ANNAPURNA MELLOR




23.09.18      



This week we chatted with twenty-six year old Annapurna Mellor from the UK, who has been lucky enough to combine her two passions: travel and photography in her work, documenting countries across the world - from India to Morocco, Japan to Italy.



“India is my favourite place to travel. I’ve visited four times now, and I always have the urge to return.”






What’s your profession?

I’m a freelance travel photographer and writer.



How old are you?

I’m twenty-six.



Tell me a bit about your background?

I’m British but grew up in the Middle East and Australia. I think travel was implanted into me at a young age.



When did you first decide to travel solo and where did you go?

I graduated from university in London at twenty-one, and felt very lost in myself. I’m named after a mountain in Nepal, and had always dreamed of going there. Not knowing that to do with my life, it seemed like a good time to finally go. I booked a one way ticket to Kathmandu and after hiking the Annapurna trail, spent a year travelling solo around Asia. It was in this year I picked up a camera and started documenting what I saw.



“I did many things wrong when I first travelled solo, but I wouldn’t change anything - because I feel like those mistakes eventually led me on the right path.”







What’s been your greatest achievement whilst travelling?

Both the strength I have gained as a solo female traveller in places like India, Morocco, Egypt, and the photographs I have produced on my various trips around the world.



What have you found to be the most challenging part of travelling solo and how did you learn to overcome it?

Loneliness has definitely been the hardest thing for me, particularly on long term trips. For a few years I attempted to live in Asia and travel full time. While it is the best thing for my career, but I learnt that being alone all the time takes it’s toll on my mind, and I lost a lot of focus in my work because I was unhappy with other parts of my life. I think the best balance for me is to have a base (currently in the UK), but travel as much I as I can on both longer and shorter trips throughout the year.



What’s the weirdest thing that you saw or experienced on your travels, and in which country?

I think Japan has got to win the prize for the most weirdness. Japan is a very modern place, similar to Western Europe or the USA, but it has a lot of customs which are completely foreign to me. The toilets are an experience, the plastic food, the anime obsessed culture. I loved it so much but so many things were also very bizarre.



Who was the most inspiring person that you met whilst travelling and why? Can you tell me a bit about them?

I have always been fascinated by Tibetan Buddhism and have studied meditation and Buddhism at a couple of different monasteries and centres in India and Nepal. While I was at the Root Institute in Bodhgaya, I met a nun called Ani Sarah. She was originally from England, but had moved to India to be a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She was such an incredible light, and had this wonderful calmness about her. She seemed to be happy deep into her soul. I found her energy incredibly inspiring.



“I have always found that travelling with a purpose is the most meaningful way to travel. For me, that purpose is photography, but for others it could be writing, hiking, climbing, volunteering, or just a mission to eat all of the local food.”






What was your best experience with a local and why? Can you tell me a bit about them?

A few years ago I met a young Indian busker called Ram in a tea shop in Pushkar, a small town in Rajasthan. I was there to shoot the camel fair, and he offered to be my guide. Photographically, his help was invaluable, and he introduced me to many amazing camel herders - who because of his presence, trusted me to photograph them and their families. Over the few weeks I spent in Pushkar, I continued to visit him and his family. His wife would make me delicious curries and chapati’s and he would introduce me to some of the most vibrant families around town. Sometimes locals can be invaluable to a photographer, and this was the first time I really understood how important that connection is.



Where was your favourite travel destination so far and why?

India is my favourite place to travel. I’ve visited four times now, and I always have the urge to return. It’s incredible in so many ways; the colours, the spirituality, the people, the range of landscapes, the amazing food. It’s also a photographers dream, and now that I have quite a big body of work from there, I am also always encouraged to return to add to the collection and shoot every corner of the country possible.



Where is the next destination you plan to visit? What do you plan to do?

I am going to Morocco. I always do a long trip over winter, and I haven’t decided where to go this year, but possibly a combination of South East Asian countries I haven’t yet visited or perhaps some of East Africa. Hopefully some assignments in between too.



How can we make our travels more meaningful in this day and age?

I have always found that travelling with a purpose is the most meaningful way to travel. For me, that purpose is photography, but for others it could be writing, hiking, climbing, volunteering, or just a mission to eat all of the local food. Find what part of travel ignites your soul and follow that passion.



“Solo travel is one of the most empowering things you can do, and I urge everyone to try it. While the thought of it might initially be scary, it’s amazing how strong our minds can be when we are alone and find ourselves in difficult situations.”







How has travel influenced and impacted your life? Would you change this given the chance?

Travel has changed my life in so many ways. It has made me independent, open minded, given me so much knowledge about the world and made me constantly thirsty for more. It has given me my career and it has given me the joy of having multiple places across the world which feel like home.



How has solo travel empowered you?

Solo travel is one of the most empowering things you can do, and I urge everyone to try it. While the thought of it might initially be scary, it’s amazing how strong our minds can be when we are alone and find ourselves in difficult situations. I have learnt that I am smart and intuitive in these situations. I have also learnt that people around the world are generally good, and people of all cultures, faiths and backgrounds have something to teach you.



If you could journey back to before you first travelled alone, is there anything you know now that you would tell yourself?

I did many things wrong when I first travelled solo, but I wouldn’t change anything - because I feel like those mistakes eventually led me on the right path.



Do you have a favourite object that you bought on your travels, and what’s the story behind it?

Last year I spent Christmas Day in Darjeeling, a small town in North East India in the Himalayan foothills. As a Christmas present to myself, I bought a big canvas painting of the Kanchenjunga mountain range at sunrise and the Darjeeling tea fields in front. It now hangs in the centre of my living room - a constant reminder of our amazing world.






Photographs taken by Annapurna Mellor (India: Assam, Rajasthan, Pushkar, Meghalaya, Varanasi; Philippines: Banaue; Vietnam: Sapa; Myanmar: Bagan; Thailand: Bangkok).