What makes a good travel buddy

I absolutely respect people who can travel alone; I’m just not one of them.

Sure I’ve had a couple of trips where I’ve jumped on a plane with no one to hold my hand, but I’ve always met a tour group or some friends who have opened up their houses for me at the other end.

For me, I like to have someone to share the memories with and give me a hug when I see something I don’t like. Now this could be anyone – a friend, a family member, your other half or simply someone you got chatting to in the queue to board, but I’m lucky enough to have found my travel buddy in WouldBeTraveller Husband, or Tim as I should really call him. We’ve been on tens of trips together (I wish I could say hundreds) and I now can’t imagine going away with anyone else.

But it’s not always easy to find the right person to travel with. I’ve met countless people who say “we don’t travel well together” about their best friend, or “I could never go abroad with him!” about their brother, so what should you be looking out for in your travel companion?

It’s good to have similar interests meaning that you absolutely don’t have to traipse after them around an art gallery when you’re far more interested in what it looks like from the outside and then want to go for a beer. Instead, Tim and I both know we’re going to enjoy an open top bus tour to get our bearings in a new city and plan the rest of our trip based on what we liked the look of. And we follow quite a typical pattern on these – Tim listens intently to the facts from the audio guide while I switch it to Spanish mode and realise I haven’t learnt anything at all as I’m desperately trying to pick out facts I understand. The truth is, we enjoy the same things in very different ways, and that’s a great aspect of travel companionship.

Conversely, we also have dissimilar interests. Descending into the depths of a cathedral in Vienna to mingle with the dead did not sound like my idea of a great day out, but Tim has always been intrigued by catacombs so I was willing to try. And do you know what? I really enjoyed it! There were some parts I couldn’t look at (the window through to the strewn about skeletal remains of the Black Plague was particularly harrowing), but walking through the tunnels guided by a man who reminded me far too much of the shopkeeper in Frozen was fascinating. Had Tim and I not had dissimilar interests, I may never have been there so I was grateful for the opportunity to try something new.

Patience is a virtue, and this is no more true than when travelling. Of course, unexpected delays can happen, and they’re not always your fault, but what about the delays that are? I’m not ashamed to say it (though I probably should be) but I have an incredibly weak bladder, which means that a lot of our day can be spent trying to locate a toilet. Tim, bless him, never complains. At the same time, I have a set selection of souvenirs I like to pick up from each destination. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s pretty difficult trying to find a Christmas decoration in Morocco in the middle of September, but Tim has the patience to let me try.

Being caring is probably the thing I am most grateful for in a travel buddy. I still get nervous when I fly, and Tim can sense that a mile off, reaching out to grab my hand and kiss my forehead before I even realise I’m scared. Similarly, when a trip to an elephant orphanage tourist attraction in Sri Lanka left me in tears, Tim was ready with a hug and the promise that we would get to see them in the wild one day, where they belong. And he kept his promise.

Despite the excitement of seeing new places and the escape from every day life, travelling can be hard and stressful. As I’ve mentioned, delays are all too common and you might be left stranded for days. Who would you want by your side in these situations? Someone you occasionally enjoy a beer down the pub with (your fair weather friend) or someone you’ve faced challenges with before and got through them together? Even after long delays at Copenhagen airport when all we wanted to do was sleep, Tim ands I bonded over a bag of maltesers thrown to us by the apologetic easyJet staff. If I was with anyone else, I think I’d have lost my rag.

Perhaps the most important trait of a good travel buddy is open-mindedness. I’ve come across far too many people who travel to Marbella to top up their tan and drink piña coladas. Every year. They only eat pizza in the all you can eat restaurant and turn their noses up when offered anything slightly ‘foreign’. The fact they’re eating pizza doesn’t seem to have sunk in… I love that they’re enjoying themselves enough to go back each year, but I would prefer to travel with someone who is willing to try that bizarre looking egg bowl from a local restaurant or take part in a tribal fire dance in a village hall, because that’s the beauty of travel. You can try new things and witness how other cultures enjoy life. There’s more to travel than the poolside.

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It’s all of these things that makes me sure I’ve found the ideal travel companion and I hope you can find your very own one day too. (Unless you’re good travelling solo, and if you are, don’t let me stop you!)

What other traits do you look for in the person you travel with? Do you think you’re a good travel buddy?

Around the World… in Cocktails!

For my birthday this year I’ve decided to celebrate in the best way possible. On a round the world trip! But this isn’t just any kind of round the world trip. I’m doing it all from the comfort of my home in the company of my friends. The world is coming to us… via cocktails!

We will be posting LIVE as we try out different cocktails from our favourite countries, giving you the recipe and our opinions as we go. Expect us to get vastly incomprehensible as we go, and to not remember anything tomorrow morning…

Here’s where our round the world trip will take us:

  • Scotland
  • Russia
  • Thailand
  • New Zealand
  • United States
  • Mexico
  • Brazil
  • South Africa
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • France
  • Ireland

And here we go…

  1. Highland Flying – Scotland
    Recipe: Blend 25ml each of Scotch, Kahlua, Orange Juice and Cream with ice and then strain into glasses.
    Verdict: Tasty and a very good start to our round the world trip! A few people commented it tasted like chocolate oranges, or melted ice cream.
    Score: 7/10
  2. Moscow Mule – Russia
    Recipe: Mix vodka with lime juice and ginger beer. Drink!
    Verdict: It’s gooood… The kind of thing you can drink a lot of, and then stand up and realise how drunk you are. Good job we’re only on our second one… 
    Score: 7.5/10
  3. Tom Yam Siam – Thailand
    Recipe: Mix Mekhong (Thai liquor) with Vodka, lime juice, sugar and lots of ice. Garnish with chilli, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf to taste.
    Verdict: Careful, this one has a bit of a kick! It felt like we were drinking curry and definitely transported us back to Thailand with the flavours.
    Score: 6/10
  4. L&P and vodka – New Zealand
    Recipe: Mix L&P and vodka. Simples!
    Verdict: Not strictly a cocktail… but made a refreshing change from all the complicated flavours! I preferred the L&P on its own though.
    Score: 6/10
  5. Margarita – Mexico
    Recipe: Tequiiiiilaaaa, cointreau and lime juice in a glass with salt around the rim.
    Verdict: A very safe choice – my friend Chris has no imagination – but he does know how to make a MEAN margarita. Deeelicious. A firm favourite so far.
    Score: 9/10
  6. The Bee’s Knees – USA
    Recipe: Gin, lemon juice and honey simple syrup served with a lemon slice.
    Verdict: Smells amazing, and tastes like a liquid lemon curd. I’d much rather have this than lemsip when I’m ill!
    Score: 8/10
  7. Caipirinha – Brazil
    Recipe: Muddle limes and sugar, add crushed ice and then pour over cachaca. ‘Nuff said.
    Verdict: Quite drinkable, but we think we used the wrong type of sugar (don’t go too dark!)
    Score: 7/10
  8. African Brew – South Africa
    Recipe: Crushed ice, a scoop of chocolate ice cream, a banana and amarula all blended together. Pour into wine glasses and enjoy 🙂
    Verdict: It’s good, it’s nice. It’s like drinking a dessert and we like it! A few people have started to experience memory impairment. And there has been dancing.
    Score: 9/10
  9. Negroni – Italy
    Recipe: Equal parts gin, sweet red vermouth and campari. Serve with an orange twist. Fall on floor.
    Verdict: It’s strong!!!!!!! Ahhhh it makes me face go funny! Definite mixed reviews around the room – some people quite like it, the rest of us are putting on a brave face.
    Score: 5/10
  10. Agua de Valencia – Spain
    Recipe: A whole bottle of cava(!), a cup of orange juice and then double shots of vodka and gin. Mix it together with ice and imagine you’re in Spain 🙂
    Verdict: I’m biased because this is my favourite drink in the world. I’ll let others write the verdict for this… Chris says: Very refreshing, (much more so than Italy), though we are getting to the part of the evening where if someone shoved a glass of Bisto Gravy laced with Vodka in front of me I’d say it’s the greatest drink in the world. I feel would very much appreciate it even when sober!
    Score: 7.5/10
  11. Kir Royale – France
    Recipe: Creme de Cassis and champagne. On a 1:9 ratio. Easy!
    Verdict: It’s like a fizzy ribena! Except it will get you drunk! We like it!
    Score: 8/10
  12. Irish Eyes – Ireland
    Recipe: Whiskey, creme de menthe and cream (or milk if you’ve run out!) shaken, not stirred, and then poured over ice.
    Verdict: It tastes like polo mints, or like melted mint choc chip ice cream. A very good drink for a date – you don’t even need to brush your teeth! Despite the colour, it’s very drinkable indeed. A great one to finish on. We’re feeling incredibly fresh all of a sudden!
    Score: 8/10

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What’s your favourite cocktail from around the world? 

Confessions of a Nervous Flyer

I don’t like to admit when I’m scared of things – especially not things to do with travel. Self-confessed travellers are meant to be fearless, right? But visiting new countries, learning about other cultures and meeting new people exhilarates me, they don’t scare me. So what’s up?

The truth is, I’m a bit of a nervous flyer. I won’t go so far as to say I’m scared of it, because it completely depends on the day and the flight I’m on. I’m perfectly fine if it’s a smooth take off, smooth cruise, smooth landing, but anything else is enough to get my palms a little sweaty.

With at least 16 flights planned for this year, I decided it was finally time to get over it once and for all. In this post, I will list the reasons I’m nervous, the rough science behind what’s actually happening and then work out some techniques on how to cope. So think of this post as a bit of a self-help guide for me, but I hope it will help you too.

Turbulence

The reason: Turbulence will no doubt appear on every nervous flyer’s list. It’s an odd feeling being in an object 37,000 feet in the air and having it shake, isn’t it? I get a bit nervous the plane is falling out of the sky, but it’s virtually impossible for an aeroplane to be that badly affected by turbulence.

The rough science: Turbulence is no more than a few bumps in the air, just like driving on a bumpy road. Even when knocked off its course, the aeroplane will automatically return to its original position. Your pilots are trained to try and avoid these rough patches to make your flight as comfortable as possible. While it may feel like you’re freefalling, aeroplanes rarely rise or fall more than 10m during periods of turbulence (which is nothing compared to high high you already are).

Top tips:

  1. Leave a cup of water on your tray table and watch it to see how much it moves. You’ll be surprised at how little the turbulence does actually affect the water line.
  2. Keep the window blind up so you can see that the plane isn’t plummeting, but actually maintaining a very constant height in comparison to that beautiful cloud over there.
  3. The best advice I was ever given was to jiggle your body a little when you feel turbulence coming on. This helps to counteract the effects of the shakes, and also gives you something to focus on. Ever since I found this out, I’ve been much less afraid of turbulence.

Take-off

The reason: Genuinely the only reason I am scared of take-off is the Final Destination movie. I’m not sure which one it was, but there’s a scene where an aeroplane has just taken off but immediately explodes and plummets to the ground. And now I can’t get that image out of my head when I take off. Damn you, Hollywood!

The rough science: Your plane is very very very unlikely to spontaneously combust upon take off. Or at any other time for that matter! Aeroplanes will have been checked by airport staff directly before take-off, and are given the equivalent of an MOT before every single journey.

Top tips:

  1. Look out the window so that you can see the plane is climbing, not falling. Plus, in my experience, some countries look even more beautiful from the air than on the ground. You never know what you might miss if you have your eyes closed!
  2. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you while you’re still on the ground. That way, you can focus on the conversation rather than the take-off, and you may even make a new friend

The news

The reason: There have been a few news stories recently about air disasters. Despite my understanding of creative writing, and the fact that fear sells, I have been known to play into the hands of journalists and believe everything they say.

The rough science: Note that in my intro I said there have been a few, not a lot. Because if you think about the 3,000,000 flights that happen everyday, and then think about the 1 you hear about per year, it really puts things in perspective. What are the chances your plane will be the one to go? Too small to even bear thinking about. So don’t.

Top tips:

  1. Make a point NOT to read the stories. All journalists are trying to do is sell newspapers, and they do that because of fear. Don’t give them the satisfaction!
  2. Think of the other things you do in your life, even though journalists tell you not to. Eat bacon? Well apparently that’s not allowed. Flying is no different.

Other people

The reason: Let’s face it. Other people are annoying. I once flew to NYC and could smell smoke every time the dude in front of me went to the toilet. It turned out he had been smoking in the toilets, despite all the warning signs, cabin crew pleas and smoke detectors that were a clear indication that he shouldn’t. He had put us all in danger, just for the fact that he couldn’t wait 8 hours for a cigarette. Other times, I’ve had drunk people disrupting flights, people screaming, people being sick…

The rough science: Unfortunately this is just one of those things. There’s no science behind why people are annoying. Actually – that’s a lie. Isn’t psychology all to do with that? Anyway… it’s too big a subject for me to go into. You’ll just need to put up with annoying people, I’m afraid!

Top tips:

  1. Get an aisle seat so that you can move around/away from the source of the annoyance.
  2. Sit with people you know so you can enjoy their company instead, or focus on a book or a film. 
  3. If there’s someone particularly annoying on your flight, there’s no harm telling the cabin crew about it. They’re there for your safety AND comfort, so you never know what kind of strings they might pull to keep you happy… 🙂 

Security

The reason: Dare I say it… terrorists are a bit scary. But that’s what security is there for!

The rough science: Flying is THE safest form of transport, if you don’t count spinning around in your office chair. But, even that could cause serious injury if you go too fast or bump into someone mid-spin. Just think about the screening you went through on your last flight – the same screening happens to everyone, and it is incredibly thorough.

Top tips:

  1. Feel free to chat to the security staff at the airport about the checks they do. It might put your mind at ease to know how thorough they’re being.
  2. Remember how unlikely it is that anything will happen.

Plane defects/technical faults

The reason: landing gear packing in, engines failing, etc.

The rough science: Remember what I said above about take-off? The same is true for plane defects… your plane will have been given the equivalent of an MOT before every journey, and any tiny little defect will be picked up by experts that know exactly what to look for. Also, your pilots are trained to pick up on anything unusual. They want to get home safely just as much as you do, and emergency landings are a huge part of their training.

Top tips:

  1. There’s an incredible story about how a pilot made a miracle landing in the Hudson River in New York, following a bird strike. Every single one of the passengers and crew survived. If that doesn’t give you faith in your pilots, nothing will!

Random noises

The reason: Planes make an awful lot of noise – there’s that beeping in the cabin, like, the whole time, the huge roar of the engine before take-off, and then a great bit clunky sound when you’re coming in to land. They can only mean one thing – impending death, right?!

The rough science: Absolutely wrong. Those noises are all completely normal, and haven’t you noticed them on every single one of the flights you’ve ever been on? The beeps are generally a signal to the cabin crew that they should be sitting down, or that someone in the cabin wants their attention. The engine noise is just because you’ve got such big engines stuck to the side of your bus to get you to your destination. And the clunky sound is the landing gear coming out from underneath the plane, getting ready to land. Simples.

Top tips:

  1. If there’s a new sound you’re not familiar with, ask your cabin crew. They will be more than happy to tell you what it means and put your mind at rest.
  2. Get some noise cancelling headphones – they really do the world of good and block out the worst of the noise.

Landing

The reason: Landing is actually my favourite part of flying, but I can completely understand why people get nervous of it. After all, you could miss the runway, the pilot could forget to brake, a violent gust of wind could take you off course.

Rough science: In reality, none of those things is going to happen. As I said above, your pilots are trained to deal with all of these things, and there’s always two for extra assurance.

Top tips:

  1. Keep an eye out the window as it helps to know when you’re about to land, so it doesn’t come as a surprise. 
  2. Alternatively, focus on a book or your iPod instead, and you’ll have landed before you know it 🙂 
  3. Remember that landing means you’ve reached your destination and that awesome holiday you’ve been waiting for for ages! Alternatively… it means you’re home safe and sound and you can brag to all your friends about how awesome your trip was and how you totally weren’t scared of the flight

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That about sums up flying for me – a means to an end that can actually be genuinely enjoyable if you think about why you’re doing it. There’s really very little to be scared of, and it can all be put into perspective when you think of the crew that do it day in day out. 

What makes you nervous about flying? Do you have any ‘coping’ techniques or top tips to share?

How to survive your first day back at work

Everyone knows the worst part of going on holiday is coming home. Worse still is going back to work!

You’ve just spent two weeks out of the office on a beach/city/adventure break (delete as appropriate), where the hardest thing you had to do was decide whether you want beer or a cocktail with your dinner. You now have to drag yourself out of bed at 6am and make your way to a building where you’ll sit like a zombie in your jetlagged state for the next 8 hours. It’s tough, I know. I’ve been there many times.

Though I don’t always follow them myself, here are my 9 handy tips on how to survive your first day back at work. You’ll be back into the swing of things in no time 🙂

  • Book your next holiday before you get back. And if you can set your out of office on a delay, do it now. It will mean you have something definite and make you feel like the end is already in sight!
  • Go out for lunch. Treat yourself to a nice meal in a local restaurant, or something different from that café down the road. Get out of the office for a bit – go for a walk, go for a run, just anything to get you away from your desk
  • Before you go, give people plenty of warning of when you’re leaving and when you’ll be back. With enough warning, your colleagues should remember not to send you loads of emails while you’re away so there won’t be stacks of things to come back to…
  • …But if there are, prioritise the things in your to do list so that you’re not completely rushed off your feet. Remember you’re only one person and you can’t do everything in the time you’re paid to do it. Focus on the most critical stuff, and work out what can be left for another day or pass on to someone else.
  • Get your head down and focus on something to get through the day quicker, but try not to do too much or you’ll completely destroy that nice, relaxed you that you’ve built up while away.
  • Talk about your holiday! Most of your colleagues will want to know what you got up to and see pictures. You could even bring back some airport chocolates or sweets from the country you visited to make them feel involved. But choose wisely who you talk to about your holiday – don’t tell all your awesome stories to the first person you see. Instead, spread them out because a lot of people will ask. Avoid the office grump – they might make you feel even worse about coming back!
  • Plan something nice after work so that you have something to look forward to in the evening. This will keep you going throughout the day and mean you’re not just thinking about work.
  • Try and spend a day at home before going back to work (if your holiday allowance can handle it!). This will give you time to get some rest, tidy away your things and do the laundry – the things you would otherwise have to do after work.
  • Bring back a souvenir to keep on your desk to remind you of your holiday. I have a lucky cat that I brought back from Japan, and it brings back so many lovely memories every time I look at it.
  • Remember your holiday memories with happiness that you experienced them, not sadness that they’re gone.

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Even though going back to work can be tough, it won’t kill you – it just means you’re one day closer to your next adventure! But, with these tips, it will be easier than ever.

How do you survive your first day back at work? Do you have any other tips to share?

The Liebster Award

Being somewhat new to the blogosphere, I had never heard of the Liebster Award until I received a nomination last week. It’s not actually an award – more a ‘chain’ where you’re given a list of questions by the person that nominated you, and then it’s your turn to pay it forward and nominate 5 new bloggers to answer 11 new questions. It’s a great way for bloggers to interact with each other whilst promoting new travel blogs you love reading.

Firstly, I want to thank the wonderful Geordie Traveler for nominating me via Twitter. He’s a really inspiring blogger who has made it his mission to be the first traveller with a disability to visit every single country in the world. I just love reading about his adventures.

The questions he gave me were…

1. When did you first realise you wanted to be a traveller and why?
Only very recently. I had always liked holidays, but it was only in 2015 that I realised visiting new places was what made me truly happy. That could have been down to the stressful job, the free time that comes after a wedding, the excuse for not wanting kids, but behind it all was a burning desire to escape ‘normal’ life and invest in myself.
2. Ever had a scary moment on an airplane? If so, tell us about it…
I hate to admit it but I am a bit of a nervous flyer. It doesn’t take much for me to have a scary moment! My worst experience was flying back from Cuba last year when really bad turbulence hit. Food and drink flew everywhere and I squeezed my husband’s hand so tight it nearly fell off! I’ve since made an effort to learn what turbulence is, so hopefully I’ll never be that scared again.
3. What challenges have you faced recently whilst on your travels?
The mosquitos in Cuba were a huge challenge I wasn’t expecting to face! I had dosed myself up with DEET strength repellent AND completely covered up, but it still wasn’t enough to keep the blighters at bay. Over 100 bites later, the mosquitos were victorious and I needed antibiotics and 2 different types of cream from a Cuban doctor to repair the damage.
4. Where is your favourite place in the world and why?
I adore Valencia on the Spanish coast. Last year I spent a week in the city learning Spanish at a Spanish school and had the best time of my life. The city is beautiful, the people are wonderful and the weather is always fantastic. What’s not to love? I’ll be going back in July this year and I absolutely cannot wait.
5. Where is your least favourite place in the world and why?
The first day back at work after a fantastic trip. I don’t think I really need to explain why!
6. Tell us a funny story from your travels?
In 2012, a group of friends and I were driving across Mexico in a rental car when we were pulled over by the Mexican police. They demanded to see our passports but we had completely forgot to pack them in our day bags. Clearly looking for a bribe, they forced us to open our boot, accused us of being American immigrants and threatened to take us to jail! Thankfully, we had a Mexican national in the car who eased the situation by shouting “Why the hell would they want to live here?!” and we were allowed on our way.
7. What are your travel plans for the next year?
2016 is set to be my busiest year yet for travel plans. We have a long weekend in Cambridge in March, Sri Lanka and Tokyo in April, Lisbon for my birthday in June, Valencia in July, Paris in September, Turkey and Brighton in October and who knows where else…?
8. How many countries have you been to?
According to a BuzzFeed quiz, I’ve been to 19! That doesn’t sound like very many, does it? I can’t wait to tick a few more off the list.
9. Tell us about a situation where someone has been extremely generous towards you on your travels?
Last September, Tim and I visited Marrakech to celebrate our anniversary. The hostess at our riad went completely out of her way to make us feel special. We were given flowers in our room, champagne upstairs on her gorgeous roof terrace, the most delicious breakfast every morning and some extra treats throughout our stay.
10. What do you pack in your backpack?
I always carry my camera, mosquito repellent, water, sun cream, snacks, sunglasses, a guide book and, after the nightmare in Mexico, my passport!
11. What’s your favourite mode of transport and why?
This might sound a bit strange, but my favourite mode of transport is a pirate ship! Any opportunity I get to set sail, I take it. Whether it’s a pirate party boat in Cancun or a day trip ship in Croatia, I love feeling the wind in my hair and the gentle rocking of the boat as I sip rum and imagine what it was like to be a pirate. And the view’s normally pretty good too! 

I’d now like to nominate 5 brilliant travel bloggers to answer a new set of questions:

If you’re up for the challenge, your 11 questions are:

  1. What’s your favourite thing about traveling?
  2. How long have you been a travel blogger?
  3. What was your last destination?
  4. Where are you headed next?
  5. How do you decide your next destination?
  6. What’s your favourite thing you’ve eaten on your travels?
  7. If you could travel with anyone in the world, who would it be?
  8. How important is it to speak the language of the country you’re visiting?
  9. How do you pass the time on long journeys?
  10. What do you miss about home when you’re away?
  11. What’s your biggest travel wish?