Leigh McAdam is a Calgary-based writer, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 52,000 followers. Her blog, HikeBikeTravel.com is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs, and consistently receives over 135,000 page views per month. Leigh shares her enthusiasm for the outdoors as a brand ambassador for Sporting Life. She is also the author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures and the co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta, published in April 2018. She says she'll try any adventure once except perhaps bungee jumping.
Leigh spent time with us answering our questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Leigh: Decades -- almost 40 years.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Leigh: Outdoor, nature and adventure.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Leigh: It has to be Namibia - not because it was the most active vacation but it was truly a thrill to see animals in the wild that we'd only seen in a zoo before. We rented a car and drove the country for a couple of weeks, climbing massive sand dunes, doing day safaris, whale watching and really just having the time of our lives. I think the first time to a continent is always a memorable one and this trip has stood the test of time.
TA: What's one place you've always wanted to visit?
Leigh: Jordan - and I'll be lucky enough to go biking there this spring.
TA: What's one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Leigh: A good book.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Leigh: Be flexible and open minded.
TA: Where was the most unusual place you've ever stayed?
Leigh: On a trip to Australia in my early 20's I was all about saving money. My friend and I pitched a tent in a playing field after everyone had called it a night -- and left first thing in the morning. We felt mighty pleased with ourselves at the time.
TA: What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten overseas?
Leigh: I'm not an adventurous eater but without knowing better I had bull's and sheep's testicles in Istanbul. Not so bad until I knew what I'd eaten.
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you've ever been given?
Leigh: When in Africa be prepared to be on African time. Things happen when they happen and there's no point getting fussed up about it. Attitude is everything and can make the difference between being happy or angry and frustrated.
TA: What's a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Leigh: So far I've never had a problem though I am careful with my Pin at ATM's.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Leigh: Despite my testicle eating experience, Turkey hands down has the best food of any place I've been. On a hiking trip on the Lycian Way we'd come across a one man operation in the middle of nowhere pressing pomegranates and offering glasses of just pressed juice. Fresh vegetables cooked in unique ways like carrots with yogurt was like heaven even though it sounds strange. Simple homemade bread and cheese was also memorable.
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Leigh: On our trip to Namibia we stayed at Ongava Lodge in Etosha National Park. Home was a beautiful cabin with lots of privacy overlooking the bush where we could see wild animals right outside our door. It was a magical, very romantic setting.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you've ever visited?
Leigh: Tabor and Telc in the Czech Republic are both cities that don't see nearly the visitors that Prague and Cesky Krumlov get, but they are both very pretty small cities. Dinner two years ago set me back $16 Canadian with a glass of wine. The small Czech cities have been the best value by far of anywhere I've been in Europe.
TA: Have you ever met someone while traveling who changed your life? Who were they?
Leigh: No one has changed my life but I have met many strangers who have been incredibly kind and generous. They make me want to pay it forward with other travelers.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Leigh: I spent almost three months traveling solo in New Zealand. With friendly people that speak English and went out of their way to help, the trip turned into a memorable experience. Most of the time I hitchhiked around the country -- and ended up repeatedly getting invited into people's homes. In the late 70's they were certainly some of the most hospitable people on the planet. I hope they still are today.
TA: What's something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Leigh: I think it's the story that's repeatedly told -- tourists going off to a foreign country looking for experiences that mimic life at home. If you don't like the cramped hotel rooms, toilets, food, transportation system, language, customs ...stay home. On the other hand if you can get past everything that bothers you when you travel, you'll probably go home a much more appreciative person.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Leigh: Canada's North. It can be expensive to get to the remote places but both Whitehorse and Yellowknife are actually easy to get to. (There are direct flights from Frankfurt to Whitehorse on Condor Air.) They are both gateways to incredible wilderness experiences and both cities offer all the comforts when you come back from the wild. It makes me as a Canadian appreciate the vastness of our country when I head north.
TA: What's one piece of advice you'd give to travelers your age?
Leigh: Stay curious, think the best of people and be open to new experiences.