Monday, 30 July 2012

The United Kingdom of Great Britain - A Guide...

Britain! (source -

This brilliant guide to the character and unique features of the British Isles, designed ostensibly for those visiting Blighty for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, offers a real insight into my country.  We have our problems, but I think any Brit will find comfort and a knowing laughter in much of what is written in the link below.  So, for those travellers intending to visit these fair isles, get in on this insider guide to your next trip to The United Kingdom of Great Britain!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A tribute to...Ελλάς, Ελλάδα, Greece!

Kefalonia - One of my favourite places in Greece (photo - GreekCarHire)
One of my favourite countries to travel to is Greece.  Being a quarter Greek, I feel the need to promote the home of my Grandma; a woman who would tell me with great pride that, "everything comes from Greece!".  I've been lucky enough to visit several of the islands and intend one day to visit the amazing cluster of islands in the Cyclades that includes Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and Santorini.  Until that day, I thought I would share these beautiful photos of Greece from the BBC website (click the link below).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Absolutely Phenomenal!

Gunter and his wife, Christine, with their trusty steed 'Otto'! (Source -

Check out the link below to see the 23 years travel (and he's still going) of Gunther Holtorf (and his late wife) in their Mercedes 4x4.  Truly inspiring!

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Battleplan!

Drawing on maps = uber organisation! (Source - The Art of Audacity)

I am tragic!  Completely and utterly sad when it comes to travelling; particularly when it comes to the planning of a trip.  I absolutely love it!  From the initial thought to the booking and organisation required, I am in my freakin' element.  To start, I usually have in my mind an idea of where I am thinking of going - as I scan my mental 'bucket list' of places I am keen to visit.  I then spend ages agonising about going...Can I afford it?  Is it a good place to visit?  Will I enjoy myself?  Will I meet people?  Along with other such important questions such as, will my prize orchid wither and die during my long weekend away?  Or, should I stay at home and finally tidy the garage?  These tricky questions are usually run roughshod by part two of the process...

...the discovery of a cheap flight!  This is often the driving force behind most of my cheap it is to get there.  I've mentioned before my tightwad, Yorkshire genetics and I want value for money on my trips, so spotting a flight on days I am available to travel and at a price that suits, sends my brain and credit card into overdrive.  I can heartily recommend the following well known websites in the hunt for that elusive cheap flight -,, and  I wouldn't neglect a quick price check on the airline's own website either, as they can sometimes offer the best price.

A quick side note on cashback/points collection websites.  These can provide you with even further savings on your flight purchases as well as for airport parking, travel insurance, accommodation booking and travel currency.  I tend to favour and

Once you are happy with your price, it's then all about research.  You will have already done some preliminary research into your destination to get an idea if the place(s) you want to visit are to your liking.  This is now the time for more in-depth research.  Read around the forums such as Lonely Planet's excellent Thorn Tree Forum ( for information on things to see, do and eat; including all the things you might want to not see, do or eat too.  Simple Google searches, on your destination, should come up with some excellent information from travellers who have visited and that are also intending to visit.

One final great source of information, I find, can be friends and family members.  These people can act as 'testers' for your future travel with some top-notch recommendations and their knowledge could be of great help in avoiding sticky travel situations and smooth your journey.  My cousin's photos of her visit to Cambodia from Thailand were of great use to me during my visit.  Having remembered what the border at Aranyaprathet/Poipet looked like from her Facebook pictures, I was able to avoid being scammed by a group of dodgy Thai men who claimed their wooden shack (200 metres from the official border) was in fact the border and that they knew Britain well; where they proceeded to do Del Boy (from 'Only Fools and Horses') impressions, "luverly jubbly, guv'nor!"  Their 'official' visa for Cambodia was three times the $20 I paid at the official border.  Thankfully, I stood my ground and the tuk tuk, eventually ferried me to the official border before whizzing off to collect its next unwitting tourist from the bus station!

And there you have, a solid beginning to your next trip.

If you have any top tips for travel planning, please feel free to share in the comments below.

Safe travels!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Top Tips for Solo Travel...

MikeW going solo in Vilnius, Lithuania

Solo travel can be daunting.  I read comments on forums laced with panic from people who are about to venture on trips to South East Asia and South America all on their lonesome.  I was like that...and, to some extent can feel like that now when I travel solo (see my previous post 'Butterflies...').  I want to calm nerves, the soothing balm on your upcoming travel adventure; whether that be a week touring Eastern Europe or a year round the world.  To help me out, I canvassed the opinion of the very knowledgeable travellers who use the excellent Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum on this issue and along with some of my own experiences of solo travel, I have pulled together five hints and tips to make your solo trip not only an enjoyable one, but a very memorable one too.

1. Throw Yourself Into the Mix!
One of the scariest elements of solo travel is just that, you are solo, on your own in a place where not a single soul knows who you are.  The arrival into the hostel can be a scary are faced with a group of strangers, who have probably already bonded over the local speciality window cleaner flavoured liquor and who tell tales of wonderful things they have seen that day.  See this as an opportunity.  Be proactive and get stuck in!  Thrust your hand out, say 'Hello!  I'm [insert your name here]!' and take it from there.  I have ALWAYS had positive experiences from doing this while travelling.  Besides, the solo traveller has an advantage thanks to the fact that you are more approachable than a pair or group of travellers; most of whom will comment on how brave you are at venturing off alone.

2. Oh, So Lonely!
First, the bad news...there are going to be lonely moments when you travel.  There is no escaping it, I am afraid.  You are going to be looking out over a beach in Thailand and your thoughts will suddenly turn to home, family, friends, your pet rabbit Fluffykins and wish you were back on home soil or that all your loved ones were with you, sharing your Pad Thai.  You should be congratulated for having taken the big leap to travel alone, but to avoid bouts of loneliness you are going to need to muster up some more courage and more of that proactivity I mentioned above.  To make it easier, I highly recommend you follow the established backpacker routes for your first trip.  My first solo trip (detailed in my post 'My First Time') took in the well-trodden backpacker trails of the Australian East Coast (from Sydney to Cairns) and both the North and South Islands of New Zealand.  I met so many people, it verged on the ridiculous!  Some of the people I met on this trip have become firm friends...and provided me with great weekends away in sunny foreign climes such as Ireland and the Netherlands after I returned from my travels!  Look at your loneliness as an advantage - a moment of solitude, peace and harmony in what will be a trip where your interaction with people will almost certainly come and go as you progress through your journey.  Savour the times you have with the new friends and acquaintances you meet on the road, but also savour those times you get to reflect on the great time you are having travelling.

"You're on top tonight, Ingrid?!" (Photo -

3. Hitting the Sack...
Choose your bed for the night carefully, solo traveller!  I agree with the views of the Thorn Tree folk on this aspect of solo travel, stay in hostels.  They offer the easiest way to meet people and allow you to tailor your travel to your backpacker needs and budget.  If you are a party animal, definitely book yourself into one of the many party hostels out there.  If there is a lairy, drunken, lobster tan Brit in the picture on the hostel's website or Hostelworld/Hostelbooker's page, it is a party hostel.  If they recycle the rainwater for showers, knit the yoghurt and offer muesli (aka 'sawdust') for breakfast, you are booking yourself into a more laidback kind of place, that for someone of my age and liver capacity will, I think, provide the solo traveller with a good place to stay and the chance to meet other like-minded folk; unless, of course, your kind of like-minded folk are necking back eleven vodka Red Bulls with a Jagermeister chaser in their luridly painted hostel in quick succession!  One other thing...I loved this (very accurate) tip from one poster on the Thorn Tree, "be nice to everyone you meet in hostels as there is a good chance you will bump into them later on."  You will be surprised how many people you meet and then see again...and again...and again as you venture on your journey.

4. Embrace the Weird!
Another cast iron are going to meet some seriously 'interesting' people on your travels.  Do not be afraid...most do not bite and offer you a whole host of fantastic stories for your new hostel friends and at your welcome home parties back in your motherland!  Just make sure you have an exit strategy if it looks to be getting dangerous or emotionally trying.  For the latter, I can recommend, "I need the toilet!" - a place you can hide and update your Twitter and Facebook statuses with your scary/weird experience and make your friends back home howl at your travel capers.  My Aussie weirdo experiences are to be detailed in a future this space!

5. Enjoy the Flexibility...
You are a solo traveller.  This is a brilliant thing.  If you choose to, you do not have to discuss your itinerary for the day with anyone.  You can do whatever you please (with reason) and go wherever you want (within reason).  That fork in the is up to you!  That ice cream or piece of is up to you...why not have both; after all you are Master/Mistress of your own travelling destiny!  Enjoy this positive aspect of your trip!

Overall, rather than see travelling solo as a negative, I always tend to view it in a more positive slant.  I figure, that I am here, albeit alone...but I am going to make the most of it.  Of course, it would be great to be here with a loved one or friends, but most of all it is important you have a fulfilling travel experience without feeling wracked by loneliness or the feeling that you cannot enjoy what the world lays before you without having someone to share it with.

I'll leave you with one final tip a colleague gave me when I left a job a few years back.  It might help you in a hostel situation - "don't sweat the petty things and certainly don't pet the sweaty things!"

Safe travels and Enjoy!