Sara McCleary

Featured Travelers

Sara is based in Sydney and the Editor/Founder of Belly Rumbles, one of Australia’s most popular food and travel blogs. She has a background in travel having worked as a manager for one of Sydney’s leading backpacker travel agencies and was the Executive Officer of the Backpacker Operators Association. This saw her working closely with Australian travel industry bodies.

Sara McCleary - Belly Rumbles
Sara McCleary - Belly Rumbles

An enthusiastic home cook, who continually studies cookery to keep her finger on the pulse. Her favorite souvenir when traveling is anything culinary that she can bring back home and experiment with! Sara and her recipes have been featured in many print and electronic publications.

Belly Rumbles is the product of her two loves, food and travel.

Sara with an umbrella
Sara with an umbrella

Want to know more about Sara and his adventures? Read more in our interview below and connect with him here on Backpacker Travel and her Facebook page.

Our Interview with Sara

BT: You combine food and travel, two things we love! If you had to pick one destination that you think will blow a foodie’s mind, where would you choose and why?

Sara: Oh wow, so many places and so much food to choose from!  My ultimate foodie destination is Japan.  It is impossible to be disappointed in the food, I have never had a bad meal.  The care and respect they have for ingredients are amazing and it’s all about local and seasonal.  You may not pick up on it as much in the larger cities like Tokyo, but visit smaller towns and you get an understanding of the passion there is for local and seasonal. Some memorable eats have been soy and mirin wasp larvae, beef nigiri, tiny little-candied crabs, squid jerky, giant sea snails, and oysters the size of my hand.  Of course, you can’t visit Japan and not eat copious sticks of yakitori whilst sitting on a beer crate in an alley, enjoy sashimi prepared by a master or eel if you are lucky to visit when it’s in season.  A must is a visit to the basement of a large department store’s food hall.  Mitsukoshi in Ginza is a great one to visit, it will blow your mind.

Street food stall
Street food stall

BT: What are your favorite travel snacks?

Sara: I love to pick up local snacks of the city/country that I am traveling in.  Snacks you can’t get at home, that’s a big part of the fun of traveling.  You will always find Japanese hard milk candies in my bag or carry-on luggage.   Plus you can never go past a bento box when traveling by train in Japan (see! I am addicted to Japanese food).

Mt Fuji trek
Mt Fuji trek

BT: What is the craziest restaurant experience you have had while traveling?

Sara: I don’t think I have ever had a really crazy restaurant experience.  How boring is that!  There have been amazing meals and bad meals.  Discussions with restaurant staff about the menu using animal sounds and charades, with a side order of interpretive dance.  I’ve had a waitstaff bring all sorts of raw/fresh/still alive products to my table to explain what an ingredient was.  Once a petite waitress hauled a giant gourd, roughly her size, from the kitchen to show me what I was eating.

But there was this one time in Hong Kong when we ordered lobster sashimi.  It was served with the meat of the lobster separated from the shell and sliced to eat between the head and tail on the plate.   The chef and staff all came out to watch our reaction when it was served.  My husband and I were thrilled, but my son was not so and refused to look at it.  The lobster’s eyes and antennae were still moving and twitching away as we ate.  It was the freshest sashimi I have ever had.

Sara and Heston
Sara and Heston

BT: You started as a backpacker! What advice do you have for people new to backpacking?

Sara: Staying in backpacker hostels is one of the best things about backpacking. And no, I’m not talking about shared dorms and snoring roommates. It is all about that wealth of knowledge you can extract from your fellow travelers. Great places to eat, places to avoid, local scams, best photo spots, and hidden gems.

If you have never backpacked before I suggest you do a trial run with a borrowed pack for a week or two before buying your own and heading off on that around-the-world trip. It gives you an idea of what not to take, what it is like living out of a pack, what features you like/dislike, and how heavy they can be. Plus it gives you a taste of the lifestyle so you aren’t in for a rude shock when you head off. Some people are more cut out for backpacking than others.

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