Tell us about yourself: who is behind Atlas & Boots?
Atlas & Boots is an outdoor travel blog covering thrilling activities in far-flung places be it swimming with whales in the South Pacific or trekking the great ranges of Asia. Atlas & Boots are Lonely Planet ambassadors, receive over 250,000 visitors per month and have a social following of over 70,000.
We are the founders, photographer Peter Watson and author Kia Abdullah, and we started on opposite ends of the outdoor spectrum. A week after we met, I went off to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro while Kia remained warmly cocooned by her desk as writers prefer to be.
Over the ensuing years, we drew each other towards the middle; to what we describe as outdoorsy-ish.
What is the best thing about travelling all around the world?
We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to turn our passion into a job: we get paid to travel the world. It sounds very glamorous, but the reality is that we do spend extended periods of time sat at our desks working – just like most people. We probably around spend nine months a year in our home office and three months on the road.
The best thing about our lifestyle is that we are our own bosses. We are in control of our time and don’t have to ask permission from anyone to go away. When we are away we do exactly the sort of things we always dreamed of. I dreamed of climbing the seven summits when I was younger and now as part of my job I’m actually working my through them – three down, four to go!
How did everything start?
It all began in 2014 with our first big journey when we decided to stop working for others and work only for ourselves instead. We started with a 36-hour journey from the UK to Vanuatu in the South Pacific. From there, we traced an epic route against the trade winds, visiting Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand, Tahiti, Bora Bora and Hawaii among others before hitting terra firma in South America to explore the continent overland.
To date, we have visited over 80 countries between us.
How has diving & snorkeling changed your life?
When we first left home for a year of travel, back in 2014, we immediately learnt to scuba dive. It was one of the most eye-opening things we’ve ever done. We were lucky to learn off the calm and unspoilt shores of Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga in the South Pacific.
When you travel for a living, it’s easy to take things like diving as par for the course; as just another cool experience in a long line of cool experiences. But it’s not par for the course. It’s absolutely incredible.
We love diving because it physically takes us from our world and plants us in another where complacency is almost impossible. It is a privilege – one that cannot be taken for granted.
Additionally, there is a collective calm among divers. Most people dive in a group of strangers and while we can’t talk to each other underwater, we all have a mutual responsibility towards each other. Everyone’s thoughts and actions are slow and considered, their mental attitude deliberately calm. That kind of fine-tuned serenity is almost impossible to find in everyday life.
Tell us about the most amazing experiences underwater.
We’ve had so many amazing experiences underwater, but we’ll condense them down into our top five:
- Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga
- Diving in the Galápagos Islands
- Swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti
- Diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
- Diving the airplane wrecks in Aruba
Why OCEAN REEF?
When we swam with whale sharks in Djibouti, other people on the trip had full-face snorkelling masks. While we struggled with our traditional-style equipment in choppy conditions, they carried on serenely enjoying their time with these magnificent creatures. We were envious to say the least.
When we were in the Great Barrier Reef a year later, we borrowed some OCEAN REEF full-face snorkelling masks during a boat trip. Kia, not naturally a water baby, has always struggled with getting a mask to fit, but had no problems with the full-face mask. It is so much easier breathing through your nose and the 180° panoramic views are literallyeye opening.
We decided then and there that for our next underwater trip we wanted to make sure we had better masks, which was when we reached out to OCEAN REEF. They proved a game-changer in the Caribbean. We snorkelled several times and in various conditions and never once had to worry about our equipment. Vision is outstanding, breathing is easy, the masks and snorkel do not let any water in and there is no mouth cramp. We won’t ever go back.