When a woman can list this as her occupation: “I have been working on super yachts and sail boats for about 6 years on and off,” you know she’s something special. With a sense of humor that shines all the way through her interview and provides many insights into sailing the open seas. Just wait until you read her most memorable moment (hint: think crocodiles and homemade wakeboards!)
Meet Kirsty Mullahy of Brighton England. She’s a woman with more round the world adventures than any TCC member could ever dream of.
First moving to Saudi Arabia with her parents at just one year old, she lived there for seven years before moving to Muscat in Oman for five more.
At the age of eleven, her family returned to the UK and continued to go around the world on ‘amazing holidays. I was very lucky to have had this upbringing.’
As an adult, her first trip was to Ibiza for a week. She returned to the same Mediterranean Island the following year and ended up staying for the whole season. As she describes, ‘This just shows I am not happy with a holiday. I want to know a place. My first big solo trip was to Malaysia Thailand and then on to New Zealand and Australia. I loved the culture change in Asia and was a little bored when everyone spoke English in New Zealand.’
She’s a lady up for a challenge.
Nowadays, she fulfills this challenge-based diet by traveling on a yacht, of all things.
Her favorite spot? Fiji
The top of her bucket list? Gulmarg in Northern Kashmir – to go snowboarding in the Himalayas.
From there? “I must go to South America I can’t believe I haven’t been there yet, as I love to dance, so will try to get there at some point.”
Here, she answers several questions with spunk and flare, and will definitely leave you wanting to know more! Feel free to email her at email@example.com and stay tuned as she relaunches her website: The Gypsy Journals.
MM: Why is Fiji your favorite travel destination?
KM: I love being in the water and this archipelago of islands is all about water sports. Surfing, kiting, paddle boarding,sailing, free diving. You name it, it’s being done. People live there to indulge in the sports they love and I love that- retirees on their boats just loving the lifestyle. The locals have had to fight to keep their way of life, but remain with great big smiles. Turquoise waters, music and living off what they have is very different to most of the places I have spent time in before.
MM: As for a recommended travel destination for other females? She insists Borneo is the place, and has even written an itinerary for readers!
KM: Fly into Kuala Lumpur and spend some time in this awesome city that has some great hostels to stay in plus street food to die for. Then take a short flight over to Borneo. See Kota Kinabalu then travel into the jungle to a wonderful tracking centre called Uncle Tan’s.
Your first stop is the Orangutang sanctuary in Sepilok, then off in a bus for a few bumpy hours until you are transferred to long boats and off you head up the river.
It really feels like you are heading deep into the depth of the jungle with the noises of monkeys and birds as the long boats whizz you to the jungle camp.
Listen to the friendly staff who will explain how not to let monkeys get in your packs and how to keep centipedes out of our clothes!! I had the privilege to see so many animals on my trip there, as well as the best scuba diving I have ever done. Try it out!
There is an island called Sipidan where again you can see a huge selection of large fish and turtles as well as visit a wreck. There was also a mountain to climb but unfortunately I had no time left. I’ve been informed that it was worth the early start.
I would recommend Borneo to all adventurous women out there.
MM: Her advice to other female travelers?
KM: I grew up in the middle East so my advice is to always know about the country you are going to and understand the local culture. For example, will you need to cover up, wear trousers and a shirt? Getting this wrong you can attract the wrong type of attention, I do believe covering up most of the time when moving around is best and later find a beach to strip off on. Be street smart. Don’t lose that just because you are on holiday. Keep your head.
MM: What destination is on your radar? What about it attracts you?
KM: South America is calling. I haven’t been there before and would really like to do some sailing in the area. I love to dance and want to see how much freer they are then the stiff upper lip English. I don’t want to always be the first on the dance floor. Dancing grandmothers and spicy food sounds brilliant. ha ha Maybe it would be too much for me because everywhere I go I tend to end up with a Brazilian lover!!
MM: Have you travelled alone? If so, how did you find the experience? What were the highs or the lows? Anything you would recommend for others looking to travel alone for the first time?
KM: I always travel alone and have only travelled alone so just go where you want but don’t get too drunk until you know your way home.
Highs for me: At the beginning it was the first time I felt free, being offered a job in New Zealand and realizing that I did not have to ask anyone’s permission. I had a long term boyfriend for 7 years before I stepped out on my own so it was amazing to just make the decision take the job.
Lows: when I was conned by some women in Malaysia, taking me to their house then I was forced to gamble, robbed and held at knife point. It was scary realizing that no one knew exactly where I was and anything could have happened. Luckily I managed to get away. This actually happened because I was staying in a hotel and not a hostel meaning I was on my own so a walking target. Hostels mean that you meet people so you’re not walking around cities on your own. Instead, you meet people and can invite them to join you sightseeing. Knowing where you are going or at least looking like you do, the way you dress and not having thousands of pounds of gadgets on you are all good points in the cities around the world.
MM: What type of traveler are you? Budget? Luxury? Adventurous?
KM: Most of the time budget but every now and then I will splash out on luxury. But always adventurous!!
MM: Any thoughts about relationships and travel? Relationships can mean with friends, family, romantic – anything!
KM: My job has made having a partner difficult so have been single for a while but I did have a boyfriend I went skiing with and we visited some amazing places: France, Australia, Japan and even Thailand. I realized that it is easier in a team but alas it was not to last. I miss my family of course and my friends. I miss all the weddings and birthdays but they forgive me as what else can they do.
I really do try to come home and make a go of it but something in me just won’t let me rest. I feel like I have to keep going. That I have not done whatever it was I am meant to do. I meet lots of amazing guys along the way but I don’t want to stop. When working with people on a yacht it can cause problems if personalities clash or others believe you are not fit to do your job. I have worked with amazing crews and terrible ones, one where the captain just had no idea what he was doing and that was really trying. I tend to just stop talking as it is easier but maybe not always the best way to react. I think that working on boats for a while has made me realize that tackling situations head on and discussing them can make situations better.
MM: What is your most memorable travel moment?
KM: Wake boarding on three planks of wood nailed together in the jungle in Borneo. No one thought I would get up as it was difficult so I had to prove them wrong. It was only after that I was informed of the famous man eating crocodiles in those waters!!
I started working on boats and was told I could make enough money there so I wouldn’t have to work in the winter and could just snowboard. Well I then headed to Antibes in the south of France and started putting myself out there looking for work on the super yachts. I started as a Deckhand/Stewardess and that meant I had to clean inside and out. It was hard work and not the best crew. I soldiered on and season after season would head back to Antibes to work my tits off for the summer. I worked only on motor boats at the beginning and so didn’t get it until I went to Canada and worked on a beautiful sail boat and then I got it. I had one of those amazing travel moments with me first time on the Helm (steering wheel) in the Caribbean looking hot in my bikini!! It was great and since then I mainly worked on sail boats of all sizes. Unfortunately I am quite a good cook so have been in the Galley (boat kitchen) instead of out on deck using my other skills. I allowed this sexism to get me down and keep me in the galley for a while, but no more. I am heading off to Fiji to stay on a friends 45ft sail boat and we are just going to sail surf dive swim and really live on a boat. When you are on a 25m yacht it is not a free existence it is uptight and stressful because of the owners or the time schedule or the fact that everything can and will break. But now I am going to just be me on a boat.
If you want to sail you need to volunteer and start doing short trips to make sure you don’t get sick, then learn about the rigging and being useful on deck, I am going to learn to sail lazers and hobby cats single handed then I will have the foundation to understand the way the wind affects the sail and rig. I have done thousands of sea miles by doing one of the hardest jobs, cooking in a hot rough boat is not easy, so now I am going to get my confidence up and go for my yacht master qualification. You need to get some experience and then you can boat hitch hick around the world, there are website to link you to boat owners and captains. I do keep reading posts about people working on super yachts and I want to let everyone know that it is a heartless industry that is meant to promise loads of money, but in truth it just kills a small part of your soul. It is not worth it, I am too important. So sailing it is, with or without the big paychecks.
MM: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
KM: I was once stood on an island called Sarong in Indonesia waiting for a boat to come and pick me up. As I walked on to the Jetty all the locals turned and looked at me. I must have looked very odd: a ginger freckly green eyed girl with a guitar on her back all alone, just standing on the dock. All the local guys kept picking up my suit case and trying to put it on the ferry to which I had to keep saying no, but could not explain further as my Indonesian is limited to ‘thank you’ ‘please’ and ‘yes.’ They were very confused then a larger crowd gathered around me getting bigger and bigger.
I then felt uncomfortable and was not sure what to do. I took a deep breath and looked around at the faces in front of me. Then I told myself off because these people were not going to hurt me they were totally bemused by me, how unusual I looked and why was I there?? A sarong is not your normal island outfit. So I stood tall and waited for the tender to arrive. My point is that your attitude can determine the out come at times, like this yes there are dangerous people in the world but not really that many not that I have come across. I have had many different travel experiences either through my snowboarding or sailing and have been lucky enough to see places most people don’t even know about never mind think of visiting.
I am not about to stop either as there are still so many places to see.
Really, what can I say? Wow! You have an incredible spirit that mixes confidence and fearlessness with a great sense of strength and awareness. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kirsty! And please keep us posted on future adventures!
xx-Anika (Miss Maps)