Meet Amber Urquhart; she is a photographer who has spent the last decade traveling around the globe, engaging in a variety of experiences that only some can imagine. A Canadian artist, Urquhart left her home in Vancouver for a chance to explore other cultures and communities–her adventures have taken her from the London punk scene to metropolitan cities such as New York and Paris, through isolating treks across the Gobi Desert and touring with race car drivers. Here, we interview Amber about her best travel advice, favorite destinations and what’s next for her in 2016.
What inspires you to travel?
Curiosity and the excitement of visiting a place for the first time – walking down unfamiliar roads and experiencing other cultures and lifestyles.
For those who don’t yet know you, can you explain your travel style?
I tend to not make itineraries, unless I have only a few hours in a city then I like to pack in as much as possible. Usually I’ll decide to go somewhere with the intent to stay for only about three weeks and end up staying about nine. That’s been the trend these last 10 years!
How do you afford your travels?
I network with other creatives and do freelance photo gigs, sometimes with athletes or other notable figures in a given area. For example, during my recent travels to Guatemala I was worked for politicians and then NGOs in Mexico.
Where has been your favorite destination and why?
I was most surprised by Sri Lanka. The country is small enough to cross and allows you to really experience the landscape and culture. It’s the most diverse holiday – you can visit landmarks, absorb the history and then be in a different landscape completely in the hill county to pick tea leaves, hike up Adam’s peak, go on a safari and walk around the old fort of Galle. Also, there’s pretty beaches and crazy city centers if that’s your cup of tea.
If you had to settle down in one location forever, where would you choose and why?
I love Berlin. It’s one of my favorite cities to live in and I’m thinking about moving back soon. The way the city encourages people to be ‘weird’ or dress however you want, be creative for no real reason except to create artor or just converse with likeminded people sitting in a park all day. There’s always something going on, around all spectrums of art, and nothing mainstream. I’ve found myself in the most amusing company there with never a dull moment. I also love cafes and there are endless numbers of coffee shops. It’s full of noise music parties, rock bars and enough coffee to last a lifetime.
What’s the funniest or weirdest cultural idiosyncrasy you’ve either witnessed or experienced?
I guess the weirdest was when I was in Ulaanbaatar, the Capital City of Mongolia. I was told briefly about a custom, which was if you bump your foot into someone else’s you have to stop, look them in the eyes, and shake their hand. Seemed very odd, but it actually happened to me on the street. A stranger slightly stepped on my foot and then reached for my hand. An interesting custom indeed.
What keepsake do you have to get at all your destinations? (Whether it’s something free like ticket stubs or brochures, or something you have to buy)
Since I move around so much, I don’t tend to collect things. Each city is filled with their beautifully unique keepsakes, but I tend to not buy anything at all, one day I’d like a home filled with souvenirs. I do try to collect experiences – such as sampling coffee or chocolates in each location and comparing them with other shops in the area.
How about the one thing you cannot travel without?
Noise cancellation headphones! When you are on a long trip or somewhere uncomfortable, they are my solace. I can put them on, play some music and all my surroundings fade away. It’s the one larger item I will carry with me while traveling. You never know when you are in that place or car full of people you want to escape and can just turn off the chaos.
Have you ever traveled solo? If yes, what was the experience like?
Yes, I most always travel solo because I like the freedom it brings. I hate it when you are somewhere and you want go to a museum and others want to do something else, like go shopping. That’s the worst experience for me. When you’re traveling solo, you create your own adventure — you call the shots and through coincidence you go with the flow and see where the wind takes you.
What are your go-to travel apps?
I love how nowadays it’s so easy to access the Internet while traveling. I mostly stick to maps, all the different messenger apps to keep updated with friends, and currency exchangers.
What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve picked up over the years?
I like all the quotes about experiences over material things – I am a believer of those. I tend to follow my own advice of “never turning down an adventure.” When I was younger I would say no to trips that I probably should have gone on because I was such a city girl and didn’t want to venture out to unknown places. Now, I try to say yes to as much as possible. You can always turn back, but you won’t know what you would have missed by staying comfortable.
Do you have your own travel site? If yes, tell us about it!
Yes, alongholiday.com. I started it not in the sense of really being on holiday, but living a lifestyle that was quite permanent. A sense of being constantly on the go and uprooted from any one spot. Over time, I started writing travel tips, but didn’t enjoy it very much. Now I post travel photography either taken by me or friends and still some local guides. I hope through my photos I am able to inspire people to get out more and explore.
What is your best piece of advice to people looking to start a blog or website?
Keep at it – don’t wait for a big trip to start writing! Write about your own city, become an expert and make it personal by adding details of your own experiences and personality. Try to build or join a community of supportive writers with similar interests, for inspiration or joint trips. I should take my own advice!
What’s next for you in 2016? (Trips planned, etc.)
I’ve been traveling since the beginning of the year, sort of revisiting some of my old stomping grounds. Places I used to live that I haven’t spent time in for years, such as Vancouver and now Taipei where I haven’t visited in almost four years. It’s the best feeling to catch up with friends and families and see how different or similar our paths have lead. Also, I’d like to be in Turkey in May and work with more NGOs throughout the year.
Keep up with Amber and her travels on her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Make sure to read about her travels on her website, alongholiday.com!