Sunday, 31 December 2017

Where to visit in 2018

The 2018 recommendations from Lonely Planet (countries and cities) and Rough Guides (destinations) make interesting reading as always, and in fact, I'm able to second a few of those for sure.

As for my own list of where to visit in 2018 - it's hard to start a new year without compiling more than one. Of course I've already planned most of my travels over the next 12 months, leaving room for a little last minute flexibility as well - I'm anticipating the highlight will be India as a return visit is planned (hopefully, if the Taj is uncovered after it's recent clean up).

Rather than share my New Year resolutions, now is a good moment to look back on this time last year, whether or not my plans were ever fulfilled and share a few recommendations.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

How many countries are there?

Most people like to compare or compete in the number of countries they have visited. However, I'm not the competitive type. So, I used to have to sit and count how many countries I had visited, each time someone asked me the question. 

These days I'm not inclined to share my 'number' unless someone particularly cites an interest.

For me it's about the stories. Of course I'm going to tick things off my bucket list just like any other traveller. But the numbers don't mean much on their own. If I revisit a place I can build on an experience or share a view of how it used to be. Who cares whether I've made double figures or the Travelers Century Club; the latter only exists to make money from its members which takes all the fun out of counting in my view.

If we have to talk numbers, what's interesting is the rather complex process in which one has to go through to determine exactly how many countries have been ticked off so far. It seems to change every year, and is dependent on which governmental, academic, or agency organisation is validating the claims.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Dubrovnik 6 years on: and tips to avoid the crowds

Back in 2011, when I first visited Dubrovnik, in Croatia, it was much less touristy than it is today. Despite this, the number of visitors to this UNESCO site was still fairly high.

As I stood at the main entrance calculating the ticket price to climb the walls, I quickly determined that the contents of my blue spined guide book, should be read with caution. Prices were double, which confirmed my view regarding the speed at which information can become out of date and possibly behind the times. As a budget traveller, in those days, this wasn't ideal.

Six years on and today, at 20 Euros, a climb along those same city walls is still the highlight of a visit to Dubrovnik, so you wouldn't want to miss it. Plan a visit with caution as it's not the cheapest destination in Europe, by far.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Plan a visit to Albania before it changes

Not many people have been to Albania it seems. In fact I was surprised at how few seem to know where it is.

Bordering with Greece, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia, Albania is often overlooked. Being so close to the likes of Croatia and Italy, it would be difficult not to assume some similarities to those destinations, as they were maybe some 20 or 30 years ago.

Of course Albania is not undiscovered, but the infrastructure and tourism is still in its infancy, making it a great destination to experience ahead of the crowds.

When Albania successfully joins the EU, having yet to be accepted following it's application in 2009, there's a strong chance of it following in the footsteps the likes of Croatia; at least in respect of tourism.

So, of course I'm suggesting you visit as soon as possible. My 'Impressions of Albania' post gives a flavour of what to expect, but here's a little more info to help you plan a visit there.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

5 small island escapes in south-east Asia

With a lifetime of adventure, south-east Asia is way up on my recommendations list. At this time of year as we start preparing to scrape ice off our windscreens before work, it's the palm fringed islands that I would suggest if you are planning an escape.

Throughout south-east Asia many islands are becoming so popular they are falling foul of over development and this sadly applies to some of the smaller, lesser known islands too.

Backpackers can still find budget accommodation, but more and more islands are becoming less and less affordable, unless you are looking a little more towards the top end and often all inclusive options.

When planning an island visit I recommend you consider some of my favourites, before they become over developed and unrecognisable.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Digital detox: and living in noble silence #Vipassana

It was just over ten years ago that I took my first big trip overseas. Back then, although I carried a mobile phone for emergencies, my only line of communication was the short spurts spent in internet cafes. I carried a journal and a guidebook, wrote postcards and looked up from behind my camera.

That was another world compared to where we are today, with numerous devices that translate, navigate, update, recommend and basically keep you permanently connected to everything and everyone.

I'm still a strong believer that a holiday means a digital detox, but even I struggle to achieve a full detox most of the time, as my tablet (despite being offline) is permanently with me for navigation, reference and the odd email. Then there's the blogging ;) doh!

Taking a true digital detox is becoming more common as people start to feel the need to escape. 

My personal experience of a more spiritual digital detox, and 10 days living in noble silence, with Vipassana, was something quite unique.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Impressions of Albania

I knew very little about Albania until my visit in September. My knowledge was limited to a bunch of preconceptions built from sporadic research each time this destination made it back into my to do next list. Finally I was going to visit.

Not yet part of the EU, one of the biggest exporters of cannabis in Europe and yet one of the poorest countries in the region. Albania was closed and ruled by a dictator for many years, and of course I didn't even know his name before I got there.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Must try Moroccan meals

The food in Morocco is as diverse as it's culture. With the Berber, Arabic, French and Spanish influence, wherever you travel around Morocco you can find a variety of local specialities and of course numerous versions of the originally North African Berber dish, tagine.

So where to start on the menu?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Death railway: options for your visit to the Bridge on the River Kwai

If you are planning a visit to Kanchanaburi, Thailand for the Death Railway and the famous Bridge on the River Kwai, there's a few things to consider to make the most of your visit. 

Here's a quick summary and some useful links to help with the minefield of information.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Step out of your comfort zone

We all need a bit of get up an go to get started on planning for the new year, so whilst considering plans for my travels in 2017 I took some time to reminisce over some of my past experiences.

Here are some of the 'out of my comfort zone' moments from my travels ...