Sunday, March 11, 2012

Intrepid Woman Traveler: Katherine McGregor

Kat is my first ever CouchSurfing guest.

Washington DC in 2001 is where it all started. Kat started her career as a political intern for a lobbyist there for six months. She stopped in Paris for 3 magical days on her way back (and fell in love with Europe immediately) to New Zealand where she went back to for post grad in political science and international relations.

After five years at university she felt she needed to take a break to figure out what she wanted to do so she went to Changzhou, in China's Jiangsu Province for a year. At the end of her contract, and with a boyfriend who lived in London (that relationship ended within months), she decided not go to back to New Zealand and moved to London where she worked as a political advisor, a field that she continues to work in to this day. It was on her way there that she spent time travelling through South East Asia. Throughout her first stint in London she travelled throughout Europe and discovered Couch Surfing. 

Kat and her friend on a camel,
or at least trying to get on it

With a visa that was due to expire at the end of two years in the UK she needed to move back to New Zealand but decided to take four months and travel home through India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Borneo, stopping to visit her parents in the Solomon Islands. By this time she was in a long distance relationship with a friend she'd met in China who also lived in the UK. During her 18 months in New Zealand they would do long distance and used this as an excuse to travel all over New Zealand and also meet up in Turkey.

Christmas in 2007 was spent with her family in Fiji, spending much of that time diving with her dad. 

Then it was back to the UK on a new working visa, via ten weeks travelling overland from San Francisco to Panama, then La Paz, Bolivia through to Santiago and Buenos Aires with the by-now long-term boyfriend who eventually proposed after they settled back in London. 

She now travels much less but tries to take one big trip per year as well as the occasional weekend in the UK and Europe. This has included Japan where she went to visit her sister who taught English for two years on the West Coast, visits back to New Zealand and Sri Lanka last year for a month, where she got married on a picture perfect beach to a man who loves to travel as much as she does (when the bank account will allow though!). 

Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you Kat McGregor.

Winter Wonderland: carousel turned pub.
Hyde Park, London.

A: Age you made your first international trip 
Six months old when my parents moved from New Zealand to Singapore, it started a travel bug that is still alive 31 years later!

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where? 
A very cold Peroni at the end of a long day walking the Cinque Terre in Italy while watching the sun set. Wonderful.

C: Cuisine (Favourite)
I love all food! Though Singapore Satay gets me every time.

D: Destinations. Favourite. Least Favourite. Why? 
So many... every place is so unique. Bolivia ticks every box in terms of great culture, incredible scenery, good food, nice people and budget friendly. I also loved the people in the Philippines! Least favourite place... hmm... I think I'd be quite happy if I never returned to Baotou, in China's Inner Mongolia. The smog was disgusting!

Banaue women, Philippines

Bolivia. Where Kat wore every single layer of clothing
that was in her rucksack

E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’
Yes. Diving in Sipidan and seeing a group of seven Hammerhead sharks on New Year's Day 2007. Phenomenal moment.

F: Favourite mode of transportation
Train. I love it every time.

Train in India

G: Greatest feeling while travelling 
The anticipation of knowing you're about to experience something new.

riding a horse with a gaucho (cowboy) in Argentina

crossing the border
from Costa Rica to Panama

H: Hottest place you’ve travelled to 
Singapore - it's that combination of heat and humidity that can floor you! Luckily they are masters at aircon...

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where 
My wedding day at the Frangipani Tree in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka. They treated us like family and made the day so special with all these added touches, like water lillies lining the aisle, fairy lights in the palm trees, having a lime and soda brought to me moments before I walked down the aisle. Just magical.

J: Journey that took you the longest 
Three days of train and bus rides from Chengdu to Dalian.

K: Keepsake from your travels 
My husband. I met him in China! Also a gold K that my parents bought for me when they first moved to Singapore when I was a baby - they gave it to me for my 16th birthday.

Kat and her keepsake

L: Let down sight. Why and where? 
Mendoza in Argentina - I was told to expect amazing wine and steak but it just felt expensive and really big. The people were really rude too which didn't help things. 

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel 
When I went to Paris by myself for three days when I was 21 after living in Washington DC for 6 months. It was incredible walking around the city and exploring somewhere completely foreign. Around every corner was something new whether that be a taste, sight or smell. Wonderful.

Kat in Paris

Magical Paris

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in 
Jet Wing Vil Uyana near Sigiriya in Sri Lanka - we stayed for one night and it was pure luxury. So pretty. That and The Frangipani Tree where we got married, Sri Lanka.

Jet Wing Vil Uyana

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling? 
Markets and the people in them.

Market in China

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where? 
I've lost count! I think around 50 from all over except for Africa.

with a kid in Capadoccia, Turkey

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where. 
The Witches Market in La Paz, Bolivia - dried llama foetuses and armadillos for sale...

Witches Market, La Paz Bolivia

R: Recommended sight, event, or experience. 
The Taj Mahal - really breathtaking. So beautiful.

S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while travelling. 
A really amazing meal. 

T: Touristy thing you’ve done 
Take friends to Buckingham Palace. I work near it and can't get enough of the Royal Family!

U: Unforgettable travel memory
Sitting on a train in Japan going to visit my sister, looking out and thinking "wow, travelling makes you feel so free; I could go anywhere today." And being looked after by couch surfers all over the world - every one has been incredible.

Kyoto, Japan: Bamboo Forest

CouchSurfing in Rajasthan, India

V: Visas. How many of them and for where. 
I've lost count!

W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where. 
A glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc sitting on my parent's balcony at home which I try to get to every 2 years. You can't beat the feeling of visiting home.

X: Excellent view and from where
Watching the sun rise from the top of Angkor Wat, Cambodia or the same thing in Varanasi, India with the whole city (seemingly!) doing their morning routine over the Ganges. The top of St Paul's Cathedral, looking out at my amazing adopted city that is London.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

St Paul's Cathedral, London

Y: Years spent travelling
31 all up but 8 on my own.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where
Cricket match in Sri Lanka (they love their cricket!) and football between two rival teams in Turkey - intense atmosphere but so fascinating.

with her favorite plant:
Camellia Sensesis (the tea plant!)

elephant in Sri Lanka

Orangutan in Borneo

"getting a yellow fever jab in Oaxaca
after it being the one injection
that I've ever forgotten to get
that I actually needed before setting off on a trip!
We waited from 7am in a very long line
outside a hospital for it. The nurse was lovely. "

Kat and I. Vigan, Ilocos Sur


Kat now writes about her life in London here, where she hopes it'll come in handy for people looking for tips on places to go during the Olympics. ;-). 

Can't get enough of her travel photos? Find more of them here.


  1. Wow. Makes me feel I'm not alone in this world! Such a romantic love story too. I want to see more wedding photos. Well done. Thank you!


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