Nina Karnikowski is an intrepid freelance travel writer based in the stunning Hunter Valley, Australia. Nina writes for various travel publications and has a beautiful website called Travels with Nina. It is devoted to sharing her adventures, with a focus on faraway destinations, ancient cultures and touching the Earth lightly whilst on the road. She also has an online shop (read ‘bazaar’) filled with unique treasures she has found on her journeys. Nina is a true adventurer and her writing has the unique ability to draw you in and completely envelope you in an experience. It’s the perfect tonic of inspiration for your next trip or captivating reading for the intrigued armchair traveller. We recently caught up for a quick chat….
You’re an amazing freelance travel writer, was there a defining moment that inspired you to do, what you do?
I wish I had a more romantic answer for you, but mine is mostly a story of hard work and right place right time. Basically I worked my tush off for years as a lifestyle writer for the Sydney Morning Herald’s magazine division, and was eventually offered a position as a writer on the travel team. It was a dream come true, having both a regular pay check, the ability to write every day, and to travel everywhere from Samoa, New Zealand and Bali, to India, Sri Lanka and Nepal for work. I finally went freelance and started my site travelswithnina.com two years ago, which serendipitously coincided with my husband becoming a winemaker and us moving to the Hunter Valley wine region. I still miss the regular pay check, but I love now having the freedom to go where I want, when I want, with no one to answer to. And I’ve had some of the wildest adventures of my career since I ventured out on my own - to Mongolia, Morocco, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, China and beyond.
You also happen to be a bit of treasure hunter. Is there a special piece you recently brought home you can’t stop looking at?
Well, once I’ve cleared my eyes of the tears I’ve been shedding for a 100-year-old Tibetan Lingtse woolen cape, that I bought in Ladakh in northern India and that I’ve just discovered has been completely chomped apart by moths, I can focus on the gorgeous range of leather sandals I had made and customised by my sandal guy in Mumbai a couple of months back. They’re traditional Indian kolhapuri chappals that I’ve had embellished with tiny red pompoms and silver bells, and embossed with TAO OF TRAVEL on the sole of the right foot, for sale on my Bazaar at travelswithnina.com. I use the phrase TAO OF TRAVEL to encapsulate the idea of sustainable, slow and mindful travel, and of truly connecting to the places we visit so we can learn more about both ourselves and the world.
One of my favourite parts of travelling is being able to read a lot, whether it’s relaxing in a hammock or bouncing around in an old bus to nowhere. Are you a keen reader and if so what was the last book you just couldn’t put down?
I’m the keenest reader! A book a week is usually how I roll, with every one of them helping me hone my craft. I just finished Paris Trance by my new favourite author Geoff Dyer, which follows the relationships of two couples living in Paris. I started reading it on the plane to Indonesia last week and by the end of the seven-hour trip I had devoured it, it was that good! He has a simultaneously dark, punky, hilarious and beautiful style, which reminds me of a cross between two of my other favourite authors, DBC Pierre and Bill Bryson. I also loved Dyer’s Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi; as the title suggests it takes the character to the holy land - and one of my all-time favourite places - Varanasi in northern India, where things get pretty trippy and existential.
Lastly, where on this beautiful planet are you itching to explore next?
If you’d have asked me a few months ago I would have said Namibia, to spend some time with the proud and beautiful Himba tribeswomen who cover their hair and entire bodies in a red ochre paste. Or maybe trekking through the lush mountains and steppe grasslands of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. But right now I have Argentina on the brain. I’ve never been to South America and I fantasise about riding a horse - bareback, in full gaucho getup with a glass of Malbec in hand - to the Iguazu Falls. Hey, a girl can dream!
Cheers Nina!! Here’s where you can get inspired and learn more about her fascinating travel tales.
Travels with Nina on Instagram
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