London Underground rules

As we approach our last journey on the awful/amazing London Underground, we share a primer for the uninitiated…

Ah, so you’ve arrived in the City of London, the land of tea, crumpets and people who say sorry a lot. The land of Notting Hill and Love, Actually and bumbling gentlemen who blush when complimented. The city of Yeoman Warders and the Queen’s Guard, and quirky social rituals that are just so charmingly English.

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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.

Beauty tips for backpacker

10 beauty tips for backpackers

I believe it was Naomi Wolf who spoke of a ‘tax’ that women pay for being women. This tax is paid in the form of time: minutes and hours that turn into days and weeks spent applying eyeliner, blow drying hair, filling in brows, blotting lipstick, filing nails, snipping split ends, and the multitude of other things we do to maintain our looks. On a work day, it takes me an hour to get ready from morning shower to out-the-door. It takes Peter a maximum of 30 minutes – and that includes a morning coffee.

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.

Peter on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in TanzaniaAtlas & Boots

Climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa’s highest peak

Climbing Kilimanjaro was the first step on my path to climb the seven summits, the highest mountain on every continent

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

Kilimanjaro in Tanzania 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.

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.

Join our travels

Join our travels

As our date of departure creeps closer, I find my nerves tingling with trepidation. I’m not the type of person that dwells on dangerous possibilities – after all, I’ve done plenty of foolhardy things in my time (jumping out of a plane, flying a plane, climbing Nevis Peak unguided and so on).

No, I’m not nervous about getting hurt. I’m nervous that I won’t last the course. I’m nervous about reaching a break point where not having a clean, comfortable bed every night or warm running water will wear away my zest for travel. I’m worried that I will miss my sisters with whom I’ve always shared a city.

Adventure cruises: 7 voyages for your bucket list

We take a look at seven adventure cruises worthy of the great explorers themselves

Adventure travellers are generally accustomed to a degree of discomfort: camping on a mountain top, trekking through suffocating jungle, jumping off something very, very high. For even the most hardened traveller, however, there are some adventures that are just plain impossible to do alone.

This is where cruise holidays come in. With the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, cruise ships offer a chance to go places and see things most of the population never get to do. Here we list the top adventure cruises for your bucket list (and by ‘bucket list’, we of course mean ‘when you win the lottery list’).

Chittorgarh Fort

Chittorgarh Fort in India: it’s not the Taj Mahal

Chittorgarh Fort is the Rajasthani gem rarely promoted as a must-see

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.

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Yoyu: how to avoid traveller burnout

On the road, I’ll be writing posts for Atlas & Boots, filing travel features for Asian Bride magazine, and doing the odd commission to keep our travel funds topped up. As such, I’ll be lugging around a laptop throughout the course of the trip.

This is largely fine because it means we can stock up on films and TV programmes for quiet nights in and we’ll also have a way to keep in touch with family and friends. Of course, with this convenience comes the danger that being glued to a screen at home will become being glued to a screen on the road.

Peter's father with his two friends from the 60s

Return to India part II: my father’s story

In the first of this two-part series, Peter recounted his tale of India in search of his father’s long lost friends. Five years after his initial visit, father and son return to India to reunite with those friends. Here is his father’s story.

This article was featured on National Geographic’s Traveller magazine website on 14th February 2015

Christmas Eve, 2013. It was the middle of the afternoon and the sun was warm on our backs. We stood on the roof veranda looking down on the dusty streets. A soft breeze was blowing which barely stirred the tangle of electricity and telephone wires that were draped between the houses in this relatively wealthy suburb of Bhilwara, Rajasthan.

Each house was painted in different pastel shades of blue, green and peach and set against an azure sky. It was quiet and the roads were almost empty.

This was indeed surprising, as this was India.

Selvatica zip line tour: an exhilarating day in Mexico

The Selvatica zip line tour would be the most fun and memorable day of the entire trip

When I touched down in Mexico, I was excited about mainly two things: its beautiful beaches and its Mayan ruins, particularly those at Chichen Itza. I had planned two weeks of sun and lazing interspersed with a bit of culture, so it was purely on whim that I booked a trip to Selvatica.

Normally, I avoid booking excursions from hotel brochures but the tour reseller at our hotel reception was so affable, we couldn’t help but stop and talk to him and soon enough he had us parting with £50 each to book on the Selvatica zip line tour or ‘Extreme Canopy Tour’. Little did I know that it would turn out to be the most fun and memorable day of the entire trip.

reasons-why-airbnb-kicks-ass

5 reasons why we use Airbnb

These days, it seems that Airbnb is fighting fire on all fronts. Legal and taxation issues mixed with strong opposition from the old guards of hospitality means that this relatively young startup is under siege in cities all across the world. We’ve spoken before about our regular use of the site – in fact, our post on Airbnb Etiquette: 10 Tips for Guests is one of the most popular on the site. Suffice to say, we are fans of the service.

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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.

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Climbing Nevis Peak unguided, St Kitts & Nevis

Nevis looks more like rolling hill than a volcano – until you try climbing Nevis Peak unguided. That’s when it reveals itself as a formidable feat!

If you ever find yourself on the tiny island of Nevis in the Caribbean, you’ll surely notice Nevis Peak, the 3,232ft volcano that provides a beautiful backdrop to the picturesque island.

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Beng Mealea: the ‘other’ ruins of Angkor Wat

Beng Mealea is an otherworldly set of ruins far from the crowds that flock to Cambodia’s most famous sight, Angkor Wat

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.

language-learning-myths

5 language learning myths

One of the things on my bucket list is to learn Spanish fluently. I learnt the basics during my GCSEs (16 years ago!), took an evening class at UCL in 2010, and have also dabbled with Rosetta Stone and Duolingo.

In the lead-up to our big trip, I decided to get serious and enrolled on a Rosetta Stone course online. I tested at intermediate level B1 and am currently working my way up. Meanwhile, Peter is brushing up on his basic French.

Asian girl, English boy: travelling as an interracial couple

More than once, I’ve shaken off Peter’s affectionate arm around my shoulder or his hand in mine: in the crowded streets of Cairo, the empty aisles of Jerash and even the markets of Whitechapel right here in London.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m more attuned to the disapproval our relationship might trigger, so while he’s innocently reaching for my hand, I’m assessing who might see us, what they might think, what they might say, what they might do.

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Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland: captivating, surreal, stunning

Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland rages with sensational beauty and power

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’.

how to take better travel photos

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.