My process of interviewing is pretty ordinary. I’ll plan out my questions, propose them to the individual, and soak in what they have to say. Not long after I’ll start to edit their story, not so it becomes a version of the truth, but so I can apply my style as a writer. I like my interviews to read like a biography, capturing the growth of my subject and their creative work. But you will notice, this interview does not encompass my normal style, simply because Polly Jackson is far from ‘pretty ordinary’.
Whilst already halfway across the world, travelling back from spending Christmas in England, Polly sent me her responses to the questions I had asked her. I began to read, and found her writing was enchanting. I was no longer sat at my desk at home, but with her in sunny Australia and colourful India. These are the two places that Polly has consequently fallen in love with, since her depart from England over a year ago, and from meeting with her this January it seems she’s in no shape to let her love go.
I’ve always known Polly as a passionate wanderer of the world, desperate to escape dreary England and seek refuge in a sunny paradise, but she’s kept her writing rather secret over the years. When her travel blog LIFE IN A BAG went live, I was filled with admiration and encouragement, yet as I started to read through her posts on India I became extremely annoyed with Polly. Why had she not revealed her clearly natural talent of storytelling and writing to us earlier?
Polly’s writing is honest, even to the point of addressing the clichés of travelling. As I read on I became more transfixed, and at the same time more aware that I could not edit her writing, disturbing the words she had so strikingly put together. The whole point of Polly’s adventures is that she’s lived them for herself, surely making her the best storyteller, not me. So as my reader, I hope you respect and support my decision in keeping Polly’s responses as I received them – enticing, genuine and full of wisdom.
What made you want to go to Australia?
Finishing my degree in 2015, I knew I wasn’t quite destined for an office job. The world was calling, but to be honest I didn’t have a clue what I was doing – does anyone? So as September loomed, and having decided to postpone a lifetime aboard several super yachts, I booked a flight to Brisbane Australia and ten days later I was there! Although Australia has never been my number one destination (I look for culture above comfort), I was searching for a new life with guaranteed heat. I knew Australia would be an easy option to live a normal life somewhere new and exciting. Little did I know that I would land myself a dream job on the Great Barrier Reef and find the love of my life…
What about Australia hooked you?
You hear about how many Brits go down under in search of a better life, but it wasn’t until I was fully immersed in the lifestyle that I realised how much of a difference it was making. You wake up in the morning and the sun is pretty much always out, the water is warm, the beers are cool and the people are some of the most laid-back and happiest you’ll ever meet. People live a completely different life to us, and it makes you wonder ‘what is this life, if full of care?’ I feel so healthy and happy out there, it has completely changed my lifestyle, there is no doubt about that. I spend a hell of a lot more time outdoors, and my priorities have changed for the better. For me however, the thing that I seek the most is the sun; I think I was born into the wrong country and wrong race, having always felt at home in hot climates and foreign cultures. Beyond all of that, I was lucky enough to land a dream job working on a catamaran in the Whitsunday Islands, North Queensland. For the last year, I spent my days on one of the whitest beaches I’ve ever set foot on, watching dolphins play off the stern of the boat every night, snorkeling the stunning coral reef of the famous Great Barrier Reef, watching the most spectacular sunsets, and making lifelong friends from all over the world. Australia has me hook, line and sinker.
Why did you venture to India also?
India has fascinated me since I was a little girl; my favourite film was A Little Princess, and since then I have had an uncontrollable desire to visit the amazing country. Anyone you ask will tell you, I was supposed to be an Indian. Not only did I have a lot of locals asking me if I was actually Indian when I was there, but I also absolutely adore the clothing and food. It wasn’t a matter of if I was going to visit India, and more a matter of when. After living in laid-back Australia for a year, a very comfortable environment, I was craving rich culture and something completely different, so it was an obvious choice to venture to the land of spices and saris on my way back to the West for Christmas. After buying my Lonely Planet guide to India around 4 years ago, I had always vowed I would make a trip during either Diwali or Holi. October, November and December was an absolutely perfect time to visit incredible India; the climate was pleasant, the sun seemed to always shine, I missed the madding crowds of peak season, and managed to experience a once in a lifetime night at Diwali festival of light. I can’t understand why more people aren’t venturing to this fast developing country, it is by far the most fascinating and beautiful place I have travelled to. It definitely isn’t the last time I will set foot there.
In your eyes, how did you perceive India before you went?
Although I had a strong desire to see what India had to offer, I admittedly did have a warped view of the country, like I think most people have. I knew I would like India, the colours, the food and the culture, however I completely underestimated how much I would fall in love with it. I expected it to be the hardest place to travel and prepared myself for a few months of eye-opening adventures. When you think of India, you do generally picture poverty, dirty streets, cows, open sewers, beggars and Delhi belly. Yes, granted there is an abundance of that, but there is so much more beyond. The thing that frustrated me the most when I first arrived in incredible India, was having listened to several people’s negative opinions of the country, telling me to be “careful” in such a “dangerous country”. Having visited eight other Asian countries in the past, I felt like I had seen my fair share of poverty and had my fair share of harassment. India was no worse than any other place I have visited before, yet people have such a negative view of it. I felt myself holding back with the locals with the fear that something would go wrong; but ironically how very wrong I was. I feel like it’s my duty to educate family and friends about how very beautiful the land and the people are in India. It deserves a hell of a lot more credit than it’s got.
And how do you view India now?
You hear a lot of people who have travelled India say that it is the most spiritual place on earth, and that could not be a more accurate description of it. Indian’s live their lives through religion in the most beautiful way, which really makes you think about the world we live in. Life is simple and they are some of the happiest and uncomplicated people I have come across. Like I said as a final note on a recent post, India is built on Love, believe it or not. Without love, this crazy and unstructured society would crumble at the seams. Don’t get me wrong, India was the most frustrating place at times, but more importantly it holds such a vibrant and rich culture that is completely under-appreciated. I fell in love with it, entirely.
Where did the inspiration for your blog come from, and why did you want to start it?
I have kept travel journals since I was eleven years old, after being hospitalised in Barbados accompanied with a pretty traumatic operation – long story, for another time! Since then I have been obsessed with documenting every adventure abroad, and I finally got round to producing it in the form of a blog after all these years. Luckily, being in India provided me with the perfect material that inspired me to write with such passion and produce such rich content. Initially I decided to begin my blog because it was getting a little exhausting updating every single person on where I was and what I was doing, so it was an easy platform to keep my family and friends in the know. I feel honored to say that I have been approached by a lot of friends over the years for advice on their travels, so that was another incentive to write about my experiences. The real drive behind my writing however, is the pure enjoyment it gives me, which I hope one day formulates into something that could potentially fund my travels.
What is the aspect of your blog you like most?
For me, it’s being able to express myself truthfully about the places I have visited, and educating people about the world beyond what the guidebooks tell you. I like to tell stories in my writing; it’s less about where I went and what I did, and more about what I saw, smelled, tasted, and the characters I met. In my writing I aim to develop a mixture of factual information with feelings and opinions, as that is what I think makes travel adventures unique, the personable approach. I have a hunger to travel the world and love to write about it, I really hope that comes through in my words. Anyone can write about travel, but everyone has their individual touch that cannot be replicated.
What would you recommend for other people wanting to set up a travel blog?
Just do it, stop beating around the bush! That’s what I would’ve told myself years ago. Being a slight perfectionist I kept holding back on starting a travel blog because I wanted it to be perfect, but that’s not what it is about. Starting my blog was the best thing I have done, because I enjoy writing so much and don’t feel embarrassed about sharing my emotions with everyone. The response I received from my blog posts was so inspiring that I’ve been writing in blog form ever since. I have always had the material there and it was a matter of just writing. I think another really important thing is to team your writing with some good quality photography, which I have always enjoyed doing. The visuals are just as important as the words as they bring it all to life.
What’s been your best moment whilst travelling?
The thing about travel, that everyone ultimately falls for, is that it is full of completely breathtaking and memorable moments that stay with you for the rest of your life. As cliché as it is, travel is an invaluable education that everyone needs to get their hands on at some point. Since the day I set off on my first solo adventure when I was nineteen, it changed my attitude to life. I could not give you one single moment that I favour above the rest, however there are obviously moments that will stick with me. These moments have been more about the people I have met or a moment that made a difference. In India for example, I was unknowingly taken to a local village outside Jaipur by my completely non-English speaking tuk-tuk driver. I arrived in this village on my own, and was swarmed by local children who were completely awe-struck by my presence. I was then invited into his home, where they fed me and every single village member came to greet me. Although there was a complete lack of communication, it was one of those special moments that really made my time in Jaipur. You can’t get that from a tour guide. I suppose what I am saying is that often the special times are when you go off the beaten track and do something different to everyone else. Be brave and be bold.
Why would you recommend travelling to others?
As I said, travel gives you an invaluable education that no classroom can offer. Want to learn a language? Go and live in that country. Want to become an expert on geography? Go and travel those countries. Want to learn about new religions? Go and immerse yourself in that culture. Ultimately, travel gives you a broad range of skills that you never knew needed unearthing; independence, common sense, cultural awareness, money management, organisation, navigation, and the ability to just let go of all your inhibitions. That’s probably the most difficult thing of all. I wouldn’t have ever guessed that I would be in the position I am in today, and it has changed my life. We live in a generation that allows us to travel with such ease, which our parents never had. So why would you deny yourself such an opportunity. Even if the idea of slumming it in India doesn’t appeal, there is a country and style of travel for everyone. Go and see the world – let it open your mind.