In conversation with… travel blogger Liz Carlson

Travel blogger Liz Carlson – AKA the Young Adventuress – talks about her various projects and how a tragic wildlife encounter changed her forever.

In conversation with… travel blogger Liz Carlson

Travel blogger Liz Carlson – AKA the Young Adventuress – talks about her various projects and how a tragic wildlife encounter changed her forever.

In conversation with… travel blogger Liz Carlson


Travel blogger Liz Carlson – AKA the Young Adventuress – talks about her various projects and how a tragic wildlife encounter changed her forever.

Meet Liz Carlson, the woman behind the travel blog Young Adventuress. The US-born globetrotter lives on New Zealand's South Island and has travelled all over the world, including to Antarctica. As well as running her travel blog since 2010, she opened a plant shop during the pandemic and published her first book in 2022. Recently, she’s taken on a new role for an adventure cruise company. 

Despite her busy schedule, Liz found time to chat with us about her various projects and how a tragic wildlife encounter changed her forever.

What does a day in the life of a travel blogger look like? 

My days vary a lot. When I am at home in Wanaka, New Zealand, I am usually working on my computer, drafting stories, editing images and doing a ton of admin. It’s not particularly glamorous except that I get to work on my own schedule how and when I want. This lets me have the space and time to pursue some of my favorite outdoor passions like hiking and snowboarding, both of which are amazing in Wanaka.

If I’m on the road, then that’s a whole different story. I’m usually really busy, often awake before sunrise to photograph the sunrise and places in the best lighting. Not easy because I’ve never been a morning person, no matter how hard I try. I’ve been working full-time as a travel blogger, writer and photographer for over a decade, so I am lucky in that I really pick and choose the trips and projects I’m passionate about. These days it’s usually conservation, wilderness and wildlife-focused. 

Sunset in Wanaka, New Zealand (Credit: Liz Carlson)

I am out meeting locals, hiking and exploring different activities that I think my audience would love to hear about when they plan their trips. It’s incredibly fun but a lot of work and not a vacation. I do try to squeeze in some time for myself offline whenever I’m travelling so I can soak up the feeling of a place without technology. 

Did you always know you wanted to travel? What first inspired you?

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to travel. I grew up with a single mom in Virginia in the US, and we used to go to the beach for long weekends for our holidays. Where I am from, travel is not really big. Ever since I was little, I read through National Geographic and dreamed of one day visiting those places myself. 

Tell us about Node. 

During the pandemic, our borders were closed for a few years here in New Zealand, and travel was off of the cards. I had become a bit of a houseplant collector over the years; my love of nature inspires me to bring plants inside. With our borders shut my hobby went berserk. 

I was living in Lyttelton on the South Island, and we didn’t have any designer or stylish houseplant shops, just dated garden centres. A friend’s family owned a wholesale houseplant nursery and agreed to sell me plants. I decided to open a pop-up to bring some of these more unusual species to the South Island, and it did so well that I turned it into a shop – NODE.

Liz loves spending time in the outdoors (Credit: Liz Carlson)

Most of the houseplant books here come from overseas and our market is really different, so I pitched and got a major publisher to write New Zealand’s first houseplant book, called Houseplants and Design: A New Zealand Guide which came out at the end of 2022. 

Please tell us about an experience that changed you.

Back in 2018, I was tramping on a remote place on Stewart Island in New Zealand. A few days into the hike, my ex-boyfriend and I were walking back to our tent at sunset along a beach and stumbled across 150 beaching pilot whales. Days from help, with no phone reception, there wasn’t much we could do; he ran 20 kilometres looking for rangers to notify. 

I spent two days with them as they all died slowly, and it was one of the most traumatic, defining experiences of my life. It messed me up. How can we put people on the moon but we can’t save whales?

Especially after all of the destruction we reaped (and still reap) on them? It would have taken over 1,000 people to attempt to save them, and only 400 people live on the island. It’s almost inaccessible except by walking for days or by helicopter. 

I had always been passionate about conservation, but this moment was a real catalyst for me to shift my work toward sharing stories of places and creatures with the idea of helping them. We live on a beautiful, fragile planet and I want it to endure.

Could you tell us about a stand-out moment from a trip to Antarctica?

I have so many stand-out moments from Antarctica, but my favourite is the first time I got a glimpse of the seventh continent. I had been on a ship travelling from South Georgia down to the Antarctic Peninsula, sailing through the night; I woke up super early and was walking down the corridor and happened to glance out of the portal. It was an amazing soft pink sunrise, the white land was glowing, the seas were dead flat and we were surrounded by humpback whales. 

A humpback in Antarctica (Credit: Liz Carlson)

I ran back to my cabin and woke my friend before running outside. The crew let me out on the bow of the ship, and I stood up on the ledge watching about 30 humpback whales feeding around the ship at sunrise. No one else was awake. It was an incredibly special experience.

Do you still have a dream destination you haven't visited?

So many. Now that I’m polar obsessed, I dream, of visiting remote places, like down to the Ross Sea or Kamchatka. Pretty much everywhere I want to go feels like it’s on the fringes of the world, usually remote islands like Pitcairn or the Kermadecs. I do also want to visit Kenya, Colombia and Iraq. The lists never get shorter. 

If you were working at Port Lockroy for the season, what luxury item would you take?

OMG, my dream job! I’d take my fancy pillow. I have never been a great sleeper and nothing helps more than your own pillow. 

What's next for you?

I’ve just boarded the Ocean Endeavour to work in the Arctic for the summer season with Adventure Canada doing content and storytelling and a bit of guiding. This is the direction I want to move with my work and I’m so excited to jump into it completely. 

Liz is heading back to the polar regions (Credit: Liz Carlson)

Finally, what’s your favourite species of penguin?

Oh, that’s hard. I’m such a bird nerd. I love all of the crested penguins because they look so unusual, especially the royal penguins on Macquarie Island. But I would say the hoiho or yellow-eyed penguin we have here in New Zealand. They’re the rarest penguin species in the world and they’re declining. Without some significant changes, they are very at risk of extinction and they deserve more attention.

Liz's favourite penguin species is the yellow-eyed (Credit: Liz Carlson)

If you’re keen to learn more about travelling (especially as a solo female), New Zealand, polar stories and see images from incredible places, please give Liz a follow @youngadventuress on Instagram.

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