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This is a subject very near and dear to my heart, and when I saw this challenge I couldn't resist. Thanks to Malu for inventing this one.
By way of background for those who don't know me, I'm an Australian who's been living in London the last 3 years. We plan on staying another 2-3 years or so, before heading back home. The aim of the game is to save as much as we can and travel as much as we can - I realise that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but we live and travel very cheap! We can go away for a weekend for less than £100 for the two of us, and it's our only real "treat" - we don't eat out much, we don't go to the pub (locally) much and in general we live pretty frugally. So whilst it may sound like we spend a fortune jet-setting around, I can assure you we don't!
HOW MANY TIMES A YEAR DO YOU TRAVEL?
As many as I possibly can. For example, in 2004 I travelled at least 10 times that I can think of:
*Weekends/long weekends Munich Bergamo Venice (twice) Amsterdam Northumberland Lake District Peak District
*Longer holidays Australia - 9 days Norway - 15 days Scotland (a sailing course in the Firth of Clyde) - 5 days
FOR HOW LONG DO YOU GO AWAY?
I have 4 sorts of holidays - weekends, long weekends, 1-2 week holidays and long haul holidays.
I am a budget airline fiend, and snap up bargains regularly. If 2 return flights cost more than a total of £50 I class that as expensive! This involves leaving home at 3am on Saturday morning, and returning at about 1am Monday morning - we make use of every available second! These don't require any time off work. We go anywhere the budget airlines go - so far I've been to Vienna, Paris, Brussels, Prague, Cork, Bergamo, Pisa, Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Belfast, Edinburgh, and Verona, that I can think of!
On the bank holiday weekends we don't fly, because it's virtually impossible to get ultra-cheap tickets for those weekends. Instead, we travel within the UK on these weekends. Ususally these are hiking holidays. For example, we've been to the Lake District, Peak District, Northumberland, Yorkshire, the Kennet & Avon canal, Oxford and Kent on hiking holidays.
Then we have the longer holidays - this is what we use our annual leave on. For example, over the last 3 and a half years, we had a 2 week holiday in Bogata (Colombia), a 6 day holiday in Berlin, a 2 week holiday in Norway, one 2 week holiday and one 9 day holiday in Australia, one 1 week holiday in Scotland, and in May we're going on a 2 week holiday to Canada.
Finally we have the long haul holidays - so far I've only had 2 of these - we spent one month in Vietnam back in 2000, and in 2002 we spent 4 and a half months in the Middle East (travelling overland from Egypt, through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey). Our next big trip, and probably the last for a very long time, will be when we eventually return home to Australia - we will be spending 6 months travelling through Africa on the way back.
DO YOU STAY IN
Pictures of Where, when, how, with whom do you travel?
YOUR HOME COUNTRY OR GO ABROAD?If we're taking time off work we usually go abroad, and we use the bank holidays to travel the UK. In 3 years I've been back to Australia (my home country) twice - once for a wedding, and once because we got cheap flights and couldn't resist.
DO YOU ORGANISE YOUR HOLIDAYS YOURSELF OR GO TO A TRAVEL AGENCY?
I do everything myself - I do seek feedback from hubby, but he immediately forgets about it, and more than once we've arrived at the airport and he's had no idea where he's going!
I've only ever used travel agents twice - once for my first overseas holiday to Vietnam, and once to book our flights from Australia to the UK the first time. Both times we only booked flights. I am very much anti-package tours. I do all my organising online - from ordering the guide books and maps to booking flights/hotes, to checking the timetables for the local transport.
DO YOU PREPARE YOUR HOLIDAYS IN ADVANCE BY READING GUIDEBOOKS & STUDYING MAPS?
Depends - on the longer holidays I tend to read up, because I'm very keen to make the most of the trip, which means being organised. For the hiking holidays in particular I need to be very organised, because we don't have a car and are dependent upon public transport - which can be very tricky in the UK!
For the weekend citybreaks, all I do is book the cheapest hotel or hostel I can find, then forget about it. I read the guidebook on the plane and we just generally go with the flow. Often in Europe, particularly Italy, the highlight of the weekend is the eating, which doesn't require any planning!
DO YOU TRAVEL ALONE, WITH FAMILY OR FRIENDS OR AN ORGANISED GROUP?
Always travel with my hubby. I'm not into tours and organised holidays, and I haven't lived with family for over 11 years now.
DO YOU PREFER THE SEA, MOUNTAINS, PLAINS, OR CITIES AS DESTINATIONS?
Yes. All of the above. Basically, anywhere I haven't been. I grew up on the Gold Coast in Australia, which has some of the best beaches in the world, so I don't get excited about European beach holidays. But I do love the ocean.
DO YOU MAINLY RELAX OR ARE YOU AN ACTIVE HOLIDAYER?
I'm an active holidayer, although some of that is my husband's influence, as he's more active than I am (he loves bike riding and sailing, whereas I am yet to be convinced!). The only "relax" holiday I've ever taken was back home when I rented a house on a beach for a week after a particularly difficult trial finished (I'm a lawyer) and I was absolutely exhausted. I just sat on the beach for days and read masses of books. My husband only joined me on the weekend, so I was completely on my own. But that's not the sort of holiday I'd like in ordinary circumstnaces. Usually we come back from holidays feeling like we need a holiday to recover from the holiday! We do lots of hiking if we're in the country, and sightseeing in we're in a city.
IF YOU GO ABROAD DO YOU LEARN AT LEAST SOME WORDS OF THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE?
I do try on the longer holidays - in the Middle East I learnt quite a few words of arabic, and of spanish in Bogota (although we were staying with my brother-in-law's family, which helps). I already speak a little Italian, and my husband speaks a very little bit of German. On the weekend breaks you barely have a change to learn anything. I have to confess I learnt absolutely no Norwegian - everyone already speaks English, so it's just too easy not to bother trying Norwegian!
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN THE CUISINE OF A FOREIGN COUNTRY?
Absolutely - I'm a bit of a closet foodie. We always try to eat local food and drink local beer when travelling. I absolutely adore mediteranean food, and the odd german sausage. The food in Vietnam is absolutely heavenly, so long as you eat local and not in the awful, horrible, offensive tourist restaurants. I have to confess that Norwegian food leaves me cold. I ate so many felafels and shwarma (kebabs) in the Middle East that I have not eaten once since in the last 3 years!
Because I'm a cookbook junkie I usually already know a fair bit about the food of a particular region before we travel anyway. I highly recomment the Lonely Planet food series - they're a really good way of finding out about the cuisine of an area and also the culture, so you know what to expect and look forward to.
WHICH MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION DO YOU PREFER?
My transportation of choice is trains - I'm tall and that is by far the most comfortable way of travelling because you can move around. It's also the cleanest environmentally. However, it's also one of the most expensive, sadly. We end up travelling mostly by plane. I am about to subscribe to a carbon-neutral site, where we can make donations to plant trees to make this terrible habit of ours carbon-neutral, and I plan to back date my payments to cover all my European travel.
WHAT KIND OF LUGGAGE DO YOU TAKE WITH YOU? DO YOU HAVE PROBLEMS PACKING? DO YOU TEND TO TAKE TOO MANY/TOO FEW THINGS WITH YOU?
Depends on the holiday. On city breaks I just take my daypack - a change of clothes and a few toiletries and I'm set. Occasionally I take my wheelie carry-on suitcase, but not often, because there's usually nowhere to leave it during the day on Sunday, because we would have had to check out of our hotel, and let's face it, dragging a wheelie is not conducive to sightseeing!
On longer holidays, or hiking holidays, I take my pack. Currently I only have a travel pack, which is front loading rather than top loading, and the harness can be zipped away. This is ideal for travelling if you're not hiking, and perfect for airlines, but not so great for hiking. I have just ordered a top loading rucksack for a bargain £10 sight unseen - if it's no good it's no great loss, but I'm hoping I will be able to use it for hiking holidays.
I am a very light packer - when you're on the road for 4 months carrying everything you own, it puts what is necessary into perspective! I packed so light on our middle east holiday that when I left home in my 75L backpack I managed to get a pair of hiking boots, a sleeping mat, and a sleeping bag all inside the pack - you can imagine how much space was left after that!
DO YOU SEND PICTURE POSTCARDS TO FAMILY & FRIENDS.
I made a point of sending lots of postcards from the Middle East to my family and to my old work colleagues (to make them jealous!) I think it's quite fun to get stamps from exotic places - it's less interesting from Europe. Otherwise, if we're on the road for any length of time we usually send regular email updates of our exploits to all and sundry.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS ~ GOOD & BAD?
Gosh, there are so many.
Some good memorable moments:
** walking through the Siq (a 2 km long narrow canyon) and the first glimpse of the Khazneh (the Treasury) at Petra, in Jordan.
**4 wheel driving through the desert at Wadi Rum, south of Petra in Jordan
** renting a taxi for a day in Cairo to visit the pyramids and Sakkara, with a driver who spoke no english at all, who detoured on the way home via his mother's house, where we had lunch and met his enormous family (who also didn't speak english)
**Catching a local bus off the beaten track in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam with massive bundles of lotus, chickens, ducks, monks and old ladies who thought the funniest thing they'd ever seen was my husband stretching his legs and back by standing up in the aisle and sticking his head out the vent in the ceiling.
** first boat trip through the canals of Venice, and getting lost (the first time!)
** cruising the fjords of Norway
Some bad memorable moments:
** parts of the crazy boat ride in the Mekong Delta (see my responses to Ilusvm's challenge for details)
** waiting for the ferry from Egypt to Jordan, which was delayed by about 12 hours, on the day that the siege in the Church of Nativity in Jerusalem started - we had no idea whether there was about to be a war between Israel and other ME countries, we were only getting sketchy reports and had to decipher the tv reports on Al Jazihrer in the cafe, we had no idea if the boat was coming at all and there was nowhere for us to sleep that night if it didn't. In the end everything was AOK, we eventually made it to Aquaba in Jordan at around 4am and there was no war, but it felt pretty hairy for a while there and we considered turning around and going back to Cairo.
** Hiking in Tasmania - my first long distance hike. My husband had chosen a route that was very steep, and my pack was too heavy (we were carrying food for 10 days) and I seriously thought I was going to fall down the mountain.
** Hiking in Luxor, in Egypt - I had a chest infection, and was sicker than I realised. Close to the top of quite a small hill, really, my lungs started spasming and I couldn't breath properly. Hubby thought I was going to die, but needless to say, I recovered!
ANY MORE PLACES YOU’D LIKE TO VISIT?
Yep - too many. On the wish list for the next couple of years are Iceland, Estonia, the south west coast path in Cornwall, a driving holiday in Ireland, as much of Italy as I can, a sailing trip in Greece........ the list goes on, and on, and on.......
I've uploaded some photos of recent trips for your viewing entertainment.
Hope you've enjoyed a spot of armchair (computer chair??) travel! Thanks for reading.