Category Archives: World

The World; At Home

Since travelling to Argentina at age 17, I’m constantly battling the symptoms of that old disorder classically entitled ‘itchy feet’. Travelling to a country, or even a place, that is new to me and meeting the people who call it home, learning about their culture, religion, food, language, way of living — all of it, brings more joy to me than anything else. I’m always my happiest when treading landscapes previously unknown to me. And yes, like many of this world’s inhabitants the dream is to set sail on the seven seas with no plan of action and indeed no plan of returning. But written carefree, mystically and in the haze of a daydream, reality cuts the leaves of that plant before it forms roots, or bares fruit. Money. Responsibility. Career. Visas. Future. Society. These are all words which act as barriers; glue shut the departure gate at Heathrow and keep many of us on dry land.

Grounded by responsibilities, the departure gate is shut. Photo © Ashim D'Silva via Unsplash

Grounded by responsibilities, the departure gate is shut for many keen travellers. Photo © Ashim D’Silva via Unsplash

But, despite perhaps the slightly pessimistic tone of my opening paragraph, this piece is here to highlight how one can have those adventures at ‘home’. How you can be culturally inquisitive and indeed have the world come to you when you cannot get out into the world: how to travel within territories.

I recently watched a TED talk entitled ‘Why you should talk to strangers.’ I also recently read out the eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral. A man who always told us to speak to everyone, with respect, for we were never to know where those few shared words would take us. I’ve honored his teachings, and the results have taken me to places of my dreams. Quoted from the aforementioned TED speaker: “When you talk to strangers, you’re making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life, and theirs. You’re making unexpected connections.”

I’ve ‘lived’ in Cardiff for the best part of the last 10 months and have travelled the world in that time. I’ve spoken to strangers: on the street, while working a random hospitality shift, on the train (my favourite), attending an event as part of my job or attending an event as me. In that time, I’ve inherited delicious dhal recipes, learnt of female football in Zanzibar, gained a few words of Pashto and Swahili, heard the heroic tales of refugees now in South Wales, learnt of Zambia’s vibrant fashion scene and Iran’s incredible architecture; all from conversations with strangers. I’ve discussed gender inequality in India, mulled over cultural appropriation across borders and exchanged opinions on sport forecasts all the way between here and New Zealand — all via friendships born out of conversations with strangers.

Our writer with the dancers of Ballet Nimba, a Guinean Dance, Music, Film & Education Company. Photo © Ffion Storer Jones

Our writer with the dancers of Ballet Nimba, a Guinean Dance, Music, Film & Education Company. Photo © Ffion Storer Jones

So what’s the methodology? How do you fill your life with worldly experiences through talking to strangers?

Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Put yourself in a situation that’s new to you, that might even scare you.

Learn to speak Italian, watch that Nollywood thriller, attend that workshop on countering Islamaphobia or even register at your local library.  Expand your horizons — it will be a journey speckled with the richest collection of characters.  Different things scare different people — and that’s what makes things interesting.

  1. Be interested.

Spoken word poetry, bird spotting, Zara’s latest fashion collection or tea drinking. Having a wide array of interests means that you can strike a conversation with a wider demographic of people. Channel the message-conveying neurons in your brain; they have a plasticity that allows them to learn and grow new pathways accordingly. Let the pathway of your life have as many junctions, twists and turns as possible!

'Let the pathway of your life have as many junctions, twists and turns as possible!' Photo © Martin Ezekiel Sanchez via Unsplash

‘Let the pathway of your life have as many junctions, twists and turns as possible!’ Photo © Martin Ezekiel Sanchez via Unsplash

 

  1. Don’t judge a chocolate by its wrapper (reinvented bookcover saying).

Picture Christmas, and one of tens of chocolate tins floating around the office or your home. You’ve set your sights on the most elaborately decorated one, or the shiniest — but it tastes so different to what you’d pre-conceived, like going for a choc which turns out to be a chilli! Stop judging before knowing — it’ll put a fire in your belly when you connect with people you never thought you would. A little like the chilli, but sweeter — like a chocolate-coated chilli.

  1. Be Kind

Don’t get angry when someone bumps into you and doesn’t apologise, or fails to thank you for holding the door open for them. They may have meant to be rude, but don’t bite; they may also be rushing home to a sick child or dealing with what was a tough day at work. Everyone’s fighting a battle you know nothing about. In an increasingly uncertain political landscape, kindness is becoming more and more important. Keep holding those doors open, and always…

  1. SMILE

So there we are. Go forth; let every day be an adventure. Become a platform of exchange. Be a continuous, beautiful interruption in the pre-written narrative of our lives, and send your ripples of change far and wide.

Celebrating a Wales Win in the Euros with Joachim, a Coffee Producer from Uganda. Photo © Ffion Storer Jones

Celebrating a Wales win in the Euros with Joachim, a Coffee Producer from Uganda. Photo © Ffion Storer Jones

Featured image © Slava Bowman via Unsplash

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Guest Post: What is Your Most Mortifying Travel Hiccup?

Travelling isn’t always hassle-free. Sometimes, you make silly mistakes, get yourself hurt or take a risk that you really shouldn’t even consider, but that’s all part of the experience of seeing new places. Similarly, when you have these experiences you shouldn’t shy away from them or pretend they never happened: learn from them instead.

It can be hard to admit that you ‘failed’ in some way, but writing about these experiences helps others to realise they’re not alone in making mistakes when abroad. Travel writing itself should always be as honest as possible; why feed someone a load of meaningless rubbish about how beautiful a place is, if really it’s not that great? What’s the point of telling someone your trip went without a hitch when the bumps in the road are the things that are often the most interesting to hear about? There’s no shame in admitting you were violently sick, put yourself in a dangerous situation or maybe didn’t even really enjoy yourself at all.

So, in order to make a point of this, I asked five of the internet’s favourite travel bloggers the following question:

‘What is your most mortifying travel hiccup?’

They’re a friendly bunch, so don’t giggle too much at their misfortunes: this is what seeing the world is all about!

***

Travel Freak (Jeremy Scott Foster: @travelfreak_)

I feel like my travels are often filled with mortifying travel hiccups, but they always make the best stories.

jeremy scott foster headshot

Jeremy has been travelling since 2010 and is still going!

One in particular comes to mind, which happened when I was living in Xi’an, China. I had an appointment that was quite far out of town and to get there I had to take an hour-long taxi ride.

Getting there wasn’t the problem. I hailed a taxi and off we went. Coming back, however, proved to be a very different experience.

After we had driven about a quarter of the way, my taxi driver pulled over and motioned for me to get out. We had gone as far as he would take me. Not speaking the local language well enough to understand what was going on, I shouted back in English. We weren’t getting anywhere. It turns out that the taxis had city limits. They weren’t permitted to drive past a certain point, and he was taking me as far as he could go.

He dropped me on the side of the road in some dusty corner of the outer limits of the city. I didn’t have a clue where I was and most of the taxi drivers avoided me — I’m white, and they know better than anyone that, due to language barriers, it wouldn’t be easy figuring out where I wanted to go.

jeremy-foster-wangfujing

Shown above is Jeremy navigating the streets of Beijing. Sadly the place he was dropped off in Xi’an wasn’t as well-populated!

On the side of the road, a swath of about 20 locals surrounded me, trying to figure out what on earth I was doing there. I don’t think any of them had seen a foreigner before. They began shouting at me, screaming instructions, taking photos, trying to pull me in seven different directions at once. I think they only wanted to help, but I can’t really be sure.

I was in the middle of nowhere, with no phone service, no friends, and not even the right native language. Before freaking out, I took a deep breath, and reminded myself that, with a bit of perseverance, I would somehow make it home. It could be an hour from now, or it could be tomorrow. Even if I had to walk, I would make it. I was lost, but I wasn’t on the verge of dying.

Frankly, that’s a good thing to remember whenever anything goes wrong. I pushed on through, and a few more taxi rides later, I made it home, just in time for dinner.

***

Neverending Footsteps (Lauren Juliff: @NEFootsteps)

It was on a lagoon cruise in the Cook Islands when I experienced my most mortifying travel hiccup.

At the first snorkelling stop of the day, I wobbled my way to the side of our boat, watching as everyone slid overboard. I followed suit, clambering up onto the wooden bench and balancing on the hot side of the boat.

lauren at angkor wat

Lauren is pictured here at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. (Photographer: Lauren Juliff, www.neverendingfootsteps.com/)

I watched the ocean swell beneath me as I contemplated the swarm of circling fish and how they looked just like piranhas in my overly-anxious mind. I took a deep breath and then pushed off the side.

And then I stopped.

Something yanked at my crotch and I paused mid-fall. I was submerged up to my knees but the rest of me was still above water.

I let out a perplexed “ack!” as I tried to figure out how I had suddenly learned how to levitate. The pain in my groin shook me out of my confusion and I flung my arms behind me to secure myself on the boat with my elbows. A sharp pain shot through my arms, just as it became clear what had happened.

As I’d pushed myself into the water, my bikini bottoms had become snagged on a hook and left me dangling over the side of the boat, desperately thrashing my legs around in the water.

apo

The Cook Islands in the South Pacific. Doesn’t look too shabby… (Photographer: Lauren Juliff, www.neverendingfootsteps.com/)

I kicked my legs like a frog once more, attempting to pull myself back on board, noticing my tour group watching on in horror from the water. I forced a grimace in their direction and squeaked out, “I’m… o…kay!”

I channelled my embarrassment into physical strength. With one final push, I manage to hoist myself up from my elbows to my hands, and then slide back onto the boat.

And that was when I decided I would never snorkel again.

***

Jones Around the World (Dave Anderson: @Jones_y)

Whenever I get questions like this, I always like to choose the first thing that pops into my mind because that seems to be the most honest.  So,  let me tell you about one of the scariest travel moments I ever had.

Dave Anderson (Jones Around the World)

Here’s Jones on his way around the world!  (Photographer: Dave Anderson, www.jonesaroundtheworld.com/)

I rented a moto on Cebu Island in the Philippines, and rode down from Moalboal all the way to the south of the island, and then over to Oslob.  If you look at the map, you’ll see that the route is almost like a hook.  It was an amazing and easy ride, beautiful scenery, and not busy at all.

After an incredible time in Oslob swimming with whale sharks and exploring the stunning Tumalog waterfalls, I was ready to make the journey back to Moalboal.  I pulled up the route on Google Maps, and it gave me two options.

  1. To return the same way I came from.
  2. To cut through the middle of the island.

With the urge of seeing and experiencing something new, I decided on option two — and it’s one of the biggest travel mistakes I’ve ever made.  This was not my fault though — Google Maps failed me.

As I steadily climbed up and up this mountain, I kept thinking that surely I would need to start heading back down soon.  After 2-3 hours though, I just kept getting further into the mountain. I repeatedly asked locals if I could continue with this route, and they assured me everything would be fine.

When I finally reached the peak of the mountain and saw the road would start to descend, I realised that this “road” should definitely not be mentioned on Google Maps. It would be better classified as an intense hiking trail. I was riding a pretty awful Honda 100cc scooter, and it was not suitable for the road ahead.

Dave Anderson (Jones Around the World) 2

Jones swimming with sharks, just prior to his little mishap. (Photographer: Dave Anderson, www.jonesaroundtheworld.com/)

The road down was steep, with massive jagged rocks, and not a single other person was coming up or down on this trail. I had to turn off the scooter, and very carefully maneuver down this path. I had to stop every few minutes just to swear as loud as I could. If a tyre had popped, or I had hurt myself I would have been completely stranded. It was absolutely terrifying.

Fortunately, I managed to make it down the mountain with just a few minor scratches, and had the night to relax. What started off as an incredible day, turned into one of the most exhausting experiences I’ve had abroad.

Looking back on it though, it’s a good story, and now I know never to trust Google Maps again.

***

Karolina & Patryk (@KarolinaPatryk)

Malaysia is our worst travel hiccup. We just can’t understand the local culture, even though we have spent a few months there. Malaysian people love to hang out and spend time with each other. We are introverts, so we try to avoid long meetings. When we say no to spending time with them, it is kind of offensive.

Karolina and Patryk in Malacca

Karolina and Patryk are a travelling couple originally from Poland, pictured above in Malacca, Malyasia. (Photographers: Karolina and Patryk, karolinapatryk.com/)

On the other hand, we’ve been offended many times by them. For Malays, punctuality doesn’t really matter, so they were often more than 30 minutes late. In our culture, behaviour like this is disrespectful.

The other thing is language. Most Malaysian people speak English very well but they have an accent that we can’t understand. They often mix Malaysian and English words in one sentence, so we usually had to ask them twice to repeat what they were saying.

Sunset in Port Dickson

The sunset in Port DIckson, Malaysia. (Photographers: Karolina & Patryk,karolinapatryk.com/)

An example of our worst travel hiccup in Malaysia? We were renting an apartment in Penang. The owner was very friendly and helpful but she was too much for us. She wanted to come to the apartment almost every day to spend time with us. We hated this and avoided seeing her. We work online and we don’t really have time to sit and talk with a stranger. For an entire month we felt trapped. We left this apartment with a sense of relief, happy that nobody would bother us anymore.

***

Mapping Megan (Megan Jerrard: @MappingMegan)

My most embarrassing travel hiccup was the time I became a burn victim in the Galapagos Islands.

Bio Photo (11)

Megan Jerrard, founder of Mapping Megan. (Photographer: Megan Jerrard, https://www.mappingmegan.com/)

Upon our arrival in the Galapagos Islands we instantly hit the beach. We snorkelled close enough to touch enormous sea turtles, were slapped around under water by playful sea lions, and swam through schools of sharks. At the end of the day we collapsed onto the beach next to an equally exhausted sea lion, enjoying an afternoon nap under the warmth of the fierce Equatorial sun.

That day I made one tragic error in judgement which left me with severe burns. I wore a hat, applied suntan lotion twice hourly, and was safely covered from head to toe in a wetsuit to safeguard me from the sun. Well, not exactly from head to toe.

The sun is something I am incredibly conscious about while travelling. I have light skin, and I harbour a hatred for those who can spend all day in the sun and walk away with nothing more than a glorious tan.

I took every precaution I could think of while we were in the Galapagos, including a full body wetsuit and umbrellas for shade. But I forgot to apply suntan lotion to my feet. And the results were pretty catastrophic.

The next morning the island of San Cristobal awoke to the blood-curdling screams of me in excruciating pain. My skin was so tight and swollen that I instantly collapsed as soon as I attempted to get out of bed and walk. The pain was agonising. I couldn’t walk for days.

Galapagos Islands (4)

Take it from Megan: sunbathing can go horribly wrong if you aren’t careful!

I’ll save you from the pictures once the peeling began. It was a level of disgusting that I wouldn’t wish upon even those who tan.

Moral of the story: Stay sun-smart while travelling. Be aware that when travelling internationally you may be entering a country with UV rays more fierce than you are used to at home. Act accordingly to protect yourself and your health. And DON’T FORGET YOUR FEET!!

Featured image ©  Addison YC

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