How to use a compass and map: a simple guide

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This guide on how to use a compass and map should be enough to get you started and give you the confidence to use the skills for yourself in the hills

As a schoolboy I was lucky to learn how to use a compass and map. I then spent the best part of two decades putting these basic skills to use throughout the British countryside, without ever really having them tested.

It wasn’t until a white-out on top of Scotland’s Ben Nevis during a winter mountaineering course that I really learnt how critical these skills are. Luckily for us (or rather thanks to the course’s well-planned itinerary), we had spent the previous day refreshing our navigation skills in a less hostile environment.

Night hiking: how to see the world by moonlight

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Night hiking doesn’t have to be a result of a poorly planned day hike; it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience in its own right.

Before you go blindly marching off into the hills to thrash about in the dark before calling search and rescue on your smartphone (which probably has a flat battery from using it as a flashlight), prepare yourself with our guide to night hiking for a safe and enjoyable night.  

How to make friends in a new country

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If you’ve just moved to a new country then it can be hard to new meet people. We offer a guide on how to make friends in a new country.

Last year, I wrote about the challenges of talking to strangers on the road or in unfamiliar social situations. I shared five ways to break the ice and endear you to your newly acquainted.

One recurring question since then has been: how do I meet people in the first place? This is especially important when you’ve just moved to a new country.

7 expert tips for learning multiple languages

I’ve always thought of myself as an avid learner, someone who enjoys challenges and discovering new things. In truth, I’m only avid when I have a choice in what I’m learning. Ahead of our extended stay in France, I thought I would approach French with the same zest with which I studied Spanish.

How to treat travel burnout

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Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a piece on how to avoid travel burnout. The steps described therein really helped us make the most of our time on the road. Step three was particularly effective (i.e. don’t plan more than 60% of your schedule). Between planning, travelling, writing, filming, photographing and filing external commissions, we would have fast run ragged had we not built in pockets of downtime. This worked well until we got to Bolivia.

Training for Kilimanjaro: 7 tips for a successful summit

training for kilimanjaro lead imageAtlas & Boots

You should never underestimate a mountain, and training for Kilimanjaro should be the same as preparing for any challenge

Last year, a good friend from back home in Norfolk (where it’s pretty flat) decided to climb Kilimanjaro and asked me for some advice. I certainly felt the trek was challenging but I’d had plenty of trekking and mountaineering experience before so was a bit blasé with my advice.

8 tips for travelling as a couple

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After a year on the road and in each other’s pockets, Atlas and Boots share their top 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.

City life: how not to let it crush your soul

As our year of travel enters its final month, I find my nerves jangling at the thought of returning to city life. My hometown is a big, rambling jungle…

As our year of travel enters its final month, I find my nerves jangling at the thought of returning to London. My hometown is a big, rambling concrete jungle with few manners on display.

Ask me to describe a scenario typical to, say, Samoa and I would tell you how Samoans constantly swap seats and rearrange themselves on buses to make sure as many people as possible have a seat, usually even offering their own laps (see #4 of 5 surprising facts about Samoa).

15 hitchhiking tips for newbies

There is no mode of transport more maligned than hitchhiking. Get over your fear with these top hitchhiking tips from experienced travellers

I hate hitchhiking. Perhaps it’s the retiring Brit in me but I hate the sense of embarrassment when I am refused, and the sense of imposition when I am accepted.

I hate the feeling of placing a request at the feet of strangers and expecting them to say yes. I hate the awkwardness of small talk and the permeating feeling of indebtedness. If I could help it, I would never do it.

Altitude sickness symptoms and how to avoid them

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Being young, fit and healthy doesn’t mean you won’t suffer from altitude sickness symptoms. Here’s how to identify, treat and prevent them effectively

Gracie is a student at Johns Hopkins, which offers one of the best medical training programs in the world. She is slim, fit and active. She doesn’t smoke, rarely drinks and always watches what she eats.

She should have been the last person in our group to get altitude sickness symptoms and yet there she was, wide eyed and pale faced at breakfast after a restless night of nausea at the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano (3,500m).

Experienced climbers know that altitude sickness doesn’t discriminate. The young, fit and healthy can suffer just as easily as the old, soft and pasty, which is why everyone should be aware of the symptoms before attempting a climb or trek at height. Here’s a primer to help you prepare.

10 tips for buying annual travel insurance

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A comprehensive guide to buying annual travel insurance including what to look out for, the pitfalls to avoid and the questions to ask

In January last year, British adrenaline junkie Ben Cornick jumped out of a plane in Fiji at 12,000 feet. There was no way to know at the moment he leapt out of the aircraft that his parachute wouldn’t work properly and that he would plummet to Earth, breaking his leg in three places and shattering his elbow.

How to find a good camping spot: a guide

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While there are some things that you simply cannot plan for when camping, knowing how to find a good camping spot is essential

When I was young my Dad would tell a “funny” story of how he took my mother camping in Wales for the first time. They pitched in a dry riverbed and went to sleep cozy and comfortable after a hearty meal.

Alas, in Wales the weather is prone to change and so they awoke in a riverbed which had now become a river. My Dad would chuckle while he told the tale. My mother would look on far less impressed to say the least. They don’t camp much anymore.

Cartagena in Colombia: 26 dos and don’ts

Cartagena in Colombia: the very name has an aura of old-world romance; of steamy hot days, winding city roads, and crumpled treasure maps.

Its charming architecture and interesting history certainly didn’t disappoint, but it was a baptism of fire after six months in the Pacific.

We quickly learned that there are two rules governing the streets of Colombia. First, do not offer papaya. Second, if papaya is offered, someone has to take it. They don’t mean papaya in the literal sense of course; it’s a byword for your valuables.

How I overcame my fear of spiders

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A ripple of skepticism snakes through my body. I close my eyes and slow my breathing, determined to give John a fair chance. His voice is soft, lulling me into a state of calm. After a few minutes, he begins his chant: “From this point forward, you will be calm, relaxed and at ease in the presence of spiders.” I try to absorb his words, to internalise them, to really believe them.

How to pass the PADI Open Water Diver course

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A step-by-step guide for fellow divers who are somewhat nervous ahead of the PADI Open Water Diver course.

In theory, an expert diver should be writing this post. Logically, he or she could tell you what to expect, give you insider tips and prepare you for the challenge ahead. Of course, as a newly qualified diver, I have one advantage over the experts: I know first-hand just how hard it is for the nervous first-timer. I know what it’s like to almost back out of your first dive and to quit the course altogether. I also know how to get back on it.

Five months after my first attempt, I passed the PADI Open Water Diver course.

Round the world ticket pros and cons

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I am at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, over 3,000 miles from anywhere I expected to be on our round-the-world trip for Atlas and Boots. In fact, Hawaii, California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah are all unplanned stops.

I expected to be in South America by December 2014, but instead spent an extra month in Tahiti – and then boarded a luxury cruise across the Pacific which most certainly wasn’t on the agenda. What I’m trying to say is that, for me, not buying a round-the-world (RTW) ticket has been a blessing.

How to save for a year of travel

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“What are your New Year’s resolutions?” I ask Peter.
“Erm… I don’t have any,” he replies.
“Slapdash,” I say, referring to the nickname I gave him early on in our relationship: Slapdash Watson.

I, unlike him, am one of those people who make lists (sometimes lists of lists) and do everything possible to cross everything off. I have even formalised failing: I allow myself to leave one thing unfinished each year. Worse still, I’ve been known to lobby list-making app Evernote to make their strikethrough thicker. Yes, I’m that person (it worked, okay, so whatevs).

How to take better travel photos

midnight sun iceberg sightseeing ilulissat sailboatAtlas & Boots

I’ve been involved in photography in one way or another for 12 years now. At university, I studied photography and video and went on to work as a camera operator followed by seven years of teaching photography at secondary school level.

More recently, I have sold my landscape and travel photography online and to various publications and now, while travelling, it has become my only source of income which is somewhat terrifying!

How to claim compensation for flight delays

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It was 8pm Jordanian time in October 2013 when we were told that our flight was being delayed by another two and a half hours. The tiny dinner box with a dry cheese sandwich and limp croissant was little compensation for the fact that we were going to miss the last train out of London Heathrow, meaning we’d have to spend £50 on a cab. Just great.