsor or a grant that will help you cover your costs.

My advice is to visit the student exchange office at your school and chat with the representatives there – there are opportunities in every field of study, and juggling full time study with international travel is absolutely possible. If you’re wary, first check out my blog post, which debunks common myths of student travel.

Your site offers a detailed list of all the countries you’ve visited. How do you decide which locations to tackle next?

My husband and I travel based off the opportunities which present themselves at the time. Sure, we have a bucket list full of destinations we would love to visit, but if we’re in the US and cheap flights pop up to Costa Rica, that’s where we’re going to go. For instance, we were in Bolivia last year and were looking to book flights to the Galapagos Islands. From playing around with flight options on Orbitz, we realized for an extra $100 each (in flights) we could add on a 7-day detour via Easter Island, Chile, so we figured while in the area, why not?

We usually brainstorm ideas for what is both practical and possible for our circumstances at the time, and usually we find that plans fall into place in the way they’re meant to!

Once you decide where you’re traveling to, what process do you go through to make sure you’re finding the best deals on flights and hotels? What helps you decide that you’ve finally searched enough, and incites you to pull the trigger to purchase?

We spend at least a week going through as many different options for travel as we possibly can. We look up flights on third party websites, and then compare those prices to that of the individual airlines.

We make sure accommodation is available in the locations we’re visiting before purchasing flights (made that costly mistake before!), and we make sure we’re both thoroughly convinced that we are ready to push that button and book.

We’re usually ready to pull the trigger once we’ve answered all of our “what ifs?” The great thing about hotels is that they are generally very flexible in terms of cancellations, so even after we’ve booked, we still keep an eye on accommodation prices, as sometimes they go down at the last minute.

You’ve done some pretty adventurous things on your travels (including bungee jumping and skydiving). What’s the scariest thing you’ve done on vacation?

I’m an adrenaline junkie, so adventure is my vice! Though that’s not to say I wasn’t absolutely terrified as I made the bungee jump off a bridge in Costa Rica!! In the video, you could hear me screaming the ENTIRE way down, and fairly certain you can faintly make out the actual words coming out of my mouth – sorry Grandma!

Would you do it again? Are there any scary things you’ve done that you wouldn’t repeat?

I would absolutely bungee jump again – while it was terrifying, it was absolutely exhilarating.

Overall, I believe overcoming fear and stepping out of your comfort zone is what travel is all about. Facing scary situations and conquering that fear is absolutely liberating. Sure, you always have to do a risk assessment, though “scary” doesn’t have to mean “unsafe.”

You’ve been featured on tons of sites, like Lonely Planet, Viator, and TripAdvisor. Are there specific travel sites or bloggers that you like to follow?

Absolutely, I love reading other travel blogs, and use them as inspiration and resources for my own adventures, as well as for entertainment during my bedtime reading!

I published a list of my favorite travel blogs back in 2014, and since then have also completed

lists of the Sexiest Male and Sexiest Female Travelers of 2014. Though to clarify, that’s not to say that I follow them just because they’re good looking; these lists are rather a statement that an adventurous spirit and a passion for experiencing the world is the new “sexy.”

We love the Money section of your site, where you offer tips for traveling on a budget. What are 2 or 3 of your favorite ways to cut costs while traveling?

Traveling off-season is the biggest way to save money while traveling abroad. Prices drop during off-peak season, because the demand for flights is less, and this is when you can get a good deal on travel.

Other tips include using public transportation (or walking) instead of taking a cab, considering accommodation savers such as staying in a hostel, couchsurfing, house-sitting, or a home exchange, and by planning yourself. Planning your own travel and avoiding agencies is one of the best ways to save money and travel on the cheap.

Paying for food on a trip can sometimes be one of the costliest expenses. How do you save money on meals (while still tasting the local cuisine)?

On road trips where we have the convenience of extra space in the back seat of our car, we actually opt to travel with a microwave! In this way, we hit up local supermarkets and grocery stores, and this has broadened our range of food options when we may have otherwise been forced to eat out, which can be incredibly costly.

In regards to international travel, however, there are many fantastic ways to cut down on costs of food, including utilizing the kitchen in your hostel, opting to dine with a local family, and avoiding tourist traps and overpriced restaurants in favor of local “holes in the wall” and street food.

You have a gigantic Twitter fanbase (with over 46,000 followers!). What’s your favorite part about connecting with your readers? Have they ever given you any unique traveling tips that you’ve used?

I don’t think of my travel blog or social media channels as a one-way channel of communication. I have worked really hard to make sure my readership is more of a community than a following. I love the fact that so many people choose to take part in our journey and follow along with our adventures, and many of them travel themselves, so it’s amazing to have such a fantastic group of people with so much of their own knowledge at my fingertips.

While I’m always happy to respond to questions or emails asking for advice and travel tips, I often find that my audience is a great resource for travel tips and advice on places I have not yet visited. So, I love engaging with my readers, and we often use their advice and tips on what to do and where to go.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! Anything else you’d like the CouponPal readers to know?

We are on a ridiculous amount of social media, so if you ever feel the need for an injection of adventure travel inspiration, find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube,Pinterest, and Instagram.

Like this interview? Check out the rest of our Interview with an Expert series. Have a question for an expert or someone you want to see interviewed? Tweet your suggestions with #Experts to @CouponPal!

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