Weekly Travel Musing – 2

Q – what do you do if somebody steals your shoes / sandals / thongs if you are in a country where it is common practise to take them off when entering premises?

A – walk barefoot.

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??”

Hotel Pennsylvania, Midtown Manhattan 

Hotel Pennsylvania, Midtown Manhattan 

Hotels in Manhattan are notoriously overpriced in general, so on a recent visit I was keen to cut back some pennies. I have known of the hotel Pennsylvania 2* for many years having booked it for thousands of clients and I actually walked past it 5 years ago. It’s well known for being a good budget hotel (starting rates around $150 per night) in the city centre. I have had mixed reviews about the hotel and was honestly not expecting much at all on arrival on a recent six day city break.

The first thing that shocked me was the size of the hotel, it has around 2,000 rooms and towers high (much like many New York buildings) and the queue for check in.


After a long day of travelling, a 45 minute wait to get to the front desk was not ideal. Properties of this magnitude will always have drawbacks. BUT, on the flip side, having a room on the 12th floor meant so much of the New York noise couldn’t be heard when sleeping which is a massive bonus and something most people do not think about when booking a hotel. The check in staff were very friendly and professional.. Worth the wait.

The bedrooms are a little dated and the bathrooms, although clean could certainly have a little revamp. The beds are very comfortable. I think the mattresses were the fancy hypo allergenic sprung types with a topper, which my back appreciated after battling the city each day.


A very bizarre thing happened during our stay. We had a ‘do not disturb’ tag on our door so house keeping did not visit. But, on our return, there was an extra fridge freezer in our room! We couldn’t understand why it had been brought in as we already had one and we certainly hadn’t asked for it. I half expected to find an oven the next day…!

The room keys frequently decided to fall asleep during our visit requiring a frustrating 60 minute round trip to reception and security etc etc to gain access to our room.

Facilities at the hotel are decent, hotel guests have access to an Olympic size swimming pool next door free of charge and if you are offered breakfast, take it!! It’s at a buffet cafe accross the street and is fantastic; salad, fruit, cereal, bagels, pancakes, toast, hot food, tea, coffee and juice…. I am salivating whilst writing this just remembering it. There are also a few stores inside the hotel and a coffee shop. Seating is available in the lobby, but there could be a little more given the amount of guests. The hotel is wheelchair friendly as there are ramps / lifts available.

The best bit by far, location location location!! The hotel is directly opposite Penn train station (which operates a direct train to Newark airport), and Madison Square Garden. The hotel also has several subway stations within a few minutes walk. Times Square is about a 15 minute walk north of the hotel and Central Park another 15 minutes north.

Overall, I was happy with my stay. Would I stay here again? Absolutely. Would I recommend it to others? Definitely. Suitable for all ages? Yes, although in my opinion it is perhaps a little more suited for 18-45 years. Friendly staff? Yes, and mostly very helpful.

I was pleasantly surprised by my stay and if you are considering staying here, do not let bad reviews put you off. It is budget accommodation so don’t expect a 5* hotel, but it’s a great gem in the heart of Manhattan.

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. 

 

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.

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.

   

2016 New Years Resolutions, Should We Bother?!

The answer is yes.

Granted, the ‘new year, new me’ attitude sounds stupid because numbers on a calendar do not instantly change us. Every second, every minute of every day changes us because we are constantly learning. If anything, I feel that marking the first date in a fresh year is just a ‘Hallmark’ way of kicking ourselves up the universal arse to have a fresh start, and a genius way at that.

Having an annum is just like having various different photo albums of our life, now the 2015 album is tightly tucked away in our memory and we are given the opportunity to reflect. 

Reflecting is what makes us grow and become better people. Being given the opportunity to pause and replay out previous life:- the actions we took, the words we spoke, the feelings we hurt… Starting a new year is like pressing play on ourselves and trying to move forward. For me, 2015 was a particularly difficult year and at 00:01 this morning, I felt a heavy weight lift away and I know that I am going into a new chapter in my life.

My New Years resolutions are:

  • Do one thing every day that scares me
  • Travel more
  • Smile more
  • Worry less

What’s yours?