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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

how to save for travel

How to save for a year of travel

“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). Continue reading

christmas-in-tahiti

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

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

MEET THE FIRST MAN TO VISIT EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WITHOUT FLYING - 1

Meet the first man to visit every country in the world without flying

If you passed Graham Hughes on the street, you’d most likely mistake him for just another backpacker, or perhaps a student two weeks past a shave. Behind the glasses and the unassuming smile, however, is a man that has achieved something extraordinary: Graham is the first person to visit every country in the world without boarding a plane. He has used boats, cars, buses and trains to visit every corner of the planet, a journey that has taken him four years to complete. Even more extraordinary is the fact that he, originally from Liverpool in the UK, now lives on a private island in Panama, a prize he won through a gameshow. (Yes, we’re seething with jealousy too.)

Graham stopped by Reddit this month and invited readers to ask him anything – and we did. Here’s a roundup of his most interesting answers. Continue reading

bora-bora-lagoon-tour

Bora Bora lagoon tour: money well spent

When we landed in Bora Bora, we were worried. Really worried.

It was the worst weather we’d seen in the Pacific. And I’m not talking about the tropical storm with torrential downpours and billowing breakers kind of bad weather, which is wretched but at least dramatic. I’m talking about miserable damp-towel, grey skies and sodden ground kind of bad weather. The sort of bad weather that signifies winter (and autumn and spring and often summer) in London – the sort of tedium we were trying to escape.

“I’m sure it will burn off,” I said confidently to Kia, not entirely convinced by my own optimism.

Luckily for us, it did burn off… after three days! 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

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

The Society Islands of French Polynesia - 23

How to visit Bora Bora on a budget

This article featured on Lonely Planet as one of their top posts from December 2014.

It’s Friday night and we’re seated in Bora Bora’s yacht club a few metres away from the capital of Vaitape. Next to me sits Tim, a yacht broker who’s in town to examine Noble House, a gorgeous two-storey yacht that’s been put up for sale by its Texan owner.

Opposite me sit Pedro and Scott, the yacht’s engineers who have many stories to tell about life on board. The yacht, I’m told, can be rented for £250,000 per week – mere pocket change for some of the club’s clientele. And, so, the obvious question is: what the hell are two backpackers doing in Bora Bora sipping cocktails in the company of the rich and richer?

The answer is that we’re DIY-ing Bora Bora. We don’t have access to overwater bures, luxury bathrobes or gourmet cuisine; we’re doing it on the cheap. Backpacking here may not be the quintessential Bora Bora experience but for those unable to do it any other way, here’s how we did Bora Bora on a budget. Continue reading

useful travel sites

5 useful travel sites you probably don’t use – and 5 others you probably do

A year before we left for our travels, I considered hosting Couchsurfers in my flat. I saw it as a way of investing in the Couchsurfing community before tapping into some of the good karma on our travels abroad. Alas, I was instead seduced by Airbnb with its clean design, intuitive user experience, useful reviewing system and, of course, the chance to make some extra money for our travels. Surprisingly, we haven’t used Couchsurfing on the road. Peter and I agree that paying for accommodation makes us feel more comfortable and less indebted to our hosts. That may change when we start to get low on funds but for now we remain true products of our decorous western society. That’s basically a long-winded way of saying you won’t find Couchsurfing on the list below but you will find 10 other sites that are excellent for travel, both long-term and short-term. Continue reading

first time in india

49 quick tips for your first time in India

During my first time in India, I was a relatively inexperienced traveller: I was overwhelmed by its beauty and stunned by its poverty, just as any first-time visitor. The second time I went to India, I expected to be more familiar with its various vagrancies. In reality, I was overwhelmed and stunned just as before. That said, second time around, I managed to avoid making (some of) the mistakes I made before. When I go back again, and I will go back, I hope to make even fewer mistakes. I’ll never fully understand this vast and contrasting country (that’s what makes it so alluring) but I have gathered some wisdom ­I can share – some obvious, some not. My list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s enough to get you started. Continue reading

rarotonga-tips-for-travel

Rarotonga tips: 5 things to know before you go

One of the disadvantages of travelling in the South Pacific (if there can be such a thing) is the lack of infrastructure for backpackers. It can be done on a shoestring but it’s certainly more difficult than say Southeast Asia or Europe. At home in London, we knew no-one that had visited places like Tonga or Rarotonga, so first-hand wisdom was very hard to come by. We largely managed with internet research and guidebook information – until we got to Rarotonga where we were hit by a few surprises. Below, we share the Rarotonga tips learnt to help future visitors prepare for what’s in store. 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, 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

rarotonga cross island walk

Rarotonga Cross Island Walk: probably the best hike in the South Pacific

The Rarotonga Cross Island Walk is one of the best hikes in the South Pacific. Even the most inexperienced hiker can get up there with a bit of care.

We stood outside our hostel, staring up at the morning sky. It had been raining all night long and the ominous clouds still threatened to thwart our plans. Adrienne, the hostel owner, had already warned us against doing the Rarotonga Cross Island Walk.

Continue reading
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How to take better travel photos

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! Along the way, my photography has constantly improved and I hope will continue to. If you’re a budding travel photographer, start with the tips below on how to take better travel photos. Continue reading

auckland-layover

8 things to do with an 8-hour Auckland layover

We recently had a long Auckland layover between Tonga and our onward flight to Rarotonga. We hate to miss an opportunity to see a bit more of the world and another stamp in our passports made this an opportunity too good to pass up. The friendliest custom officials in the world and easy transport connections meant that we could make the best of our time in Auckland (despite the London-esque weather) and still have time to relax and make our onward flight. Here’s what we recommend on a limited timeframe during an Auckland layover . Continue reading

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Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga

Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga was a truly humbling experience that very nearly didn’t happen for us! But luck was on our side that day.

It was late October, approaching the very end of Tonga’s whale watching season. We had been delayed in Samoa about a week longer than expected and arrived in Tonga just two days before the last day of the season. Desperate not to miss our opportunity to swim with whales, we hastily flew north to the Vava’u Islands, one of the best places to see the humpbacks. These majestic creatures migrate north from the Antarctic every summer to breed in warmer waters, heading back as soon as their young are strong enough for the journey. Continue reading

robert louis stevenson museum

Robert Louis Stevenson museum: an unexpected highlight of Samoa

The Robert Louis Stevenson museum in Samoa was an unexpected highlight of our trip to Samoa. A cursory cultural stop became a genuinely fascinating morning.

“The Booker Prize money wouldn’t even keep me in cigarettes,” once quipped best-selling crime writer Martina Cole. Faced with snobbery over the type of commercial fiction she writes, the irreverent author’s swipe highlighted the fact that commercial fiction subsidises literary fiction, allowing publishers to publish the highbrow literature that hardly anyone buys.

It was perhaps a similar snobbery that excluded author Robert Louis Stevenson from The Norton Anthology of English Literature for 32 years, and the reason why he was entirely unmentioned in the 2000-page Oxford Anthology of English Literature in 1973. Modern critics have censured his style as simplistic, but if raw and compelling storytelling holds any value at all, surely Stevenson would be among the greats. Continue reading

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The second-best seats on the best flight in the world

The best flight in the world is surely over the Tongan archipelagos of Vava’u and Ha’apai, streaking across the bright blue skies with glorious views below.

We’ve been on the road for three months now and taken 15 flights and counting. Ever since we first left continental Australia there’s been some breathtaking aerial views from our windows across the Pacific thousands of feet below.

In general, we have reserved air travel for international journeys, using inter-island ferries instead for domestic trips. However, we were short of time in Tonga and weren’t prepared to spend 24 hours or more travelling between the island groups. Continue reading