I had the honour of interviewing Izzy Gray an amazing travel blogger who loves writing about her adventures and who loves sharing tips, advice and tell you all about the places that she visits.
I have followed Izzy’s blog for a few years now (blethersfromafar.com) and I love the way she writes her stories as well as her honesty in telling everyone about what she enjoys most and what to avoid in each of the places that she visits. Her advice and tips will help anyone who reads them to make the most of each location. She shares honest reviews of places, restaurants, hotels and she encourage everyone to go on adventures of their own. Izzy focuses on travel around Europe and loves luxury but affordable places. Her photography skills are on another level. All her pictures are great and she captures the moment in each of them and is able to show us even the smallest details of the place she is visiting. I find the personality and life she brings to a blog to be inspirational.
Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive or stressful and this blog shows you how to do it right. Her writing is more like storytelling that a review so it is fun to read and to actually feel like you are living the adventure as well. Izzy is also adventuring in the world of theatre as a writer and will soon see her play Keepers of the Light live on stage.
I will keep you all updated with that as I am sure is going to be an amazing play.
Izzy also has an Audiobook call The Simmer Dim: A short story which is inspired by the Orkney landscapes where she grew up. This story was written during the lockdown. You are able to find it on YouTube and it is performed by the very talented Fraser Sivewright and is well worth listening to.
Izzy was so approachable during this interview so here it is and I hope you all enjoy it.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I live in Edinburgh with my partner Fraser, but I actually grew up on Orkney, which is a wee windswept cluster of islands just off the North coast of Scotland. As much as I loved island life, I was always keen to head ‘Sooth’, so at the age of 18 I set off to study an MA in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh and haven’t looked back since! The three main loves in my life are travel, writing and theatre; somehow, I’ve managed to combine all three as a career, which I’m always counting my blessings for! I’ve worked for Capital Theatres (the company which runs Edinburgh’s Festival, King’s and Studio theatres) for around six years now and will shortly see my debut play, Keepers of the Light, brought to the stage in May 2021…after a wee covid-induced delay…! When I’m not working, I spend every moment I can on the road coming up with exciting new pieces for Blethers from Afar. Thankfully Fraser is a willing travel companion. When I’m not zipping around, I can usually be found scribbling away in a cosy wee coffee shop, debating a good film or trying my best not to pinch strangers’ dogs in the pub.
What made you decide to start a travel blog and how long ago did you start?
After graduating in 2012, I set off on a backpacking adventure around Asia, Australia, the USA and Canada, with little more than a backpack and journal to my name. I initially started blogging purely as a way to let family and friends keep up-to-date with my travels, however I quickly learned how much I enjoyed writing about my experiences. When I returned home, I was determined to take things to a new level, so I worked hard to improve my web-building skills and created an upgraded version of my site, where I could continue blogging at a more professional level.
I work full time, so I have to be pretty crafty with my annual leave, but I’ve always been determined to prove that there’s adventure to be had, no matter the timescale! My writing these days tends to focus more on European getaways, the Scottish outdoors and the link between travel and wellbeing.
Folk often say to me “you’re always on holiday” but the truth is, 90% of the time, it’s a working holiday! I do a lot of hotel and product reviews, so when I’m in a destination, I’m also in business mode, and there’s a lot of research, note-taking and photographing to be done. Still, there are some obvious perks to the job, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities it’s brought me so far, so I can’t really complain!
Your writing style is a lot closer to storytelling that a straight review which I really like as its very engaging. Do you do any other types of writing?
Thank you! That’s definitely always been the aim. The majority of my articles, whether they’re destination guides, reviews or features, are always narrative led, and I like to get my own voice and humour across in anything that I do. Clients tend to prefer that too, as travel blogs are seen as personable, and draw readers in a completely different way to traditional guide books. I’m a big believer in reflective travel, so I always try to slow the pace and really take in my surroundings and the local culture, wherever I am. By sharing my experiences as stories, rather than bullet points, it engages readers in a different way, and hopefully gives them a deeper insight into the place I’m talking about. It also helps retain regular readers, however questionable their taste…
I was obsessed with writing from a young age, and was always working away at stories in my spare time. Over the last couple of years, I’ve turned my hand more to creative writing again, which has been really nice. After taking a postgraduate course in play writing, I finally had the confidence to take an idea I’d been thinking about for years and turn it into a stage play. Keepers of the Light delves into the mysterious and true disappearance of three lighthouse keepers who vanished from their post on the remote Flannan Isles lighthouse back in 1900. It’s also largely inspired by my grandfather, who worked as a principal keeper for the NLB for most of his professional life. We were all set to go with a Scottish tour this May, but that’s been postponed by a year thanks to the pandemic. All being well, we should be set to tour Edinburgh, Lewis, Shetland and Orkney in 2021!
During lockdown, I’ve also been returning to story writing which has been a handy way to keep sane! I’m working on a series of short stories inspired by the Orkney landscapes where I grew up (you’ll notice a lot of nautical themes in my writing!), and I was lucky enough to persuade Fraser, who’s also an actor, to record one for me this summer. I’ll pop the link here in case anyone would like a listen!
What are you currently reading?
In all honesty, I’ve struggled to read books during lockdown, which is strange for me as I’m an absolute bookworm! I’m not sure if it’s too much time spent in the flat after working from home for five months, or just whether my brain has gone a little to mush! If I’m struggling for reading material though, I’ll quite often turn back to an old favourite, like Iain Banks. I still haven’t read his Whit yet, so that’ll probably be top of the list once my brain starts functioning properly again!
One thing I have been reading a lot of though is other travel blogs. I really enjoy This Battered Suitcase, written by Brenna Holeman, who has travelled over 100 countries solo! She’s got a very frank, honest way with words and often delves into other lifestyle topics like relationships and fashion. Well worth a follow!
On top of your reviews and descriptions of different locations your blog shares lots of really interesting travel tips. Do these tips come from just your own experience or how did you learn them?
Good question. I would say it’s an absolute combination of recommendations and self-discovery.
I am a little bit of a weirdo though in that I love to research a place…often at length…before I go there. I genuinely enjoy the experience! I usually read a lot of travel blogs and do a good bit of scanning through Instagram and Pinterest before heading somewhere, as often it uncovers absolute gems and beautiful spots that you might never have read about in a guidebook. As well as that, I might have set things that I need to cover if I’m writing a promotional piece for a company, and sometimes that can lead me to experiences that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.
If I’m only heading somewhere for a short space of time, say a weekend, then I tend to go very-much pre-prepared, so that I can make the most out of my time.
If I have more time on my hands though, I tend to just go with the flow. Last year, for example, Fraser and I headed to France for a holiday with my family, and we rented a car which gave us complete freedom to head out for adventures every day (we’re not very good at sitting by the pool!). We didn’t plan anything in advance, just essentially picked a new town/area off the map to explore each day. It was incredible to just park up and wander about these unknown cities, getting lost in the cobbled streets and discovering tucked-away galleries and museums you might never have thought about visiting! I take a lot of photos when I’m travelling, so that it helps piece the experience together afterwards, and I usually tend to write my recommendations down very quickly, so that I don’t forget somewhere when it comes to writing about it after!
You have been on such a variety of different trips, cruises, backpacking, driving and 5* hotels. Which adventure has been your best and worst experience and of these which made the best post?
Oh lord. You definitely have to take the good with the bad!
It’s hard to narrow down the best experience, and I’ve been so fortunate to visit some amazing places through my writing. If I had to narrow it down to a top three, I’d say teaching English in Thailand (more for what it taught me!) sea kayaking as the sun came down over Dubrovnik and driving across a glacier in Iceland! Some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited would be Rackwick Bay in Orkney (yep, I’m totally bias), the island of Procida in the Bay of Naples and the Rocky Mountains.
It’s much easier to think of the worst experience! An absolute no-brainer for me would be getting stuck – alone – on the Budapest underground. Strangely enough, this made for one of my most-read articles of all time…
I’m notoriously good at getting into scrapes while I’m travelling, so I’ve quite a few articles on ‘The times it all went wrong’. It’s good to be able to laugh at these things though, eh?
Thank you so much Izzy for this interview and for always inspiring me. I absolutely love your writing and can’t wait to see more of your travels and your future plans. Here are Izzy’s social media links so please go and give her a follow. One of the best Travel blogs out there.
- Blog; bletherfromafar.com
- Facebook: Blethers from Afar
- Instagram: blethersfromafar
- Twitter: @izzygraywritter
- Pinterest: Blethers from Afar
- Youtube: Izzy Gray