Just a day in Bali Paradise…

Just a day in Bali Paradise…

I checked out of the swanky Sanur hotel and I heard a voice shout my name. It was Made (pronounced Mah-day). He was sitting in the lobby and stubbed out his cigarette and smiled at me. Something about his smile was so comforting. He was the kind of character that within minutes of his company I felt like I had known him my whole life, very familiar with kind eyes. He dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans but still had an air of being presentable. He appeared to be in his 40s but I later learned he is only in his early 30s – perhaps life had trodden him down a little. I had met him prior to today as he is the Nephew of an old Balinese friend and he offered reliable transport. Today was different; today Made’s eyes were full of concern. It turned out his Father had a stroke and he needed to get him to the hospital urgently. I asked him why he didn’t cancel picking me up as I would have been happy to get a taxi. He looked stunned and quickly responded, “Nooo!” I also asked him why his father could not get an ambulance. Made told me that ambulances are not sent for ‘trivial’ things like strokes! Being an ambulance clinician myself in England, this really stunned me. A stroke is serious and is treated as a time critical incident in England, yet here in this Balinese paradise, over-swarmed by western tourists to the point that you could be in Sydney, an ambulance was saved for something more serious!! This highlighted even more how the healthcare service in England is abused by so many!! But also, how in the developing world, the idea of turning down paid work to take your urgently sick parent to hospital is impossible. My heart broke a little for Made.

I arrived back to the cosy hotel in Kuta that I have stayed in many times before over the past 7 years. The local shop owners recognise me. One in particular, a young lady called Putu always recognised me, even when I return pasty and white some years later. “Lou!” She shouts as I walk past her shop. Putu was always smiling, come rain or shine. She invited me into the back of her shop where a small child was screaming on a small dirty mattress. I joined Putu on the mattress and she explained to me that Olivia (her daughter; one of four!) was upset because their family friend had left to return to Australia. Putu went on to tell me how blessed and happy she was. I looked around the small cramped room that she lived in with a small mattress to share with four small children and I felt a pang of guilt. Putu was grateful and happy to have her shop and a roof over their heads. I couldn’t help but retrace the thoughts I have had over the past 2 years and all the difficulties I have faced which one would consider ‘first world problems’ and yet here was Putu who had next to nothing but she was so happy and always smiling. It really put things into perspective for me.

Soon after, I left Putu’s shop feeling a little dazed and strolled through the humid heat around the buzzing lanes of Kuta. I found a tailor shop filled with hard working local men working on sewing machines. I am a keen sewist and asked if I could watch them for a while. Within no time they had me working on a machine, for fun of course. However, the thick humid heat swelled in the room with a small dusty fan which may as well have not been there. Whilst I struggled to concentrate and work in that heat with sweat pouring from my entire body, the employees mostly had their shirts off and a cigarette hanging loosely from their lips, casually working away, cutting fabric, ironing, overlocking. I admired them so much. Naturally being a western white woman, lots of tourists walked past and giggled at the sight of me working in this shop filled with Indonesian men, but I didn’t mind. I actually got a glimpse of an insight into what life is like working in poverty-stricken Asia and I noticed that they don’t take ‘days off’, they will work 80 hours a week without a complaint if it pays the bills. This again gave me perspective on my life. Yes, my job is challenging, but I DO have days off and down time to put my feet up. I doubt very many do in Indonesia and similar countries. I stayed in the shop for several hours and found a new sympathy for the local businesses “harassing” tourists for business. Seeing things from the other side softened my heart.

I had been reading a book about he Bali bombings (The Paradise Guesthouse, Ellen Sussman – highly recommended) and felt an overpowering need to visit the memorial site. The book had made the incident feel so real to me, all those who lost their lives. I was pulled to the location of the bombings and stood for a while, staring at the plaque listing the full names of all those who lost their lives on that tragic day. For some reason, I couldn’t walk away until I had read the full names of all 202 people who passed away and tried to imagine a little something about their lives, be it local Indonesians or Portuguese solo travellers.

The rain started beating down, harsher than a power shower and I slinked off into the shelter of a local pub for a beer. What a day it had been! A real eye opener. It’s days like these that keep my desire to travel burning forever.

I later found out that Made’s father was treated for his stroke and is on the road to recovery, much to my happiness and relief!

Cuddle Your Globe

Jan 2017

How often should we travel?

Whilst some people’s idea of happiness is to get a mortgage and pay off their debts, enslaved to a full time job, this is the idea of hell to others. 

In an ideal world we should be travelling constantly. We were not designed to buy a house and never leave it. The world is impossibly large for a reason, to explore it.

So if, like me, you cannot afford to travel constantly, so have the home and a full time job and waste hours dreaming about travel… How often should we get away?

When I used to work in travel, a month would never pass that I wasn’t on a plane, and I loved it! Nowadays I am lucky if I get away more than once a year. And I don’t even have kids or a mortgage. 

So I decided to travel with work, set up a new life across the country and start a fresh. It’s great because there is a whole new part of the world to explore and it’s fresh and exciting all the time. Although, nothing quite beats getting a flight and travelling a new continent..

  

There are People Still Unaccounted for in this World.

There are People Still Unaccounted for in this World.

In developed countries, busy commuting to college or work, it’s easy to think this is normality for the entire world. We all moan about our governments and healthcare systems etc etc, but we hardly ever stop to appreciate the fact that we have them.

When travelling to the outback, farthest depths of developing countries, it’s only then when it hits you, hard, that there are people, families, children, who are ‘unknown’. They are not a statistic, they do not have a passport, they do not have a bank account. They live in the same clothes day in, day out, perhaps in a tent in the desert with nothing around for miles but their family.

I was fortunate enough to sit with such a family and drink tea with them in the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan some years back. There was not a trace of electricity or television. They had simple cushions and blankets under a basic tent to provide shelter from the punishing heat. Two young boys played up in the rocks while their parents sat with us and talked. They were generous and offered what they could and more importantly, they seemed happy. Imagine a life where education and employment doesn’t exist. Only skills for survival..

The youngest of the two boys was coughing, a lot. I work in healthcare so I could tell he had a pretty bad lower airway infection. This family, with their simple means of survival, had no easy access to antibiotics. Even a shower.

In the developed world we lose our minds because our network provider ‘crashes’ for an hour, disabling access to making phone calls. But this family, they had never seen an iPad before.

Really makes you think.

The Top 6 Best and Worst Bits about Travel.

The Top 6 Best and Worst Bits about Travel.

Travel isn’t always beaches, sunsets and floating around in awe. There are amazing perks, for sure! Don’t be fooled, there are very crappy bits too…

Top 6 Best Bits About Travel

1. Experience. By this I mean soaking in new sights, doing something new and challenging outside of your comfort zone; this is the best.

2. Meeting new people. We make friends constantly when we travel, and they are usually like minded people on our wavelength and they are the best!

3. Culture and dining. Seeing how other people get by day-to-day is truly enriching. Eating the food and flavours they create is a wonderful part of travel. Each nation has a signature dish and its great to try new things.

4. Climate. Often where we travel to will have a drastically different climate to home. Be it snow or sunshine, it’s great to experience a landscape with a different season. Skiing down a mountain, or laying on a beach topping up that tan… Bliss!

5. Activities. Travel always pushes us to our limits and a large percentage of people who travel are more likely to take part in something whilst away than they would at home. In turn, this makes us happier and builds self esteem.

6. Escape. By far one of the best bits about travel is escaping our own versions of reality. We imagine what it would be like to live in this land that is by any stretch, miles better than our own boring lives.

  
Top 6 Worst Bits About Travel

1. Exhaustion. Like it or not, travelling can be tiresome. Even once the hours, if not days of trekking through airports and surviving long haul flights is done, we want to cram our days with so much excitement that sometimes we forget to get enough rest at night and end up feeling like we need a holiday once the trip is over.

2. Creature comforts. Yes it’s great to ‘get away from it all’, but after a while we start to miss the simple things like our own bed, a kitchen to prepare the finer things in life (such as a cup of tea and some toast!) and the sofa. Even people or pets are comforts we miss when away!

3. Mosquitos. Or any ‘foreign creepy crawly’ that we have never seen before and therefore are not certain if it will kill us just by looking directly at us.

4. TD. This is an abbreviation for travellers diarrhoea. Anyone who travels to other continents often will be familiar with this one. It’s often caused by undercooked street food or even tiny particles of faeces in your food. Yum.

5. Jet lag. Especially on an around the world ticket, you are forever trying to get your body climatised and adjusted to your new home. Chances are, by the time you sync up with your zone, it’s time to leave.

6. Language barriers. Let’s face it, our arms get tired from gesturing everything we are trying to say. When we eventually return home we notice we speak in simple language. We may approach a stranger in the street and ask, “You… Have…. Time??”

There is no such thing as travelling ‘alone’..

There is no such thing as travelling ‘alone’..

There is definitely a stigma attached to the word – alone.

There shouldn’t be, and here’s why..

We are all alone.

We are all brought into and out of the world equally. People we meet along the way are companions. There to fill us with company and love, sometimes with upset and pain. But the fact remains the same, we are still, always…. Alone. How you fill your time is up to you.

So why is there a stigma attached with travelling alone? I suppose people might consider it a safety risk… But guess what? You can easily be attacked as a two-some as you could travelling alone. If anything, you could be an easier target for attack in a group because you let your guard down.

People may even think… ‘Don’t you have any friends?? You must be a loner to travel by yourself..’ Well, I’m here to tell you, officially – screw them, and their opinions.

Travel can be equally or more amazing when travelling by yourself. But this is not a unique situation of ‘alone-ness.’ It just means you are travelling without company. And it can be incredible.

The stranger in a pub and his advice…

The stranger in a pub and his advice…

I love it when you meet a complete stranger and they say something to you…. A simple sentence that just falls from their lips like an old apple from a limp tree branch. But THAT sentence will stay with you forever. The stranger has no idea that their blaze alcohol fuelled babble with give you a piece of advice that will change your life forever.

I was sat in a bar one summers afternoon with a friend and we began chatting to a man who had flown back into the UK from Japan where he has been living for several years, teaching English. Due to our mutual love of exploring the other continents, the conversation drew in towards my favourite subject… ‘Travel’

At this point, I had never travelled alone before and was toying with the idea of booking a long haul solo trip to Asia and Australia for a few months. But! I was in a long term relationship. One that I thought was very happy at the time. I didn’t want to leave him for several months and I discussed this with the stranger.

What he said to me changed my life.

“In five years time, which will you regret more? Not going travelling or risking the relationship?”

Sure enough, five years have passed since that comment. I went travelling. The relationship didn’t last, and I can honestly look back with no regrets because I found my passion in life and I found myself. 

 

Holiday Obsession Disorder

Holiday Obsession Disorder

This is so excellently true! I think most of us can relate to this wonderful disease…

  

The Time I almost Died, White Water Rafting

‘Do one thing every day that scares you!!!’ They said.

I’ve spent my entire life being pretty tame. I once even cried the whole way down an abseiling wall. I’d always liked my feet safely on dry land… Until I travelled. Travel pushes you to your limits. So, whilst in Bali I decided to push the boat out and try white water rafting.

Our guide, a slim, young Indonesian man gave us a quick briefing and explained that when he shouts ‘boom’ we need to duck to avoid fallen trees etc. I recall him saying that if we fall in the water it was ‘bye-bye’, and then he laughed. This didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

He helped me into the boat with my friend and two Australian teenage boys. They were half my age and lived on the opposite side of the world. In every-day life, we would have absolutely nothing in common. Yet in this hour, smashing through the speeding waters in the jungle, they would become my family.

The start of the rafting was gentle, our boat softly pondering through the waters. Giant, powerful cliffs surrounded us and there would be the occasional family sitting on the banks, farming or making clothes. I could hear rattle snakes and cheerful bird songs. Then things started to speed up…

We each had an oar to help row, but naturally were using it to splash as much water as possible at the passing tourists. The world passed by quickly, my eyes were struggling to keep focus on danger, whilst trying to spot potential water-fight warfare. The rocky, green cliffs were whizzing past me in a hot blur. I believe this is where the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome kicked in… Adrenaline started pulsating around my body. My clothes were soaking wet, my finger nail bent right back and I bumped my helmet-covered head on a rock-wall. All the while, I felt no pain.

A collection of boats had gathered, stuck at the top of a small waterfall in the direction we were headed. Our pathway was blocked except for a large rock protruding from the centre of the waters. We ricocheted from several boats and at high speed slid up the rock and became wedged. Before I even knew what was happening, I felt myself in mid-air, violently flung from my boat. I was face up, watching the sky distance itself from me, aware that beneath my body was a sheer drop into harsh, rocky waters. I wasn’t afraid or worried, I guess it all happened too quickly for anything resembling emotion to settle in me.

In that second, the guide (who was half my size) grabbed onto the shoulder of my life-vest and a large chunk of my hair and pulled me effortlessly back into the boat. He actually saved my life. I couldn’t stop laughing and hugging him.

On my next visit to Bali, what was the first thing I did? Booked myself onto a white water rafting session.

How to Get an Extra Holiday for FREE and Avoid Long Layovers on Connecting Flights and What Exactly a ‘Transit’ or ‘Stopover’ Means.

How to Get an Extra Holiday for FREE and Avoid Long Layovers on Connecting Flights and What Exactly a ‘Transit’ or ‘Stopover’ Means.

Some people will know a little about this. I know that many others know nothing at all, I hope this post helps all of you in some way in your future travels.

When you are travelling super duper long haul, there is only a maximum amount of distance one flight can take you due to fuel restrictions etc, so it’s very common to take a connecting flight to your destination. Sometimes these flights have 2 or more ‘transits’. A transit is basically when you remain airside at an airport in any given destination, without clearing immigration, awaiting boarding your connecting onward flight. This means you have booked the entirety of your journey on one ticket and any checked luggage will be sent through to your final destination for you, and you just need to change aircraft.

More often than not, flights with one or more transits are much cheaper than flying direct, so this is a great way to save some coins if time is on your side.

So, you may often find amazingly cheap flights that involve a connection time at an airport of over ten hours. This is often because of busy dates and limited availability on the flights with good connection times. Take note;

  • This can be excruciatingly dull and you can easily spend what you saved on the flight cost actually inside the airport.
  • Officially a ‘transit’ is only a transit if your connection is under 8 hours. This means you may require a transit visa for 8 hours and 10 minutes, incurring more fees.
  • Anything over 24 hours will certainly require a visa, if required in your stopover destination.

So basically, if you are only considering doing a long transit to save a few pennies, I would say it’s not worth it.

BUT… There is a much better solution. 

  • Be flexible with your dates. Moving your outbound date by just one day could shorten your total journey time by many hours and free up availability in your perfect connecting flight.
  • Abuse the situation and swap your awful long transit to a stopover!!

What is a stopover, you ask?

A stopover is a planned break in your journey. For example, say you book a flight from London- Sydney, with a transit in Dubai. Your luggage will be checked from London to Sydney and in Dubai, you change planes. What you CAN do is actually book a flight to Dubai, stay for a few days and then fly onwards to Sydney. This means you will collect your hold bags at Dubai, clear immigration, leave the airport and return to check in again for your Dubai – Sydney flight. * Please note that all ticket rules vary and whilst many airlines offer this free of charge, some will charge a small fee and there will likely be a small airport tax increase. 

So, if you are flying through Dubai anyway, make the most and tick that country off your list.

Emirates via Dubai is just an example but this can work on almost ANY flight ticket with a transit.

Happy free holiday hunting!

Short Haul Winter Sun for Brits in April

Short Haul Winter Sun for Brits in April

Where is hot in April? 

This is a question I asked myself whilst looking for a hot break somewhere next month.

April is right on the cusp of winter and summer for many destinations in Europe so it’s hard to know where to choose to go if you’re in search of sunshine. I have written this blog to give some inspiration for short haul winter sun from the UK. Short haul, I classify as under 5 hours flight time.

1.

The Canary Islands are mountainous, pretty, volcanic islands off the East coast of Africa and are pretty much in line with the Sahara Desert. They are touristy and often have beaches packed with British tourists. The four main islands are Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Temperatures in April range from 18-20 degrees but often can get hotter.

  
2.

Egypt offers guaranteed sunshine year round. Resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh, Luxor or Hurghada are nestled far away enough from political unrest and are in my opinion, tourist friendly and safe. Temperatures in April average at 25 degrees.

  
3.

Morocco offers many cultural attractions such as the city of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, along with beautiful beach resorts. Temperatures in April average between 18-24 degrees.

  
4. 

Malta and Gozo are pretty much as far south you can get in the Meditteranean. They get very warm from May onwards but in April you can look at averages of around 20 degrees.

  
5. 

Cyprus in Europe is verging into the Middle East heat zone and it’s truly a superb country. I’d recommend hiring a car and spend your days exploring. They drive on the left also! Temperatures in April average t the slightly cooler 16 degrees but often reach 21 degrees.

  
6.

Jordan. OK, this is a smidge over a 5 hour flight, but this is my favourite short haul destination. With jam packed fun in the desert, the ancient city of Petra and the Dead Sea on offer, it’s worth the extra bit of flying. Temperatures in April average 28 degrees! Don’t go in July because you will burst into flames.

  
7.

Tunisia. Many people are put off travelling there are the terrorist attacks last year. One could argue that perhaps it is now one of the safest places to travel to. Temperatures in April are averaging around 16 degrees.