An Interview with Leigh McAdam
Home Base: Calgary, Alberta
Blog: Hike Bike Travel
Connect With Leigh McAdam
Hi. My name is Leigh McAdam. I’ve been traveling for four decades and have been lucky to have visited all of the provinces and territories in Canada, 43 of the states in the US and another 53 countries. My passion for nature, the outdoors and adventure has grown as I get older so my blog – HikeBikeTravel speaks to lovers of nature and wilderness. You’ll find lots of photo-heavy blogs on kayaking, canoeing, hiking, backpacking and cycling with a recent emphasis on Canada.
When and how did you discover your passion for travel?
I was eight and our class in Grade 3 studied Saudi Arabia. My eyes were opened and the travel bug has been with me ever since. After that experience I got into stamp-collecting, joined clubs – the whole bit and loved the foreign images that peeked my curiosity even more. My first big trip on my own was a one month bike ride in England and Wales at fifteen. I’m not even home and I’m planning my next trip.
How has travel changed your life?
It keeps me curious about people, countries and culture. I am always amazed at how we are all more alike than we think when we’re in our vacuum at home.
What is your biggest pet peeve while travelling?
The attitude of people expecting life and the comforts to be the same as they are in North America.
What is the one thing you absolutely never travel without?
What is the most unique experience you've ever "accidentally stumbled upon" while travelling?
Back in the late 70’s I hiked the Overland Track over 5-6 days in Tasmania. Every night around the campfire the wallabies would visit. Pure magic – especially for someone who grew up in Ottawa.
If you were going on a one-week rest and relaxation vacation somewhere you've previously been, where would you go and why?
Baja, Mexico on a kayaking trip as I consider that one of the best ways to relax. The beaches are beautiful in the national parks in the Sea of Cortez, the sea life is unbelievable and the juxtaposition of desert and ocean makes for an incredible landscape. I’m overdue for another visit.
With the Canadian Dollar being a little weaker than it once was, what is something unique you do to stretch your dollars while travelling?
I’m not shy about asking for discounts especially with stays over 3 days. I’ll ask for a media rate if the accommodation is something I’d want to help promote. I really shop around for rental cars and always rent the cheapest thing on 4 wheels. Many of my holidays involve hiking, biking and camping – all very affordable options. In really expensive places I’ll drink wine in my room and forgo a glass with dinner. I try to carry cash with me so I don’t get hit with even higher exchange rate fees on my credit card. I buy US dollars whenever the rate is good and collect them for the next trip.
If you could pack only a carry on sized backpack for an extended trip, what would you pack?
I find I wear the same clothes over and over again so it makes sense to only bring a few changes of comfortable, easy to wash clothes – and I layer things. I love a pair of sandals no matter what the weather, a Kindle, an alarm clock and my camera. It’s always a problem deciding how many lenses to bring! I went to Uganda for the better part of three weeks with carry-on only.
What kind of mistakes did you make when you first started travelling?
I started serious traveling in 1979. The only really big mistake I made was hitchhiking with truck drivers at night in Australia with all my ID stuck in another truck with a girlfriend. I am never parted from my passport now. And I wouldn’t hitchhike as a solo female again.
In the late 70’s the water was terrible in Oaxaca, Mexico. I have never been so sick after eating a salad – probably washed in infected water so I am still careful about water, food and cleanliness.
What is your most embarrassing travel story?
I am without one – thank heavens!
What's the craziest thing you've ever eaten while away?
Sheep’s testicles in Istanbul but I didn’t know it until I’d finished my last bite.
What is the most exciting thing/craziest story that has ever happened to you when travelling?
I think it’s the kindness of strangers and the lengths they will go to help you I find exciting. In Germany we were befriended by a couple, invited to their home for a couple of nights and fed home-made German meals. I had the same thing happen when I landed in New Zealand – invited into the home of a Fijian family until I got my bearings. Recently my husband and I were chased with fresh bread in Turkey. And In France I had been hitchhiking (a common theme in my youth) with my husband and after waiting for hours got picked up by a fellow in a Mercedes, driven to his beautiful home for lunch and then driven to the border – where we were aiming to get to.
Of all the places you've been, what was your favourite destination and why?
Almost impossible to answer! Canada’s North – where you have the feeling of huge space and wilderness is probably my all-time fave. Outside of Canada I never tire of the scenery in southwest Utah or a mountainscape anywhere in the world. A recent trip hiking the Lycian Way in Turkey in the mountains was an extraordinary experience.
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