Travellers’ Tales – Meet Gillian McLaren

Meet Gillian McLaren

I created the “Travellers’ Tales” section earlier this year to give my readers and other travellers an opportunity to talk about their travels. Today I am pleased to introduce you to Gillian McLaren, a travel and science writer based in Johannesburg. Gillian writes for some leading South African publications and is one of my most well-travelled guests thus far. She has visited a whopping 54 countries!  Gillian blogs at GillianMclaren.Blogspot .

I would love to hear about your travels too. Go to “Travellers’ Tales, fill in the quick questionnaire and email it to me with your blog links.

Read about Gillian’s travels here,

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a travel writer and aspirant photographer who loves scuba diving, bird and game watching, exotic cuisine and meeting people.

2. What is your earliest travel memory?

Getting home from Bryanston Primary School to hear my Dad say, “Pack your cases girls, we are off”. He was a spontaneous adventurer, so we would pack and go!

Gillian McLaren Fastjet

Gillian's first Fastjet flight, coming into Dar es Salaam at sunset.

3. Where was your last holiday?

I don’t really have any holidays, as I travel so much for my work and love every minute of it. I have just returned from reviewing some hotels and lodges in Tanzania.

4. What was the best thing you did there?

Meeting locals on the streets of Dar es Salaam and capturing their portraits.

Gillian McLaren Mali

A captivating little girl with bright eyes, from Mali.


5. What was your best holiday ever? Why?

For my 50th birthday – instead of something material – I asked my husband to take me trekking in the Borneo Rain Forest. It was exciting, beautiful, challenging and infinitely memorable,

6. What is your favourite travel destination?

Very hard to choose. I am privileged to have visited 54 countries and have lived in five countries, but maybe islands. Take me to Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Maldives or Rodrigues!

Gillian McLaren Tara Turkington

Sunset at Constance Halaveli Resort in the Maldives.
image by Tara Turkington

7. What must one do there?

Scuba diving is one of my passions. I also like sipping a glass of whatever is enjoyed by local people, with my bare toes in the sand, watching a sunset. Cliched, but divinely exhilarating.

8. Who is your favourite travel companion/s?

My husband, Grant, is a marvellous traveller, who does a sweep up operation in our accommodation to retrieve all I have left behind. It is special to share the memories for our whole life. As he is a Professor of medicine who works very hard, it happens rarely. My son, James, is a delightful companion, who gives me a fresh gaze on the experiences. People love him, so he opens up communication.

Gillian McLaren

Gillian and her husband, Grant, off to Mozambique, to scuba dive

9. Name one item you must have when travelling.

My brand new Fujifilm X-T1 camera.

10. Your best travel advice?

Pack very lightly, as you need much less than you think you might need. Meet local people and go where they go, especially for meals.

11. The one place you want to visit before you die?

Oh my goodness! My list is so long, I don’t know where to begin. The Galapagos Islands ( iconic, as I studied Botany and Zoology at University ), a few countries in South America, anywhere I can see the Northern Lights, definitely more of Asia (Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia again), Red square in Russia (which seems terribly brave after growing up during the cold war) and… and… and…

12. Your favourite place in South Africa?

 We are so lucky here to have sensational bush, glorious beaches and panoramic mountain scenery. How to choose a favourite? Perhaps any one of our National Parks, which are all inspiring in their own way.

13. Any embarrassing travel moments?

 I miscalculated my days of travel on a month-long trip to Cambodia, so instead of going to the airport, had to ask a hotel -which I had already visited for three nights – to take me back for a night! I felt so stupid, yet Adi Jaya, manager of The Plantation in Phnom Penh, welcomed me with warmth and kindness, as did all the staff members. I was moved to tears by the level of undeserved hospitality.

14. Worst travel experience?

Before I was a travel writer, in my dim distant youth, I stayed in a cheap pensione in winter in Rome on New Years Eve, where I was freezing cold, the room stank badly and the noise of people throwing things onto the street at midnight was unbearable. For my sanity, I had to wake the owner at two in the morning to retrieve my passport and check out, to search for a better place.

Gillian McLaren

An oak barrel in Viviers, South of France

15. How can people connect with you.

Facebook : Gillian McLaren Travel Writer

Instagram: Jetset_Gillian

Twitter :    @McLaren _Gillian


Or meet me in one of the coffee shops in Parkhurst, where I scribe my travel features after each trip!

Thank you, Gillian, for sharing your fascinating travels with us!

I would love to hear about your travels too. Go to "Travellers’ Tales", fill in the quick questionnaire and email it to me with your blog links.

Gillian McLaren

Selfie taken in France


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