Risky travel: how much is too much?

On Tuesday 7th June 2016, a bomb went off in central Istanbul, killing 11 people and injuring 36 others. The news was particularly sobering because we had been in the city only a day and a half before.

We had spent a few weeks travelling through parts of western Turkey, stopping in Istanbul, Selçuk and Ephesus, Denizli, Pamukkale and Cappadocia and finishing off in Istanbul. On the flight back to London, I mentally planned the post I wanted to write: a call for tourists to start visiting Turkey again, to experience the iconic landscapes, historic architecture, delicious food and amazing people of Turkey. Continue reading

The countries I least want to see

“So what’s the plan after Africa?” I ask Peter.
He shrugs nonchalantly. “We’ll see after Africa.”
I frown.

As ever, I need a game plan. I know we’re planning to head to Africa in the summer but what comes after? Do we settle in London and travel in between things? Do we stay on the road? Do we move to Sri Lanka of which we occasionally and idly dream?

If I could choose, I’d settle somewhere quiet like our beloved tiny French village. The problem is, there’s still so much more I want to see.
Continue reading

6 charmless South American towns we couldn’t avoid

Travellers go to Latin America hoping, expecting, knowing they’ll be wowed. Home to three of the world’s Seven Wonders, the region has a wealth of both manmade and natural attractions.

Travellers also know that their journey through this vast continent won’t always be full of rainbows and kittens. Amid the bright, great wonders will be dreary days in dull towns with nary a redeeming feature. In South America, finding these two extremes side by side is almost a guarantee, as illustrated below. Tourist towns inevitably crop up close to major sights and more often than not, they’re completely and utterly charmless. Here are six underwhelming South American towns we failed to avoid on our travels. Continue reading

work-life balance: people working at a table

Work-life balance: what Americans can learn from the Brits

Tim Armstrong, the 43-year-old CEO of AOL, gets out of bed at 5am. He tries to hold off sending emails until 7am. After this, he’s on email “in the morning, during the commute, and late at night.” For some of the weekend he enjoys a respite but then starts work calls and emails at 7pm on Sunday.

Karen Blackett, the CEO of MediaCom UK, receives around 500 emails a day. She gets home at the reasonable hour of 6.30pm to spend time with her son but then returns to work calls and emails at 8pm. Continue reading

natural wonders: pyramids of Giza

Natural wonders vs manmade sights

Atlas & Boots host Lonely Planet’s #LPChat.

In August, we hosted Lonely Planet’s #LPChat on Twitter to celebrate the release of their Ultimate Travelist, a list of 500 unmissable attractions across the world ranked by their global community of travel experts. The subject in question was natural wonders vs manmade sights.

On our travels, we’ve stood awed beneath a wide range of manmade sights, from Angkor Wat and Petra to the Easter Island moai and Incan ruins at Machu Picchu. We’re also desperate to discover unknown architectural wonders we haven’t yet seen. 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

Diving the Galápagos

10 places to see before they’re gone – or perhaps not

Friends and readers often ask us about the Galápagos. Is it worth the expense, they say. Would you recommend going?

The truth is it’s hard to encourage people to visit when we’ve seen first hand the damaging effects of human presence on the islands. Equally, it’s hard to discourage people from visiting because a) it would be hypocritical and b) underneath the frenzied tourism lies a unique destination with some of the best beaches we’ve seen and the best diving we’ve ever done (sharks, rays, sea lions and turtles). Clearly, the islands are worth a visit. Continue reading

things about the British

Checking my privilege: why travel reminds me I’m not as smart as I think

I never felt poor until I went to university. I was one of eight siblings that grew up in a Tower Hamlets council house (vouchers for my school uniform, free school meals), but I never felt that my family was poor until I entered higher education. There, my peer-set changed from Bengali girls like me to those whose families owned second homes, second cars and even thriving businesses – not international conglomerates like you might find at Oxbridge, but impressive nonetheless: a diamond shop in west London, a doctor’s surgery in Surrey, an accountancy firm in Redbridge. Continue reading

Medellin: why you should visit the ex-murder capital of the world

In 1991, there were 17 murders every day in Medellin, Colombia, making it the murder capital of the world. The hunting ground of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, Medellin was rife with violent crime and corruption.

You can understand why then my family were concerned when I told them I’d be spending a week there. As if a month in Colombia wasn’t enough to give my mother palpitations, I was now visiting what was once the most dangerous city in the world. Continue reading

WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS: TWINNED WITH GREAT YARMOUTH

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas: twinned with Great Yarmouth

I grew up in a small village called Caister-on-Sea near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. Norfolk’s a pretty rural part of the UK, positioned on the east coast and buffeted by the North Sea. Although I left my home county over 12 years ago, and rarely return apart from the odd visit, I still have a lot of affection for the county I grew up in. There are the beautiful Broads (a network of interconnected lakes and rivers), rolling rural farmland dotted with windmills and quaint little villages with great pubs. There is abundant coastal scenery complete with sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and sand dunes. There’s also Carrow Road, home of my beloved Norwich City, and Norfolk also happens to be home to some of the best fish and chips in the world. Continue reading

most visited countries in the world

The world’s most divisive destinations

Should we or shouldn’t we go?

There are some travel destinations that no matter how picture perfect their landscapes or how much history steeped in their ancient lands, will always provoke a strong reaction in traveller circles. Whether it’s for political, geographical or social reasons, these divisive destinations will likely divide opinion for a very long time.

Below we look at some of the most contentious and divisive destinations that rightly or wrongly pull in the tourist crowds year after year. Continue reading

where are you from originally feat

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, 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

An Atheist and a Muslim walk into a church…

“Do you have faith?”
Peter stumbled for a response. “I’m sorry?”
“Do you have faith?” the priest repeated matter-of-factly.
Peter stopped loading his plate with cucumber sandwiches. “Um, yes,” he managed before quietly shuffling away, elaborating no further.

The question, anodyne as it was, was unexpected. We had enjoyed a relaxing day at his friend’s summer wedding in the beautiful English countryside and weren’t expecting to share our religious affiliations with the head of service in the buffet queue. Continue reading

things-travel-writers-dont-tell-you

5 things travel writers don’t tell you

Before I quit my job to travel, I worked at roughguides.com for two years and, before that, as Features Editor at Asian Woman and Asian Bride magazines. During this time, I noticed some common themes and phrases emerge in the travel writing I read: diners always enjoyed “hearty fare”, cabins were always “nestled among” something, and seas always comprised “azure waters” (that last one I’m guilty of myself). Far less often, I came across writing that offered a rawer insight into the travel experience – and it was always refreshing when I did. In reality, travel isn’t always amazing. Sometimes, it’s downright disappointing but we rarely admit to this. Here are five truths travel writers don’t like to tell you. Continue reading

travel guidebook

In defence of the travel guidebook

My colleague picks up the two guidebooks strewn across my desk.
“Are you planning to take these with you?”
I nod.
“Won’t they be too heavy?”
I shrug. “Peter will carry them.”
“You could just look it all up on TripAdvisor.”
“I prefer guidebooks.”
Her lips curl into a look that is half confusion and half disdain. “Okay,” she says in a tone that suggests it’s not okay at all.

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

poverty-tourism

Poverty tourism: why it’s not as ugly as it sounds

Last week I read The Case Against Sharing, a post on Medium which referred to Airbnb, Lyft and similar services as ‘Big Sharing’. The phrase immediately raised my hackles. It drips with cynicism, taking something really quite lovely and reducing it to something soulless: a corporate vehicle that only exists to create money. ‘Big Sharing’ sullies the phenomenon of real sharing. It implies that it’s not so much a phenomenon as a boardroom strategy put together with the sole purpose of commoditising the individual. For me, it illustrates how powerful an ugly term can be and how visceral our reaction to it. This brought me to another equally ugly term: poverty tourism. Continue reading

travelled-the-world

What qualifies as having ‘travelled the world’?

How many times have you heard someone say it? Or read a blog post about it? Seen it in a status or a bucket-list? Scores of people (including me) say they want to ‘travel the world’ but how can we quantify this? By the number of countries visited? Stamps in our passports? Borders crossed? Cultures experienced?

Kia asked this question on Quora a while ago and received a response from Jay Wacker, a former Stanford professor who offered up Hasbro’s Risk Map as a measure, suggesting that you can say you’ve travelled the world once you have visited half the territories on the map – that’s 21 out of 42 in total.  Continue reading