When cash is tight but the travel bug hits, Continue reading
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.
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.
So what’s the methodology? How do you fill your life with worldly experiences through talking to strangers?
Here are my top 5 tips:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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…
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.
American Football season is upon us once again, and every autumn fans will have the same debate: which is the best stadium in America?
It’s a subject of constant controversy among even the most learned of football die-hards, with fanbases constantly jockeying to see who can create the loudest, most abrasive atmosphere for away teams, and who can put on a good tailgate. After a number of these discussions, I was driven to create this list.
The list is by no means definitive, but I did consider certain factors when compiling it. Namely, I looked at lists gone-by (both college and pro football) and deduced who the ‘regular suspects’ were, but I also factored in personal experience, consulted a few of the aforementioned die-hards, and took away the material aspect of the rankings, such as if stadiums had good accessibility, cool jumbo screens, and cupholders on every seat (sorry, Dallas). I tried to put together the seven best football stadia to visit if you want to truly see the game, and its fans, at their most passionate. So here it is: a highly unofficial guide to the best American football stadia.
#1 Death Valley (Tiger Stadium)
Capacity: 102, 321
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Team: LSU Tigers
‘Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world for a visiting team. It’s like being inside a drum.’
These were the words of revered Alabama head coach, Bear Bryant, as he described what it was like taking his team down to the bayou to play football. The ground’s officially called Tiger Stadium, but everyone simply refers to it as Death Valley as it’s basically where away teams come to die — it’s consistently ranked as having the best stadium atmosphere in all of football, college or pro. In keeping with tradition, LSU play all their games at night, so you can be sure you’ll experience this partisan, football-crazy crowd in all their, er, glory, after a good long day of tailgating, bayou-style.
#2 Arrowhead Stadium
Capacity: 79, 451
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Team: Kansas City Chiefs
There’s just something about Kansas City sports fans. They’re so proud of their teams that they take it as a personal affront when someone tries to outdo them — I’m referring to when Seattle officially became the ‘loudest’ stadium in the world after a seismic roar was recorded at their home field in a playoff game in 2012. Incensed that their reputation as the NFL’s loudest stadium had been ruined, Chiefs fans responded by setting a Guinness World Record for loudest crowd noise recorded at a stadium — a ridiculous 142.2 decibels. In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s over 10 decibels louder than a military jet taking off. Kansas City, you win.
#3 CenturyLink Field
Location: Seattle, Washington
Team: Seattle Seahawks
The fact that they held the record for loudest crowd noise at a stadium is impressive when you consider how much smaller their ground is, compared to others on this list. Set against the backdrop of Seattle in the fall, CenturyLink Field is an aesthetically pleasing piece of design, as well as being home to the ear-splitting phenomenon that is ‘the twelfth man’, the name given to the crowd to honour just how loud those Seattle-ites get.
#4 Darryl K Jones Memorial Stadium
Capacity: 100, 119
Location: Austin, Texas
Team: Texas Longhorns
In Texas, the oil booms and sleazy politicians come and go, but you can be sure of two constants: God and football. The college team is pretty good at the latter, and I guess playing in front of a hundred thousand Texans baying for blood each weekend is pretty good too. This is another stadium with a great backdrop, and it’s this state that inspired the book, and subsequent TV series, Friday Night Lights, both of which help us understand why football is life here. Texas forever, Street.
Being a university student, and so tied to one place for most of the year, it’s easy to get itchy feet. After our last minute decision to ride our motorbike from Wales to Marrakech last summer, my girlfriend and I decided this year to be more prepared: more savings, more planning, and most importantly, more time. The question is, will three months really be enough?
Of course, on a motorbike adventure, being the master of your own destiny only works as long as the bike does, and in a wet and windy petrol station near the Belgian border with Holland, the bike stubbornly reminded us of this. I must admit that I am probably a bit biased when it comes to singing the praises of travel by motorbike, and if you were to ask me to list all the reasons why travelling on a motorbike is the best, you’d need an hour or two to get through them. Despite this, mechanical failures are definitely difficult to big-up.
As Charlotte lacks the finer mechanical knowledge I pretend to possess, she sat on the kerb and kept my temper from boiling over while I hunted for the problem. Tool roll spread out before me, it did not take long. Under a side panel that covered the battery, I found a wire broken clean in two, the metal underneath the plastic rotten through. The problem was infuriatingly small, but I didn’t have the tools to fix this simple problem. After a quick think I was out of ideas and just sat down on the floor, willing the wire back together with my eyes. Of course, the wire stared back at me, broken as ever and laughing at my incompetence. I could almost hear the bike saying “Ten thousand miles in three months? No chance, mate.” There’s nothing like a breakdown to remind you that that what you’re doing is foolhardy at best, downright stupid at worst.
Accepting that we would need some expensive help, I went into the petrol station to borrow their phone.
“Bonjour, ça va, j’ai un probleme avec ma moto, parler vous Anglais?” I said into the receiver when a breakdown company answered.
“Hello Sir, unfortunately I only speak a little English, I will put you through to an associate who will be able to deal with your problem,” came the calm, collected voice on the other end. Just a little English then!
When the mechanic arrived he too only spoke “a little English”, before launching himself into a tirade against Brexit and recommending us some roads to see in Italy. Still, he had the bike running in ten minutes. We rode away whooping and hollering, and it wasn’t until we reached a campsite over the Dutch border that we realised we’d lost our tent pegs somewhere during the day. We spent a shaky night with the tent tied between the bike and a tree, and hoped that we’d had all our bad luck in one go.
After our breakdown, the next few days were spent making up for lost time. One night was spent in a wide open field ringed with caravans, our solitary tent in the middle. An old man and his dog braved the morning rain to come and say hello to us. When we told him of our plans his bushy eyebrows disappeared up and under his hood, and he hurried back to his caravan, returning a few minutes later with two cans of Fanta for us. At Dümmer See, a lake in northern Germany, a receptionist in the tourist information centre let us hide in her office from the rain for an hour, helpfully informing us that it was sunny now in Holland where we had just come from.
Spending whole days outside, we slowly observed the landscape change from the flat panoramas of Holland to the forest lands of Northern Germany. Charlotte had lived in Germany for the past year however had never made it as far north as Hamburg, and so we planned on stopping there for the weekend. We pressed on now, aware that we were blessed with time but wanting to spend it elsewhere, further into the trip. Everywhere felt too familiar, too close to home, and we were eager for the adventure to begin properly. Continue reading
I’d like to start this article with an announcement: America is cool. I’m aware I’m not taking all of you with me there. The United States is, after all, the country that gave us the drive-through hamburger joint, the SUV and cheese that comes in a can. None of these are cool. But the street art of New York? The music of New Orleans? Now we’re getting somewhere.
That is of course all very well if you can actually get to America to experience it for yourself; but what if your only experience of America has come rather closer to home? After all, we in Britain have imported many aspects of American life wholesale.
It sometimes seems like American “culture” is so ubiquitous as to be both familiar and uninteresting – think of the fast-food homogeneity of burgers, fried chicken and conspicuously un-Italian pizza, or the quantity of American TV shows we watch, especially now we can watch things on Netflix rather than having to wait for them to be shown on British TV. Back in the 90s, a phenomenon known as the Australian question intonation arose, whereby kids were watching so many Australian soaps that their voices started to rise at the end of sentences, as Australians’ do. Well, alongside that has always been Walt Disney (when I was a kid, a princess or heroine always had an American accent), and nowadays a preponderance of American satellite TV stations means kids roll their “R”s and talk about “high school”, “candy”, “trash cans” and “college”. On a slightly less savoury note, we are also adopting their less desirable attributes like their habit of pursuing litigation for the smallest of problems, their libertarian “me first, and everybody else can jump off a cliff” attitudes and their panicky attitude to immigration. The world is becoming more globalised and more homogenous, and the dominance of America’s large technology corporations like Microsoft, and its brands like Facebook, mean that the face of this homogeneity is American.
All this can give the impression, superficially at least, that we in Britain are totally au fait with all things American. Of course that’s not true; I still don’t know what a Twinkie is, for example. In recent years a fashion for things “all-American” has gathered pace, which has served to emphasise how un-American our perceived adoption of American-ness is. A McDonald’s is not a splash of Americana on a British high street; it’s just a burger and some chips. Sorry, fries.