Wanderer

Bypassing Airline Limits

It’s fair to say, no matter how much I cut down the contents of my suitcase, no matter how strict I am with myself or how many hybrid items I buy (note, an IPod Touch and all-in-one makeup have saved me so much space and weight), I always struggle to remain within the 10KG weight limit of certain airlines.

The reason is simple: I’m a photographer. If I were not, I would not have a bulky camera, with its heavy lenses, and those little items that build up fast; chargers, spare batteries, blah blah blah. If I were not a photographer, I would drop the laptop, and all of the extras that go with it – again, charger, external hard drive, mouse (how some people can use Photoshop sans mouse, I don’t know). I could get by with a tablet – an IPod Touch, even. Camera – check, access to WordPress – check, email – check, the ability to show off to the world via various social networking sites – check. Kindle’s app – check. And then I swear, my travelling ways would be much simpler. I would not have been forced to swap a backpack for a suitcase to save myself from having to carry my life with my limited upper body strength… by limited I mean, barely existent, it seems.

Nevertheless, I am a photographer, and while my ‘kit bag’ is way more limited than so many that I have seen on the road, being an equipment minimalist, I did the maths last night, and the results were scary. I calculated exactly how much weight my camera, lenses (and extra snappity-snap related bits) and my laptop (and extra clickity-click related bits) take up alone.

My basic equipment comes to a grand total of 4.5KG. 4.5KG – that weight comes from a grand total of the following list:

1x 5D MKII

1x zoom lens, e.g. 24-105mm

1x 50mm prime lens

Camera charger

2x batteries

Several CompactFlash cards

A couple of filters

Camera bag

A teeny tiny cleaning kit

My Dell Ultrabook – aka – the working man’s MacBook Air.

Laptop charger

External Hard drive

Mouse

Laptop sleeve

IPod touch

IPod charger

Phone

Phone charger

Portable charger (because something always loses charge just at the wrong moment)

Various camera-to-laptop, laptop-to-screen, charger-to-blah-blah-blah cables

And that 4.5KG total is not including the bag in which I weighed it all. Had I included my tripod, the total weight would have included an extra 1.8KG. So that’s 6.3KG out of 10KG used up on equipment alone.

That doesn’t leave much for clothes, even if I do try to select the lightest fabrics, and minimalise my makeup bag.

Sure, I could merge my IPod and Phone and just get an IPhone – I know that that’s the obvious choice, but I’m not about to pay for an insanely expensive phone contract, nor do I want to buy a PAYG IPhone. Most of the time, I’m seriously considering just leaving my phone behind entirely, I use it so rarely.

I’m getting off track… so I’ve given a lot of thought over the years as to how to sneak through airport security with much more than I ought to be carrying. I’ve looked into the recommended methods of others, for example, Benny Lewis of Fluent in Three Months has made a few videos talking about ho he carries more than the weight limit. There are jackets and cargo trousers and magic handbags that turn into cardigans with seven-thousand hidden pockets, such as the Jaktogo, and if you want to go for that method, great, good for you. It’s definitely a clever design, as are the many other similar products, but I’m just… I guess, if I were to be honest with myself, I’m too vain to walk through any airport wearing something that resembles a Mr Potato Head fancy dress costume. Nor am I about to buy an old jacket just to tear a ‘pocket opening’ into the lining and strut through the terminal with a Kim Kardashian bum and boobs because I’ve stuffed the lining with my possessions.

Filling my pockets with items would be my go-to solution, but I don’t really buy clothes with pockets very often. My winter coat has sewn-up pockets for detail only, my jeans are jeggings… I have one fairly new trench coat with pockets, one jumper with pockets, and one cardigan with pockets… that’s about it. Ooo, and my new chinos! Ok, I guess the number of pockets in my wardrobe is growing. If pockets are available, stuff them with as much as you can.

Next – and quite obviously, I think – I layer. I wear as much of my wardrobe as I can get away with – as much as can be worn as an outfit without looking like this:

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I’ll also make sure that I wear my bulkiest item of clothing – my favourite pink skirt, with its 100 layers of tulle. Not only does it take up a lot of space, no matter how carefully I roll or fold it, but it’s quite heavy, so I almost always fly while wearing it.

I also realised that a waist belt over a baggy shirt can be a great way to hold a few items. Purely by chance – this is the sort of discovery one makes while juggling my passport, boarding ticket, wallet, a novel, my IPod/IPad, my camera, and whatever else I’m trying to carry all at once. The waist belt makes a nice little pocket of space, and I’ve been known to shove a few things in there discreetly… though of course, emptying your shirt in the middle of airport security would be rather annoying.

These aren’t my main methods for slipping past strict weight limits though. The combination of a knee-length trench coat and a discreet shoulder bag is my best friend when flying. I’ve learnt that when passing through security, no one questions how many bags I have – I can be carrying a handbag as well as a suitcase, and even if my boarding pass clearly shows that I’m flying with an airline that won’t allow two bags, I need not actually put the handbag away until I’m about to board. And then, rather than shoving it in my suitcase like I see everyone else in line doing at the last moment, I chose a bag with a ‘flat cut’; you’ll need something stiffer than a tote or canvas bag, which will just bulge out rather than holding the contents flat and upright. I bought my particular bag in a small boutique in Budapest, but you’d need something like these:

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Nette’ Leather Goods. Olivia Laptop Case. £185. Available here.
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LK Bennett. Karina mini leather tote. £225. Available here.


Wear it beneath your coat, and no one need know that it’s there. I use mine to hold my laptop, external hard drive, a novel, my travel journal, passport and wallet, which immediately removes about 2KG (1.37 being the laptop) from my suitcase. The second I’m in my seat, I see everyone else awkwardly opening up their suitcases to pull out their handbags, or trying to balance their wallets, books, IPads and phones on their fingertips while pulling along their case behind them. Instead, I sit down, take off my coat, the bag goes under my seat, and bam, done. As long as you don’t fill it with anything bulky, no one can see that it’s there.

I’ve heard people talk about stuffing possessions in their socks, bras, even using safety-pins to attach socks to the linings of hats or folds of scarves. Bypassing airline limits comes down to creativity, and just how silly you’re willing to look in public. But if you’re as vain as me, buy a flat shoulder bag.

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Climbing the Pyramids…

I remember seeing these images this time last year when they were plastered all over various newspapers and on my Facebook feed. A group of Russian ‘pranksters’ somehow managed to sneak by security to scale one of the Great Pyramids.

Yes, I know what they did was illegal, and they were very bad for doing it and blah blah blah, especially giving how old the pyramids are – you can’t just trample over such an ancient and important structure as you please… but seriously, looking at the view.. it’s hard to keep that in mind.

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In this day and age, with travel such an easy an affordable thing for so many, many of us have or – in my case – will see the pyramids before we die. It’s on many a bucket list. Mine included. It’s a pretty standard part of tourism. And yet how many people have ever stood atop the last of the seven great wonders of the world and seen that view? Especially how it looks today, with the lights of Cairo in the distance. Not too many. Though judging by the graffiti on that bottom picture, so clearly security hasn’t always been so tight.

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Honestly, I would happily get myself arrested just to see that view. I’m probably being naive in saying that; Egypt isn’t ‘slap on the wrist’ England. How would they react to a woman climbing a pyramid? Maybe being a woman wouldn’t matter, but then again. I don’t know.

These guys were lucky enough that they were not caught by security. In fact, no one would have ever known that they had climbed it at all had they not posted their images online. Of course images like these are going to go viral immediately.

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I for one am go glad that they did, though.

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Wanderer

The Pains of Restless Soul Syndrome

yup      and currently my spirit has been home too long for the liking…

Hello, my name is Emma and I have R.S.S. As in, Restless Soul Syndrome – yes, with capitals, because I think it should be recognised as an official condition. It drives me crazy. What’s that saying about… you can have it all, but not at the same time? Or something like that. That is my life. There’s two sides of me; the crazy, spontaneous-trip taking, digitally nomadic, wandering hobo creative travel nut, and the somewhat sensible, but equally ambitious, city-loving Fashion photographer. Part of me wants to spend the rest of my days (or the next several years, at least) seeing every inch, documenting every moment, building up this blog and making a freelance, online living, on the road. The other side of me wants a cute little apartment in London, or Paris, or somewhere in Italy, and to build up an amazing wardrobe and focus on getting my portfolio into the big fashion magazines.

When I’m travelling, I feel guilty for not devoting 100% of my time to work, even though I still am working (you know, about 50% of the time), so then I come home, as I did at Christmas, to focus primarily on work, sneaking away only for a few days here and there, and yet I find myself still feeling guilty. Guilty for confining myself to one place, to one office, one home, when there is so much of the world that I have not yet seen and so many things that I have not yet done! R.S.S is a contrary bastard.

I think it’s obvious that my ‘cure’ will be found in balancing out my needs out better. I’m still trying to become truly ‘digitally nomadic’ in my business. Too much of my work is still UK-based, and while popping to London frequently is great, and I adore it, I need to spread things further afield. I’ll live in London one day. That much is obvious to me. And Paris, and at least one Italian city. I’m just constantly torn between my impatience to move there now and my impatience to see every single country in the world. Yes, I’m only twenty-two. There’s plenty of time to do everything I want to do, but damn it, I wish it were possible to choose one thing that I want and temporarily switch every other desire off until I’ve finished with the first one.

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Wanderer

Panda Palace

Tucked away at the foot of Emei mountain in Emeishan, China, there is, quite frankly, a hotel that is the epitome of unrealised fears: The Haoduo Panda Inn. Personally, I love pandas, but if given the choice of staying in The Overlook hotel or this Inn, I think I’d choose room 237 (or 217 for those of you who have read the book) in The Overlook Hotel than this place. Actually, that’s probably going a bit far. But still, this hotel is just… terrifying. Even more so because it’s real.

It’s not the Panda decor and the multitude of cuddly, stuffed panda toys scattered everywhere that freaks me out – it’s the people dressed as pandas. I mean… is that the hotel’s uniform? In which case, to my lovely friends in America who were just the other day talking to me about your difficulty in gaining visas and experience to work in China… I think experience as a football mascot would suffice for this job. Sorry though, you’ll have to figure out how Chinese work visas work for yourself.

So… If the hotel hire people to dress as pandas… What are the duties of their job? Free panda hugs? Panda tea parties… How do you communicate with a person pretending to be a panda? Are they allowed to speak? Or do they just make… Panda noises?

The thirty-two rooms all all themed – yes, they’re all panda themed, but more specifically, they’re themed around anime, film, tea, cars… and paper cutting. Intermingled with the panda theme.

Perhaps the panda costumes are a complimentary compulsory part of a person’s stay at the hotel… breakfast included, bath towels available, panda suits supplied in a variety of sizes, along with little panda-shaped chocolates on your panda-shaped pillow.

If you were quirky enough to want to stay here, a ‘Mini Panda’ room starts at 688RMB a night, which is about £67, or 2388RMB for a European suite – about £233.

Crazy.

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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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Holy Condoms, scorched Celebrities and Bernini Porn…

My first week back in Rome was quiet, calm, you know. Nothing worth blogging about. And then today happened, and it was one of those days where the world just seemed completely hilarious and you just walk around collecting funny stories and strange observations to later share with friends – and the blog, of course!

The weird and wonderful highlights of today (and the reasons why I’ve spent most of the day laughing so much that it now hurts):

  • Pouring hot coffee over Joaquin Phoenix
  • Having the Pope accidentally bless a condom
  • Spending a bizarre hour with 20 rather confused Chinese tourists who each insisted that I have my photo taken with each of them… and every possible pairing!

First of all, I have to say.. Joaquin Phoenix really needs to pay more attention to where he’s going. I swear he just appeared out of no where, charging towards me – and my coffee – and I had about a split second to consider my options:

  1. I could have jumped in front of the passing bus to avoid him
  2. I could have wildly thrown the coffee in the air, covering us both
  3. I could have chosen which way to tilt the mug – and therefore choose which one of us was about to be covered in coffee.

I of course chose the third. He’s rich enough to duck into the nearest clothes shop and replace his ruined shirt, I’m sure. I wasn’t at this point aware as to who it was who was storming towards me like a raged bull, but I bet that’s exactly what he did as soon as he ran off after our brief.. chat? It wasn’t so much chatting as a lot of ‘what the fuck’s (on his part) and ‘watch where you’re walking, stronzo’ (on mine). And that was that, another minor celebrity story to add to the collection, along with reluctantly sharing a bag of jelly babies with Donny Osmond, saying hi to George Clooney at Lake Como and discussing shoes with Gok Wan… such a thilling collection!

Honestly, if my run in with Phoenix hadn’t happened in front of the Colosseum, I probably wouldn’t have twigged to who it was… though he doens’t look much like he did in his Gladiator days any more.

That’s definitely not the best story of the day, however. The best story came afterwards.

Today I was tricked by a lovely so called friend into enduring a tediously slow few hours eternity in complete silence, and worse, suffering with a completely numb arse after the first twenty minutes. By tricked, I mean tricked, as in, I was told that the ‘free spare ticket’ was for the Vatican museums. And it has been a few years since I’ve last been inside the museums, and then I only saw about 15% of everything on display, so of course, I accepted her invitation immediately.

But no, no tour, no museums. I was tricked into attending the Pope’s weekly audience (not cool, Val), an Atheist surrounded by crying nuns and rosary bead-grasping Catholics, all of whom have a penchant for nonsense muttering… is lying not a sin, Val? Hmm?

So once we were there, it was too late, I had no choice but to sit it through. Well, I’m sure I could have tried to leave, but there has been something so drilled into me over the years, perhaps simply Englishness, that makes it almost impossible for me to cause a scene with a dramatic exit in a large crowd of strangers. And by dramatic, I don’t mean screaming and shouting and jumping around, I mean, they were sitting there so silently, and so patiently, even just to get up and quietly walk away would have turned every eye on me and everyone would have started muttering and wondering why I was leaving. How dare I leave! Because of course I was so fortunate to have a ticket (you know, a totally free, easily available to all ticket)!

I couldn’t tell you what the Pope talked about, even if I had decided to listen, I wouldn’t have understood a word, and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t have agree with most of what he said, unless it was just a simple ‘be good, don’t murder, don’t lie’ (Val), in which case, why do I need the Pope or the Bible or God to tell me that? Surely religious people don’t read the 10 commandments and are surprised that they say ‘do not murder’, ‘do not cheat’, ‘do not steal’ etc.

I swear I started to fall asleep. One minute everyone is sitting there, listening intently while I glare at Val, and the next, everyone starts rummaging, holding up rosary beads, crucifixes (crucifi?), little prayer books, and Val starts nudging me, getting rather pissed off at me and pointing out that people are staring because I’m not taking advantage of his blessing, and again that very English side of me that doesn’t want to offend kicks in, and I think, ‘I don’t believe in this mumbo jumbo anyway, so why not’. And I grab the first thing that my fingers touch in my bag; my travel journal. Yes, my travel journal has been blessed by the Pope. How that would in anyway change my life, I have no idea. Is it supposed to bring me good luck? Or is it a necessary ticket to heaven? Do I have to make sure that when I die I’m carrying it in my hand? Fuck knows.

I just so happened to glance up at my hand, which was mimicking everyone else, holding up my journal, and what do I see poking out from between the pages? A stow-away condom. And my mind begins to panic, because it’s just there, in bright pink foil, about 70% of it clearly visible between the pages, and I’m holding it up in the air, surrounded by hundreds of very devout Catholics, holding it towards their Pope, practically pointing it right at him. And of course, we all know just how much Catholicism hates condoms. I wonder if throwing condoms at a priest has the same affect as throwing holy water at the Devil? He starts his blessing mumbo jumbo, and I just stand so, so still, biting down on my cheeks to stop myself from laughing (because that is literally the only thing you can do in that situation), and hoping that no one notices, because they’re all standing so still, if I moved even an inch, all eyes would be on me, and they’d see what I was holding.

The condom has been taped into my travel journal. I may be Atheist, militantly so at times, but I’m not about to test my beliefs (or lack of) by using a condom that has been blessed by the Pope. Could you imagine what would happen if I was wrong, and if Catholicism was right? Surely there would be nothing more insulting to their God than laughingly using a Papally-blessed condom, and so… he’d be pissed. I’d probably be punished by it splitting and I’d be infected with the 12 plagues of Egypt… the 12 plagues of foo (ew), or worse – yes, worse is possible – impregnated by the anti-Christ… or by octuplets… 8 bearded little Jesuses (Jesi?).

Definitely not worth the risk in my opinion.

As for ‘Bernini porn’… that’s just a strange observation of mine in Santa Maria della Vittoria. I’m a big Bernini fan, I love his art, I love his sculptures, so of course I had to go and see the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, which frankly, I’ve always raised a brow about, because it definitely looks like ‘worldly ecstasy’ to me! There’s hardly anyone in the church, just me and a small group of old women, who I quickly gather to be very devout Catholics. They’re muttering to themselves about how ‘beautiful’ the statue is and how it captures the ‘essence of the holy father’, and so I look up.

I don’t see something awe-inspiringly religious. I see a woman clearly in the middle of a hell of an orgasm, a very child-like guy hovering over her, and on either side, two marble-carved theatre boxes, filled with men. And they’ll all carved to look in her direction, watching her, nudging each other, whispering, generally looking very questionably and.. pervy. How no one but me could see that, I don’t know. Yes, yes, I’m sure you could argue that ‘holy ecstasy’ would make you look rather ‘ecstatic’ (wink), but why did Bernini choose to flank the statue with several gawping men watching from a theatre box?

Religion bewilders me. It’s just completely blind to common sense. Among other priceless ‘saintly relics’ that I’ve heard about since I arrived back in Rome: Jesus’ foreskin, Jesus’ umbilical cord, and – in Germany – the breath of Jesus contained in a vial. And people pay to see this?! Insane.

Oh, and as for the confused Chinese people, I don’t know if they mistook me for someone, or if choosing a random foreigner is a strange travel tradition for them, but I won’t complain because they insisted on buying me lunch, in exchange for about 200 smiling tourist photos (peace signs compulsory) with each of them. I gave one of them my business card in the hope that they’d share a few with me, and then you can see for yourself just how well I perfected my bewildered ‘what the fuck’ smile.

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My 10 Favourite Travel Apps

Everyone I meet on the road has some sort of tech now days, be it a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. Some people, like me, need them for work, to run their businesses and keep the money needed to travel coming in, while others are simply too used to having their gadgets as a part of their day to day lives to leave them behind, or they’ve promised family members that they would stay in touch. I’ve met people whose parents gave them IPads before their backpacking trips for that reason. But for a brief daily addiction to Facebook last year that ended in a cold-turkey cure, I could easily travel without any gadgets were it not for my freelance work. If I’m away for a very short time, my IPad replaces my laptop, which stays at home. Of course, I’ve put together a nice little list of my preferred travel apps which definitely come in handy when on the road, and as most of them are the apps of websites, even when the IPad stays at home and I have my laptop instead, I’ll still use the same sites.

1. Skyscanner. This site/app is addictive because of its ‘everywhere’ option: I can see a list of flight prices in ascending order to countries around the world. Terrible temptation, and usually one I give in to. Free.

2. Hostelworld/Hostelbookers app. These two apps – and the websites they come from – are pretty much identical, and I tend to use both, depending purely on whichever one pops up in Google’s auto-fill first. This would be my number one in how useful I find them, and they are beaten by Skyscanner only because of how fun and addictive I find browsing through worldwide flights. Finding a place to stay in the only think I would find difficult without wifi access, especially now that I have become used to booking rooms online rather than simply using my feet and my eyes. Lazy, I know, but we all do it. Both free.

3. Couchsurfing. When I’m feeling sociable, I love Couchsurfing – I’ve met so many people through this site, many of whom I am still friends with to this day. However, I’m someone who likes a lot of me-time. I enjoy my company, and so whether I choose Couchsurfing or a hostel tends to depend on my feelings on that particular day. Free.

4. XE Currency. There must be hundreds of currency converters out there, and surprisingly few of them are freebies. I tend to check the currency conversion when first arriving in a new country, or just prior to, and write down a simple list on a scrap of paper: £1=, £10 =, £100 =, etc, rather than standing awkwardly in the middle of a busy market or shop, scrolling through my IPad, jabbing in the exact price. I prefer a piece of paper and some simple maths. Free.

5. Google Maps. I’m not going to try and be fancy and different and mention some obscure alternative app that does the exact same as Google, just because everyone has heard of Google Maps. It’s free, it’s arguably the biggest and the best, and I know exactly how to use it. Free.

6. AroundMe. I use this when I need to find something in particular – wifi, a launderette, a supermarket. Yes, you need wifi, though there is a useful – and common sense – feature; wifi is not needed to find wifi. Sounds ridiculously obvious, I know, but you’d be surprised how many similar apps I tried before this one that had that one fatal design flaw. Of course, because that feature helps you wind only wifi without a connection, that means that sometimes I have to first find wifi, go and connect to that wifi before I can then search for what it is I’m actually looking for, but again, if I apply a little common sense (yes, I do use it from time to time), I can kill two birds with one stone. For example, if it’s 44C and I’ve just drank two-thousand gallons of water, I search for wifi at a cafe or shopping centre – the app always tells you exactly where you will find wifi, rather than just blindly guiding to it. Free.

7. Various metro map apps. I have one for Paris and Rome, and I once had one for London too. Generally they’re free, and of course they’re quite useful, though equally, every metro stop has a map. However, in some of the smaller, non-touristic metro stops in certain cities – Rome especially, it seems – the maps can be based only on the lines that cross that metro, rather than showing the whole map, or there is just one map in the building and it has been vandalized. It’s always handy to have your own copy, and I always lose the paper ones. Generally free.

8. Museums Mobile. My favourite geek-traveller app. With a frequently updated database on thousands of worldwide museums, including information on current, permanent and upcoming collections. It also uses GPS to inform you of nearby museums. I’ve found many a stroll turning into a spontaneous museum trip thanks to this app. Free.

9. Translate Pro. There are so many translation apps out there, but this is just the one I happen to use. Being able to say what you want in the local language is always useful. I don’t know what else I can say on that matter, really. Free.

10. Airbnb. Another ‘find a place to stay’ app. This is for when I really need me-time – and a bit of extra money. People rent out their apartments, either the whole place, a spare room or a spare bed for travellers to rent for a short time. Great for if you want to really integrate yourself within a community by staying somewhere where the locals live, rather than necessarily somewhere with the most popular attraction on your doorstep. Then again, I think there’s only so much you can really integrate yourself into a neighbourhood if you’re staying in someone’s home without them actually being there too. If they’re there, you’ll be invited out with them and their friends, they’ll teach you about their city and their language, whereas if you rent an entire apartment to yourself, you’re just the loner foreigner in the street. Free.

And the ones I am still to try:

JetLag Genie. I’ve only recently heard about this, but apparently it carefully calculates when to set your alarm clock based on your flight time, arrival time, flight length and normal sleep patterns to ease your through the ‘trauma’ of jet lag – something I have not yet experienced, hence I haven’t yet had any need for a jet lag app. I am curious as to how well it could work, though. Then again, if I have never had jet lag, how well would I know that it has worked if I were to try it on my next long flight? Perhaps I’m just super lucky and immune to jet lag (is there such a thing?). I don’t know. £1.99

Tipulator. It can be tricky knowing how much to tip. It’s considered offensive in some countries, and obligatory in others, and in those that is is expected, exactly how big a percentage is considered the norm? And once you’ve passed that first barrier, the total cost on your receipt is rarely easy maths. Even more so if you’re eating with someone else or a group and you’ve all chosen different prices dishes on the menu. Tipulator not only works as a calculator for you, but it tells you how big a percentage you give and works it out for you. I don’t know what happens if it recommends a certain percentage, and you disagree depending on the quality of your meal and service… maybe it works on a non-negotiable basis and you’d have to turn to good old fashioned pen and paper – or a calculator app and figure it out yourself… £0.69

TravelSafe Pro. Up until now I’ve again relied on pen and paper to note down each countries emergency numbers as I arrive there, and luckily it’s a scrap of paper (many lost and re-written scraps of paper over the years), that I have never had to use *touch wood*, but it’s definitely something that everyone should have, in one form or another. What would worry me more than whether or not I have the right emergency number is the potential language barrier if ever I have to make an emergency call… hmm… £0.99

WorldMate/Blackberry Travel. Simply, these apps – I mentioned the Blackberry one because I have a Blackberry… for some reason – organise all of your reservations, from flights to restaurants, and put together an itinerary for you. Pointless if you’re just winging it, of course, but they’re free, so why not? Both free.

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