Adventuring The Giants Causeway

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On my recent adventure to the Emerald Isle I had a bunch of places I wanted to visit along the East Coast of Ireland and researching how to  see them all I found one company who were a good fit for me, Paddy Wagon Tours.  I’d heard about previously heard about them from some friends while backpacking Europe a few years’ ago and had liked their line up for the Giants Causeway tour.

On the morning of the tour I’d been running late. I’d over-slept my alarm despite going to bed crazy early the night before and was really regretting that as I ran to the meeting place. Sadly for me, the bus still left about ten minutes late and I arrived about ten minutes early so I really didn’t need to rush after all.

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On their big green bus I passed through what felt like a huge swath of the country. Having a cheeky nap seemed a great idea after days’ and days’ of early mornings and late nights.

I awoke to our chatty driver Sean giving a quick drive-by tour of Belfast on the way through (we would return here for a short stop on the way back). He told us about the troubles briefly pointing out that there are plenty of places that he couldn’t go “espehsally in a big green bus” knowingly I smiled to myself, remembering friends from Dublin telling me that they didn’t fancy visiting the Northern Irish capital because there were places they couldn’t go with their thick Southern Irish accents.

Tourist Central: Some Old Trees That Have Taken Everyones Fancy

Tourist Central: Some Old Trees That Have Taken Everyones Fancy

We passed through towns that were said to inspire the Game of Thrones series and Sean would talk about how he could see clear parallels between Irish history and The Game Of Thrones itself however, the dragons confused him.

We saw the three hundred year old trees used for filming the Game of Thrones. This photo stop for me was a bit of a disappointment as I would have liked photo’s with just me and the trees as everyone would, it’s a shame none of us could get ourselves worked out so the photo’s could be taken and everyone had run around in everyone’s photo’s making all photo’s taken at the site while I was there look too touristic.

Dunluce Castle looking particularly photogenic (as it does every single day!)

Dunluce Castle looking particularly photogenic (as it does every single day!)

After that photo stop there was another outside Dunluce Castle, the famous ruin on the side of the ocean cliffs that I’d been dying to see on my last trip to Ireland but had missed. The stop was brief but as all I wanted was a photo to show my grandmother I’d been there, that was fine.

The highlight of the tour and what myself and some of the girls’ on my bus agreed was more beautiful than the cliffs of Mohr was the Giants Causeway. It’s really breathtaking to be there. The pictures cannot do it any real justice (although of course I’ll share mine with you!). this has been a well-touristed site for a long time and for good reason! I walked over the apparent ruins of the giants causeway (really the remnants after a volcanic eruption). And was totally in awe. I never paid much attention to geo-sciences (sorry geo-sciences!) but this site would be one to spark many a scientists (and artist and poets) imagination. Although it’s beauty is not traditional, symmetrical beauty as people so prize in nature the causeway had its own swagger, like the ugly duckling who’d grown into a beautiful swan and still had that attitude of “I don’t care how I look, this is who I am”. After visiting the causeway I was pretty quiet on the bus to lunch, just thinking about the place.

Taken inside the pub where we had lunch (yeah... I don't think locals use this pub!)

Taken inside the pub where we had lunch (yeah… I don’t think locals use this pub!)

Lunch was pretty fab, not just because a busy day makes you hungry! I had the Irish stew and would recommend it if you took this tour as the other traditional looking steak and Guinness pie didn’t look very exciting). All of the meals are around eight or nine pounds sterling (this is Northern Ireland remember they don’t use the Euro here). Although it’s better to pay by cash in sterling you can also pay by card. Try not to pay in euro’s as the rate is crazy high.

Next, the isle of Carrick-a-Rede! Here I paid the extra eight euro and took the rope bridge across. Of course, I was terrified and my legs turned to jelly moments after crossing (the lovely Irish girl on the other side told me I didn’t look scared at all, oh… such a lie!) but I crossed, for you guys. So I could tell you how it was and you’ll be happy to hear that it was awesome! If you’re frightened of the 100 meter drop onto a cliff or the ocean if anything goes wrong with that terrible wooden bridge you might want to hold on tight to the railings and not look down, just look right in front of you like I did. And don’t stress about the bridge moving too much, it will move a whole lot but you’re here already and you’re not allowed to turn around, walk on now! The photo’s you’ll get on the other side are well worth it (and the bragging rights too!).

Heading back to the mainland after visiting the Isle.

Heading back to the mainland after visiting the Isle.

Later we visited Belfast for an hour or so. Although this doesn’t seem much time to do anything you might want to read a few of the things mentioned on my Belfast self-guided walking tour or you could just go to the top of the central shopping center’s tower for a good (free) view of Belfast for a few photo’s (view as seen on my Instagram) before taking some odd shots in other places, grabbing a coffee and jumping back on the coach.

The tour ends back in Dublin. You’ll be tired but remember to pick up all your things before you leave, thank your driver and smile to yourself, you did it! You did cross the bridge too right?

Checking out the view on belfast (last pic from today’s tour!) #belfast #Ireland

A photo posted by Stacey Farley (@adventurer.stacey) on

Throughout the day we would have different people arriving back to the bus late and this meant that the tour wound up being longer than it had been scheduled to be – if you decide to book this one you’ll want to keep that in mind – for me the tour ended thirteen hours after it began. Of course I was tired and didn’t end up doing anything after it besides packing my bag for my flight the following day (which I didn’t miss although I was tempted to!) Ireland has quickly become one of my favourite places in the world, besides Laos of course.

A big thank you to Paddy Wagon Tours who provided a free seat on this tour so I could review it. Please note also that all other expenses were paid for by myself (ie. Accommodation, flights, food, tour extras, etc.)

Over to you guys! What would you recommend to first time visitors to the Emerald Isle? Please comment below so others’ can read and follow your advice should they choose to do so.

How To Move To The UK

“Adventurer Stacey’s in the London, that’s awesome for her! How do I do that?” is what I hear behind every question I’m asked about my recent re-location. I used to ask those questions too before I took on a life of travel and adventure, now that things have gone full-circle I’m smiling to myself. I’ve created a list to break down the steps for a move to the UK (or any country for that matter) which I hope you can find useful:

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#1 Draw up a plan

Preparations for relocation can start up to six months before you move. For me this time, it was only three months however, many people take less time. It’s up to you and your personal needs.

#2 Passport check!

Do you have one? Is it valid for much longer? If you need a new one start going through the process of passport application ASAP as you need a passport to apply for visas. For some people who’re eligible for a UK or EU passport, they won’t need to worry about the next steps (and the rest of us are jealous of you, by the way!)

#3 Get the correct work visa

Most Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Canadian’s under 31 will opt for a Working Holiday visa. These are easy to get and can take as little as two weeks however, if you’re highly skilled you may want to apply for the highly skilled migrant visas. Check with the British High Commission ASAP which visa type best applies to your situation.

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#4 Book Flights

I’ve written a bit about how to find cheap flights in the past but as a general rule, booking in off season or shoulder season to the UK is usually cheaper, you may also want to see if there is a big difference between business class seats and economy as sometimes the price is very close and being such a long flight for some, you may want that luxury.

#5 Purchase travel insurance

I’m with World Nomads who I strongly recommend because their coverage is so good – they even offer coverage for work-related injuries (lets hope that’s never a problem!) and cover you for more than just the UK. You can also renew your cover as you travel which is great for those of us who need it (like myself!)

#6 Sort out your home

If you own your place, you might want to consider renting it out to help with those mortgage repayments. If you are renting, you’ll want to find someone who can keep your stuff at their place or work out a storage option. Make sure you have this sorted well in advance to moving as you don’t need the stress.

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#7 Mail: what are you doing with it?

You might want to consider getting a friend or family member to open your mail at home and relay anything important to you. Or alternately you can get everything sent to you electronically through a service or from the companies themselves.

#8 Consider power of attorney

This is not a must-do however, many long-term travellers or expats give their power of attorney to a trusted friend of family member back home. This is an extension of someone just reading your mail for you however, you might want to look into it and see if it’s an option for you considering you do plan to be away for a while.

#9 Health checks

You will want to ensure any vaccinations are up-to-date, your dental checks out and your doctor has had a good look at you before you go. You’ll also want to ensure any medications you are on are also available in the UK and take a note from your doctor about any medications you’ll be taking with you on the plane. It’s also important if you have contact lenses or glasses that you take an optical prescription with you as well.

Apparently the horse had a hole drilled in him to drain water... hole is in his penis so he looks like he is weeing when it rains. Cannot verify this story, but thought you'd like to know...

Apparently the horse had a hole drilled in him to drain water… hole is in his penis so he looks like he is weeing when it rains. Cannot verify this story, but thought you’d like to know…

#10 Pack properly and on time

I am an experienced backpacker but for sure, there were packing mistakes I made the first time I moved here. I left some things at home that I sort of needed and had to buy there. I would prefer to go that way than the other way though. You should start packing no more than a month before you leave (in order not to over-pack) and no less than a week before you leave (because you don’t need to stress about packing last moment). I have a general packing list for backpacking too that is a good starting point.

#11 Photocopy important documents

Make copies of important documents before you go: passport, travel insurance, visas, credit cards, hotel/hostel reservations and tickets. You’ll want to leave these at home however, some people make several copies and carry some with them, leave one copy at home and email another copy to themselves so if something goes wrong they can deal with it then and there rather than having to call that person at home and ask for their credit card numbers when they need to cancel them.

#12 Get some spare passport photo’s taken

Generally with travel this is a good idea – I’ve had to use spare passport photo’s a number of times for things like visas. I’ve never been unlucky enough however, I’ve heard some police in some countries want them for police reports if you have to report theft.

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#13 Get your CV sorted

I’ve previously mentioned this on the blog however, UK employers prefer two-page CV’s with dates of each job (starting and leaving). Make sure yours is UK ready before you go as this will save plenty of time and hassle once you arrive.

#14 Contact your UK-based mates

This is super important! Sure, a whole lot of Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Canadian’s move to the UK every single year and it won’t take much for you to make new friends but it’s much, much easier to have those familiar friends around you when you arrive and it’s never been easier to do this. Shortly before you leave (I left mine to a month before I left) you can change your city on facebook to the one you will be moving to in the UK and then search for other people in your friends’ list who’re in the same city. Surprisingly, you will find people who you didn’t know had moved. I found some old university friends which was great because they already knew what professional jobs were like here, employers expectations, etc. and could help me out. Also, joining facebook groups is a great way to hit the ground running. There’s a bunch of more formal ways to do this too like university alumni organisations, clubs and groups you’re a member of back home, etc. however, this is becoming the more popular way to connect so why not?

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I hope that break down has helped you guys’ who’re thinking of making the big move and I sincerely hope this method of breaking things down encourages some of you to chase those travel dreams. I’d love to hear about others’ experiences with moving to the UK and any advice they would have for people considering it in the comments below. Keep adventuring guys’!

How To Find A Cheap Flight

I’ve written about this previously back in 2014 and wanted to update the post with a few additional tips for my readers, I hope this is helpful for saving some cash to spend on fun things for your trip rather than giving all your cash to a big company before you even leave home!

Airfare prices can be the most costly single thing on your trip however, it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom and there are a bundle of cheap ways to travel now. I’ve listed some of my top tips to save time, money and a bunch of stress on your next trip!

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Why Are Airfare Prices So Unpredictable?

As Richard Branson said in his autobiography (which I loved – every entrepreneur should read it!) airlines operate on small margins and it’s a hugely competitive industry. The airline wants a full plane and enough money from each passenger to pay overheads and make a little profit. Airfares can change from day-to-day with the cost of fuel and the demand on tickets fluctuating. I’ve watched many a flights price move up $200 in a week then down $200 the next week.

The following are my top tips to getting the best deal on your next flight!

Timing

Planning your travel in the shoulder or off-season will save you a bundle – I’ve flown Melbourne to Amsterdam return for AUD$1,200 when my friends paid $3,000 for the same flight only a few months’ later. I could have got the ticket cheaper again if I’d been available to fly a little later (for AUD$1,000).

Know What You Want To Spend

Part of being a budget traveller is having to stick to a budget. If you know you have $300 to spend on that flight and you’ve seen tickets this cheap before, don’t settle for the $600 ticket because you’re scared that will go (unless you’ve got real reason to think it will) sometimes waiting for a sale is well worth it. I’ve had to do this while booking flights around Asia before and although it was a bit nerve-wracking, I ended up paying what I wanted to pay in the end!

Be Flexible

Although I wouldn’t suggest flying on national days and missing celebrations often it’s good to have a bit of a window to fly in where possible. If $100 would make a big difference to your trip, would saving that little bit by booking your return leg two days’ after you thought you would make a difference to your trip?

Travel For An Event

More of an aside often we want to travel for an awesome event or festival however, we don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege. When planning my St Patrick’s Day trip, I booked several months’ in advance when sale fares were available and booked my ticket to be arriving in Dublin 8 days’ before St Patrick’s Day itself. Although I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone it suited me fine. I wanted to re-visit some parts of Ireland that I’d liked the last time I was there and knew that would be enough for me to be over jetlag and onto a normal time table for the event!

Something else I often see is people booking flights into a nearby city and traveling overland for an event, this can save big money too!

How Far Away From My Trip Should I Book?

Booking flights in that golden window of time when airlines are trying to fill their seats but not so near that they know they have you and prices will go up – usually about six to eight weeks before ensures the best prices. Don’t believe me? Visit any budget travel agents website and see when their flight specials are for, you’ll usually find them about eight weeks away or sometimes a little further away if the off season is coming up.

How To Search

I use Skyscanner to search for flights and have for several years’ now. I like that they don’t charge commissions and also give you the price that you will pay, not the drip price. Drip pricing is when an airline markets their flights as being super cheap – say, $6 then there is a tone of non-optional extras that may turn your $6 flight into a $106 flight, costing you sometimes the same amount of money as the more honest and often better to fly with airlines. I often search around three months (should I know I’m traveling three months away from a trip) and then repeat that search periodically, as well as watching budget travel agents’ websites to know when the airlines are having their sales!

Although I have not set up an email notification in ages often this is a preferred method of savvy fliers. You can do so with either Skyscanner or Airfare Watshdog. They’re easy to set up and could save you a pretty penny, if not a lot of your time.

Return Is Often Cheaper

When traveling around South & Central America last year I found that return tickets were often cheaper than booking a one way ticket. I saved around $800 from booking return flights rather than one-way flights and not taking the return leg.

Booking A Connection You Don’t Intend To Take

I don’t advocate for this as it’s something I’ve never done and don’t want to be responsible for your getting into trouble with an airline if you’re found out. However I wanted to mention it as this works well for people who’re happy to travel with just carry on luggage. Basically you want to book a flight to one city and it’s expensive for example, you want to fly to LA but its $800 for an LA flight and to fly to San Francisco via LA will be $600, you book the flight through to San Francisco, get off in LA and don’t take your connection. Be weary though that you won’t be able to take a return leg of a ticket like this. To find more info online if you’re interested this is called hidden city ticketing.

Places To Look

Although most people think they will find the cheapest tickets on budget airlines in economy sometimes the best deals (in regards to value for money) can be with traditional airlines or even in business class. When one considers that to fly budget they will get nothing for their money they will be purchasing basic things like the use of a blanket for the flight, a meal and a drink sometimes the price difference is even less than expected. A friend of mine too, booked a business class seat for his Melbourne to London flight for little more ($300) than a economy class seat and admitted to drinking the difference in Dom Perignon and having the best service and seating on the plane to boot! Checking business class before you book is a great idea!

Keep An Eye Out For Deals

You can sign up for email newsletters with your favorite airlines or budget travel agents however, I am a huge travel nerd and I list deals through my email newsletter! I list deals mostly for those traveling from major hubs in North America, Europe and the Antipodes (Australia and New Zealand) and am always seeking out more great travel deals, so if you want me to be doing all the hard work for you, sign up for the weekly email newsletter in the right-hand side bar now.

Taken when I was on a recent Maiden Flight and they had a little party before hand cupcakes and tequila (as it was to Mexico). Flight was late so we got extra tequila (at 10am, mind!)

Taken when I was on a recent Maiden Flight and they had a little party before hand cupcakes and tequila (as it was to Mexico). Flight was late so we got extra tequila (at 10am, mind!)

Did you like this post? Found it useful? Please list your thoughts and if there was anything important that’s been left out in the comments below!

My Thoughts On World Nomads Travel Insurance

Urging readers to ensure they have travel insurance and talking about how important it is, is one thing then the inevitable questions about which provider to go with hit my inbox. So who do I personally use for my travel insurance and would I recommend them?

I’ve travelled plenty and have used a range of travel insurance providers over the years’. I’ve had single-trip policies and multi-trip policies however, my current policy is with World Nomads and their policy is a little different. They’re set up for long-term travellers and due to my positive experience with them I will be renewing my insurance with them when it runs out.

You DON'T Have travel insurance you say...?

You DON’T Have travel insurance you say…?

My World Nomads Experience…

I’ve had a World Nomads policy for nine months now (or so… I think… it’s been some time) and at quote their policy seemed really reasonable to me. Information about them was easy to come by with most other travel bloggers using them, big travel brands recommending them and plenty of sites that compare policies talking about them in comparison to other providers and their insurance policies in relation to other insurance policies.

For me, knowing I’m with a big company who deal with issues that long-term travellers face specifically makes a huge difference to my piece of mind.

I’ve had to email them a number of times about my policy as my plans changed. I would ask them if it was okay to travel here or there and if there would be additional costs, to date there have been none and the service has been great with them responding to my emails within a few days’ with answers that I needed!

I’ve not had to claim anything and hope I never do have to (because who wants to get hurt while traveling, right!?) but know I’m covered if I do need assistance and this provides me with a great peace of mind.

Something I love too which I have not had to do (yet, but will need to do within the next few months’) is that you can renew your cover on the road (because where are most independent travellers anyway?) so you can keep traveling and enjoy your carefree lifestyle for as long as you can afford it rather than having to worry about what to do when cover runs out. I believe too that you can get cover after you’re on the trip although I’ve never tried to as I always make sure I’m covered before I go.

I don't have travel insurance and don't know if getting into this big, potentially bottomless pool is a good idea...

I don’t have travel insurance and don’t know if getting into this big, potentially bottomless pool is a good idea…

Would I recommend Work Nomads To My Friends?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” unlike other travel insurance companies I’ve been with these guy’s specifically tailor to long-term travellers, they also have extra things like cover for if you’re hurt at work which to me is super important as I do work as I travel.

I wouldn’t recommend any product I didn’t use myself and totally love so you can be sure this recommendation carries some weight behind it.

I like these guys – they have great service, reasonable prices (considering the cover you’re getting), are recommended by just about everyone including myself for a reason!

If you’re interested in getting a quote on your travel insurance and could do so using my link or the World Nomad’s widget to the right of this post in the side bar (which means at no additional cost to you I earn a small amount of money from the company) that would be great as you’re helping me to keep traveling and dispensing more awesome, super-relevant advice! Thank you in advance!

Ah, cool water! So glad I have my travel insurance now...

Ah, cool water! So glad I have my travel insurance now…

Is It Hard To Find Work In London?

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Something I see often on travel and expat forums is people stressing out, the common concern is clear: “But what if I get to London and cannot find work!”

Although this worry is totally understandable, it’s unlikely to be a real issue for many people. As long as their savvy, able to find work in their own countries and are willing to be a bit creative when the chips are low, finding work in London shouldn’t be a real concern.

The last time I was in London I had three job offers in as many days (and I wasn’t even living there!) of course, these were not high paying jobs and I would have needed to find something else eventually had I of chosen to live in London but the point is that in London, “Survival jobs” are abound if one cannot find the job in the industry they wish to work in.

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The three jobs I was offered were one in a restaurant, one in a bar and one in retail. Of course, two of the jobs paid slightly above minimum wage and the third was below minimum wage however, if one was in debt when they moved to London (as many backpackers are by the time they reach the “London stop”) or needed to find a job quickly they could quite easily find work.

Now let’s talk about those coveted professional job’s most people would prefer to be working with their higher pay and more sociable hours. How does one get one with as little stress as possible? Here’s a short, four-point strategy to keep in mind:

#1: What work will you do? “Anything” is not an answer!

It’s okay to have a fall-back (aforementioned survival job) in case your professional ambitions take some time to take off in the new city (let’s be honest, employers seeking a professional workforce have turn-arounds of something like 4-6 weeks between sending your application in and your start date and not everyone can afford to spend that time in their new flat on the couch). However, having some direction is important for when those opportunities do come up. Going to London and knowing you want to use your marketing degree gives you something to aim for when you are applying online or through agencies for positions and when you are in your survival job in the pub when a marketing executive comes in for a pint, you can smile and ask questions that may bring up leads (just don’t do this in front of your boss, okay?)

One must have a direction, or no tree shall be climbed...

One must have a direction, or no tree shall be climbed…

#2 Get your resume London-ready before leaving home

I love writing but even I cannot stand resume writing and when you must have a copy of your resume for each job type (ie. Your survival job AND your professional job) it’s all the more annoying. Before I land in London I will have a science resume, a hospitality resume and a nanny/babysitting resume. Different countries have different resume templates and it’s best to make sure your resume matches that of the country you’re moving to.

#3 Have a pre-London-arrival and post-London-arrival strategy

So you know you’re amazing and any employer should be happy to have you but, maybe you’re a week away from flying out and too busy with preparations for the new city to keep applying for jobs? That’s okay because you have a bunch of number’s to call once you’ve arrived, a killer strategy for hiding the jet-lag induced bags under your eyes and are perfectly willing to ask anyone – even the owner of the curry house where you have your first London lunch – about work opportunities. Having some sort of plan for “if I don’t find work from home” is positive and will help you far more than if you never let yourself have one.

#4 Consider agencies

Employment agencies are a big deal in the UK. Many professionals, both local and expat’s find their work through them and often they will be working within forty-eight hours of arriving in London (crazy, right?). The best way I’ve found to register with UK employment agencies is through Agency Central

No idea what this building is, but know that no-one working minimum wage is living here, or driving that car...

No idea what this building is, but know that no-one working minimum wage is living here, or driving that car…

Moving to a new city will never be easy however, when one considers the transient nature of mega-cities like London’s population the well-worn path of people before you does make it appear easier to make this work than it sometimes feels like when you’re receiving rejection letters. Chin up, it’s all part of the experience and this is a great “coming of age” experience for many young Kiwi’s, Aussies and Canadian’s for a very long time.

Travelers: Tablets vs. Readers

Last week I spoke about travel gadgets that make travel easier but didn’t talk about two very popular travel gadgets, tablets and ereaders on purpose as I wanted to dedicate more space to this so I can go more in-depth than I could in a general post.

Personally I’ve travelled with my laptop, tablet and ereader (not all at the same time) and have found that it really depends on what I am hoping to get out of the trip and how much time I think I will actually be spending on each device.

Before I launch into the pro’s and con’s of each, it’s important to note that I’m not too much of a tech head. To give some perspective: I do run my own website which I built entirely on my own however, I don’t know what type of computer I’m currently typing this on. I know it’s a laptop and I know it’s black, that’s about it. If you want expert advice on the most modern tech, this isn’t the space for it. For general pro’s and con’s however:

Things you can never leave home without! ... Or not?

Things you can never leave home without! … Or not?

Tablets

Pro’s over an ereader

  • Can do more – tired of reading War and Peace? You can switch to facebook and chat to your friends or play candy crush.
  • Pictures – my ereader’s getting old and pictures (for books that have them) don’t show up whereas in the tablet they do, which is great.
  • Doubles as a camera – not always appropriate having someone hold up their tablet in public but is great for when you want great shots you can enjoy right away and upload everywhere.
  • Take your work with you – digital nomad or workaholic, you can work on the go with a tablet, something you cannot do with an ereader.

Ereaders

Pro’s over a tablet

  • Price – these are cheaper to buy outright (usually no more than $150 to tablets that can easily be over $500)
  • Less likely to be stolen – sadly, I’ve seen those people in hostels who look longingly at others’ belongings as if they would prefer they were theirs, to date however, I’ve never seen anyone look twice at an old kindle.
  • Better battery life – I had an ipad for an old job of mine which would need to be charged all the time however, my little reader if it’s not being used lasts for months. If it is being used it lasts for less but still I have plenty of warning before I have to charge it.
  • Easier to fall off the grid – I know plenty of travellers who hate tech because it keeps them (they feel) tethered to home. They know if they have more ease of communication with loved ones back home, they are less likely to immerse themselves in the culture they’ve come to experience so they prefer to use tech that isn’t linked to their facebook accounts.

Keeping your tech safe

A quick note on keeping your tech safe – when you check into a hostel/hotel ensure there is a locker or somewhere to put your tech (and moneybelt, etc.) before you take it out of your bag so others’ don’t see it then see you slip it back into your easy-to-steal bag. It’s also a great idea to not flash your tech around too much in countries where theft and mugging is common. All someone needs is to see your valuables and follow you when you wonder off on your own to use a bathroom for example.

I had plenty of tech with me in South and Central America and I was really weary of it to the point where I wouldn’t take it out or even reference it in conversation with other travellers. Although this may sound a bit over-the-top it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How about you? Do you travel with a tablet on a ereader? Why/why not?

Backpacker’s Best Friends: Gadgets, Gizmo’s And The Rest

The most useful things I own also happen to take up the least amount of space in my backpack. I’ve chosen eight of my favorites I think every backpacker should take with them when traveling.

The Mayan people sharing their favorite gadgets before the internet.

The Mayan people sharing their favorite gadgets before the internet.

Clothes-pegless clothesline – these are widely available at camping stores and I do not remember where I got mine but it’s easily the most useful thing for me backpacking. I have used mine in countless countries to dry my clothes (both after being washed and after being caught in the rain) and even used it with I lived in Canada and the university clothes dryers were dodgy. Very small and very useful. Should be part of anyone’s kit.

Sewing kit – I’ve used mine a number of times and sadly one of those was when my backpack broke. Even for someone like me who’s never had any skill for needle work can use these to fix some pretty daunting problems.

Sleep sheet – I didn’t have one of these before I went to Asia for the first time and I regretted it when I stayed in places that didn’t offer sheets to travelers. They’re also useful to wrap around fragile souvenirs when you’re going home.

Sarong – used this in place of a sleep sheet before I had one. Also used it for my hair, as a towel at the beach, as a skirt, a top, to cover up for temples and after tubing in Laos. I could keep going but I won’t. Just make sure you have one.

Travel towel – best thing ever! I actually now have two, I loved mine so much! They are towels that are super absorbent to dry you off easily but also dry easily themselves and don’t take up as much space in your bag as a regular towel would.

Toiletries bag that has a hook – sounds so simple, and it is! I’ve appreciated the little hook on my toiletries bag so much over the years. Goes everywhere, no drama. As you’re using it daily in different locations you will grow to love it!

Ear plugs – lifesaver! Mine are special ones for the plane that do something weird to you so your ears don’t pop – not complaining and don’t totally understand them but recommend ear plugs for all that plane/bus/train/car travel with crying babies/drunk backpackers/locals playing their music at unsociable hours and for the hostel room when you’re sleeping right under the snorer.

Money belt – I don’t always use mine as a money belt but it does have RFID blocking technologies so has often just been there to protect my passport (from theft and from having water spilt on it in my bag)

RFID wallet – I have one of these and love it, it’s small but great. Everyone should have one. As someone who’s had their card compromised while overseas I can tell you, getting cash when you have no card, don’t speak the language and are not sure what’s going on is tough.

 

What about you? What gadgets have saved you over the years’? OR, what gadget do you think you would get the most use out of while traveling?

There’s No Shame In Going Home

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When I left Scotland I felt pretty bad. That’s an understatement, really. I felt like I had failed at something. I’d set off telling everyone that I was going to live in the UK. There were multiple going away dinners, parties, casual, after-work drinks. There were even over-dramatized cries of, “I may never see Stacey again! I want to enjoy every moment!” I’d even written about it on the blog for my international audience. Then, after very little time in the UK, I’d decided I’d really wanted to travel. I wanted to just backpack freely with little to no plan. This was how I’d travelled previously and I really missed the sense of freedom and adventure.

While I was traveling and feeling the unpleasantness of stomach issues, how travel was harder than I told myself and around the time I discovered the spiritual side of travel I felt an epiphany. I really loved backpacking and I was broadening my horizons more than I could have previously imagined but, there I was feeling the pull back to the UK. But not to Scotland, to London. I wanted to experience a mega city. I wanted to see things in a different light as a foreigner living somewhere rather than travelling. I was now ready. Finally.

UK-Scotland-edinburgh-Adventurer-Stacey

Sometimes, as strange as it can seem, we are not ready when we assume we are. Sometimes, actually almost all of the time life is not as we think it should be. Instead of a smooth course that goes on until it reaches a logical conclusion, life can throw things at you all the time that you never expected and that’s fine. That’s life, you have the learn to be adaptive and roll with the punches as much as you have to learn to sit back and enjoy a few cool rums and some lobster on the beach (Belize was a happy find for that!).

I’ve learned so much from my first “failure to launch” in the UK and feel so blessed to have had that experience. If I had not, I would not be now happily telling you all that I’m landing in London on the 22nd of March, would you like to catch up? I also wouldn’t be able to share my own story for those who’re upset at the idea that maybe things won’t turn out as planned and maybe they will have to go home for whatever reason. Perhaps they will run out of cash quicker than they imagined, perhaps they will have to go home due to family emergency, perhaps they will get sick or perhaps they just weren’t ready like I was.

Swimming up to say hello (one of my favorite shots from snorkeling in Belize!)

Swimming up to say hello (one of my favorite shots from snorkeling in Belize!)

Whatever happens, it’s always okay to go home. There is no shame in admitting that life happens and the best laid plans do not always work out. Maybe next time.

Over to you, have you ever had an experience of leaving a place earlier than expected? What advice would you give to others staring down the barrel of these decisions?

Working Holidays

I’ve tried to blog about these as an abstract idea a number of times however, it’s difficult to really write just one post that tells one all they need to know about working holidays in general terms when there is so much to know.

Essentially, working holidays are a way for young people to travel in a way that they can legally work in a country where they do not have citizenship or residency, a work sponsor or any real ties to the local community. Essentially, they’re a great way to pick up odd jobs to supplement your travels and explore. Some people use working holiday visas as a way to scope potential professional employers, to spend time in their partner’s country without having to marry or for a million other reasons. Today though, I’m going to talk about working holiday visas and what they’re traditionally used for. If you’re looking for sponsor advice, you won’t find it here. That’s a post for another time.

UK-Scots-Flag-Adventurer-Stacey

Where can I go for my working holiday?

This really depends on which citizenship (or passport) you hold. If you only have the one like myself, then you can google “working holiday arrangements for X NATIONALITY” and lists will appear with working holiday agreements that are applicable to people of your nationality. As a general guide though people tend to visit places that are on the other side of the world to them. Most Europeans want to come to Australia or New Zealand and most Canadian’s and Antipodeans want to go to Europe. Working holidays can be hard for those in places like South Africa (with fewer options now after the UK changed their laws) and in the USA as the American government doesn’t seem so keen on working holiday visas. There will be options for most people with most passports however.

How do I choose a place?

A question I can answer with another question, what do you want to get out of the experience? Depending on how you want to answer that, I will give you a better answer, but to help you on your way, here are some things you’ll want to consider.Sydney-Harbour-Bridge-At-Night-Adventurer-Stacey

Cost of living vs. saving

One cannot blame people for wanting to enjoy their working holidays by finding space to rent and work in cities like Sydney, Tokyo, London and New York but then, how expensive it is to live in these cities is something that should be considered. Although one can earn enough to live comfortably working odd hospitality jobs in Sydney the same cannot be said for London where the minimum wage (which is what you will earn, don’t try telling yourself otherwise) is so low that there are huge campaigns to move to a ‘living wage’ which happily for the people in the UK are now being taken up on a governmental level.

A good way to work out cost of living is to google “cost of living in CITY”. I have used Numbeo as a good comparison website where in the past I have drawn comparisons between my home city of Melbourbe, Australia and the cost of living in other places. I then go on to look at wages – what’s the pay like in ‘survival jobs’ like hospitality, customer service, retail? What’s the salary like in professional jobs once I am settled? What’s the likelihood on this visa that I would get a job in the field that I want to work?

A great way as well to find out what it’s like in-country is to find friends who’ve lived in the place before, or friends of friends. Posting a status update on twitter or facebook could be good for this. Asking your friends if they or anyone they know has lived in this place is a good start to get information from people. Another good idea is to hit up travel forums, facebook groups (such as the Aussies in London facebook page or Kiwi’s in London facebook group) and to hit google. Google is going to be your friend a lot here, you can already see that, can’t you?

The Beautiful Manly Beach at Sunrise (Image credit: Nigel Howe)

The Beautiful Manly Beach at Sunrise (Image credit: Nigel Howe)

Lifestyle factors

Another thing to think about as well is what lifestyle you want to lead when you are there. What climate do you want to live in? What hobbies do you want to pursue? Is there anything you don’t want to have to deal with that is a deal breaker when choosing a place to live? If you don’t like smog, London’s probably not for you. Happy with your monolingual English-speaker status? Tokyo is likely not your place either.

I know two friends’ had a working holiday in Australia and they chose Sydney not for the pretty harbor (which they would hardly see) but for the city beaches being so close. This way they could go to work in the morning and work on their sun tan in the afternoon. Another friend loved history and wanted to learn French so went to Paris for her working holiday (the first, she’s been on several working holidays now). Work out what you want first then work out how to get it’s the best way to do things in this situation.

Ireland-Thatched-Roof-House-Adventurer-Stacey

Cultural interest and language

I touched on it already, but if there is a culture you’re particularly interested or a language you want to learn, sometimes working holidays give you that valuable immersion time you wouldn’t be able to enjoy otherwise. Not only do you live in a place like a local but you work like a local too and having the same lifestyle, it’s easier to understand a language and culture when you’re living the local rhythm. There’s a bunch of words that will make sense that are native to this place and that there’s no equivalent to in your own language that you will learn more about when you see how the people live, work and play.

 

So what about you? Have you been on any working holidays? Got any planned? What’s some general advice you would give to someone who was planning this type of trip?

Travel Fails: How I Always Miss The Party

I recently booked a flight and while talking to the travel agent* I told him how much I was looking forward to this trip as I’d previously been to Dublin in March of 2012 and had left the city before the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and now I was looking forward to a St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin 2016!

That’s right guys, I’m having a proper St. Patrick’s day this year!

But before you get all jealous and start telling me how unfair it is that you don’t get to be at the party, let me tell you a few of my own stories about how I’ve missed more than one big party because of poor travel planning. I’ve never been a great planner, but sometimes you really do have face-palm moments when you realise you could have, should have done something differently.

I loved how excited people were for the national day - Chilean flags EVERYWHERE!

I loved how excited people were for the national day – Chilean flags EVERYWHERE!

Missing Chile’s National Holiday

This was painful! Not only did I miss the great day, but I flew out of Santiago on Chile’s national day. Poor form by me not only because I missed this wonderful day but also because I missed it, almost didn’t make the airport because nothing was running for the national holiday and experienced an earthquake (perhaps unrelated, but I wanted to throw that in!). What was I doing!?

Missing A Genuine St. Patrick’s Day In Dublin

Okay, so I touched on this already. But it still hurts to know how much green beer and craic I missed out on. Especially when I consider I’d made some decent local friends when I backpacked Ireland who could have shown me all the awesome things about Dublin – and Ireland – on their national day that weirdly, seems to be the only national day of any one nation celebrated by everyone in the world. Perhaps this is a testament to the charm of the Irish that everyone wants to celebrate their national day or perhaps it’s their huge world-wide migration with something like 70 million people all over the world having Irish names or maybe just good marketing. Not sure, will tell you after March 17th.

Laos-Adventurer-Stacey

Missing The Boat And Other Asian Disasters

I didn’t plan my first trip to South East Asia very well at all as testament to the fact that I seemed to miss out on all the great backpacker experiences. Instead of being able to spend 30 days’ in Thailand and traveling the whole country in one go, I flew from Bangkok to Phnom Phen just four days’ after arriving which meant I had to keep leaving Thailand and going back in for two-week long visa sprints. I also missed the rocket festival in Laos by a few hours, missed taking the slow boat into Laos and flew (doh!) which meant I missed all those great ‘slow boat friends’ everyone else had and was travelling with not to mention the fact I spent stupid money flying about because I didn’t want to book with local airlines and would book last moment. Yeah, total fail.

I hope that perhaps in all my travel mistakes, my reader’s can learn from them and not repeat them themselves. They would easily save money and have a better time themselves. You’re welcome.

How about you? Do you have any great travel timing fails you’d like to share? Please comment below so the rest of us can learn from your mistakes, cheers for being awesome enough to do that in advance too!

 

*I don’t always use agents however, when I do I use STA Travel. They have great deals and are totally understanding when you tell them you only want to book a few things (like flights and insurance) through them and want to do the rest independent. I recommend them and plenty of other great travel brands to my readers.