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IYP: Lili, you are a blogger who writes about photography, food and travel. That sounds like a brilliant combination. How did you get the idea, did you plan it or did it develop spontaneously as a result of your way of life?
Lili: I started my blog Travelling Oven three years ago when I was living in a small town in the Swiss Alps. Even though at that time I didn’t know which direction it would take, I knew that I wanted a space where I could share my food photography and my photo stories from my travels. At that time I had been doing amateur photography for about a year, I had been learning about photography and taking pictures for hours every day so it very quickly became clear to me that I wanted it to be more than a hobby and that I wanted to make a big change in my life and become a professional photographer.
IYP: Of photography, food and travel, which is closest to your heart?
Lili: Photography is my first love and it is key in my work, but I am equally passionate about travel and the whole story of food, from preparation and photography, styling and enjoying food. I found the combination of those three components went very naturally, and I started from the basis that it is never too late to start doing what fulfils you and makes you happy. Life is too short to give up on your dreams because of fear of failure, for example.
IYP: You have lived in many countries, including Switzerland, Scotland, Kazakhstan and Turkey. How much do they have in common, and in which areas do they differ most?
Lili: The countries I have lived in truly are very different in all sorts of ways, from the political systems and levels of economic development to the cultures and climates etc. There are so many differences that it would be difficult to name them all here, but here is one which might be interesting for your readers.
In Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan which was my home for three years, during winter the temperature drops as low as -45º Celsius, so that I experienced so-called “Arctic conditions” when you have to wear several layers of clothing and you must never breathe in that cold air, which I did once and had a sore throat for ten days.
Actually when we had such low temperatures accompanied by winds from the steppe you just didn’t go outside because it wasn’t even possible to heat inside the buildings enough, so I remember there were many days when I sat at my desk in ski clothing and snow boots.
Luckily though we also had many “warmer” days during winter when it was only around -20º Celsius! But by contrast, in Turkey, where I lived in the small town of Belek near Antalya, we had summer temperatures of +40º Celsius with high humidity which was pretty hard to bear. But those periods were luckily short lived and I remember the majority of time we spent there for beautiful warm, sunny days and gentle sea breezes.
Despite all the differences between those countries, I would say that what they do have in common is people and their readiness to accept you as a stranger, welcome you, invite you into their homes and share with you the best they have to offer.
With some, for example the Kazakhs and the Swiss, it takes them a little longer, perhaps they are a little more cautious and they need a little time to relax and accept newcomers, while with some, for example the Scots and the Turks, they accept you much more quickly since as nations they are more open, more relaxed and more communicative. I am actually not very keen on such generalisations, but these were the impressions I formed on the basis of the experiences of living in those countries. It is good to bear in mind that regardless of all of the differences, we are all people with the same problems, challenges, desires and dreams.
IYP: Since your travels have meant moving and setting up a new home, how did you learn to pack? What do you always take with you? Does the process get easier with time?
Lili: Definitely I have learned over time to pack more quickly and in a more practical way, and I always say that I can now be ready for any journey in 30 minutes. However, that is only part of the truth because before packing I have to think through and make a list of everything, all the most important things I have to take. The biggest mistake I used to make while packing was that I always packed too many clothes and shoes. My bag was always too heavy, and I ended up never wearing most of those things anyway. With time I realized that I don’t need an outfit for absolutely every possible occasion and type of weather, and that the key is in combining things. What is most important for me today is that I pack all of my photographic equipment, my documents, money and cosmetics (I am after all a woman, ha ha!), and everything else is of minor importance and I can buy it if I really need it.
IYP: How do you get to know a place? Do you use guides, do you rely on the experiences of friends, reviews on Trip Advisor or do you explore alone?
Lili: I definitely surf the internet a little to get to know a new destination. I peek into Trip Advisor and similar sites, but I do prefer for my travels to be as spontaneous as possible. I give myself up to the moment and prefer not to hold myself strictly to any timetable because only in that way can I experience the place completely. For me, that means that I don’t have to visit every museum or see every single tourist attraction, but that when I want to I can sit and enjoy an extended coffee break, indulge in a little people-watching, take a stroll and discover hidden corners, take pictures of things that catch my eye, eat in small restaurants where local people go, and so on.
Travel should enrich us and fill us with positive energy, and not exhaust us so much that we need a break to recover when we get home, and all because we are afraid that we might miss something. You know how they say, you should always leave something for the next time…
IYP: Finally, where can people read your stories and see more of your beautiful photographs?
Lili: You can find my food photography, loads of healthy recipes and photo stories from my travels on my blog Travelling Oven (http://www.travellingoven.com) on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/travellingoven/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/travellingoven).