Australian Nina Karnikowski is a travel writer and photographer who is widely published and acclaimed. She lived in India for a period and has travelled to a wide array of exotic destinations around the world. From Asia to Africa to Oceania and beyond, let Nina’s work take you on a magical journey of discovery and give you plenty of inspiration for your own adventures.
The first thing that hits you when you click open her site is the stunning photography. You may then notice the professional and easy to use layout, before clicking into one of the well-ordered sections. To use the old cliché, Nina’s work shows that it is so true that a picture speaks a thousand words!
When you start reading, you can’t help but be transported to faraway places without even leaving your seat. A master with words, Nina manages to convey every aspect of a place with ease, making you feel as though you are actually there at that moment; people and places come to life and you can feel a wonderful connection.
We had a catch up with Nina and asked her a few questions that we thought you would be interested in:
Q: Your photography is amazing! Do you have any quick and easy tips for anyone who would like to capture the essence of places even just half as well as you do?
A: Thank you! I suppose my first tip would be to get a good camera. Sounds simple, but it’s key. I certainly didn’t for the longest time, I just used my little Panasonic Lumix point and shoot or (and I can’t believe I’m admitting this) my iPhone. I suppose working for a big corporation for so long (I was an in-house travel writer at The Sydney Morning Herald for years), where we usually didn’t use our own photos, made me a bit lazy in that respect. Now that I’m freelance though, I’ve truly recognized the importance of owning your own imagery, and now I don’t go anywhere without my Olympus OM-D EM10.
Once you have the gear, for me it’s just a matter of shooting the aspects of a city that you find interesting, that speak of the truth of a particular city for you. If it’s the people you’re infatuated with, then shoot portraits (always ask before you do this). If it’s the architecture, go for that. If it’s something quirky – doorways, street dogs, whatever – then shoot that. Your eye is what’s important, taking the shots that you find interesting, rather than what everyone else has shot of that destination. I mean we all already know what the Taj Mahal looks like, right??
Lighting’s another really important factor. Early mornings are often best when the light’s not too intense. This is my favourite time to explore new cities, when they’re quiet and just waking up.
Q: As a highly successful travel writer, would you say it’s a love of travelling that keeps you writing, or a love of writing that keeps you travelling?
A: It’s a two way street, the passions feed one another. I’ve always written. Before I was a travel writer I was a magazine features writer, writing on everything from profiles to fashion, food to interviews with collectors, everything. Before that I wrote stories and essays and journals, for as long as I can remember. I will write forever, that much I know, and I also know that I will travel forever. I caught the travel bug when I moved to France for a year, as part of my journalism and international studies degree, when I was 21. Travel really is my great muse; travelling to exotic destinations where the people live so differently from me inspires me, invigorates me, and really gets the words flowing.
Q: How did you find living in India?
A: Living in India was an absolute dream for me. In the nine months I was there I was sick more times than I can count, I cried at least once a week at the sheer intensity of the place and the desperation of so many of the people there, and yet I also smiled more widely than I thought possible, felt more alive than I have in my live, and was inspired each and every time I stepped out the door.
When I arrived in Mumbai, the city we lived in, I felt as though I had been there before.
It was a place that just spoke to my soul instantly, and I knew I’d continue coming back throughout my life.
Nothing can prepare you for India. It’s a place where everything – the crowds, the traffic, the noise, the smells – is dialed up to 11… then bumped up another notch just for the heck of it. A chaotic, colourful, often confronting corner of the globe, filled with lumbering cows, bright saris, and wafts of incense. Go there and prepare to be tested, in the best possible way.
Q: What places would you particularly recommend people visit in your home country of Australia?
A: A couple of years back I took a train trip across the Australia desert on the Indian Pacific, which goes from Sydney to Perth, traversing the country over three days. We stopped off in Broken Hill, a charming mining town filled with old-fashioned shops and Federation hotels; Cook, the ghost town of the Nullarbor Plains with a population of four and views across the endless scrolls of spinifex and saltbush; Rawlinna, a town built around sheep and cattle farms which means cowboys by the bucketload; and pretty Adelaide with its gorgeous colonial architecture, churches and perfectly manicured rose gardens. It was incredible to see the Aboriginal communities along the way too, and I could have sat watching those raw red desert scenes slip by forever.
Another Aussie highlight for me that’s closer to home is Bellingen, about a six-hour drive north of Sydney. A sleepy hippy town filled with second hand shops, organic cafes and healers, we stayed a little out of town in a place called Promised Land, which is every bit as magical as the name suggests. We rode bikes through the forest, did yoga on the rolling lawns of a morning, hiked by the Never Never River, and sunbaked and picnicked the afternoons away. A truly unspoiled pocket that not that many people seem to know about. Shhh.
Q: How often do you travel?
A: This varies, depending on what trips come up for work. Last year I travelled to ten different countries, including Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Zambia, China and France, which I think was probably a little too much since I missed my husband and our homes a lot and was really craving some down time by the end of the year. Having said that, when the trips come up I can never manage to say no, no matter how exhausted I am. It’s just such a delight to be able to adventure around the world and write about what you discover. This year I have trips to Bali, India, France (my husband is a winemaker so we go once a year), and Morocco planned. We’ll see what else arises…
Q: What things do you look for when booking accommodation?
A: To be honest, much of the time it’s not me making the bookings: as a travel writer you’re often approached by a company with a package they want you to review or experience, in exchange for you writing about it.
If it is up to me, I always try to find something unique; something that gives me a feel of how the locals experience the place.
That might be a little local tea house in China, or a home stay in France. It could be a beach bungalow in PNG, or a treehouse in Samoa. These always offer the most unique, interesting experiences, which of course lead to the best stories.
I like to save my money for buying treasures on the road, for splurging on delicious food, or for unique experiences, so I tend to keep my accommodation on the lower end of the budget. Luckily I usually find five-star hotels a little bland anyway.
Q: Generally, do you find people or animals the most interesting?
A: People, always. People and the way they live in different parts of the world fascinates me, which is the main reason I do what I do. I’m very interested in anthropology, in particular ancient tribes in remote parts of the world.
Q: What things could you absolutely not leave behind when you travel?
A: I rarely travel without my yoga mat. I’m a pretty dedicated yogini and find that if I miss my morning yoga sessions I start to feel really stiff in both my mind and body. Even just ten minutes in the morning really helps me get in the right headspace for exploring.
This is a strange one, but I also always take a bottle of BRAGG’s organic apple cider vinegar. I use it as a toner on my face, and I put it in bottles of water to keep my digestion on track, which is always helpful when you’re stuffing yourself full of suspect exotic foods! A good probiotic is always on hand too; I’ve had that many tummy bugs overseas that I never, ever take my chances now.
Q: And finally, we’re sure the list is huge, but if there were no limitations at all, where would you love to travel to tomorrow?
I’d get on my magic carpet and fly right on over to Morocco. Ancient medinas, castles made of sand, the old city of Fez with its UNESCO World Heritage Listed medina, nights spent camping in the Sahara in remote Merzouga, berber music, tagines, a fancy riad stay in Marrakech… BRING IT ON.
Visit Travels with Nina for one of the most spectacular travel journals and portfolios and pick up heaps of motivation, or allow yourself some time to daydream and travel to distant lands from the comfort of your armchair. You can also connect with Nina through Instagram and Facebook.Tags:Interview