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The Art of Travelling

We have officially been travelling for over 6 months now and I am still amazed by how many people we meet along the way who seem to think that we are just on an extended holiday, rather than a new life style. Don’t get me wrong, travelling is definitely better than working 9-5 Monday to Friday and running around all week trying to ensure you have everything done on time, to ensure yourself some rest time on the all too short weekends.

However, one thing people don’t seem to realise is that travelling is not just something you decide to do to see places. It actually takes a lot more dedication and planning to pull it off. I’m not just talking about the preparation that is involved in a long-term travel, which believe me is a lot, but the actual day-to-day living. There are many aspects to travelling that people don’t think about, such as the daily management of a limited pot of cash with no top-up options!

When you are on holiday you can afford to take out your credit card and add a treat, knowing you can pay it off with next month’s salary. However, when you travel you have to be aware of all your outgoings and sometimes that means knowing when to rein it in. For example, cooking saves us money which allows us to travel for longer. Another thing is learning the art of bargaining, sometimes even saving just $5 on accommodation can mean eating out instead of cooking every day.

The key aspect though is that something has to actually switch in your mind to be able to travel. We noticed that the first 3 months we were basically “holidaying,” we were in the country with an itinerary and we kept thinking about home and comparing things to other trips. Not only this but our attitude was somewhat different, we were not quite embracing each place, but more passing through them.

At the 3-4 months stage we started to really feel like it was taking its toll on us, we even started to think about maybe taking a break. We felt tired with the constant moving, the unpacking and re-packing and the always thinking ahead to the next place. We were basically burning out.

Towards the 5th month we noticed another change, we finally let go of the expectations of travelling and started to think about only where we were. We stopped planning about the next place and worrying about what we would do and where we would sleep. We stopped thinking we had to fit everything in, just because we were lucky enough to be here travelling.

We still had a vague idea but we weren’t chained down by the thoughts and as such, we started to feel more free in ourselves and embraced where we were. The biggest change was we stopped thinking about what to do next and simply enjoyed what we were doing at the time. We finally started to travel and live on a day-to-day basis.

Travelling has now turned into a new lifestyle, similarly to when you start a new job, and you spend the first few months feeling your way round the place before you start to feel part of it and settle down to your new role. Travelling is no longer about cramming things in to see or places to be but rather enjoying the daily activities or lack of if we so decide. The pace in our minds has finally slowed to be able to embrace travelling and not just be on an extended “holiday”.

Although we do not tend to think about what will happen when our money runs out, it has left me wondering how we would ever adjust to a “modern” lifestyle again, or simply if we would want to.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Latacunga

From the south terminal in Quito we headed to the town of Latacunga, situated just over 2 hours away. We had been advised to stop there instead of heading straight to Banos, as apparantly there were numerous things to see and do in the area.

Upon arriving in Latacunga we initially felt we may have made a mistake, the town itself seemed a bit dirty and run down, but we headed off to the main plaza, where according to our guide-book we might encounter the few hotels listed.

Latacunga - Parque Vincente Leon, in the centre of town

After asking around we settled on Hotel Cotopaxi, right in front of the main plaza. The hotel offered us a large room and full use of their kitchen, and somehow, despite being a hotel, the rates worked out a fair bit cheaper than the only hostel in town.

The town itself is very quiet, so much so that by 8pm the streets are almost empty, yet unlike other places, the town has a safe feeling and we were not afraid to walk the deserted streets at night.

Latacunga - Parque Vincente Leon at night

When I asked the owner at the hotel why the town was so quiet, they told me that in the last few years they had seen the level of tourists drop. This was sad news to us as the town offers a calm place to recharge your batteries or take up a number of excursions including the ones we chose; climbing the Cotopaxi volcano and taking a day trip to see various villages and the nearby crater lake of Quilotoa.

In our opinion it seems the vast majority of travellers skip Latacunga and head straight to Banos, which has over the last few years gained in popularity. Unfortunately, this seems to have happened at the expense of Latacunga, which is a shame as the town, despite being a little run down, has a warm heart and plenty of opportunities for hikers and explorers!

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Hitting the travelling wall

5 months into our travels and I feel like I have hit a wall, similar to that of when you have been training for a few months and all of sudden you feel like you can’t go any further.

You know you have to push through and that once you do you will get your second wind to continue, but just before you can, you have that final hurdle to overcome.

I have been feeling a little lethargic of late, mainly since starting our travels in South America, where everything is so much bigger and further. Central America had been considerably easier in terms of crossing countries and getting to places to see, so much so that we saw a fair bit of the area.

Yet since we crossed to South America and onto a new adventure towards the Andes, with infinitely more places to see and immensely larger distances to cover, it has left me feeling a little deflated.

Technically we have now crossed the equivalent of our journey in Central America in just a few weeks in Venezuela and Colombia, but we have not even seen a fraction of as much as we would have liked to, mainly due our time scales which do not allow for us to travel at the same rate we had in Central America.

But for me the biggest hurdle to overcome is knowing that the more amazing places I discover around us to visit the more I am reminded of the time, distance and, let’s not forget, the cost needed to be able to accomplish these mini adventures.

In an ideal world things would not have to be decided on by availability of time and money, we could see all the places in the world that we wanted to, but unfortunately for us this is not that case.

And it is this feeling of missing out on so much that leaves me feeling deflated and almost thinking “well what’s the point?” Yet I know in my heart that seeing even a fraction of this beautiful continent is better than never having seen it at all, I just have to overcome the feeling of insignificance that this immense continent imposes on me.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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10 items I cannot travel without

Having been on the road now for over 4 months there are items which I have used all the time and inevitably items which I admit I could have left behind.

I will not count my winter gear into this as I cannot not yet know the extent of what will be used until I cross down to South America, so for the time being this applies to hot and warm climates.

Top 10 items in no particular order:

  1. STERIpen – This compact UV device allows you to quickly sterilise water of up to 1l at a time, in essence making any tap water safe drinking water. Despite the initial cost for the device this has more than paid for itself as we easily get through 4-5l per day.
  2. Sarong – I know everyone says how great it is to pack one but after these few months I can’t stress it enough. It has acted as a dress, as a skirt, as a beach towel, for creating shade and as a light blanket. Am sure I will discover more uses as I continue on my travels.
  3. Spork – It is amazing the amount of times you will need a spoon or a knife or a fork when you are self catering, even more so when you are self catering on the road! This lightweight all in one is perfect for ensuring you have all your utensils to hand.
  4. Packing cubes – This is the first trip I have used them and it has made my life so much easier that I will never go anywhere without them! I use Eagle Creek cubes and have all my clothes split out between 4 medium cubes, this makes finding items easy and helps me to re-pack my backpack in minutes – definitely recommended.
  5. Swiss Army Knife – Similarly to the Spork the Swiss Army Knife allows you to have everything you need to hand, depending on the model you select you get different items such as tin opener, corkscrew, scissors, saws etc.
  6. Sunglasses – Probably obvious but I have used these daily and would probably be blind by now without a pair!
  7. Flip-flops – I did not actually bring a pair with me and only bought some when my KEEN sandals were stolen and I was waiting for a replacement. However, I have to say that for the space they take up they are definitely worth packing as they allow your feet to breathe.
  8. Camera – You just can’t go on holiday or travelling without one! I admit I would love to have a digital SLR with me but I didn’t want the worry of a new expensive camera on my head every time I took it somewhere. Do I regret it? Occasionally, when precision action shots are needed but on the whole not.
  9. Sleeping bag – This was one of the items we weren’t sure about and nearly left behind, but I have to say that a lightweight sleeping is well worth the space. So far it has been used extensively on the buses through Mexico as they are freezing cold, as a pillow in hostels and even needed as an extra blanket when we have been on higher grounds. I can also see this being used even more once we hit colder climates.
  10. Wind-up torch – We bought 2 small eco handheld wind-up torches to take with us. Although not as powerful as the likes of Petzl head torches they have proven effective and we never need to worry about the batteries running out.

What are your top 10 travel items? Have you discovered any new essential gear you will take with you on future trips?

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Learning to Travel

How do you go from living a 9-5, Monday – Friday life to travelling, and more importantly to actually embracing the experience?

As we spend our first “chill out” week in Caye Caulker, Belize, I am starting to wonder how and when does the brain fully take in the experience of travel?

We are now in our second country and second month of travel and yet I feel I am almost going through the motions of certain things. Don’t get me wrong, it has definitely dawned on me that this is long-term and I am not missing my “old” life one bit, in fact, part of me has already moved on to the possibility of extending our travels, if we can penny pinch along the way.

However, I can’t help feeling that a certain aspect to our travels is missing, something I can’t quite put my finger on. Is it the fact that we are renting a place and the daily chores of cooking, etc, is far too familiar to me? Or is it something else?

Before we embarked I had had thoughts of travelling and one day having an epiphany moment of “oh my god, I am travelling the world” and that with it, something more would follow. Yet I have not had this moment, instead I have felt a certain detachment in some respects, almost as if the concept of what I am doing does not actually astound me. This leaves me thinking is it because I have already travelled so much in the past?

I have been privileged in the fact that I had already notched up a fair few countries under my belt prior to this adventure, so are my expectations higher because of it? Is it simply a case of “yeah, I’ve already seen something like it,” or is it maybe because everywhere I turn, every site I visit is filled with coach loads of tours each one taking away a little bit of the mysticism and magic from it, leaving me feeling like I am just another $ to be made?

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Traveller or Tourist?

After a month of travelling round Mexico we have found ourselves in the habit of spotting “tourists” and “travellers”, but this got me thinking, why is there such a difference between the two and what makes someone a tourist or traveller? And more importantly do we all fit into just one category?

Tourists are generally identified by certain characteristics that even locals seem to easily spot as walking ATMs. The key tell-tale signs we are finding are: first and foremost they travel in packs and usually with a guide, when not out on a tour then they can be seen wearing expensive cameras slung round their necks at the ready for the next shot along with costly sunglasses on their head and usually a baseball cap of some sort. They tend to dress as what I would refer to as fashionable rather than practical, although more and more seem to be investing in technical gear, bought especially for the trip at hand no doubt. They are generally split into two categories, the resort and the see it all in 2 weeks.

So how do travellers differ? From spending time in hostels and ambling through a country rather than racing through, we have come across many types of “travellers”. Although the term still seems to conjure a set image, the short term traveller is one with a backpack slung over their shoulders, a guide book in hand and generally looking for the cheapest places to stay at and to eat in. With only a rough idea of where they are going but with a set return date they have to make.

Long term travellers vary more in age and are probably the closest to modern day hippies. They seem able to generally travel lighter, although there are still some who seem to pack even their kitchen sink – just in case, they are more likely to be found clothed in local and generally colourful attire with matching pendants, possess a laid back attitude, and can be found sustaining themselves through either local work or selling their own handy-crafts to “tourists”, oh, and let’s not forget their very deep tan.

Recently though I am coming across a new breed of traveller, the technological long-term traveller going by the term “digital nomad”. They have a keen interest in travelling for long periods of time, have no real deadline and tend to have left their previous lives behind, at least for now. They also sustain themselves with work, but unlike the other travellers they gain an income from online work. They are generally recognised by the fact that they carry more technology than clothing, yet still travel light, and are often found working in corners of cafes or some other free wi-fi area.

So what does this make us? Is it possible to have traits from each type? Yes, we are long-term travellers with no real deadlines, we also take a lot of photos and walk with a guide book, we sometimes even go on excursions with “tourists”, we also took a netbook with us and I am currently working on this in a café, but do we fit into any one category?

After all, aren’t we all just out to see the world and take a photo of it to share with friends back home?

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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