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5 surprising facts about Samoa we learned during our stay

After nearly a month in Samoa – a country we fell in love with – we reveal five incredibly surprising facts about Samoa we learned during our stay

surprising facts about Samoa

facts about samoa samoans are deeply religious

If you were asked to name the most religious countries in the world, chances are your list would be similar to mine. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would be up there as would Brazil and Italy. In the spectrum from Saudi to Sweden, I would put Samoa somewhere in the middle, especially in relation to the Abrahamic religions. Turns out, I’d be wrong.

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Meeting “Da Craterman – world famous in Samoa”

The day started badly. Our taxi was 30 minutes late, which isn’t so awful considering we were on island time but we were desperate to beat the midday sun on our six-hour round trip to Mount Matavanu Crater. Despite this, we cheerily greeted our driver who dropped us off at the base of the crater.

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10 great travel books to read on the road

We select 10 great travel books to read on the road, having spent hours, perhaps days, on long journeys with our heads buried in books. Great travel books 1. The Snows of Kilimanjaroby Ernest Hemingway When talking about Ernest Hemingway and great travel books you’ve got plenty to choose from. I’ve gone for The Snows of Kilimanjaro

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What not to pack: things we’ve dumped on the road so far

Before we left London, I practised walking with my backpack on for 20 minutes. I just about managed it but it was HEAVY. Add in the searing heat, drenching humidity and uneven terrain of the road, and 20 minutes feels near impossible. Thus, we’ve found ourselves frequently dumping stuff we had deemed necessary mere weeks before. Here’s a list of the offending items in case you’re tempted to make the same mistakes.

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.

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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).

stunning-film-locations-we-love

5 stunning film locations we love

The first time I went to New York back in 2000, I was uncertain that I would enjoy it. It loomed large and vivid in my mind, woven by a hundred films I’d seen in the past. The noise, colour and oversize personality depicted on screen were sure to be a letdown – how could they not be?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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Millennium Cave in Vanuatu: exploring in the dark

Millennium Cave in Vanuatu is a fun and adventurous hike through Vanuatu’s biggest cave located on the outskirts of Luganville

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 Kiwanis (Vanuatu’s annual horse-racing event), swum beneath Mele Cascades waterfall, kayaked to Erakor Island, dived for the first time ever and seen the wreck of the SS Coolidge.

Every day has brought a new experience, the most demanding of which has been the Millennium Cave Tour, a trek through Vanuatu’s biggest cave located on the outskirts of Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo.

Millennium Cave in Vanuatu

We set off with a group of six other adventurers, trekking through lush rainforest to the small village of Vunaspef where we were told to leave anything that couldn’t get wet. A few of our companions handed over expensive cameras, checking and rechecking that the guide would keep them safe.

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Backpacker problems: 7 things I struggled with in my first month on the road

So here we are: firmly in the midst of our trip of a lifetime. It’s been exactly one month since we left London – one amazing month during which we swam beneath waterfalls, kayaked to desert islands, went diving for the first time, explored the depths of Millennium Cave and stared into the crater of an active volcano.

It’s turned out to be far better and easier than I had predicted. Of course, there have been some backpacker problems  I’ve struggled with – some expected and others not.

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…”

learning to dive

Learning to dive, learning to quit

“Life’s too short for bad books,” a friend once told me. We had been swapping recommendations for a while and I was aghast that he had given up on The Kite Runner. “Keep at it,” I urged. “You’ll love it.”

He shrugged. “If I’m not enjoying a book within the first two chapters, that’s it.” He mimed throwing it away.

“I wish I could be more like you,” I had said. And I meant it. You see, I’m the type of person that will doggedly pursue a book or a task or a project that I’m not enjoying only so that I can finish it. Reading A Suitable Boy was the only thing entirely in my control that I ever gave up on – and it bugs me even today.

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Tanna Island in Vanuatu: untouched by tourism

Tanna Island in Vanuatu is where our adventure really began, an island just 40km long and 25km wide

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.

Britain’s best long-distance footpaths south west coast path

50 things to do before you’re 12: how many have you done?

I’ve done only 20 of The National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 12: Growing up in London sucks!

Two years ago, I came across The National Trust’s charming ’50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 ¾’ campaign, designed to get more kids out and about. I read through the list (below) and, to my dismay, realised that I had completed less than half the list.

As I said at the time, growing up in London sucks.

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Aore Island in Vanuatu: 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.

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The first travel experience I nearly backed out of

I like to think of myself as a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but put me in water and all my bravado dissipates. As a child, I was not a strong swimmer. Fortnightly lessons for a year in primary school weren’t enough for me to find my fins. As an adult, I have improved marginally but I never stray far from the shore.

With this in mind, when Peter suggested booking our first dive, I agreed with hesitance. The idea put butterflies in my stomach – a rare feeling for someone who never gets nervous. As neither of us had dived before, we were warned that the deepest we could go was 12 metres. I looked 12 metres off into the distance – it would be deep enough for me.

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Erakor Island: Exploring Vanuatu by kayak

Erakor Island in Vanuatu is one of Port Vila’s best resort islands

Usually on a Friday morning, I would be at my desk at 80 Strand looking over my calendar and thanking God I have only three meetings instead of six. And then there’s email – the neverending battle with wave after wave of email. 

But yesterday was no ordinary Friday morning. Instead of sitting at an office desk, I was lounging in a kayak in the Pacific Ocean heading over to explore the tiny island of Erakor Island barefoot.