It’s time, again, for one of my favorite segments I do on this blog: Wonder Woman of the Month.
This month I interviewed the lovely Sian Howell, a world traveller, women’s rights advocate, and former plus size fashion blogger.
Keep reading for her story!
Tell my readers a little about yourself.
I’m Sian, 28 and I live in Dublin, Ireland
I like to travel around the world (current goal is to get to 50 countries, before I’m 30 – I’m at 34 now!)
I know you used to be a fashion blogger (that’s how I originally found you), but you aren’t doing that anymore. Why did you stop?
I started my fashion blog in late 2012 when I felt that plus size girls were excluded from mainstream media, and wanted change that. I always had a keen eye for fashion and it just went from there. I really, really enjoyed blogging, but my interests changed. I took my first solo trip, I changed careers and ultimately the love I had for blogging about fashion changed. There was no big revelation, no turning point or anything. I kept saying I was coming back, but ultimately my heart wasn’t in it anymore, and I didn’t want to do something half-arsed! I do miss writing and curating posts though – although I’m in the middle of starting up a travel blog – watch this space!
Was the transition to being a travel blogger hard, or did it feel more natural to you?
I did find it hard. There’s a huge competition, but what I’m trying to focus on is budget travel tips and doing cities and trips on the cheap!
You have really good tips for being able to “travel the world”. Are they all ones you’ve picked up on your own travels or did you learn them from someone or a bit of both? What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to someone wanting to travel internationally?
To be honest it’s a bit of both! You definitely learn a lot along the way. You get scammed by an over-priced taxi, you get ripped off by a mediocre meal, you’re overcharged for a train ticket from the airport – it’s all a learning curve and you don’t make the same mistakes again!
My biggest advice is to have an open mind. Don’t judge a place on first impressions. Go to local restaurants (they often look like you shouldn’t be eating there!), walk around the city – it’s the best way to see the culture!
Where’s your favorite place you’ve travelled so far? What’s still on your list?
Now that’s the million dollar question – I don’t know, so I’ll narrow it down!
Best Food: Thailand | Rome
Best City: Venice | London | New York | Barcelona
Best Beaches: Australia
Best Music: New Orleans
Best Shopping: Dubai | Orlando
Best Scenery: South East Asia | Ireland
Best for Outdoor Activities: New Zealand
I do want to go to (in no particular order): Russia, India, Mongolia, Nepal, China, Japan and South and Central America!
You always hear cautionary tales about females travelling to “foreign” countries alone; has that affected how you travel or think about your travels? Do you feel like you do things differently because of it?
I don’t really think about it too much to be honest. I do however always take precautions! I trust my gut, I book accommodation in advance. I have a rough idea of where I’m going and someone always knows too. I generally don’t do anything that I wouldn’t be doing at home as a rule of thumb!
When you go to other places and people discover you’re Irish, how do they react?
They automatically assume I’m a huge drinker! I can go weeks without drinking, and I’m actually considering going teetotal! I was in New Orleans for St Patrick’s Day last year. We went into a bar and I ordered a Diet Coke. The barman looked at me funny; asked was I a member of AA, I replied no. He then asks if I’m driving, I replied no. He then laughs and said “Please tell me you’re pregnant then, as that’s the only excuse not to drink”. I took the Diet Coke replied in Irish and he didn’t get any tip.
What are some common misconceptions you’ve noticed that people have about Ireland and the Irish in general?
Mainly the above – we’re portrayed as being raging alcoholics and everywhere I go people assume I can drink them under the table (spoiler: I can’t!) We are known for our friendliness, which is great, and true!
Recently there was a vote in Ireland to lift the ban on abortions. It was obviously a massive issue there, but it had the whole world watching, too. You have always been a supporter of women’s rights and were vocal about voting to repeal the ban. What was it like for you leading up to the vote?
It was difficult – very difficult. It was everywhere you looked. The posters were on every lamppost, it dominated every Facebook and Twitter article. T.V was the same. It was a divisive and highly emotive issue. Everyone has an opinion on it and it was tiring listening to people who were clearly uneducated on the matter – and had no desire to read facts or listen to other people’s stories.
It was extremely hard to not think about the referendum. The end of March, start of April, I decided to get involved with my local Together4Yes group. The vote was May 25th, and I believed every single conversation counted and I felt I had to go something – I couldn’t sit back and just cross my fingers. I canvassed my local area, and I was always uplifted with the response. I was acutely aware however, that I lived in a very liberal constituency. We were extremely worried about the silent No voters.
When it was announced that the ban had been repealed, what was your reaction and the general reaction of those around you?
I declined a few invitations to go out the night of the referendum as I knew the opinion polls would be revealed about 10 pm. At 10 pm it was done, and there was nothing more I could do and I suppose I had a sense of relief that it was over – whatever the outcome. There was two opinion polls conducted. One with The Irish Times Newspaper at 10 pm and one at 11.30 pm with RTE – our national Television broadcaster.
I was browsing Facebook just after 10 pm and the Irish Times popped up on my Facebook feed and I saw “Landslide in favour of Yes – 68% vote YES” and I just burst into tears. All the anger, frustration and fear that had been building up over the past number of weeks just came out. I wasn’t able to believe it yet. I wanted confirmation of another opinion poll – knowing that they’ve a history of being inaccurate (Brexit & Trump). The next opinion poll was 69% and then I truly believed in my heart it was over – we had won. We had been so worried about the silent No voters, we didn’t even think about the silent Yes.
I slept properly for the first time in weeks that night, my heart full – knowing that in the morning I’d wake up to a new Ireland.
In response to the reaction from people around me, I generally try to surround myself with like-minded people, and I’m lucky that all my family (and extended family) supported Repeal the 8th, and a lot of my close friends were also extremely passionate about the removal of the 8th amendment. A few of us went to Dublin Castle for the official results, and the atmosphere was electric. The No side called us “Disgusting for celebrating abortion”, but for me this wasn’t an abortion issue – it was a women’s rights one. I was celebrating having bodily autonomy, I was celebrating the state moving away from the Catholic Church, and I was celebrating finally being free.
The official result was 66.4% – an extremely high result for a referendum. Nearly every single county in Ireland voted in favour of repeal – with only one conservative county voting No (at 52%).
I know your dad is a supporter of women’s rights and of you; how was his reaction? Has he always been an ally? If so, how do you think that shaped your ideals and opinions about the issues?
My Dad is where I get my fiery streak from, but I’m grateful for it. Here’s always been a fierce advocate for women’s rights. He voted against the 8th Amendment in the first place. He’s always taught me not to judge people and this was a core reason why I am pro-life. He’s always great with advice too. A week before the referendum I had a bit of a meltdown (shouting at the TV) and was so angry I just went to bed. On my commute to work the next day I got a text from my Dad saying “I’m very proud of you for the stance you’re taking. There’s one week left. Now is not the time to get angry, now is the time to get working.” and those words are going to stick with me forever.
Supporting other women and giving each other a voice is something that is evidently important to you. Why is that?
I truly believe there’s strength in numbers! But It’s something I never actively thought about. For as long as I remember I’ve been a huge supporter of women.
What female, past or present, inspires you most?
That’s a hard question! I suppose this changes all the time. But in lieu of what I’ve been talking about I’d have to say each and every one of the brave women of Ireland who have been campaigning for the removal of the 8th amendment. These women did it when it was dangerous to do so and they didn’t stop and the women of Ireland owe their reproductive freedom to these women.
A huge thank you to Sian for taking time out of her busy week to answer all my questions. Now maybe you can get an idea of why I’ve followed her for so long. You can find her over on her Instagram account here.
To read my other Wonder Woman posts, just click on the “Wonder Woman of the Month” tag.