Meet a traveller: Emma Sparks, Lonely Planet’s social media coordinator
Nothing tweaks our wanderlust quite like hearing about the adventurous aspirations and favourite destinations of other travellers. So in our Meet a Traveller series we’re catching up with our staff, authors and online community to get a glimpse of their planet. This time around we’re picking the travel brains of Emma Sparks, our social media coordinator, based in Lonely Planet’s London office.
Where was your last trip?
Lanzarote for a week. I took my mum as a treat to pay her back for our ten days backpacking in Europe a couple of years ago; rowdy Prague hostels and long train journeys just don’t appeal to her the way they do me. I’d never been to the Canary Islands before and I was pleasantly surprised; Timanfaya National Park was like visiting another planet – incredible.
Where is your next trip?
I have a weekend in Paris coming up soon. I lived there for seven months as a student and can’t wait to revisit my old haunts and see my best friend, who is still living there. While she’s now practically bilingual, my French is pretty rusty so I might have to dust off the old vocabulary notebooks.
What is your first travel-related memory?
Seemingly endless drives to Cornwall from South Wales every summer when I was a child. We’d spend a fortnight in a caravan, making friends, playing at the beach and eating the best fish and chips I’ve ever tasted.
Aisle or window seat?
Window every time; I’m a nervous flyer so being able to look out at the clouds (and check the wings are still intact) calms me down. It’s the closest you get to having any sense of privacy – in economy class, anyway.
Do you have any travel habits or rituals?
I talk to myself. Out loud. In public. It’s a side-effect of solo travel and even though it makes me look crazy, it keeps me sane. I used to keep all my boarding pass stubs and foreign train tickets in a shoebox, until I realised that I’m just too lazy to fulfil my scrapbooking dreams.
Favourite city or country or region?
New Zealand holds a special place in my heart; the abundance of natural beauty there is outrageous, and I envy the outdoor lifestyle that goes with it. I lived there for a year when I was 14 (my family and I emigrated but decided to move back to the UK) and it was this experience that really gave me the travel bug.
What is your best or worst travel souvenir?
A fake Prada handbag. An Italian friend I met while volunteering on a farm in the south of France gave it to me after she had an accident and ended up in hospital. I would continue our work on the building site during the day and visit her in the evenings. Although the bag isn’t my style, I can’t bear to part with it.
What is the best or worst piece of travel advice you’ve received?
Beware strangers. This one usually comes from people who don’t travel.
What’s your biggest travel fail?
Sharing an ‘en-suite’ hostel room in Barcelona with a saloon-style bathroom door so everybody could hear your business, with a truly explosive case of diarrhoea. Needless to say my travel buddy and I became much closer after the experience. I missed the Alhambra in Granada, most of Valencia and Mount Tibidabo all because of a bug. Thanks Morocco.
Quick, an asteroid is going to hit the earth in one week! Which is the one travel dream you’d rush to fulfil?
I’d overland it to Mongolia and go horse riding. I could see in the end of the world from atop a windswept mountain, eagles soaring overhead and a warm tea in my hands. Sounds lovely.
What advice would you give a first time traveller?
Try not to sweat the small stuff. Missing trains and getting ripped off happens to everybody at some point; as long as you’re absorbing your surroundings and enjoying yourself, you’re doing it right.