Each month we introduce you to a different member of our writing team. Based all around the globe, each of our Travelettes has a different passion for travel, a different area of expertise and offers something unique to the overall feel of Travelettes.

This month we get to know a little more about Annapurna Mellor, one of our newest writers. As a travel photographer, writer and Asia obsessive, we wanted to ask her a few questions about her adventures and how she got started as a photographer.

Annapurna, you’re one of the newest writers on the Travelettes team, how did you get involved?

I’d been reading Travelettes for a few years before I finally decided to submit a guest post. I noticed there was nothing on the site about Myanmar (Burma), which is one of my favourite countries and definitely an upcoming backpacking destination in South East Asia. Kathi published the post on the site and a few weeks later they were looking for regular writers, so I was asked to join the team, which I of course was thrilled about! I’d been travel writing for a few years before, on different blog and photo sites, but Travelettes is my first regular gig, and it feels great to have a focus and a place to write down some of my adventures and experiment with different writing styles.

On the mountains above Pushkar, India

On the mountains above Pushkar, India during the Pushkar Camel Fair.

What’s your travel story?

Well, as you can probably tell, I’ve got a pretty unusual name and it all began there. My parents were avid travellers and world cyclists before I was born, and I was conceived somewhere in the Himalayas beneath one of the world’s most beautiful mountain ranges – the Annapurna’s. I was named after these great peaks where my life had begun and that has followed me everywhere ever since.

Although I was born in England, I spent most of my childhood living in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Melbourne, Australia. My parents took us on long holidays through Europe, South East Asia, New Zealand, Australia and Fiji before I was even 10 years old. You could say that it all began before it even really began… We returned to England and a few years later I was old enough to travel independently. I spent summers in Croatia, California and did a study abroad programme in China. I loved the backpacking life, living off very little, carrying all your possessions on your back, getting off the beaten track, and meeting new pleople everyday.

Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

Making local friends in Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

And did you ever get a chance to go to the Annapurna mountains?

That’s the next part of the story, after spending three years living and studying in London, I was completely exhausted with London life and wanted to do something as different as possible. A few months before my graduation I booked a one way ticket to Kathmandu, with the ambition to climb the mountain I was named after and to discover a continent I have had a life long obsession with. I flew solo to Nepal, studied Tibetan Buddhism beneath the foothills of the Himalayas and then was joined by my mum, who spent almost two weeks with me trekking through the Annapurna range to Annapurna Base Camp.

After she left, I continued travelling solo through Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Mongolia and then rode the Trans-Siberian railway home. That year was incredibly transformational to me, I learnt a hell of a lot about myself and the person I wanted to be. It was very challenging at times, I was lonely, afraid, I got very sick and had to deal with the passing of my grandad in solitude in a foreign country. But in the end it was worth it, I grew, saw so many places and discovered my love for photography, something which has kept me on the road since then.

At Annapurna Base Camp (4130m) in Nepal

At 4130m at Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal during a 12 day trek in the region.

How did you start taking photographs? Where has that passion taken you?

When I first set off travelling solo, I had a very cheap and simple SLR and I didn’t really know what to do with it except press the shutter button in Automatic mode. I started taking photos mostly to tackle loneliness and shyness when I was travelling alone. Asking someone if you can take their photograph is a great way to break down cultural barriers and engage with a local person in a meaningful way. I was writing about my trip on a blog and would put my photos alongside it. I instantly had a lot of comments from family and friends about my pictures and that drove me to carry on taking photos and to improve my style.

Burma was a real turning point for me photographically, as I fell in love with the culture and the people who were kind enough to let me document their lives. I left with a set of photos I am still proud of today. I upgraded my camera and quickly was spotted online by Getty Images, who now represent a large portion of my work. Since then, I’ve had photographs in Lonely Planet Guide Books, National Geographic, and in campaigns for HSBC and British Airways among others.

My true passion for photography still lies in storytelling and portraiture. I love telling stories of a place or culture through a combination of words and images.

Marrakesh medina, Morocco

Photographing the colourful medina in Marrakesh, Morocco.

You’ve recently spent 4 months in India and Nepal, what attracts you to this part of the world and Asia in general?

I’ve always felt a strong pull to the continent, and with each place I discover I fall more and more in love with this crazy and diverse part of the world. Asia is vibrant, full of cultures, and is quickly modernising- making it a very exciting place to be. For me it’s so interesting to observe a lifestyle which seems unchanged for centuries, which you can find on the dunes of Rajasthan, the grassy steppes of Mongolia or the highlands of Burma’s Shan state. Alongside those cultures, you have the intense modernisation of some of the continents bigger cities like Singapore, Bangkok and New Delhi.

Everywhere is different in language, in food, in dress, in landscape. Some places will break your heart at the levels of suffering and in other places, I watched myself grow and expand after I received so much love and kindness from local people. While I would love to go to other parts of the world, and in time I’m sure I will, Asia will always hold something special for me. I could spent a lifetime exploring this continent and never really feel like I’ve got to the bottom of it.

India and Nepal are particularly special to be because I love the Himalayan region and I also love Tibetan Buddhist culture. India is a photographers dream due to the colours and the diversity of the country, plus it’s an incredibly cheap place to travel which makes long trips through the country very viable.

In the home of a local family I photographed in Pushkar, India

In the home of a local family I photographed while in Pushkar, India.

What are some of your favourite travel experiences to date?

Hiking to Annapurna Base Camp is definitely one of my favourite experiences, it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my mum in a place very special for both of us. I loved travelling through California, riding the Trans Siberian railway and road tripping through Mongolia. Burma is always a highlight for me, I’ve visited twice and it’s a very special and untouched place which will always have a place in my heart. And India is just mind-blowing in so many ways, from the Himalayas to the spirituality of places like Varanasi and Amritsar, to the camel festivals of Rajasthan and the stunning beaches and highlands of Goa and Kerela. It’s such a magic land for me.

My favourite travel experiences always come from the local people I meet along the way. I love doing home-stays, visiting places with well preserved indigenous cultures and learning about different religions and customs.

Hiking in the Grand Canyon, USA

Hiking the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA.

What’s on your travel bucket list for the future?

There are so many places I would love to go to, and many places I want to return to. But for now I’m really happy to be based in England and I hope it will give me the space I have been craving to grow my photography and writing while still taking time to travel. I really want to become a better photographer, and then feel confident that when I travel I can get the pictures I desire. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to write and photograph stories for magazines and write for guide books too.

In terms of destinations, I would love to explore Central Asia, perhaps a long trip along the Silk Road as I’m fascinated by the blend of Islamic and Asian culture in this part of the world. I would also like to road trip across the USA, I love that crazy, beautiful country. I hope one day I am able to go to Tibet, and have the freedom to meet the Tibetan people and hear their stories without the red curtain of China only showing me what it wants me to see. I want to spend more time in the Himalayas, it’d be a huge dream to go to Bhutan. I’d also like to check out more of Africa and head to South America for the first time.

Climbing mountains outside Reykjavik, Iceland

Watching the sunset on Mount Esja, just outside of Reykjavik, Iceland.

You can follow Annapurna’s photography work on her Instagram @annapurnauna or view her portfolio at annapurnamellorphotography.com. If you have any questions about travelling or photography, feel free to email Annapurna directly at annapurna@travelettes.net.