Tag Archives: Wales

Mike Mantin

Pocket Guide to the Gower Peninsula

The Gower Peninsula is a rural, rugged landscape, shaped around the south coast of Wales. Unsurprisingly

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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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David Schiersner

Breakdowns and Beers: Holland and Germany

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Three Months, Two Students, One Motorbike

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.

vijay chennupati

Rain, wind and a breakdown: it’s hard not to lose hope when you’re on the road in these conditions! (Photographer: vijay chennupati; Flickr)

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.

usteinmetz

Dümmer See is a large lake in southen Lower Saxony, not far from Bielefeld and Münster. (Photographer: usteinmetz; Flickr)

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

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He and I go, in an Aygo

Recently I enjoyed my first extended foray into North Wales. I had been to Wales many times prior to going with my boyfriend Dewi, who hails from Bangor, but the extent of my journeys across the border had included day trips or school outings. I had experienced my fair share of tramping across the beach at Llandudno when I was younger, or complaining my way up the back of Snowdon. I had spent a lot time hiking various routes around and across Moel Famau, and explored both Chirk Castle and Powis Castle. However, my lack of both car and driving ability meant I had never been able to dictate my own experience of North Wales and get to explore in the way I’d like.

Powis Castle (Photographer: Alexander Forst-Rakoczy; Wikipedia)

Powis Castle (Photographer: Alexander Forst-Rakoczy; Wikipedia)

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Climbing to the Summit of Snowdon

At a height of 3,560 ft, Mount Snowdon is the highest point in the British Isles, outside of the Scottish Highlands. It is located in Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd, Wales – this mountain could almost be the sole reason to pay a visit to to the country.

Despite this magnificent peak, with its green fields, high mountains and tiny cottages, Wales is an ideal place for a quiet weekend getaway. Peace and tranquillity is a part of the lifestyle here, and the countryside is picturesque. Mount Snowdon is conveniently situated amidst this beauty, and formed by rocks produced from volcanoes; it towers over the countryside, providing one of the best views ever seen.

20141025_112324(Don’t forget to pack warm, waterproof clothes! Author’s photo)

My trip to Mount Snowdon began when I signed up to climb the mountain to raise money for a charity. Generally rainy and cold, a visit to Mt Snowdon requires possession of warm, waterproof clothes as well as waterproof hiking boots.The climb tends to take up to two to three hours up and then the same amount of time to climb down. It is a difficult ascend, with rocks and streams making the terrain rough and slippery as you climb. The powerful British winds do not make it easier: in fact, when one is about to reach the summit, the winds pick up and almost make it impossible to reach the top of this great mountain.

Despite these obvious drawbacks, the Snowdon climb is one experience that can never be forgotten. Standing at the foot of the mountain, it seems impossible. Snowdon seems to mock you as it towers high into the clouds. In spite of this you begin, and with every step it seems to get more difficult, feeling yourself battling this magnificent creation. The Snowdon climb brings you closer to nature, providing a peaceful and almost pleasant surrounding as you partake in this challenge. Amazed by the beauty the world has to offer – and Wales surely has the bulk of this beauty – the mountain offers warm colours of green, blue and brown, enveloping you as you climb.

20141025_125716(Head above the clouds for a spectacular view of Snowdon. Author’s photo)

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