Stories from Nancy O’Hare’s personal quest to explore our planet are now available to help you create your own travel experiences. For twenty years, she coupled her love of diverse cultures with a career in finance; she has been based in Nigeria, Oman, Switzerland, Australia and Canada—plus completed a couple of short stints in Qatar and Ecuador. Between work assignments, O’Hare and her husband have taken multiple around-the- world trips for months at a time, covering all seven continents. They gravitated towards hidden gems tucked away from the crowds and aimed to see the essence of a place.
Q1: Why did you give up a twenty-year career in finance to write about travel?
Although this might not sound like an obvious transition, I originally went into accounting because every company across every country needs accountants. My CPA enabled me to experience places not only as a visitor, but by living there. Australia, Oman, Switzerland and most recently, Nigeria became my home. My husband and I both love to explore different cultures. We have quit our jobs on a couple occasions and travelled for months at a time, including a year-long round-the- world trip covering all seven continents. I had never expected to move to Nigeria, yet my time there triggered a desire to push my boundaries and try something completely new.
I craved a change from my structured office role and writing offered a flexible alternative. Ideas fluttered around in my head, completely unrelated to my finance background. Other adventure travellers—or armchair readers—might also thirst to know unexpected places. They might feel intrigued by lesser-visited regions around our world. I wanted to switch up the traditional travel narrative into a useful structure. So, I grouped my ‘best of’ experiences into common themes, such as hiking, ancient sites and animal encounters. Each section combines travel advice and descriptive stories to bring a place alive. Free previews are available on most online bookstores, so you can see exactly what I mean.
Q2: What was the most difficult trek you have done?
Two treks stand out. My husband and I have done a lot of hiking and thought we could handle a little mud during the rainy season in northern Laos’ Nam Ha National Protected Area. Well, over three days, we became well acquainted with incessant leeches and steep, slippery trails that needed a machete to navigate. The worst aspect was our sleeping huts. They had been poorly maintained and become home to swarms of bees. The mosquito nets had been stolen and in the second night’s shelter, a massive hole had been torn from the roof. Our guide advised not to swat the insects or we could get stung. So, both evenings at camp were spent with critters literally crawling all over us. They left overnight but returned around 5:00 a.m., their buzz a gentle wake-up call.
The other trek was a nine-day hike in Uganda’s Rwenzori mountains. We climbed Africa’s third highest peak, Margherita. The upside with this trek is its absolutely stunning, otherworldly scenery. The downside, I was not in as good of shape as I should have been and conditions were difficult. It was not uncommon to spend a few hours hopping from tussock to tussock across boggy plateaus or hiking up muddy trails turned into gushing streams. Day after day of hiking through mud and sludge in a high-altitude environment distorted my enjoyment of this otherwise amazing journey.
Q3: What message do you hope readers take away from your stories?
People are basically the same wherever you go. They care for their family and are trying to make a better life for themselves. I have seen this over and over, yet often people tend to fear the unknown. I am frequently asked if I felt safe or if a place is dangerous. The reality is that most incidents that do occur are fairly localized. You need to be aware of your surroundings no matter where you are, in your hometown or across the world. I remember flying into Maputa a couple days after riots erupted over rising bread and fuel prices. I initially felt uneasy, yet the streets were calm. We did not go out after dark, but during the day locals gave us advice, people smiled and went about their business. On another occasion in Malaysia, a staff at a remote guesthouse doubled my husband and I on the back of his motorbike to a hospital for a malaria test. People help one another. My advice is to travel, away from the mass tourist sites and seek a more realistic perspective of what a region offers.
In 2017, Nancy O’Hare published her first book, Dust in My Pack, which captures the real stories behind her most memorable journeys and intriguing sites. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads and her own website.