It’s always been a passion of mine to get involved with travel and photography so this is a great opportunity and a new experience for me. I can’t wait to start sharing my travel photos and stories.
- Name: Michelle Gourlay
- Age Group: 50+
- Country: South Africa
- Hometown: Toronto, Canada
- Current City: Durban
I grew up in Toronto, Ontario and from a very young age I was always hyper active, and drove my mother crazy. The best remedy was to keep me active and involved in lots of different sports and activities. I first started dancing classic ballet at the age of 4 which lasted for 13 years. During my school years, I ran track and then later went into running marathons. I also participated in indoor lifesaving, teaching swimming and lifeguarding during the summer months. To this day, I still keep just as busy with gym and running and always have something on the go. During the summers I use to attend summer camp which taught me how to canoe, hike, and camp, which lead me to my love of nature and adventure.
My passion for photography started from a young age when I use to watch my father take photos and I always wanted to go with him. He taught me how to use his old Canon and that was the start of my love for photography, that only got stronger as I got older. I desperately wanted to take photography at college but my parents didn’t think it was a good idea, so I had to put that idea on the back burner temporarily.
My next passion was my love of sports and children. I worked as a camp counsellor in many different types of camps and also taught swimming. Which lead me towards studying for my degree, which is BA in Sports & Recreation and Business management. I worked in the field for a few years for the North York Municipality running day camps, and also got involved with special needs children who needed a sport/social centre to interact with other kids and have fun. I then opened up my own swim school and taught children and adults how to swim. It was a great time in my life as I got to do exactly what I loved and enjoyed every minute of it.
I decided it was time to spread my wings and with all my money that I had saved, I was off on my first trip to Europe, which lasted 6 months and covered a total of 12 countries. I witnessed the midnight sun in Finland and then followed the sun all the way to Israel, where I ran out of money and had to go back home. Traveling opened up my eyes not only to the beauty that exists all over the World, but the history, different cultures and the interesting people along the way. The travel bug had bitten and I knew that this wasn’t going to be the end of my travels.
On my return home I knew there was so much more out in the world that I wanted to see and experience. I worked two jobs and saved everything for the next two years. My next trip then started in Portugal and Spain and then from there, I went on to live and work in London. While living in the UK, I was able to travel around and see so many of the amazing sights and almost every weekend was filled with a road trip to somewhere new.
I had some time when living in London to attend a night college course with City and Guilds, and bought my first DSLR camera. From there I learned how to develop black and white, and how work on photos assignments and briefs, which brought the world of photography so much closer. I couldn’t get enough of it.
When living in London I met lots of other travellers and we ended up sharing a house together. There was always a big group of South Africans and Australians, and the fun just never ended. During this time, I also met my husband to be, as he was one of the South Africans part of the big group of friends. That’s how I ended up living in Durban.
But I still had my Asia trip all planned out. So off I went; first to Nepal where I planned the Annapurna base camp trek. The trekking was amazing, and the reason I choose the Annapurna mountain range was that you actually stayed in little villages, farms and people’s houses on the way. You would arrive after a long day, with a hot bucket of water for your shower, a clean bed and a home cooked meal on the fire waiting for you. There was no electricity so when it got dark you went to bed and then started your next day hike when the sun woke you in the morning. Hardly anyone spoke English but I never had a problem getting on with anyone, as a big smile always goes a long way.
From there, I spent 6 weeks in Thailand and then off to Bali. In Thailand I travelled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, to Chiang Rai and then to the Burma border, where we stayed in a small village of opium growers. We also visited the hill tribes of a group of people that haven’t changed in 100’s of years, then to Ko Samui to enjoy some fun in the sun.
After 3 months of traveling, I was back in London working and living for 4 years.
Then it was time to make a move and my husband to be and I decided it was time to check out South Africa and to see if I was going to like living in Durban, which is his hometown. Well that was now 25 years ago, and I’m still here today. We have been married for 22 years and have two kids, Emily and Liam, aged 20 and 17 respectively, and 3 fur children, Lilly, Roxy and Sammy.
We have been on many road trips around South Africa, as well as a family trip to Disney in Orlando Florida, a cruise around the Caribbean, a trip to Spain and the last adventure was skiing in Livigno, Italy, where my kids got to experience the snow for the very first time. I have many stories of past and present travels that I would love to share with you all.
But the adventures are never over and if someone gave me a backpack tomorrow I would be the first one to say … “Yes Please”.