I can remember holding you for the first time, your tiny pink hand slowly clenching and unclenching around my finger. By the time you were walking and talking we were inseparable. When you were old enough, we’d go out on long bike rides, riding to the convenience store for Slurpees and five cent candies. We’d then whip around the neighbourhood, going as fast as we could leading up to the hill down Crescent Drive, toward the golf course. People joke that you can watch your dog run away for three days in the prairies, and we had to make the most out of every minor hill, every chance to feel the rush of wind on our faces. We’d race each other through the pathways of Wildwood Park, stopping in each playground to eat candy while sitting on the swings. We knew those streets like the back of our hands, knew every crack in the sidewalk, every low branch, every yard that had a dog that would bark as we zoomed past. When it would be time to go home, we’d cycle down South Drive slowly, seeing who could ride with our hands off of the handlebars the longest, both of us showing off.
I can remember holding you for the first time, your tiny pink hand slowly clenching ...
I've made a lot of mistakes while travelling. A lot. I've been ripped off, I've ...
I arrive in Osaka on a humid afternoon, my bags bulging with light grey office-wear ...
I've been thinking a lot about community lately, and about support networks. I've been thinking ...
If you've been following my Facebook or my Instagram accounts, you'd know that I'm not ...
I’ve made a lot of mistakes while travelling. A lot. I’ve been ripped off, I’ve lost things, I’ve spent too much money, and I’ve wasted valuable travel time on things that could have been avoided. There are certain mistakes I don’t think are worth making at all – things like spending too much on credit card fees, not checking if your phone plan covers data roaming, and drinking that damn glass of orange juice in Morocco – but there are a lot of mistakes I think are OK to make once or twice, or even ones I think that we should all make quite a bit in our travels. Here are a few of the “mistakes” I’ve enjoyed making over the past ten years of travelling, and some stories detailing when I’ve made them myself.
I arrive in Osaka on a humid afternoon, my bags bulging with light grey office-wear and books by my favourite authors. I stand on the yellow footprints at immigration, waiting to be fingerprinted and photographed. I take a bus and then a taxi to my new apartment, led by an American representative of my company called Bruce. He has bleached hair and a sweat-stained polo shirt. I go to shake his hand, but he bows instead.
We walk down a long arcade filled with glowing shops, air-conditioning blasting out their automatic doors. I see rows of unfamiliar vegetables, walls of colourful stationery, a casino whose plink and plonk of slot machines resounds out into the night air. We stop at an inconspicuous building with a brown door, my new home.
The apartment’s larger than I thought it would be, although everything is steeped in brown and beige, the furniture chipped and dingy. Many people have lived here before. I pull back the sepia curtains and step out onto the balcony, looking over a sea of low buildings, the dim of lights stretching out as far as I can see. The air feels sticky, flat. It’s my first time in Asia.
I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, and about support networks. I’ve been thinking more and more about my blog’s tagline – “It’s not just the where and the how of travel, it’s the who and the why.” I’ve been thinking about what this blog is here for, and what on earth I aim to achieve from it beyond the (hopefully not but probably) navel-gazing stories about my travels, emphasis on the my.
And, of course, the more I think about it all, the more it comes back to this: the main reason I travel, the main reason I blog, hell, the main reason I get up in the morning, is because of the interactions with people I have from all over the world. Meeting new people and engaging with people from different backgrounds and cultures is the whole reason I am so addicted to travelling in the first place. I wrote a post recently about how I believe people are good, and in that I talked about how much I’ve gained and learned from interacting with people of all walks of life.
But I am just one person, and I represent just one kind of traveller.
One of the great joys of my life is, obviously, travelling. Another great joy – one that has always allowed me to travel, even if I’m sitting on my couch – is reading. Over the past few years, especially in the midst of my master’s degree, I read a heck of a lot of non-fiction, and, as I wrote the first draft of my own book, I read tons and tons of travel-focused non-fiction. I read great, inspiring books, books that made me want to plan trips to faraway lands, books that made me laugh and made me learn. I also read a lot of… well… not so great books, books that felt more like a poorly-written (and sometimes culturally insensitive) diary.
But someone whose writing I can always rely on is Christine Gilbert of Almost Fearless. I’ve been reading her blog for a long time and even considered spending some time in Mexico in order to do one of her writing courses (OK, and to eat a lot of guacamole). I had followed her journey of writing a book, and when she reached out to me to see if I wanted to read an advanced copy of that book, I was more than happy to do so.
If you’ve been following my Facebook or my Instagram accounts, you’d know that I’m not hiding the fact that I fell absolutely, head over heels in love with Cinque Terre, Italy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know – I can be quite promiscuous with my travel love. But how can you NOT fall in love with a place that looks like this, especially when the sun is shining and you have a glass of wine in your hand?
I’m still going through all of the hundreds of photos I took from my four days there last month, so I’ll be posting a photo essay soon, but I wanted to write a post about some of the logistics of getting around Cinque Terre, especially for those who are on a bit of a budget (like I was…er… always am). I had quite a few people write to me to say that they plan on visiting the region this summer, and so hopefully this guide can help, or perhaps it can help inspire you to plan your own trip there. It is one of the most beautiful places in Italy, if not the world, and I truly believe that Cinque Terre can be visited on a budget. Here’s how.
If you’ve read this blog long enough you know that I am not a light packer. I mean, I’ve learned a lot in the past few years as I consistently travel with carry-on only around Europe, but those trips are always only a few days, maximum one week. I just can’t help it – I’m love clothes and I love being prepared. While part of me envies those people who can travel around the world with one tiny backpack, the other part of me is quite happy to carry a few more kilograms if it means I get to have options. To each their own, I guess. I’ve also been very lucky (touch wood) that I’ve never lost a suitcase for good. I’ve had items delayed, but I’ve always had them returned to me within 24 hours.
On the flip side of all this, I’ve always wanted to try arriving somewhere with no luggage whatsoever, and then having to buy everything from local shops and markets. I’ve often talked about doing it somewhere in Southeast Asia – I think that Thailand (especially Bangkok or Chiang Mai) would be fairly easy and fun locations to test this out. Me? I chose to test it out in Italy.
A few weeks ago, on the first weekend of April, I flew from London to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. I had been once before, in 2008, and had really enjoyed my time in the country. During those four days, I spent one day on a whistle-stop tour that explored the Causeway Coast, herded from one sightseeing spot to the next. It had never felt like enough.
Fast forward eight years, and I was given the chance to visit Northern Ireland again. This time, however, my entire time would be spent on the Causeway Coast, based in the little seaside town of Portballintrae. The idea of spending three days exploring this area was highly appealing; since that visit in 2008, my travel style has changed considerably, and I’d now rather take my time and see more of a smaller area than travel at breakneck speed in order to cram it all in.
In short, I completely fell in love with the Causeway Coast. Here’s why.
Three days ago I was there, in the place you see photographed above: Cinque Terre, Italy (and that, specifically, is the village of Vernazza). I had an amazing time in Italy, my sixth time to the country; I ate lots of great food, went hiking on beautiful trails, sat by the water with glasses of wine, drank far too many espressos, and even met some handsome Italians (that always helps). And then, with one two hour flight from Pisa and a bus from Stansted airport, I was at home in my flat, unpacking and doing laundry and wondering whether or not I could eat enough sushi to warrant the minimum delivery surcharge (spoiler: I could, even though I ordered so much they delivered it to me with four sets of chopsticks).
Something I often think about – and quite frankly, something I often worry about – is whether or not I’m addicted to travelling. That, perhaps, I’m too consumed by it, and, what frightens me the most, is that I’m often the happiest when I’m on the road. So what does it mean to be addicted to travelling?