Tackling London’s empathy gap

As we head to London in the wake of the Grenfell Tower inferno, the class divide is heavy on our minds.

In Greek mythology, Chimera was a fire-breathing creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. Today, her name has come to denote anything composed of very different parts: a collection of things that don’t belong together.

It’s a fitting way to describe how I felt after graduating from university. I’ve explained in Checking my privilege and Asian girl, English boy that I had a very simple childhood. My family was poor but so was everyone else’s. My parents were immigrants but so were everyone else’s. There was a uniformity that precluded envy, tension, or confusion about my identity. I was Bangladeshi and I was poor. Hey ho. Continue reading

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The countries we most want to see

Despite our best laid plans, we never made it to Africa last year. With renewed plans to visit the continent after our current trip through Sri Lanka and Burma, we found ourselves in an interesting discussion: if you could see only five countries before you die, which would they be?

This question posed a far trickier dilemma than the countries we least want to see. With so much on offer, we had to be ruthless in our choices.

We didn’t choose countries we have already visited, nor stateless territories (e.g. Antarctica). Two of our countries overlapped (Nepal and Canada) so we each chose one more to make a total of 10. Continue reading

Things my mother said: the gift of bilingualism

Last year, a friend of mine discovered that my parents never learned English despite moving to England in 1969.

He raised a brow in askance. “But you speak it so well,” he said, a cheeky smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as he lampooned those who had oh-so-magnanimously paid me the same compliment in the past.

He, a British-born Asian like me, knew there was no reason for me not to speak English well. After all, I was born, raised and educated in England.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be snarky about the compliment. After all, English is my second language despite the fact that I write, think and dream in it (and only it). Continue reading

Celebrating two years of Atlas & Boots

When we officially launched Atlas & Boots in August 2014, we agreed that it would be a blog for travellers, not a blog for bloggers.

The mechanics of running a site are certainly of interest to a minority of readers, but we wanted to spend our time talking to travellers, not looking inward.

With that said, the two-year mark seems a good time to take stock of where we are, to celebrate our achievements and to look forward to the challenges ahead. Continue reading

I haven’t chosen travel over kids; I just don’t want any

I recently came across a friend’s Facebook status which made me laugh because it echoed conversations with my own family.

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A friend’s Facebook status (posted with permission)

The pressure to settle down comes not just from family but often friends, colleagues and acquaintances too. Sometimes, the nagging is lighthearted. At others, it’s annoying. Occasionally, it’s downright offensive. Continue reading

15 lessons from our trip around the world

I didn’t want to write this post mainly because it’s impossible to do this sort of roundup without sounding wanky. I’m sure there are millions of words already written on the virtues of travel and the wisdom won from life on the road.

I relented because a post like this feels like a natural bookend to our year on the road. We’ll continue to write about our trip and focus on some of the sights we haven’t yet covered, but now feels like a good time to reflect on what we learnt. Here are 15 lessons from our trip around the world. Continue reading

London Bridge at night-time

Hello, London

We’re home.

We bid farewell in August last year. Seventeen countries, four continents, one international date line, and a complete circumnavigation later, we’re home.

Things are different. Boris bikes are red now. The Tories have a majority. And Robert Peston grew hair.

Men seem taller. Women are more glamorous but perhaps I only think this after a year in hiking gear. Heels. God, they feel amazing. Suddenly I’m elegant again. And then of course they hurt but, hell, they’ll get me from Charing Cross to Sagar where I’m meeting friends for dinner. 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.

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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

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8 tips for travelling as a couple

I don’t tend to write about my relationship with Peter. We’ve been charting our year-long trip together but I’ve rarely talked about our relationship itself. As I explained in 7 things I struggled with in my first month on the road, this is partly because I haven’t always been 100% comfortable with publicly sharing our private moments. More importantly, I haven’t felt the need to talk about our relationship. You don’t really when it’s right.

When a relationship is awful, you tell your friends about the drama and you offload your pain. When a relationship is new, you want to tell the world and shout it from your Facebook wall. When a relationship is right, you don’t need to share, scream or shout about it because you have nothing to prove. That in a nutshell is my relationship with Peter. Continue reading

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Why I’m actually happiest travelling with my girlfriend

Okay, so I have to be very careful here. If I miss the mark on this I risk offending all women and marking myself out as a chauvinist pig. On top of that I’ll offend Kia and, trust me, Kia when angry redefines those famous sayings about women scorned.

So here we go.

Travelling with a woman, particularly your girlfriend, is different to travelling alone.

Until I met Kia I really only knew how to travel by myself. Nearly all of my longer jaunts away had been solo. Alone, I could throw caution to the wind and change my plans at the drop of a hat. While we’re on the subject I could wear that hat Kia’s since banned (apparently, it makes me look like Michael Moore). Anyway, the point being I was responsible for me and me alone. Continue reading

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The #1 thing I hate about travel

In some countries it’s not a problem, Switzerland, French Polynesia and South Korea among them. In others it’s practically impossible to get right. I am of course talking about the minefield of tipping. It is without a doubt the number one thing I hate about travelling.

Before you all launch an attack about living wages, let me just explain that I hate tipping not because of the cost but because of the unbearable awkwardness of the whole thing. Continue reading

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5 highs and lows of our trip so far

It’s December 31st, so naturally we thought we’d add to the innumerable end-of-year lists floating around the social sphere. We’ve been asked several times about our best experiences in the South Pacific; the absolute must-dos in this part of the world. After five months on the road, there are so many but if we had to choose, these would be our top five. Of course, it hasn’t all been peachy. To even things out, we’ve added our top five lows as well. Continue reading

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Spending Christmas in Tahiti

Peter turns to me and smiles, feet dangling in the water. “We’re in Tahiti,” he says.

After 40 days in French Polynesia, this little fact still makes us smile, still makes us pause. In theory, Tahiti’s not for the likes of us. Peter is the son of two teachers. I am one of eight siblings raised in London’s worst area for child poverty, the point being: neither of us come from money – not the kind that lets you take a year off and spend Christmas in Tahiti. And yet here we are. Continue reading

Peter and kia street harassment.

What travelling with a man taught me about street harassment

I sat on the stairs of our Airbnb studio and laced up my trainers for my first run since leaving London four months ago. As I tied the bow I absentmindedly thought “I hope I don’t get harassed.”

And then it occurred to me: I hadn’t been harassed for four months and the only reason the thought had crossed my mind was because I automatically associated running with street harassment. Continue reading

greatest myth in travel

The greatest myth in travel

Farhan is 32. He is smart, funny and confident. He talks intelligently and entertainingly on a wide range of subjects from South African politics to Formula 1 championships. He has a job that sends him all around the world, a lovely house in Richmond and a beautiful wife and child. He is, by all measures, a successful product of modern western society.
Continue reading

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Tackling the ‘where are you from originally?’ question

I’ve mentioned before that my indeterminate brown-ness juxtaposed with my British accent tends to confuse people or at best make them rather curious, especially when I’m on the road. The way I see it, I can answer ‘where are you from’ in three ways:

  1. Say London. If probed, give the back-story.
  2. Say London. If probed, feign ignorance and doggedly repeat that I’m from London.
  3. Say London but volunteer the back-story as that’s probably what they’re after anyway.

Continue reading

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The best decision I ever made

I first came across the phrase ‘experienced wellbeing’ in Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. The psychologist and Nobel Prize winner uses it to explain some facts about happiness, the most intriguing of which is that a person’s level of happiness increases with the amount of money they earn – but only up to a household income of $75,000 (£46,000) per year. After that, the increase of wellbeing in relation to increased wealth is, on average, zero. Continue reading

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What not to pack: things we’ve dumped on the road so far

Before we left London, I practised walking with my backpack on for 20 minutes. I just about managed it but it was HEAVY. Add in the searing heat, drenching humidity and uneven terrain of the road, and 20 minutes feels near impossible. Thus, we’ve found ourselves frequently dumping stuff we had deemed necessary mere weeks before. Here’s a list of the offending items in case you’re tempted to make the same mistakes. Continue reading

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6 excruciatingly awkward travel moments

We’re all aware that travel is supposed to be about exploring the globe, meeting amazing people and finding yourself. The web is littered with blog posts about life-changing and eye-opening moments. However, it’s not all heartening tales and romantic anecdotes.

I’ve been around the backpacker’s block and I’ve had several excruciatingly awkward travel moments; the sort of experiences that are so cringeworthy, you just don’t know where to look or what to say. Here’s my list of the top six. Continue reading

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City girl, country boy: camping together for the first time

I’ve always been impressed with Kia when it comes to outdoor adventuring. Ever since our first big trip when we spent a day hiking through the Cambodian jungle beneath torrential downpours, Kia has proved remarkably resilient.

We’ve since hiked to the top of slippery peaks, caved in pitch-black darkness deep underground and waded through icy cold rivers in the highlands and she’s always handled it with grace and mettle. In fact, when it came to skydiving she put me to shame, barely even flinching as she launched herself out of a plane from 12,000 feet. She has certainly earned her stripes, so I figured it was time to put her to the test and go camping together for the first time. And what better place to do it than a tropical beach? Continue reading