This year I visited Greece for the first time to take part in a week-long yoga retreat. Anyone who has watched me try to touch my toes will understand why Continue reading
India. A place far from the perceived normalities of Western culture. A place where colour is vibrant, loud, and constant; so constant and loud, that your senses combine to a point when you can almost hear, taste and smell what defines its physical nature. At eight years old, when I first travelled to South India, these were the things that stood out to me the most and I have found that a child reacts to their surroundings by what they see rather than what they hear or understand. Continue reading
If someone had said to me 12 months ago that I would be going to Africa with a group of people I had never met before, to do voluntary work with International Service and live with a host family for 3 months, I would have most likely laughed them right out of the room.
Travelling to West Africa, essentially on my own, really pushed my comfort zone. Yet here I am, 12 months down the line, having recently returned from Ghana. Although it was one of the most daunting experiences my life, I am so glad that I went. It has been one of the best things I have ever done, if not one of the best things I’ll ever do.
I made the decision to volunteer with International Service when I stumbled across their website while randomly searching for ‘free overseas voluntary work’ (emphasis on the ‘free’ bit). I knew immediately that it was something that I should do. Not only did it satisfy my desire to travel with minimal expense, but I also strongly believed in their mission statement. Unfortunately, not many people have heard of International Service so for any readers who do not know, International Service is a human rights-based charity, working to protect and promote the rights of some of the most marginalised people across the world.
Not really sure of what to expect or what I would be doing, I got to work with my application. Within a week I had received a response and an invitation to an assessment day. And that was it, I was at the beginning of my International Service journey. Initially I had some difficulty in explaining to people what I would actually be doing. When asked I would always respond with a vague ‘Oh you know, teaching I guess.’ Not knowing really fuelled my anxiety about going, but as time wore on and the departure date approached, it became more apparent: I was to be working on a project which aimed to get more girls into school. This would involve teaching English in schools, running sexual health classes, going into communities to educate the local people on the importance of school, and various other activities.
Ghana truly surprised me and exceeded all of my expectations. First I must dispel any pre-existing stereotypes people may have of Africa. The image portrayed in the media sometimes presents Africa as a harsh, desolate place full of sadness, and while my experience of Africa is limited, Ghana certainly challenges these images. A country full of colour, dance, music and vibrancy, Ghana and its people enamoured me. Continue reading
The term ‘tourist’ is far more complex than many of us are willing to admit. Characters in literature and film attempt to negotiate the difference between ‘tourist’ and ‘traveller’ in everything from Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel ‘The Sheltering Sky’, to 2014 film ‘The Inbetweener’s 2′ (albeit in very, very different ways). I realised recently that ‘tourist’ is increasingly becoming a derogatory term, and isn’t only used in this way by people with a misguided superiority complex. So, in this series I’m going to attempt to unravel ‘the tourist’, looking at who and what it means and why we might not be happy to identify as one.
In the first part of my series on tourism I looked at three different types of tourist and all their amusing and irritating habits. I promised to deliver three more, so keep reading for numbers 4, 5 and 6. Remember, these are written from my own personal observations and are intended to amuse, not offend!
4. The tourist who refuses to be labelled as one and is partial to weeks or months of aimless wandering seeking the meaning of life (usually unemployed with a privileged upbringing)
It’s true, travel educates you better than almost anything else. To this tourist though, part of this education means getting ‘meaningful’ tattoos or dreadlocks, snubbing major attractions in favour of tiny cafés that only serve gluten-free muffins and kale smoothies and pretending to be one of the locals (without knowing a word of the local language). Expect phrases such as these to be haughtily spouted at you: ‘I prefer to call myself a traveller’, or ‘Well, I may only be visiting right now but I’m actually thinking of moving here one day.’
These tourists are often respected by their peers back home for being considered ‘individual’ or ‘wild’, usually due to their supposedly unique preferences. However, when faced with people they believe are similar to themselves (hipsters) during a trip abroad, they are rejected on the grounds that their knowledge about ‘non-mainstream culture’ fails to extend beyond a certain set of topics. These frequently include heavy debates about: Florence and the Machine’s contribution to music, the importance of including okra in your diet, why falafel has become clichéd, and why a revolution is necessary (to improve animal welfare, eradicate poverty and overthrow the government… except it’s just easier to drink herbal tea all day). Tourist Number 4 has usually been raised very well indeed and has no idea what it’s like to work for anything, but expresses disdain at their upper/middle-class privileged upbringing and seeks out opportunities to ‘rough it up a bit’ and ‘live on the edge’ in a bid to broaden their horizons.
This species of tourist can be found sneering at ‘the privileged rich’ and failing to understand irony, overusing words like ‘rad’, ‘man’ and ‘dude’, preaching faux-intellectual theories to anyone who’ll listen and basking on hostel bunk beds in partially-torn clothing playing a battered acoustic guitar. Tourist Number 4 will also probably refuse to call their trip a ‘holiday’ but rather a ‘journey’ (of self-discovery, often funded by parents). These are usually the ‘gap-yah’ kids: avoid at all costs if you have to work for a living, you’ll get angry.
5. The tourist with so much money they’re blind to everything else
This one is envied by most due the obviously affluent lifestyle that seems to be second nature to them. Generally, this envy is often covered up and expressed as ‘pity’ for those poor souls who’ll never know what it’s like to doss down in a filthy hostel and wake up covered in sweat and suspicious-looking hairs, before cramming yourself into a packed coach reserved only for those who can’t afford a train but are too scared to hitchhike.
This tourist never shops around for the best deals because it just isn’t necessary to do so. The ‘best hotel’ in ‘the best part of town’ will be booked, just ‘because’. Does that restaurant have any Michelin stars and require a reservation? No? It can’t be that good then. ‘Filthy markets’ will be avoided because Swarovski, Louis Vuitton and Lacoste are down the next street (for some reason, this tourist gets excited about this, despite the fact that one can find these stores all over the world). Continue reading
Not everyone has the cash to pay for a flight in business class the day before they travel, take taxis everywhere and pay the fees for five suitcases when they go away. However, there’s no reason why those of us with limited funds should resist travelling abroad, or flounder around miserably spending more money than we can afford just because we were ill-informed or disorganised. Not having vast quantities of cash at your disposal requires you to be more prepared, more logical and more cautious, because there isn’t a wad of £50 notes in your bag that will solve things if you find yourself stuck. You can’t afford to be running fatally late for a journey you booked if there’s no more money to pay for another ticket, or pay the eye-watering last minute luggage fees at the airport because your bags are too heavy or you have more than your booking allows.
Below is a brief guide to budget travel, applicable to the big spenders looking for a holiday that’s better value, the near-destitute travellers among us who’ve got a bad case of wanderlust, and those simply wanting to save some cash on their next trip. Use it well.
1. Be tactical
The time and day you choose to book a flight can make a huge difference to what you pay. On a Tuesday afternoon between midday and around 2.30pm, I was browsing Skyscanner and found return flights from London Luton to Budapest (and back) on the day I wanted to travel for £85.96 for two people. I didn’t book the flights immediately and took another look later on.
By 7.30pm that evening, the price had increased to £157.96. The next day around 1pm, they fell back to £85.96 again. Admittedly, both prices are ludicrously cheap for two return tickets (although I will smugly admit that I paid £9.99 to fly with Ryanair to Cologne once), but it’s proof that booking earlier in the day (ideally on a weekday), works out cheaper. My uncle followed this advice and it worked for him, too — he looked at flights late on a Sunday night, then checked again around midday on Monday and the price had halved.