buses in Samoa

Pimp my bus ride: Samoan buses are a unique experience

Samoan buses are uncomfortable, noisy and won’t run on time. But that’s the fun of it! Even if you have nowhere to go in Samoa, take a bus somewhere. 

We wanted to get out of Apia and head to the south coast. We’d heard the waters were incredible and there were some great natural sights to see. Taxis are expensive and as we are on a budget the bus was the answer. We’ve taken plenty of buses across the Pacific islands now, but this one was a little bit different. Continue reading

reasons-to-travel-slowly

5 reasons to travel slowly

“We should do something,” said Kia, squinting in the sunlight.
“Like what?”
“I think there’s white water rafting close by. Or maybe ziplining.”
“Yeah,” I said, lying back. “Yeah, we should.”
“We should,” she repeated and then, with a leisurely yawn, fell back on her beach towel.

If our first month in Vanuatu was allegro, then Fiji has been more andante but really who can blame us? Fiji’s outer islands (which include the sets of Castaway and Blue Lagoon) are some of the most beautiful in world. In fact, the ‘garden island’ of Taveuni might just be the most picturesque island I’ve ever seen. Continue reading

awkward-travel-moments

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

Leaving-the-teaching-profession

Leaving the teaching profession

It’s Friday 12th September. Usually, I would have just finished my second week back at work teaching at an east London secondary school after a five-week summer holiday. New exercise books would have been distributed and sullied with fresh graffiti. The students’ (and teachers’) initial enthusiasm at the start of a new year would be beginning to wane. And, if it hadn’t happened already, I would be starting to regularly raise my voice in anger at the students’ general indifference as their first coursework deadlines start to loom. Continue reading

Millennium Cave in Vanuatu

Exploring the dark depths of Millennium Cave in Vanuatu

We’re two weeks into our long-awaited round-the-world trip and already in the midst of a haze of activity. So far, we’ve had a day at Vanuatu’s annual horse-racing event, Kiwanis, swum beneath Mele Cascades waterfall, kayaked to Erakor Island and explored it barefoot, gone diving for the first time ever, seen the wreck of the SS Coolidge and explored the dark depths of Millennium Cave in Vanuatu. Next on the agenda is a trip to the tiny island of Tanna where we plan to hike Mount Yasur, one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world – meaning we’ll get closer to lava than ever before. Continue reading

Ignorance is Bliss

Ignorance is bliss

“What do you miss about the UK?” I asked my father a few months after he and my mother had moved to France, back in 2010. He pondered for a moment.
“I’m not sure I necessarily miss the UK, but there are certain things I know I’m missing out on,” he replied. “I feel bad that I’m not going to be voting. Like I’m letting someone down…” Continue reading

tanna island in vanuatu

Untouched by tourism: Tanna Island in Vanuatu

After a week of comfortable self-catering in Efate, followed by a fairly luxurious week on Aore Island, Santo, it was time to get back to basics, cast off the First World, and experience a bit of real Ni-Van culture. We knew that our adventure would really begin here: on Tanna Island in Vanuatu, a 40-minute flight south east of Port Vila on an island just 40 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide. We stayed on the east side of the island at Port Resolution Yacht Club, which sits above a beautiful calm bay. The glow of the island’s active volcano, Mt Yasur, can be seen from miles around and acts as a beacon to travellers and locals alike. We spent five nights at Port Resolution and we loved it – here’s why. Continue reading

aore-island-a-week-in-seclusion

Aore Island: a week in seclusion

Aore Island lies 2.6 kilometres off Espiritu Santo’s coast, opposite the island’s capital, Luganville. It is easily accessed by a short ferry ride across the Segond Channel. We’ve spent a week at Aore Island Resort, hosted by Anne, the warm and friendly Australian owner who bought the resort around 10 years ago. The resort has 18 cosy but spacious bungalows set amid neat, tidy and well-kept gardens. The resort backs onto a charming coconut palm plantation and is surrounded by local farms. Continue reading

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7 useful travel gadgets

When packing for any trip, space and weight is always at the forefront of my mind. With Kia at little more than five feet tall and weighing in at just over seven stone, I’ll usually carry the lion’s share of the kit (roar).

Regardless, there are certain electronic luxuries I don’t want to be without. I want to listen to music, watch Game of Thrones, keep abreast of my friends’ Facebook statuses and keep track of Norwich City’s sliding league position (a form of self-harm I’m sure). Continue reading

a-long-way-from-home

A long way from home

Well, this beats the A12. If I were at home, I would be drinking my morning coffee in our fifth-floor flat, watching and listening to the traffic hustle its way along the busy road and junction below. The trains would be rolling in and out of Newbury Park tube station taking thousands of commuters to work in busy and noisy central London. I’m not at home. In fact, I am a long way from home. Continue reading

li-river-china

Navigating the Li River, China

I was backpacking with a friend through China in 2008 (my first big trip out of Europe!) and was keen to see as much of the country as possible.

So, when we arrived in Guilin after a long flight, we decided against the bus journey to Yangshuo and opted instead to take a boat (really just a motorised raft) along the 83-kilometer section of the Lijiang or Li River as it’s also known.

It proved to be one of the best decisions of the trip. Despite taking four times as long as the 80-minute bus journey and costing more (as in three or four pounds more), gliding along the Li was a fine way to travel. Our pilot, so to speak, was an elderly man who spoke no English and, likewise, we spoke no Mandarin other than the basics. Continue reading

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa’s highest peak

Why climb? Because it’s there… and it can actually be done by most.

Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest freestanding mountain, meaning it is not attached to a mountain range. I trekked it in 2010 and it was inspirational to say the least. It was part of a big trip for me to East Africa — and after an extensive safari throughout the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, coupled with several days on the exotic and dreamy island of Zanzibar — Kilimanjaro could easily have been overshadowed. But it wasn’t. Climbing Kilimanjaro was exhilarating, awe inspiring, breathtaking, incredible and one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I recommend it to anyone who has the time (and the energy). Continue reading

Travel Essentials

10 travel essentials

Here are ten travel essentials I never leave home without. From waterproofing to a friendly smile, these items are a must for every backpacker.

1. Waterproofing – stuff sacks and electronics

Trekking across Scotland is the best way to learn about waterproofing. In Scotland, it rains. You can have a good run and believe me I was having a good run but eventually, in Scotland, it rains. And after six days of glorious sunshine, on the final day of an eight-mile trek out of the Highlands, it started to rain. Really rain. We didn’t make it out the Highlands that day – the going was too slow and too miserable that by mid-afternoon we called it a day and set up our tents in the downpour.

My sleeping bag was soaked through. My camera, by some miracle had survived the drenching. It was a cold and damp night’s sleep that night. Before I travelled or trekked again, I bought some waterproof stuff sacks in a range of sizes for my sleeping bag, clothing and electronics, which have been invaluable. Continue reading

Chittorgarh Fort

Not the Taj Mahal: Chittorgarh Fort in India

If you decide to take that trip of a lifetime to go and “find yourself” in India, it will probably include a trip to the Taj, a date with the Dalai Lama, a tour around the pink city of Jaipur and any number of other “spirit of India” experiences the guidebooks will throw at you. These sights are all, of course, worthy of your time but don’t miss Chittorgarh Fort, the Rajasthani gem rarely promoted as a must-see. I arrived in Chittorgarh after a 48-hour journey from Mumbai which included delayed trains (plural) and a rough night on a station platform at Ratlam Junction (another story altogether).

Continue reading

taghazout-morocco

Not surfing in Taghazout, Morocco

You don’t have to be Australian, a sun-bleached “dude”, or even a surfer to enjoy this quiet little gem. Most people, including me, go to Morocco for the deserts, the Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh or to visit some of the romantic (sounding) cities of Casablanca or Essaouira. Some may venture south to the resort-town of Agadir, which unfortunately feels more Costa Del Sol than Arabian dream. Few, though, will visit Taghazout, a small, quaint village 20km north of Agadir on the main coast road. Continue reading

beng-mealea-cambodia

The otherworldly ruins of Beng Mealea, Cambodia

I love playing Indiana Jones on my travels and regularly get into character whenever the location seems right. I’ve done The Temple of Doom in India, The Last Crusade in Jordan, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on Nevis Peak. Even though Cambodia was never a location for the films, Beng Mealea seemed just so right for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, Kia prohibits me from posting videos of my silliness on the internet. Perhaps clips of me humming the Indiana Jones theme tune, jumping around in a hat and pretending to whip things embarrass her more than I like to think. Needless to say, when I suggested an Angelina Jolie impression for Angkor Wat, she was quick to veto that too. You’ll just have to make do with her far less cinematographic clip of Beng Mealea. Continue reading

gullfoss-waterfall-iceland

The raging Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland

Kia has many talents but there are three things she just doesn’t do: cook, drive and navigate. This is fine – unless I’m on a snowy and slippery road with low visibility and she’s by my side insisting that she can’t read the map. Luckily, on this occasion, I spotted a sign with a familiar name, þingvellir, and managed to navigate to our destination without the help of my lovely ‘assistant’. Continue reading

travelling-in-a-developing-country

10 tips for travelling in a developing country

I’ve been lucky enough to experience a decent cross-section of the world – rich and poor – and all the charms it has to offer. From the pristine streets of Berlin to the dusty roads of Delhi, from the clockwork metro in Austria to the rickety network of dalla-dallas in Tanzania careering along at breakneck speeds, and from 5-star luxury in the Maldives to a cockroach-infested Cambodian dorm – they all have their allure and if I’m honest, I’ve enjoyed my trips through the latter destinations more than the former. Travelling through a developing country can be arresting yet terrifying, breathtaking yet prosaic, tender but heartbreaking, thrilling and frustrating. Continue reading