Asian girl, English boy: what we learned from DNA testing

Ahead of our trip to Asia this year, we turned to 23andMe for some home truths about our roots.

I never felt exotic growing up. I was one of eight Bangladeshi children in a street full of Bangladeshi residents in an area full of Bangladeshi immigrants.

In my home borough of Tower Hamlets, Bangladeshis account for almost one third of the population – considerably larger than the proportion across London (3%) or England (<1%). In fact, Tower Hamlets has the largest Bangladeshi population in the whole of England.

As an adult, I went to work at places like Accenture (where I met zero Bangladeshis) and Penguin Random House (where I met zero Bangladeshis) before packing it all in to travel the world (where I met zero Bangladeshis). Suddenly, I found that people were exceedingly interested in my roots. Suddenly, being Bangladeshi was a point of curiosity, a topic of conversation. Continue reading

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Happiest countries in the world 2017

The happiest countries in the world have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. Norway has snatched the title, jumping up from 4th last year and knocking Denmark into second place.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations, has just published this year’s World Happiness Report. The SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing and produce a comprehensive annual list of the happiest countries in the world.

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The world is not getting better

Life for humans may be improving but what about everything else that shares our planet?

In trying times, social media users tend to share think pieces, charts and graphics proving that humanity has never had it so good.

These graphics focus on the growth of lovely things like basic education, literacy, democracy and vaccination, and the decline of awful things like extreme poverty and child mortality.

The charts are often accompanied by pithy captions like “awesome proof that humanity hasn’t actually botched it.” Continue reading

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12 of Earth’s most remote places and communities

Whether it’s astronomical distances, inhospitable climates or extreme terrains that define these remote and hostile lands, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re on my bucket list. That and the fact that people live there.

It’s highly unlikely I’ll actually make it to many (if any) of these far-flung desolate realms, but I salute the hardcore residents who carve out an existence in the most remote places and communities on Earth. Continue reading

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World’s best countries for women – updated for 2016

The best countries for women in terms of gender equality have been announced by The World Economic Forum in the new edition of its annual Global Gender Gap report.

The 2016 report assesses 144 economies on how well they utilise the female workforce in their country based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators. The report can be used as an objective analysis of women’s quality of life and to thereby rank the world’s best countries for women with regards to business, politics, education and health. Continue reading

travel mysteries

7 great travel mysteries from around the world

If there’s one thing I enjoy more than a good adventure yarn, it’s a good adventure yarn with a mysterious ending. Here are some of my favourite travel mysteries from around the world (and one from  outside of it).

1. The Abandoned Mary Celeste

This now infamous ship was sighted on 4 December 1872 near the Azores on course for Gibraltar. The crew of the Dei Gratia, another vessel following a similar course, spotted the ship through a spyglass, noting that it was sailing “erratically, yawing slightly and her sails were torn”. As the Dei Gratia approached the eerily empty ship, its crew saw that there was no one at the helm or even on deck. The ship was taking on water but still seaworthy. Continue reading

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12 maps that changed our world view

There are few things that evoke the romanticism of adventure quite like a map – especially old maps. Full of exotic names (Persia, Abyssinia, Rhodesia!) and olde worlde lettering, they are reminiscent of a time when men sacrificed their lives for adventure and exploration. Maps ignite hopes and inspire dreams. They encourage one to sail away from the safe harbour and, in the words of Mark Twain, to explore, to dream, to discover.

In ode of this great instrument of adventure, we run through 12 maps that changed our world view starting where else but Greece?
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10 epic journeys of discovery

Humans are an intrepid race. For centuries, explorers have disappeared over the horizon in search of new lands and distant shores on epic journeys of discovery. Thanks to these pioneers we’re able to follow in their footsteps now and forevermore.

As a new generation of visionaries – from SpaceX’s Elon Musk to Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson – look forward to new frontiers, we cast an eye back and pay homage to history’s most epic endeavours thus far. Continue reading

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4 heartwarming travel tales

1. How a mother lost in travel chaos was found

Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled, begins Agnes Mwangale’s tale of travel. It was 6pm on 15th April 2010 and she had just arrived at Toronto airport. As she scanned the arrivals board, her stomach churned and she realised that everything would not be okay – despite the promise she had made her mother. Continue reading

World’s most stressed countries – ranked

It happened on a Wednesday morning. The Sandwich Man – dressed in a red T-shirt with white lettering – rode past me on his bicycle on the same stretch of the same road at the same time as the day before. I watched him roll by in a sobering moment that recalled all the horror of the five-day commute: the cyclical days, the tussling masses, the dull ebbing of a scripted month.

It took great effort to remind myself that my city, London, is in one of the safest countries in the world. More relevantly, it’s also in one of the least stressed countries in the world according to Bloomberg. We take a look at the data below.
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12 most common expat problems

Over the course of the past year, we have used our expat survey to gather advice for expats and their loved ones, most popularly 8 tips to know before you go and 6 things not to say to an expat.  Here, we list the 12 most common expat problems based on InterNations’ broader Expat Insider survey.

The respondents – 14,000 of 1.9 million InterNations members worldwide – named problems that fell broadly into three main problem areas: relationships, money and culture shock. We discuss these themes below before taking a look at the 12 problems themselves. 
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world's most urban countries

Concrete jungles: the world’s most urban countries

City life is stressful. It presses on our weary bones, wafts through windows on pungent fumes and boxes up our personal space. It affects our mental health and, according to a 2011 study by neuroscientist Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, increases the risk of mood and anxiety disorders including depression and schizophrenia. The specific causes of city stress are unconfirmed but it’s likely we can safely assume a mix of toxins, pollutants, noise and social behaviours unique to cities. Continue reading

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10 types of expats: which one are you?

“¿Por qué Uruguay?” I asked the Armenian restaurateur why he had moved to Montevideo.

He winked at me and smiled. “Por amor.”

Clearly, he was a ‘Romantic’ as defined by InterNations in their second annual Expat Insider survey, updated for 2015. The expat organisation surveyed 14,000 of its 1.8 million members from around the world to assess the living situations and wellbeing of expatriates. With this wealth of quantitative and qualitative data, they defined 10 specific types of expats as shown in the infographic below. Continue reading

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50 inspirational travel quotes

We’ve collated our 50 favourite inspirational travel quotes which have helped encourage us to travel with abandon over the years. Maybe they will do the same for you… 

When I first went travelling at 21 years old my father gave me this inspirational travel quote scribbled on a piece of card.

inspirational travel quotes

Today, 10 years and over 60 countries later, it’s still in my wallet. Despite its tattered and dishevelled appearance it’s every bit as important to me now as it was then. It motivated me to get out and see the world and it remains one of the most inspirational travel quotes I know. Continue reading

10 lessons from ‘the world’s poorest president’

I’ve always had a very specific idea about Uruguay. Crouched deep in the belly of the continent, it was in my mind an expansive plain of rolling hills, laconic gauchos astride thoroughbred horses and tall blades of grass bristling in the sun.

I’m sure my version of Uruguay exists somewhere but the one I found was vastly different. Instead of a South American Arcadia, I found a modern country with liberal views and impressively progressive laws. Uruguay was the first South American country to legalise same-sex civil union at a national level and the second country after Cuba to legalise abortion. It has no official religion and has renamed many of its traditional Catholic holidays: Christmas is Día de la Familia (Day of the Family) and Holy Week is now Semana de Turismo (Tourism Week). Continue reading

24 interesting facts about the world’s least known countries

This is a subjective topic I know. What counts as an interesting fact? What counts as one of the world’s least known countries? There is no scientific answer but when this question was posed on Q&A site Quora, it certainly threw up some noteworthy particulars about some of the more obscure sovereign and not-so-sovereign states of the world. Below I’ve picked out some of the most interesting. Continue reading

6 characteristics that define human nature

As we hiked across Isla Del Sol in Bolivia, I wondered aloud how many animals walk for pleasure; not to hunt or feed, not to find shelter or warmth, but to enjoy the act of walking itself. It led me to wonder what other characteristics are unique or largely restricted to humans alone. This in turn led me to an old issue of New Scientist magazine and a fascinating set of articles on the six things all humans do. Some are obvious, some are amusing. All trigger a flush of recognition and a sense of belonging. Continue reading

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6 things not to say to an expat

As part of Internations’ Culture Shock questionnaire, people were asked to share what one thing they were tired of hearing from people, either in their old country or new one  and share they did. Here’s a list of recurring themes in words directly from the mouths of expats. If you have an expat friend or family member, you may want to refrain…

“You’re so lucky”

Yes, we understand that we’re in a sunnier country with friendlier people and better job opportunities, but reiterating how ‘lucky’ we are implies that courage, hard work and tenacity played no part. If you want to live where we live, you can but you choose not to. That’s not because you’re unlucky; it’s a choice you have made, just like my new country is a choice I’ve made. Continue reading