Monday

Stranded on the Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Stranded on the Isla del Sol, Bolivia


I'm a firm believer that some of the best travel experiences you have are the ones you didn't plan for, the ones that held no prior expectations. I'm also a firm believer that the best travel experiences are the ones that didn't feel like the best travel experiences at the time. You know, those trips that go so horribly wrong it's almost magical?  Case(s) in point:


But this was the first one. We'd been travelling for less than a month. We were just babies. Heck we'd never even done a land crossing outside the safety of the EU before and here we were. Somehow we'd made it to Copacabana and we were still a far cry from the jaded, savvy travellers we'd become by the next time we crossed the Peru-Bolivia border. We couldn't wait to get under Bolivia's skin and see what she was all about. And what better introduction than to get hopelessly lost on a tiny island in the middle of Lake Titicaca? No maps, no Wi-Fi, no plans - what could possibly go wrong?

Stranded on the Isla del Sol, Bolivia

I am a meticulous planner so some of you might be shocked to hear that on this occasion I was winging it. Well I'm willing to accept partial blame for the debacle. This baby traveller did get a little too big for her boots and put a little too much faith in her sense of direction, but that isn't the whole truth of the story. The Wi-Fi in our Copacabana hotel didn't work (of course, it's Bolivia) so we found a cafe on the lakefront to try and book a stay at the Hi Inca Pacha hostel and find directions. You can imagine the laughable situation when, upon asking for Wi-Fi, we were given the password to connect to the Wi-Fi of the hostel we'd been staying in! Never mind, we'd just find a different cafe. Which didn't have working Wi-Fi either... At this point it was clear we were going to be winging it, so Tom ordered himself a Full English (which came with a side of luminous yellow cold Chinese noodles - nice to see Bolivians have British hangover food down to a tee) and we found our way to the boat that would take us to the Isla del Sol - the island of the sun. Praying we were on the right one we spent the next few hours feeling very sea sick and chugging a delightful concoction of fumes, smoke and oil from the boat.

Stranded on the Isla del Sol, Bolivia


There are two sides to the island - North and South - and the boat stops at both. Not knowing which to get off at we decided to stay on as long as we could. The island was pretty small anyway so we could just walk back if we were wrong. Turns out we were wrong, but not just about which side of the island to get off at. The island was actually a lot bigger than we thought too. You'll soon discover than Bolivians are well-intentioned and really do like to be helpful. So helpful in fact that instead of admitting they can't help you and have no idea how to get to wherever it is you're trying to get to, they'll just make some directions up. We hiked up one hill only to be pointed to a distant hill on the other side of the beach, dragged our heavy limbs across sandy shores and up pebbly slopes to be pointed back in the direction we'd just come from, and then finally found somebody who told us that the hostel we were looking for was a three hour hike through the mountains.

Stranded on the Isla del Sol, Bolivia


As the Bolivian sun sets dutifully at around 6pm every night and it was now approaching 5pm we decided to abandon our plans and find somewhere else to stay until we could get a boat off the island again in the morning. I'm not a nice person to be around when I'm stressed and unkind words dance off my tongue a little too easily. In theory getting hopelessly lost on a tiny remote island seems perfect, but neither of us could manage to see the romance in the situation at the time.

Stranded on the Isla del Sol, Bolivia

Our room for the night ended up being a hut on the side of the mountain run by a little old lady with a disconcertingly large wad of cash stuffed in the front of her apron. Parting with just a few pennies we then spent the evening perched on the edge of the clifftop with the old lady, her granddaughter and a very tiny kitten. Watching boats glide on the lake below against the backdrop of the snow-capped Andes I could feel the stress and tension leaving my body, being replaced by awe that a place so serene and beautiful could exist. We were both so relaxed that we were asleep well before 9pm and woke with the sun after what we both agreed was the best night's sleep we'd had in weeks.

Stranded on the Isla del Sol, Bolivia


After a brief debacle trying to a boat to the other side of the island the next day (a long and very confusing story that even I can't get my head around) we arrived at the Hi Inca Pacha the next day to explore the other side of the island. Looking back on the whole experience fills me with such a sense of fondness and longing to return that I have to include the Isla del Sol in my list of South American highlights. And somehow I think that I'd feel quite differently about it had it not been for that spontaneity. We wouldn't have got that gorgeous mountain view, that's for sure!

So while I don't recommend getting quite as lost as we did, there's still a very important life lesson tied into our tale: don't agree to marry someone until you've spent a night stranded on an island together and forced to sleep in a hut on the side of a mountain.


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Friday

5 Reasons You Can't Afford to Travel

The opportunity to travel the world isn't something that everyone has. I am hugely privileged to have seen as much of the world as I have. I know that so I try not to get frustrated when people put that down to luck. Because truth is I'm probably no more privileged or 'lucky' than the average reader of this blog. My parents aren't super rich and they don't pay my way for me, I'm not riding on a large inheritance from a distant relative and I'm definitely not earning a huge amount of money from my job. I work really, really hard and every penny I've spent on my travels has been money that I earned either through my full-time job or the business I run alongside that. So honestly it really pisses me off when people discredit my hard work by saying 'well I just can't afford to travel'. Because if you're reading this blog, chances are that's not entirely true. 

I'm willing to bet that you probably can afford to travel, you're just in the wrong mindset. So here are some of the reasons why travel might seem a little elusive to you.

5 Reasons You Can't Afford to Travel
Is Paris out of your budget? Well why not try Edinburgh?



You're assuming that everyone who travels is on a constant round the world adventure - I'm not suggesting for one minute that you should quit your job and blow your life savings on travelling the world for an extended period of time, because I get it, most of us do have jobs to go to and rent or a mortgage to pay. But travel is what you make it and if to you that's just packing in a few weekend breaks here and there or even spending a day exploring a UK city then you're no less worthy of the title of 'globetrotter' than that person who has been overlanding through Africa for the last two years. Heck my adopted city of Manchester is an hour's train ride from my home time but it feels like a world away! 

5 Reasons You Can't Afford to Travel
Accommodation in Colombia can be expensive, so why not do what we did and pitch a tent on the beach?


You aren't looking in the right places - I'm not going to lie, travelling on the cheap is something of an art and the only way to master it is through practice. Or at least that's the excuse I'm going with! You'll learn the best ways to cut back your budget through experience and by making mistakes along the way, but it always helps to know where to look for the best deals. I'm a big believer in DIY trips so I always book my flights and accommodation separately, using sites like Skyscanner for flights and Airbnb or Booking for hotels. A lot of people will swear by Hostelbookers and Hostelworld, but I tend to avoid these as I find them ludicrously overpriced. Bear in mind that you always stand to save money by booking directly with the hotel and by being flexible with dates. or you could try Couchsurfing if you're feeling really adventurous!

5 Reasons You Can't Afford to Travel
This view from the Uyuni Salt Flats was worth every minute of scrimping and saving for our trip


You aren't prioritising it - The amount of times I've seen people on Twitter say 'oh well it would be great if I could travel but I have bills to pay' and then drop £100 in MAC or Topshop is unreal. I'm not living in this magical world where my existence costs nothing - my rent and bills cost me more than £1000 a month! I'd just rather spend my money on seeing the world than on lipsticks. If you wouldn't then that's fine, travel isn't everyone's priority. I'd never say that I can't afford to buy a house because in theory I can, I'm just not willing to save up for a deposit right now. That's fine too.

5 Reasons You Can't Afford to Travel
Kotor in Montenegro is one of my favourite budget (or 'compromise') destinations 


You aren't willing to compromise - A few weeks ago somebody I follow moaned that they couldn't afford to travel then reached out on Twitter for help finding a cheap summer holiday. Myself and a few others offered suggestions for some sunny European resorts. It turns out that actually what they wanted wasn't just a cheap break in the sun, but an all-inclusive stay in the Caribbean for the same price as a week in Benidorm. Unless you're extraordinarily lucky and can take  advantage of a super last minute deal, that's probably not going to happen. If you want to travel right now and you don't have a few grand stashed away in your bank account then you're going to have to compromise. There's a very big difference between not being able to afford to travel anywhere and not being able to afford a luxury 5* Jamaican resort.

5 Reasons You Can't Afford to Travel
So many people overlook Eastern Europe, but there are so many beautiful cities like Tallinn to discover



You're choosing the wrong destinations - If you want to spend time sampling wines in Argentina, lazing on the beach in the Maldives or backpacking around Australia then of course travel is going to be expensive. If you want to do it cheaply, stick to cheaper countries where you can stretch your budget further. Eastern Europe, southeast Asia and parts of South America all offer lots of destinations that cater for penny-pinching backpackers.

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5 Reasons You Can't Afford to Travel

Monday

An Afternoon in Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal


On our recent trip to Lisbon sightseeing was completely off the cards. I was done with queuing for museums and battling through crowds so all I wanted was a week of getting lost, drinking coffee and enjoying having no plans whatsoever. We did just that and it was glorious, but there was one thing I was adamant we had to do while we were there - a day trip in Sintra.

It actually turned out to be more like an afternoon in Sintra after our morning was a little *too* leisurely, but a few hours was plenty of time to wander through the streets and fill up my camera roll with pictures for Instagram. Ahem...

We didn't do any of the main attractions like Pena Palace or Castle of the Moors because it was busy (oh so busy) and we were short on time, but hey there's an excuse to go back and visit again, right? We'd wanted it to be a relaxing afternoon for our final day in Portugal and apart from a pissed up old English guy dropping the C-bomb at us seconds after we got off the train, we got it. 

It's about 4€ for a return train ticket to Sintra and the journey takes just over an hour so I'd highly recommend taking time out of the city and exploring for a few hours. 

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal


Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

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