Strangers and People are the Highlight of Travel

Strangers and People are the Highlight of Travel

Picture this – a world without people in it. Travelling to other countries without anybody to see or talk to. Sure there would still be art and beautiful beaches. But if there were either no people there, or everybody was the same, travel would simply be dull.

Culture or language would not exist without people. Some of my favourite experiences while travelling have only been brought to life because of the people that surrounded me, even if they were just…. strangers.

I love photographing strangers while I’m travelling. If I see people talking in a photograph, I imagine what they are talking about, or where they are walking to. Watching people celebrate festivals or even funerals in a different way than I have only known in my own, “normal” life, is magnificent.

Here are my favourite photographs of strangers that I have taken during my travels over the world.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
   

I feel that photographing strangers is the best way to reflect on your travels and really discover the culture of the places you visit. You can learn so much from people you don’t know.

Ten Destinations for the Solo Female Traveller

Ten Destinations for the Solo Female Traveller

I have travelled solo on several occasions. It is different to travelling with companions because you connect more with your surroundings and the culture and really find yourself.

In developed or the western world, being female isn’t an issue. However, in some countries travelling alone as a woman can be a problem. I’ve lost count of the times locals asked me where my husband was when I was travelling alone. This doesn’t overly concern me but there are some destinations I would think twice about venturing to with just my backpack. 

I have compiled a list of the top ten destinations recommended for solo female travellers, based on culture, shock factor, variety, personal experience and recommendations. These are also fantastic destinations for chaps too!

1. Seattle

  

the spire, seattle

 In fact all of the west coast of America including San Francisco, LA and Vegas. Seattle is popular with solo travellers because of the many tourist attractions which include the infamous space needle, Pike Place market, Ballard lochs, the great wheel and the many, many beautiful parks. It’s a fabulous city nestled next to incredibly beautiful forests, parks and ferry boats to take in the views.
2. New York City 

chrystler building and manhattan skyline

New York, New York. What can I say? With Times Square, radio city hall, Madison square garden, shopping, theatres, sightseeing and architecture, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty, the city is your best friend when you are travelling there. You don’t need actual friends too.

3. Great Britan.

 

raglan castle, wales
 
With places like London, the New Forest, Cornwall, Wales, the Peak and Lake districts, Scotland and Ireland, you don’t need travel companions, just a lot of time to see it all. Castles and countryside, cities and lakes.. We are a lovely welcoming bunch over here anyway, come and say hi! 

4. Barcelona

view of Barcelona beach from spire restaurant

Barcelona is one of my favourite European cities and I would travel months here by myself in a heartbeat. It’s got everything anybody could want in a city; charm, culture, impossibly beautiful buildings, a stunning beach, great nightlife, history and museums and a huge selection of music and food options. 

5. Sri Lanka

 

sri lanka rice paddies
 
A friend of mine lived in Sri Lanka for many months, volunteering in a turtle sanctuary. She loved it, felt very safe and made heaps of friends. Sri Lanka is beautiful, has loads of gorgeous beaches and bustling towns and the people are very welcoming.

6. Thailand

 

thailand islands
 
Anyone who has been will know that Thailand is one of the friendliest and most welcoming countries in the world, not to mention luminous. It attracts backpackers from all over the world so you are sure to make friends to travel with. It’s vast landscape means much time can be spent city surfing or island hopping.

7. South America

 

rio carnival
 
This is very broad, I admit. But the countries recommended would be Peru (for Machu Picchu), Argentina and cross the border into Chile, Buenos Aires and Rio for the yearly famous carnival.

8. Bali

 

snorkelling in Bali
 
I had the most incredible experience of my life travelling Bali solo. It’s a magical place with beautiful people and indescribable landscapes. There is so much to see and do from white water rafting to cooking classes, riding a bike through Ubud, visiting markets or surfing.

9. Australia

sydney harbour bridge at sunset

Many Brits head over to Oz on a working visa and never return home. I can’t imagine why, with all of that sunshine, beer and beaches on offer.

10. New Zealand

tunnel beach, New Zealand

National parks, waterfalls, movie sets. It’s one of the most ‘liveable’ places in the world and attracts backpackers worldwide.

Vietnamese Massage

Vietnamese Massage

I am a huge fan of massage. Here in England I treat myself to a massage once a month as my job involves heavy lifting. However, in my opinion, nothing compares to Asian massage.

On a trip to Vietnam a couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing authentic Vietnamese massage.

  
They use a combination of strong massage, strokes and they use small cups to “pop” your muscles which is great for releasing tension and improving circulation.

I felt higher than I have ever felt from a massage after experiencing Vietnamese. I would recommend paying more and visiting a proper spa in Vietnam. You can get treatments for around 3 dollars which is cheap and cheerful. But, to experience a treatment that will improve positivity and feel amazing during and after, expect to pay over 10 dollars. Trust me, it’s worth it. If you are in Hanoi, I recommend SF Spa which is rated highest on Tripadviser. You need to book in advance.

I had a treatment in Hanoi on my last day and tipped my therapist 5 dollars. When she didn’t know I could see her, she kissed the money and put it in her purse. This made me pretty emotional.

For me, massage is a huge part of travel. Especially if travelling solo, massage gives you human interaction and touch, which is very important. It also helps me relax and connect with the culture as most massage therapies in Asia date back thousands of years.

Malta and Gozo – the good, the bad and the ugly

Malta and Gozo – the good, the bad and the ugly

I was fortunate enough to be sent on an educational visit from the Malta Tourist board some time ago.

It is quite an outstanding country with a brilliant history and many, many tourist attractions to excite the most discerning of travellers.

We will start with the good;

History. (very interesting but if history bores you then skip this bit)

The history of Malta dates back to the start of civilisation and is very intricate. It seems Malta was the object of desire for many countries and has been invaded and ruled by many. Malta had a Neolithic period and the remains of temples, dedicated to the goddess of fertility can be found today. Traces of the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines can also be found. Christianity was brought to Malta in 60AD when st.Paul’s boat was shipwrecked there. Some 800 years later, Malta was invaded by the Arabs who injected an influence of their language on the Maltese. It then joined Sicily and was also ruled by the Normans and the Aragonese among others. The Knights ruled over Malta from 1530 to 1798 and then the French had just two years to reign. This was not welcomed by the Maltese who actually requested the British to assist them and the Brits ruled Malta from 1800 until 1964. At this point, Malta finally gained independence. Ten years later, Malta became a republic and finally joined the EU in 2004.

Azure Window

 

This stunning natural landmark is probably the most photographed place in the Maltese islands. It is a natural limestone archway and is on the island of Gozo (I will discuss this more later).

The Beaches


I wouldn’t say that Malta is a beach paradise as there aren’t many at all, but they prove its not quantity, it’s quality!

Temperature

Malta is about as far south as you can get in Europe and nestled in the Mediterranean. They have long summers with a good chance of a scorcher from May until September and the winter months are usually a nice milder temperature.

The Medina

The historical fort remains pretty much untouched and offers breathtaking views over the surrounding countryside.

Valletta

 

Valletta is the capital of Malta and is insanely beautiful. They say it was built by gentlemen, for the gentlemen. Personally I think it is more beautiful, as if it’s had a woman’s touch. It can be quite touristy and is very vibrant. There are often events and festivals going on here.
Film Sets

Malta, for obvious reasons, is the setting for many films, most of the sets you can visit today. The most well known films shot on the islands of Malta include Gladiator, Troy, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Popeye (the Popeye village is a popular tourist attraction for families) and loads more.

The Beautiful Sea


The sea in Malta is famous for being so clear. This attracts divers from all over the world as there are some sublime dive spots for beginners or advanced. If you’re not a fan of diving you can head out on an amazing boat trip through the azure window, the caves and the famous blue lagoon which is water that is inexplainably, bright blue.

Chill Out Towns

 

If you hire a car, you can drive around and stop in almost any town for lunch and expect a view like this.

The Ferry

There is a public ferry service that operates regularly between Malta and Gozo and is very cheap.

Weddings

Malta is a popular wedding destination. The country embraces foreign weddings and it is far more simple than other countries to arrange, not to mention the incredible photo opportunities that are available 360.

The size

Malta is not huge, yet the vast amount of countryside, filled with towns and tourist attraction makes it feel so. You can easily drive the entire circumference of Malta in less than a day.

Now let’s roll onto the bad;

Tragedy

 

‘The pub’ is the famous spot where actor Oliver Reed died whilst having a beer filled break from filming Gladiator. Theories state he died from a heart attack. My sources in Malta told me that the real reason that Oliver Reed died was that he had ‘one too many’, fell backwards off his bar stool and hit his head, causing death. It is still a popular tourist attraction but in my opinion, a tragic loss.

The ugly…;

Beige

 

Literally, the only negative thing I can stay about this magnificent country is that Malta can be too beige. The buildings (despite being beautifully designed), the roads… Everything is beige and dusty. But even this has a silver lining. If you hop over to Gozo, it is a lot greener and prettier there.

Summary

It is a destination I would recommend to almost anybody and somewhere I would definitely return to.

To find out more, please visit http://www.visitmalta.com

Thanks for reading my blog peeps.

Cuddle Your Globe

xxx

Why Jordan is the BEST Secret

Why Jordan is the BEST Secret

Two years ago, a friend and I headed to Jordan for a last minute ‘why-not’ break. I did not have high expectations and was hoping for a bit of sunshine and sightseeing. What I did not think was that I woukd have one of the best weeks of my entire life which was totally unexpected. A lot of people I know were concerned about political issues in countries close to Jordan, however I did not feel concerned at all. The locals are beautiful people, very friendly and slightly more relaxed Muslims than other parts of the Middle East in terms of how to dress and drinking alcohol.

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Jordan View

Day 1 – we arrived into Amman airport and met with our driver who we had arranged to be our personal driver for the whole trip, he charged about £300 and considering the miles we covered and his kind nature, it was very reasonable. We checked into the Blue Moon Hotel in Petra which was superb, great value and good standard for 4*. It was just a stone throw away from the Entrance gate to the famous Petra (where Indiana Jones was filmed).

day 2 – we woke early and headed into Petra which is quite expensive, about £50 entry but SO worth every penny. You need to be active as there was 5 hours, 18km and over 800 steps to reach the monastery at the top but the views and sightseeing alon  the was are beyond breathtaking. This is a place I feel everybody should see in their lifetime. It is really special.

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View from the Monastery – Petra

Inside Petra, there is an abundance of horses and donkeys they will try to offer for ‘free’ but they will ultimately charge you and frankly, watching people on the back of a donkey, unattached whilst it was limping up hundreds of steps on the edge of a cliff path without railings made me nervous to say the least. Walk it if you can! You can also do a sunset visit into Petra at night time which I hear is incredible.

On return to our hotel, our driver met us and took us out to Wadi Rum Desert where we got in a jeep and were taken into an awesome camp site in a small clearing in the rocks. The tents were spacious and fairly clean and there was a much larger tent where all travellers met for dinner and drinks and music and had a BBQ under the stars, it was truly spectacular and felt so liberating to stay somewhere without wifi, houses or even electricity to charge my devices, total relaxation.

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Inside the Desert Camp – Wadi Rum
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6am View of the Desert Camp From the Shower Block

Day 3 – One of The guides onsite escorted us On a day trip of the desert which was superb. It started with rock climbing (this was moderate and not overly challenging) which was excellent fun, then I was allowed to drive the jeep through the desert, then the guide used the jeep to do some terrifying but exhilarating tricks in the jeep (which had no seat belts!) then we went sand boarding, I had never done this and it was fantastic and felt very safe! We had tea with some locals who were wonderful to talk with. We had lunch with the guide which was delicious and after visiting a cave (where I fell into a pond, but I will breeze past that) we took a camel ride out of the desert back to civilisation.

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Beautiful Wild Desert Animals – We were allowed to play with baby goats and let them out of their pen for a while.

Our driver met us outside the desert and we began the long drive to the Dead Sea where we checked into the 5* resort, the Movenpick. It was a superb resort with excellent facilities for a relaxing break to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is infamous for its salt water which is so high in salt that nothing lives in there and offers many health and healing benefits. What interested me more was the fact that the water was so salty, apparently you can sit on the top of the water and float. How could it do this with someone as heavy as me? Well, it does work! Make sure you don’t shave for 24 hours prior entering the Dead Sea and do not go in if you have any cuts because it will sting! Buy some Jelly Shoes (like when you were a child) as it’s very rocky and slippy when entering the sea, these will become your best friend. It feels very surreal when you are there; it is 420 metres below sea level and it is just an incredible experience. They say the sea level here is decreasing by 1 metre every year and in 90 years the Dead Sea may be gone altogether – get yourself out there now!

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Movenpick Resort at the Dead Sea
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People Literally Floating On Water

We travelled in February which was a great time to travel weather and season wise. It was hot, but not too hot. It is much much cheaper in Jordan that Dubai and a totally different, incredible journey. In terms or value, I was gobsmacked at how reasonable it was. The whole trip staying in 4/5* accommodation, including flights, travel and spending money came to around £800pp. What a bargain!

If you are looking for a fun, safe, sunny adventure that is a bit different from the norm, then Jordan is your one.

*SECRETS OF THE TRAVEL TRADE* – tips on how to find and book the best and cheapest flights (from an insider!)

Here I am revealing the top secrets of the travel agent / airline ticket industry. I hope you find this useful when you come to purchase your flights!

There are three different types of airlines:- Charter, Budget (low cost) and Scheduled airlines.

Charter flights are usually operated by a package holiday operator and operate a slightly flexible schedule; usually seasonally / once a week e.g, and include the likes of Thomson, Thomas Cook and Monarch and are aimed at holidaymakers.

Budget, or Low Cost flights operate usually a bit more frequently but can still be seasonal (depending on destination) and include Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizz Air, Jet Blue or Virgin Australia etc. They are no frills and low cost and you have to pay for lots of hidden extras such as airport check in and hold luggage.

The third type of flight is scheduled flights; these are the main carriers who run flights on specific routes and specific times and include BA, Virgin, Emirates, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, American Airlines, Delta etc etc etc, the list goes on. Scheduled airlines generally offer a better service in terms of reliability, in flight entertainment, luggage allowance, meals / drinks on board.

I am not going to discuss charter and budget flights in any great depth but I will tell you, they will usually cost you less than a scheduled flight if you have the choice of either options which are flying the same route. If there is any possibility you will need to change the name on the ticket, book with a low cost or charter company as scheduled airlines NEVER allow a name change. You will still need to check the rules of your ticket with your agent to see if a name change is permitted. The other point I will make is that if you want to book a flight with a charter or budget airline, just book direct with the airline / company, on their website or in store. No third party travel agent receives concession or commission on these tickets and with their fees and commission mark up you will often end up paying a lot more, despite what they tell you when booking. By third party I mean they have no direct affiliation with them (for example, this will not apply if booking a Thomsonfly flight through Thomson holidays travel agent.) Booking package holidays with charter flights is pretty much the only time in the travel world where you can find a ‘late deal’. If they have not sold their hotel rooms / flights when the travel dates are approaching, they are likely to drop their prices.

Scheduled flights are the main airlines who deal with travel agents and offer agencies a discounted rate which is why you will normally able to find flights a lot cheaper by booking through a third party than direct on the airlines website. So where do you look to find these flights? How do you know you are getting the best fare possible? This is where I can help you! There are some great tools online and by phone to help you plan your trip.

Firstly you need to consider what type of trip you are looking at. If it is a simple return flight (to and from the same destination and departure point) then you are laughing!! You can search for live availability on various websites and because the travel agents know that you have access to this anywhere, the competition is rife and you can easily get the best rates.

If you are looking at multi-stop flights (visiting various destinations on the SAME ticket) then this can become a little more complex online but I can recommend some fantastic companies who can look at this for you. http://www.opodo.co.uk/ is fantastic for checking multi stop flights online. Alternatively if you prefer to speak to a travel agent over the phone, I can recommend Flight Centre http://www.flightcentre.co.uk/ , Dial A Flight are very knowledgeable with complex itineraries and have access to low fares and various others in the same league. You will need to factor whether or not your ideal trip is realistic. By this I mean, Emirates are based in Dubai so if you use them for a flight to Australia then in theory you can stop in Dubai for a few days en-route. You would not however be able to stop in Dubai and then New York to travel out to Australia. Some airlines offer special tickets that can take you around the world in the correct direction with various stops and it can save you a fortune compared to booked these flights individually online yourself. With these tickets, your best option is to phone a few of the main stream agencies. If you have been given a quote from one, expect to be able to get it around 10% cheaper by shopping around. Agencies will always put mark ups and fees on to your flight. Don’t try to bankrupt the travel agencies but know that you can probably save a few pounds by shopping around.

http://www.skyscanner.co.uk/ is a great tool to check what flights are physically operating the route / date you have entered and gives you the best possible fare for that flight. Whilst sometimes you can go through and book it, bear in mind it sky scanner is just a search engine / flight comparison tool and does not search for live availability and often shows prices that are no longer available to book or the flight could be completely fully booked. I do, however find it very useful to look for flights travelling to obscure places or to play around with the dates.

If you have a preference of airline rather than the best price then your best bet is to find the flight you want on the airlines website and get the direct quote from them, then phone a few mainstream / reputable travel agents to see if they can price beat it. I will come to this again in more details shortly.

I have mentioned some companies above that can be used to check for flight availability that I, personally have had good experiences with in the past. There are some others such as http://www.netflights.co.uk/ , Travel Up, Expedia who often have great rates – shop around!

Business travellers (Inclusive Tour fares) – If you are travelling to certain destinations without a Saturday night stay, you may be familiar with having to pay 3-4 times the cost of a normal ticket! No more…. If you speak to some travel agents, they can hook you up with a deal that includes accommodation for a minimum of 3 nights / or full duration and this potentially will save you hundreds. This is not available in all destinations but USA is a hot spot for these deals. The fact that the travel agent knows you will not be able to get this flight only price online and can do it a lot cheaper WITH accommodation does mean they are likely to include a large profit margin so again, it is always worth getting matching quotes from various reputable agencies to see who can offer the best.

Book in advance – Booking last minute to get the best deals in the world of scheduled airlines is a myth! This only applies with charter flights or package holidays occasionally. Scheduled airlines do not drop their prices last minute, they would actually prefer to send the plane off half empty than to sell cheap seats off to fill the plane.

Be Flexible with Dates!!! You will be surprised how moving the dates around even a day either side could save you many pounds. If your departure date is 31st May for example, always check the 1st June as this could be a new season and therefore have drastically different prices. Its basically worth checking flights 2-3 weeks either side of your ideal dates to travel. If you want to get away in September, avoid departing in the first week as this is still school holiday period and the prices are still hiked up.

Pre Book Seats – do this online as far in advance as you can. SOME airlines will actually let you book bulkhead seats or exit seats online in advance but be warned, they may move you from these seats if someone else needs it more. If you are unable to do it online, speak to your travel agent. Some airlines have now started to charge for this service.

Check in online – usually available 24-48 hours prior to your departure time, check with your airline. check your seated together and any meal requests are showing and print your boarding pass. If the online check in tool is not working, be warned there may be an issue with your flight taking off when it should, you should contact your airline.

Don’t bother with a long connection in an airport just because it saves you £20 off the airline ticket, you are wasting valuable holiday time and will easily spend that in the airport anyway.

How to avoid the summer school holiday prices! This may not work all the time / every year but I am aware than Scotland and England do have different school term dates so if you are prepared to drive to Glasgow for a flight during the English half term, it could save you hundreds if there is a group of you travelling!

I mentioned Flight Centre above, if you click on to their website and scroll to the bottom they offer something called the Lowest Airfare Guarantee. This means if you find a flight cheaper with another travel agent that fills their criteria (ABTA and ATOL bonded / reputable) then they will price beat it by £1. I have used this tool before and ended up paying about £50-60 cheaper than they had originally quoted me. They are a great company to use, reliable and offer good customer service.

Make sure that if you book with a travel agent repeatedly that you occasionally shop around as they could start adding more profit to your bookings once you get comfortable without you even realising it!

Before even factoring in the cost of the ticket, the most important thing you MUST check is that the agent you are considering booking with is both ABTA and ATOL bonded. This gives you financial protection against the failure of the airline you are flying with or the travel agent you are booking with. There is no point in saving £50 on a flight that you may lose £600 on a few later as they have gone into administration. Credit card payment does not give you the same protection, for example if you are abroad and the airline you are due to fly home with goes bust, AMEX are not going to travel out to Corfu and get you home….

Happy bargain flight hunting!

*publisher would like to add that this is all based on personal opinion / review of purchases / products and publisher accepts no responsibility or liability for readers future purchases / products*

Hello globe trotters

Hello globe trotters

My name is Lou (Louise if I am in trouble). The main thing you should know about me is that I not only adore, but I live for travel. The rush of endorphins that I receive when I leave the strange flying room filled with 200 strangers compressed farts and step out in a new world is what gets me through each day. The possibility of experiencing a new culture or seeing something that I know I would never have the opportunity to see at home is invaluable to me and I feel that seeing the world has made me into the person I am today. From standing in a field with a kangaroo only meters away to a group of heterosexual males holding hands and being affectionate with one another because that is ‘normal’ for them; I believe that absorbing ones self into a different way of life is the best way to really live.

I have been very fortunate in that I have managed to see such a large part of the world already and have ticked a lot of countries off of my ‘list’, I have traveled for business, for luxury pleasure and have also traveled solo around south east Asia with nothing but a backpack. I worked in the travel industry for six years and am full of useful travel hints and tips from where to book your trip, where to go, what to pack and what to do when you are there. I recently read somewhere that the average person spends 7% of their time on holiday, so I think its important to fill this with the best experiences that are possible, but I cannot promise I wont try to convince you to stretch that 7% a lot higher! I intend to share many of my stories and tips with my readers so your travel experiences will be superb. Enjoy 🙂