Wanderer

My 5 Travel Site Musts

The verdant limestone bluffs that form the Phi Phi Islands open at Wang Long, a famed dive site with submarine tunnels and caverns. Though hit hard by the December 2004 tsunami, the place has been cleared of debris, and diving is as popular as ever

At a glance, I have about 1050385 travel-related web pages listed in my web bookmarks. I’ve become weirdly OCD about organising my bookmarks, so I know exactly how to find just that exact website whose entire url name escapes me.

Still, out of those 1050385 bookmarked web pages, there are a select few that I use again and again, be it for booking my flights, finding a bed for the night, or reading about the adventures of others.

  1. Skyscanner. Let’s start with the most addictive, shall we? Skyscanner is simple enough: select the airport/city/country from which you wish to depart, choosing either a specific date or the month in which you will be flying, select where you’re flying to, and behold, a list of prices with various airlines. It’s a flight comparison website. What I find most addictive is the ‘fly anywhere’ option… I love browsing and seeing where I can jet off to. Many a spontaneous trip has been born from my Skyscanner addiction, I can tell you. Sure, it has a few hiccups – sometimes it will display an incorrect flight price, but generally it’s accurate. And you always find those mistakes before booking any flights, so no worries there.
  2. Couchsurfing. I have met so many lovely people through this website, many of whom I’m now fortunate enough to call my friends. Thanks to the freedom of modern day travel, I have friends in more countries than I have visited – often due to this website! This is the perfect website for if you’re short of cash, or, like me, you simply prefer to stay with locals when you’re travelling. It’s an online community designed to bring together ‘surfers’ – aka, the adventurous traveller, to you and me – with hosts, who will offer them a bed for the night, or if they can’t do that, their company, a drinking partner, a tour guide – whatever. Yes, there can be some safety concerns. I’ve heard them all from my loving but a tad over-protective friends. You know, warnings about lone young women staying with strange men, in a strange city, in a strange country with a strange language and no money. Blah blah blah. Honestly, as long as you’re careful, and you keep your creep-radar on full at all times, you’ll be fine. There are women hosts too, you know (if it does worry you).
  3. Seat61. While I love flying (a little too much, perhaps. I get such a rush from take off), I like to travel by train as often as possible. The views are nicer (and there are many more window seats, so it’s much less likely that I find myself wrestling with strangers over the best seat), the ride kinder on my ears, and it gives me a chance to say ‘ooo what a lovely little village… I think I’ll go and explore’. Somewhat adrenaline junkie I may be, but I am not about to jump out of a plane because ‘ooo, that mystery space of Earth 30,000ft (at a guess) below me looks pretty… I’m sure they won’t notice if I borrow a chute and just float on down there for a browse.’ This site is the creation of Mark Smith, ‘career railwayman’, who luckily saw a need to breakdown to us wanderlusters exactly how to get from any A to any B via train, from routes, approximate prices and timetables. Very handy!
  4. NomadicMatt. This guy is something of a budget travel king. His blog focuses a lot on money-saving tips, from how to get cheap flights and cruise tickets, how to choose the best insurance and credit cards, to how to build a successful travel blog of your own. While now days he has a base in NYC (though according to his blog he only spends a few weeks there at a time before jetting off again), he travelled constantly as a digital nomad from 2006 until New Year 2013. Six and a half years of travel!? I think he’s definitely earned his crown.
  5. BlaBlaCar. Again, for when I want to see the world pass me by – or I just want to nip to the next nearest city or a quaint nearby village with no public transport links. If people have planned a car journey, they can sell spare seats for a small fee. Tip: even if you think you’re travelling light, always message the driver to check that there is space for your luggage. Don’t just presume that they will have room for your matching LV luggage set – or your teeny tiny rugged canvas rucksack, if you’re me.

Honourable Mentions:

Finding the bare essentials:

Airbnb.
Hostelworld/Hostelbookers.
Warm Showers. <—-so useful when you’ve just stepped off a stuffy train/bus/boat after a day-long journey with no air-con, having spent the entire trip stuffed into a sweaty overweight stranger’s fat folds. Yes, such an event has happened to me. Yes, therapy is ongoing.

Money makes the world go round…

Global Work and Travel. A great site for finding work abroad; paid, voluntary, internships, etc.
‘7 digital nomads explain how they live, work and travel’ <—- very inspiring post, and links to several great blogs.
WWOOF. While it’s really useful that every country has it’s own WWOOF website, I find it a little annoying that each of those websites requires a seperate membership, and even more so that each membership ranges everywhere from £0 to £50. If you’re planning to ‘wwoof’ and travel across many borders, this can get quite pricey. Still, a great source for finding fruit picking/farm work if you’re looking to experience something different than museums and beaches.
Verbling. Teach English online.
’50 Travel Magazines that want to Publish your Writing’

Inspirational bloggers:

Adventurous Kate.
JacksGap.
The Odyssey Expedition.
The Runaway Guide.

A to B:

Hitchhikers.org 

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Wanderer

Tips for a Movie-Worthy Road Trip…

We’ve all seen a road trip movie and thought, ok, that’s what I want, right?

I think road trips never work as well anywhere but America. Something about narrow roads, roadworks and swerving around potholes rather kills it for me. It’s supposed to be about open top Cadillacs or Mustangs, long, long straight roads, a group of friends with a tendency to scream ‘wooo’ at the slightest thing, and a great mix tape – even if no one has used a tape since what? 1997? 98? Basically, this:

Take a cross country road trip, without worrying about how much it will cost to fill up!

Or, you know, as this is England, this:

weekend escape = country road, picnic basket, roadtrip

Or if you’re really going for it, this:

I love a good road trip. I can’t tick off the Mustand/Cadillac yet, but I can say that I have been on  road trip in a Mini. And a yellow camper van. Both of which were brilliant.

Top 10 Tips for a brilliant road trip:

1. Company. Obvious, I know. Nothing sucks more than grumpy company. Except for the person who throws up all over everyone else. Luckily that’s never happened, but I imagine it would be pretty hard for a trip to bounce back after that. I’m not even going to bother explaining why good company is such a must for a good road trip.

#friends #RoadTrip | photo shannon lee miller

2. Music. It’s always a good time for music. The Black Keys are perfect. As are Sigor Ros when you hit ‘downtime driving’ mode. You know, when you need to recover from having laughed so hard for so long, it feels like you’ve done about a million sit ups. Not that down time driving ever lasts long with friends about. It’s all about laughing through the pain!

3. Record your memories. I’ve been on a few spur of the moment trips… without a camera to hand, despite trying to always have it within reach. It sucks. Folks, always take a camera on a road trip. Or a video camera, and you can make a lovely movie of your road trip, like these.

4. Picnics. They go hand-in-hand with road trips, I reckon. Especially as I have a few crumb-phobic friends, so snacking in the car is a no-no. I’m a bit of a ‘picturesque picnicker’ too. Pink lemonade, berries, cupcakes. I like my meals pretty.

not a specific place, but fall weather in Dallas is a perfect place for a picnic!

5. Sleeping under the Stars. Sun roof, convertible, or good old fashion sleeping back in the grass, I love sleeping in the middle of no where beneath the stars. You don’t realise just how few stars are visible from the city until you’re on a hill surrounded by mile and miles of fields in a Cath Kidston floral sleeping bag.

6. Fashion. I admit, I tend to be the girl who carefully plans her road trip outfits. Apparently that’s sad, but I’d hate filling a suitcase to find that nothing is suited to my trip, or nothing goes together and everything clashes and blah blah blah. I personally love Free People for the girly, boho-but-not-quite-hippy clothes that I take on my road trips. And of course, good old Asos.

roadtrip

7. Freedom. It’s the whole nomad-lifestyle calling to me again. When you’re on a road trip, you’re just leaving all of your worries and responsibilities behind and throwing yourself into life. However, don’t be as free as a certain anonymous someone I know who was feeling so free and spontaneous and crazy that he decided to abandon his phone and his wallet at home and just drive… a great idea, but money is needed for petrol, people!

8. Glamping. I spoke about glamping back in May. I still loveit. Again, picturesque. I think this is the influence of years of admiring Tim Walker‘s work. I seem to live my life like it’s one big Walker-esque spread. Minus the over-sized props. I would if I had the budget, though. One of my favourite things to take along on a road trip is a portable projector. Or rather, I love to take along my friend’s portable projector – and my friend too. Not just because he has a portable projector, either. (♥ H) Picnic blanket of food, sky full of stars, a sheet draped over a tree, an old movie projected against it, a cluster of deck chairs and blankets over our legs… perfection.

Love this photo~

9. Getting Lost. I love getting lost. I always find the best places when I’m lost, be it the amazing ice cream bar in Venice that I stumbled into to ask for directions (which, sadly, I haven’t been able to find since), or a tiny village with an amazing bookshop because I’m terrible at map reading and sent my designated road trip driving friend in the completely wrong direction. Oops, but so worth it.

10. Be Spontaneous. I know that spontaneous road trips can mean that packing the above items just don’t happen. Like me and my camera. Picnics and glamping and carefully co-ordinated outfits need a chance to happen, especially if you’re on a budget (I’m sure you could whip up a great picnic of berry-topped-cupcakes and pink lemonade from Marks and Spencers and Waitrose, but I prefer homemade. Still, there’s nothing more exciting then grabbing the car keys, finding a friend or two with a) a license to drive and b) a car (neither of which I have), and just going. No map, no plan, just laughs and that amazing feeling of having no responsibilities for a while.

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Oh… I’m so itching for a road trip right now. Anyone?

I guess it’s not the best time of year for road trips… I suppose I can keep myself busy until the sun finally arrives with a few road trip movies. Little Miss Sunshine, On the Road and the last 30 minutes of Elizabethtown (I don’t even bother with the first hour and a half).

Ah… summer.

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Wanderer

Quirky Corners of the World: Tasmania’s Totem Pole

How amazing would this spot be to climb?

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Found in Tasmania (I bet you’d never have guessed with a name like ‘Tasmania’s Totem Pole’!), which for those of you who are utterly rubbish at geography, is a state island 150 miles from the southern coast of Australia, and a part of its commonwealth. To be honest, you say Tasmania, I think devil:

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The totem pole is in fact, a stacked rock, and, you guessed it, the result of years, and years, and years, and years of erosion stripping away layer after layer of rock, etc etc. Basically from erosion, the cliffs and rocks become arches similar to this one:

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More erosion…. blah blah blah, the top of the arch crumbles away, the sea smooths out the stack, and one day… you have a totem pole. And lo, where you have interesting vertical rocks, soon enough you get a load of skinny, taut-muscled, free-spirited travellers (or you know, Aussies), with dreadlocks, a van full of climbing gear and the same climbing itch that I get – little old dreadlock-free, skinny, invisible-muscled English me.

I don’t really know why I get such an urge to climb any rock I see. Especially big ones like this one. I’m terrified of heights. Skydiving did not cure that fear. Nor has climbing. What is even more unnerving is the fact that the constant base erosion of the waves beating against it, means that sooner or later, the Tasmanian Totem Pole will collapse. Even now, its base stands at just four metres wide. Not something you’ want to topple mid-climb, right?

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I suggest, if any of you are getting the itch to skip on over to Tasmania (or in my case, a whole ten thousand, five-hundred and seventy-one, according to Google Maps), i’d be quite quick about it, because who knows for how much longer this amazing, adrenaline-inducing climb will even be an option!

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