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:

UK-England-London-Tourist-Photo-Big-Ben-Adventurer-Stacey

#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.

Charles-Darwins-Garden-Kent-England-UK-Adventurer-Stacey

#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’!

Apps For Moving To London

Lost in London I was asking people in the street for directions. Everyone I asked must have been a local as they kept walking. I managed to stop one girl, an Eastern European who helped me with my map. Thank god for immigration!

But you dear reader, you don’t need to have this experience. Through careful research I’ve found the best apps for moving to London (or visiting, if you’re going there with a smart phone) so you don’t have to be asking directions of local’s who’re busy pretending they didn’t hear you, paying too much for a black cab, missing out on great travel deals, lonely in the big city, hungry and unable to find decent take-away or one thousand other problems you face when new to such a huge city!

UK-England-London-Tourist-Photo-Big-Ben-Adventurer-Stacey

Uber

This seemed to be at the top of all my friends’ lists and I was a little sad to see that as London has the best taxi’s in the world however, It’s a very popular app in London for a reason! When you sign up with Uber use the code uberAdventurerStaceyue to get a free ride (I get one too when you use the code)

City Mapper

Everyone has this! It’s a London must with its maps for walking, cycling and public transport you’ll be using it constantly when you’re new (or if you visit new areas, which feels like it’s always happening in London!)

Google Maps

I’ve previously mentioned this in my list of apps for independent travellers, here’s just one more place it’s useful.

Tube Tamer

The network can be confusing, especially when you’re new so this app has been great for me!

Whatsapp

This seems super popular in the London and if you don’t have it before your move, you’ll need it soon enough!

Meetup App

Meetups are quite popular in London as London is a super transient city with plenty of people coming here for work and losing their old communities. A great way to meet new people or just to connect with others’ who share your interest. Totally keen to jump into London photography groups as those seem the right ones to meet other people who love the city just as much as I do and who notice all those little things that I might miss!

Excuses2Meet

Kind of like the appy equivalent of going to a real-life meetup event, you can put things in you’re looking to do with your new friends like “someone to play videogames with” and find other’s who’ve said they’re looking for the same thing. I’ve downloaded it (along with all the others) however, it feels like it might take more time to meet people than just showing up at a MeetUp event. We’ll see what happens!

Fever

This is a great idea! An app that helps you find things to do in London this week. It tailors its suggestions to you based on preferences you put into the app really good for wanting to show your knowledge of what’s on without having to do much work. Also great for when you make those early friends everyone makes when moving to a new city who don’t really know what’s going on and aren’t very good tour guides at all.

YPlan

Similar concept to Fever, I’ve still not decided which I prefer so have listed both.

Groupon

This is quite popular in London for loads of stuff (as the high rent prices mean everyone is pretty skint and needs discounts). Also has great travel deals on it from time to time.

Spareroom

How everyone finds their flatmates – now in an app!

Just Eat

Want to know if that place on the corner is any good to eat at? Going out with friends all spur of the moment and don’t know anywhere good? (Of course you don’t! You’re new to London!) Here’s a simple solution.

Do you have any recommendations for apps that London Newbies should have that are not listed? Please leave those awesome recommendations in the comments below!

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!

Plane-Wing-Taken-Out-The-Window-Adventurer-Stacey

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…

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?

There’s No Shame In Going Home

Chicken-bus-central-america-guatemala-adventurer-stacey

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?

Spiritual Journey’s And Travel: Totally Not Just A Romantic Notion

Adventurer-Stacey-Mexican-Bathing-Suit

I very often meet people in life who have romantic visions of travel, they’ll tell me how much they want to go here or there and how beautiful the world is and how my life must be amazing because I travel so much. Yes, anyone whose read this blog long enough knows anyone can do what I do but that’s beside the point, travel is something we romanticize more than any other journey in our lives.

In the same hostel where I met the worst intestinal parasite ever a book almost fell into my hands from their book exchange. I had been reading much of Gabrielle Bernstein’s work online and had watched her youtube clips before I’d taken off on this latest adventure. I liked her and was aware of her but she wasn’t influencing my life any more than cute cat clips on youtube do at that point in time.

That was until her book fell off the shelf in the book exchange and I began reading it.

I lay in a hammock for almost the entire day while my friends’ were out on an adventure tour. I flipped through the pages and wrote reflections in my travel journal.

Then later that night I noticed Gabbie’s insights coming to life. In my room there was a few new backpackers, one of them had several answers that I had been seeking. I was so happy to meet her and that she had given me insights I sorely needed at the time and that would change the course of my trip and also my perspective on life and perception (ie. If you think you’re having a good time, you do. If you think you’ll have a bad time you will).

The next morning, without doing all the touristic adventure tours that this area of Guatemala was known for, I jumped on a bus and from that moment on started letting go of the things that weren’t serving me and of the feelings of expectation I was receiving from people outside of myself: from readers of my blog, from friends and family back home, from other travellers (and trust me, we push much of our travel expectations onto one another as travellers – there is very little recognition of me being on my own journey same as you). I just practiced gratitude (I am so greatful for the opportunity to be here) and mindfulness (Being in that moment, not waiting for the next great thing to happen, but remaining where I was).

After only a week or two of practicing mindfulness and gratitude I was noticing huge shifts in my thinking and behavior. I was free internally rather than just externally (having the ability to travel). I wasn’t being held down under the weight of anyone’s expectations least of all my own.

The truth is, I have so far to go but I wanted to share the beginning of my spiritual journey with you guys.

When I was open to it – I received the wisdom I needed, and still do every single day.

What about you guys, does travel have a spiritual component for you? Is there a great story you would like to share about how you first accepted spirituality into your life?

Intestinal Parasites And A Warning From An Experienced Traveller

Out of professional courtesy, I have chosen not to name the hostel in this story, although unlikely, perhaps they were unaware that they were feeding travellers dirty food

After last weeks’ post about travel not being the romantic ideal people make it out to be, I received an email from one reader asking me about a recent travel upset so decided to talk about this one. A potentially funny story (depending on how much you enjoy toilet humor) with a bit of travel health advice attached. Enjoy!

Galapagos-Sea-Lion-Adventurer-Stacey

I had heard of this hostel when I was in Mexico and Belize. Famous on the Central American backpacker route I should have known it would be difficult to get a bed there, but I showed up without a booking as I always had. It took the staff doing a quick bed check (unsure of how accurate their books were) to find me what they thought was their last bed as the sun was setting.

I was exhausted having travelled on Guatemala’s worst roads in what can only be called a tin with wheels attached I was ready for bed when I looked up and saw some people I’d met in Belize eating an early dinner, they asked me to join.

While we were eating and before happy hour (conveniently) two other Aussie’s came to join us, these boys’ were hardened backpackers but had had a problem.

If you have a weak stomach or are eating, you might want to skip the next paragraph and just read, “tummy trouble” and that I’d been warned not to eat the hostels food, only to be told by the girls’ that the food was fine (it wasn’t, should have listened to first advice).

The boys’ were on the bus to the next backpacker town when one of them started to feel very ill suddenly, he got the bus to pull over and run into the bushes. He described his experience as “coming out both ends, incredibly painful.” I stifled a laugh and he looked me square in the eye, “NO. Really, they wouldn’t let me stay on the bus, we had to come back here.” The bus driver had turned around and driven them back to the hostel. “Don’t eat the food here. I was vomiting into my cooler all the way back.” The girls’ I was eating with shrugged the comments off. “The food here is fine! I eat it and there is nothing wrong with me!” said our working-class British friend through the spinach caught in her teeth.

I ate my supper anyway and went to bed early. At two AM I was awoken by a couple coming back to the dorm together. Having no time to pretend to be asleep while they stripped each other down in the middle of the room, I ran past them and for the toilet.

I was sick for two weeks until I gave in and saw a doctor (I wanted to wait for an international doctor but ended up seeing a doctor in a small village and using my poor Spanish to talk about my problem).

The doctor gave me drugs and the bug died. I lost about 8 kilo’s too from dehydration and the lack of appetite which came with the tummy bug.

My hope with sharing this story with you guys’ is that you will please, please listen to people who tell you the food (or water) is not safe as this was a very painful experience for me. Also, see a doctor straight away. The symptoms don’t get better on their own.

Over to you now! Have you seen a doctor while travelling? What was your experience?

Don’t Let Anyone Mushroom You About Travel

A friend of mine in the UK was complaining about her manager, she said he was mushroom managing her and launched into a tirade about how much it sucked she wasn’t being told anything. At the time I patiently listened and didn’t interrupt – not even to ask what mushroom management was – after we spoke however, I did some googling.

According to Urban Dictionary:

mushroom management

A management philosophy prescribing to the theory that to best motivate your employees, you must at all times:

  1. Keep them in the dark.

  2. Feed them full of shit.

I thought this was such a great expression! Mushroom management! Being that I wasn’t working at the time – I was travelling – I couldn’t use it but then started thinking of how much it related to travel.

Entering into a lava tunnel on Isla Isabella, Galapagos Islands. I didn't know then how much my claustrophobia would be put to the test...

Entering into a lava tunnel on Isla Isabella, Galapagos Islands. I didn’t know then how much my claustrophobia would be put to the test…

When I was in the Galapagos Islands for example, I had the ferry ride from hell. I was so sick on the ride that I had to lean over the side several times, losing my lunch as well as my dignity. Later after finding a hotel I had a shower and washed my hair before catching a friend for dinner.

I said to her earnestly, “Everyone has these romantic ideas around travel, but today I threw up in my hair!” she thought this was the funniest statement and told me I should write it down (well here it is, I do hope she is reading!)

This is very true though – people are always mushrooming you about travel. At the time that people are travelling, it’s hard. They’re lost in a foreign land with no real idea where they’re going or what they’re doing, they have language barriers to contend with and often other things that crop up too, people taking advantage of their not knowing the city or country, being robbed, mugged or ripped off, weather extremes you wouldn’t believe, never having a decent nights sleep and having to function above how they would have to at home just to navigate this strange land.

A Galapagos Sea Lion moments before it attacked someone who was sitting nearby. Doesn't look aggressive, does it?

A Galapagos Sea Lion moments before it attacked someone who was sitting nearby. Doesn’t look aggressive, does it?

I love travel, but I’m under no illusions that it’s hard work.

Sure, we post pictures of nice beaches and cool animals to Instagram but the reality is that to get to that nice beach we had to walk through some pretty shady parts of a highly dangerous city to find the ferry terminal and to see that animal we had to pay an extra few thousand dollars in flights and learn enough of the local language to find a hotel, a restaurant, a taxi, whatever.

Travel is not easy, at all, ever.

But I still love it and I can’t see myself seeing the world any other way, even if I had a lot more money. I just feel so much richer from being forced to learn another language, from being forced into close quarters with such a variety of interesting people, from being forced to eat the local food and to find it’s absolutely amazing!

Horses warming down after informal street racing (where I almost got hit)

Horses warming down after informal street racing (where I almost got hit)

Travel isn’t romantic at all and it’s far from easy, but it makes me happy so I’m going to keep doing it.

Even though travel is hard, you still want more of it too right?

Travel Jobs: (often illegal) Bar work

“Hey, you were here last night, weren’t you?” John from Nha Trang, Vietnam asks me, smiling. “No, I passed by and you tried to get me to come into your bar but I went home – long days’ travel.” I explain, looking him dead in the eye and seeing all of the boredom and loneliness there. I hate it when people’s eyes are not sparkling – it makes me sad to knowing they’re sad.

(Photo credit: Sam Howzit)

(Photo credit: Sam Howzit)

Many, many travellers have picked up bar work sometimes legally but often illegally all over the world. I’ve seen some of this in my own country Australia but also in Asia, Europe and North America. These guy’s risk having their passport blacklisted and live a life with a revolving door of new acquaintances, horrid hours, low or no pay, in a constant state of drunk or hangover which will leave the most seasoned drinker praying for it to end.

When I travelled to Lagos, Portugal the only thing bar workers needed was an ability to get drunk and party until the wee hours then repeat their performance for three to five months. Unlike most of the gigs in Asia, these guys’ were getting paid so they could afford to eat decent(ish) food, they’d do a few hours work in a hostel as well in exchange for a place to sleep at night (or rather, in the day) and free alcohol. Not a job for saving money, but enough to stretch out your travel just that few months’ longer which can be enough for some people.

In Lagos, I met Chrissy, an Australian (Legos had only a few nationalities: Portugese (minority), English, Irish, Scottish, Australian), she had beautiful, long blonde hair and a body appreciated by most bar guys, and their patrons. I went out with her for a drink one night when she had a daggy sweater on yet she still had half a dozen guys’ hitting on her and clambering to buy her drinks.

Later I met another Aussie called Mark who was deeply lonely and broke. The season proper had not started yet and he like John of Vietnam, Mark already had no light in his eyes. I stayed in the same hostel four nights, I think he had a different female visitor at least three of those nights (he was staying in a different dorm, thank god!).

Chrissy was smart and although she had been offered a job, told the bar she was doing some backpacking and would be back later in the season, could she start work then? Sure, whatever you want they said. I knew myself that she wouldn’t be back, what’s the appeal in this life for her?

Have you worked in a backpacker bar while travelling to sustain yourself? Am I unfair in my assessment? If I am, would you recommend this gig to other travellers? Please share your experience and opinion in the comments below.