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Wanderlust With: Mel Hattie (Mel Had Tea)


A magical tree roots background Mel found along the Avenue of the Giants highway, Northern California.

We talk tea, travel and Tokyo with Mel Had Tea blogger, Mel Hattie.

She might be a tea sommelier, but Mel Hattie doesn't prefer the luxe travel life. Instead, you're more likely to find this adventurous soul travelling by van across the country and spending the night camping under the stars on radish farms.

With a penchant for exploring the natural landscape first-hand, we sat down for a quick chat with the Mel Had Tea blogger for her top tips on travelling around her favourite places. Tokyo, included.

Q. What's the last holiday you took?

A: Last proper holiday? Like without Instagram, emails, and all that? It's hard to remember. I think probably August 2015. My husband (then boyfriend) and I lived in our van for a month and drove it from Canada's east coast (Halifax, Nova Scotia) to the West Coast (Tofino, B.C.). It was about 30 days of awesomeness. On the way west, we drove through Northern USA and on the way home we went through Southern Canada.

Q: What about the first holiday you took?

A: Orlando, Florida. I was two years old. It was the classic Disney trip, although I think my parents left me with my nana and opa so they could go have fun in the theme parks, so the pictures are all of me floating in the campground pool. My family is all camping people. Hotels aren't really our thing.

Q: What's your favourite destination in the world?

A: Japan. I spent a semester there as an exchange student in 2012 and I've loved it since I was a kid. Everything from the crazy anime culture to the traditional arts and history. I'm a tea sommelier and my obsession with tea started with Japanese green tea in my teens.

Q: And your top three things to do there?

A: 1) Visit rural Japan. Tokyo and Kyoto are of course cool and amazing, but there's nothing more sublime than doing a temple stay in the mountains or spending the night at a radish farmer's house and waking up in the middle of the night to count the stars. Tokyo is totally lit up with electricity, but in deep rural Japan at night you can hold your hand right in front of your face and still not see it. Small towns are also where the tea farms are, so of course I'm biased. Also, rural towns have awesome festivals (matsuri). See if there's one going on while you'll be there.

2) Eat, eat, eat. There are so many delicious dishes — regional ramens, countless o-bento curiosities in train stop 7/11s, kaiseki meals that are like edible art, ice cream in ALL the flavours (I love sesame and mandarin), comforting omuraisu, exciting okonomiyaki, inebriating sake and of course, the famous sushi. The list could go on. This is super embarrassing, but when I was living in Japan in 2012 I actually never had sushi while I was there. I don't know why. I wasn't intentional. I think I was just so obsessed with trying other things. I literally got on the plane home and was like, "Crap! I forgot sushi!" So maybe make a list before you go so you don't end up like me. Also: Promise me you'll try the nattou. Don't ask why. Just please try it. Also be on the lookout for "tabehoudai" and "nomihoudai" at restaurants. It's all you can eat and all you can drink!

3) Visit Mt. Fuji. It's cliche, but the area surrounding Mt. Fuji is totally beautiful. Little towns like Kawaguchiko all around it make for a vacationer's paradise. In spring, you'll be treated to a cherry blossom view, and in autumn, the changing leaves add another dynamic level to the scenery. This area also has lots of onsen (saunas) and relaxing spots for tourists to visit. Perfect for chilling out after climbing Mt. Fuji.

Q: How about the top three items you can’t leave home without?

A: Camera, smartphone and laptop seem too obvious, so here are some things that are lifesavers on the road.

1) Mophie power stations. What good is a phone if it's dead? HOW WILL YOU GO YOUR INSTAGRAM STORIES? This battery pack has saved my life so many times while working on the road. I recommend forever.

2) Medicine pack. Guys, don't forget your dramamine/advil/antibacterial cream, etc. I have been on trips where I have, and it has sucked.

3) Sunglasses. Invest in a solid pair. Whether protecting your eyes from those killer UV rays or helping you fall asleep on an unfortunately-lit airplane, sunglasses are key. Also, they make you feel super cool (or is that just me?)

Q: Lastly, if you could only pick one – beach, city or mountains, which would it be?

A: I would quickly extricate myself from the situation and point to Vancouver, Canada — beach, city, and mountains all in one! Of course also some of the highest real estate prices in the world, so there's that...

Q: What's your favourite travel photo?

A: Don't make me choose!!! On my trip to Bosnia though I think I got some of my best travel photos so far. Here they are in an article on Why Wait to See the World:

Wanderlust with Mel Hattie

finder's Wanderlust With is a monthly series featuring travellers and bloggers from around the world. Check back every 10th of the month to be inspired for your next journey.

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