Helen Hutchings is the founder of What To Wear On Holiday – expert clothing advice and holiday packing lists for travellers worldwide.
What inspired you to set up What to wear on holiday?
I love to travel and travel is about freedom and fun to me and getting to understand the local culture. I would be so excited planning my trip and looking forward to it up until the time it came to pack. This is when the stress and worry would start and it would stop being fun. I would then spend hours researching and calling up friends trying to figure out how to pack as little as possible but ensure that I had all that I needed. I figured if I felt like this then a lot of other people but especially women probably did too …. And what to wear was born.
What do you love most about travelling?
For me it is learning about new people, customs and how they live. Travelling makes me feel free and grateful that I’m lucky enough to be able to. The wonders of nature just fill my soul and I really feel truly happy. It makes me realise that as people we are more alike than different. Wow I have just realised that’s a long answer to the question. Sorry.
What is your favourite Latin America destination and why?
This is tough because South America is such an amazing place and keeps drawing me back. There is lots still for me to see, which I hope you guys will help me do. So far I have to say Machu Pichu took my breath away. All the build up to travelling there was part of the experience even the little village that has sprung up around the railway is a treat.
Tell us about your most unforgettable travel moment?
Again in South America travelling 5 hours down river in a small boat into the Amazon Jungle to spend a few days at an eco lodge. No electricity, hot showers or internet – no windows in the rooms even, but the most perfect peace. Amazing animals and birds and the highlight was being shown by a real live medicine man with his PhD about the natural wonders of the plants.
Where in the world have you had your most memorable encounter with the local community?
This is hard as there are so many lovely memories. But I think this would have to be in the Myanmar in the Shan highlands at the small town of Kalaw. Steve and I were the only people drinking beer in a small roadside bar. Honestly it had no more than 6 seats. We struck up a conversation with the young man who served us and after a while he offered to show us a local temple. He explained that many of the religious writings had been broken up and sold as souvenirs to tourists and at this temple they were all strewn across the floors. He had spent his own time with the priests agreement collecting them back together, preserving them, storing and making a record. This wasn’t a tourist site but he offered to take us to see them. Once there he had to get permission from the priests for us to see and the keys as they were now stored more securely. It was incredible. But the most incredible thing was that this young man for no money, no gain, had the insight and the desire to make a difference and save the scrolls from certain destruction.
Who have you met on your travels that’s made a lasting impression?
At Inle Lake in Myanmar, Steve and I had gone off for an afternoon walk on our own, away from our tour group. We were in the small town close by the lake when we came across a retired Gurkha. He stood out from everyone by his bearing and willingness to engage with us. He told us about his time in the British Army and where he fought. He was a very proud man, now is his late 80’s and very much at peace with himself. It was an honour to meet him.
Is the local food an important part of the travel experience for you?
Absolutely! Whilst I don’t eat meat, I will try everything else and Steve will try everything. Whenever we travel we look out local places to snack and to eat out. We try to get local recommendations and eat where the locals do rather than in a tourist packed restaurant.
What is your favourite kind of trip? A cultured city break, sunny beach holiday, an exotic trekking or camping experience or something else?
My favourite is a cultural experience be that a weekend break in Europe or trekking in South America or Asia. I’m not keen on beach holidays or big organised trips but my pet hate are all inclusive hotels.
What would be your top 5 tips for packing?
Get the right bag for your trip – for me that’s a soft sided one with plenty of pockets, wheels and back pack straps that will fit in the cabin. It gives me lots of flexibility and is easy on a multi trip to keep an eye on.
- Make a list, lay it all out before you start packing and then start to remove things that you don’t need – it should all pack in a cabin bag.
- Layers are the key to coping with changes in the weather. And a capsule of clothes that work to give you lots of outfits. And a pashmina.
- Comfortable shoes, there is always lots of walking but they need to be smart enough to take you everywhere.
- Iphone and charger – this is great for books, movies, tickets, hotel confirmations, maps – so much in such a lightweight piece of kit.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, name three things you would bring
a. Matches – I’m not sure I’m girl guide enough to rub two sticks together.
b. Pen Knife – bit of a boy thing I know and never been something I would have thought of until now – but how useful would that be.
c. My best friend – is that allowed ? – I don’t really like being on my own
We are delighted to announce that What to wear on holiday are now a travel partner of Latin Odyssey. This means that we can provide bespoke packing lists and wardrobe advice for all Latin Odyssey customers looking for peace of mind when travelling to new destinations. How do you find packing for your holiday? Do let us know your comments.