How Travelling Changed Our Lives Forever

Travel is one of the few experiences that transforms your life. It’s impact is felt to the very core as your whole perspective on life changes. You emerge changed, almost reborn into a newer, better version of yourself. It happens gradually when you travel, then POW! It hits you when you return. You realise nothing has changed. Your friends are doing the same thing, your home is the same, the job you left is the same. But you’re not the same. You feel restless, impatient and disappointed that the return is such an anticlimax to a mind-blowing experience. Nobody understands. You want to get back on a plane. You ask yourself, how and why did this experience have such a profound effect? Was it the trekking in the Himalayas that did it? Or was it the cute Orangutan in Borneo! Did skydiving in New Zealand really do this or was it listening to the stories of a stranger in Burma. You know – it was all these things and more. Here’s how travelling changed our lives forever.

We  learned a lot about ourselves

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Travelling was tough. Catching many flights across different time-zones, not sleeping properly for days, long uncomfortable train journeys and flight delays. Add to that death-defying taxi rides, near misses, slips and falls and lugging your back-pack around in unbearable temperatures was definitely character building. On many occasions we went hungry, got food poisoning (mostly me) and had to visit doctors on several occasions. All this taught to us to adapt to situations, not worry about things and continue moving forward.

Travel inspired us to make big changes in our lives

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On returning, being tied to a corporate didn’t seem so great. So I took a leap of faith. I started a business. It was nerve-wracking to give up the stability of a permanent job but I couldn’t let the experience of travelling just fade away into a memory.

Our perspective on the world changed

Village children having fun with the camera

Yes – travelling turned our world upside down! Like most people, we had  a 9-5 job, got married and had a home. However, after living out of a backpack for almost a year and experiencing the freedom that travel offers, you realise you don’t have to be pigeon – holed into living a life that involves just working and paying bills.  The definition of living changed for us. Travelling was true living. Experiencing and engaging everything the world had to offer and growing as a person was a revelation.

We appreciate life more

One of my favourite pictures!

You have back-packers then you have flash-packers. I guess we were flash-packers as we never stayed in dorms or real hell holes! Saying that we came across a few grim places in an effort to save money. In the end it taught us to appreciate what we have. These days, we have shorter showers, watch less TV and spend less money. We appreciate the seasons and use our time more constructively.

We’ve made friends from all over the world

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It starts with a drink (or three) and ends with a promise to stay in touch. Next thing you know, you’re in another country and so are they! That’s when you know you’ve connected with friends. Interacting with strangers on the road does wonders for your social skills. There’s no hiding when you travel.

We’ve developed a taste for global food

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Eating our way across Asia was one of the joys of travelling. The food is inspiring, cheap and delicious!  So much so I decided to take a cookery class in Nepal, Thailand and Malaysia. Mealtimes are not the same anymore. You’ll often find Morning Glory with garlic & chilli or red fish curry on the menu. I really miss chicken Momo’s so that’s next on the shopping list!

We realised all you need is a back-pack

A quick photo on arrival at Lhasa

You start with loads of stuff in your backpack but you soon come to realise you don’t need it. I actually ended up with less clothes than Asad. If I needed anything I’d just buy it. Carrying the bare minimum was cathartic and empowering. On returning I found I was less attached to our material possessions. Even our home.  It didn’t mean as much to me. Spending almost a year among vast landscapes in Asia meant we felt trapped by the tiny surroundings of the UK. It took us a long time to adjust.

We discovered what it means to be in the present

The Heavely Annapurna Circuit

We are all raised to constantly think of the future. What’s going to happen in the next hour, day, week or year. We plan our lives around this, running around leading busy lives-  barely taking time to stand still and just be present in the moment. Sometimes we pay others to tell us to stand still.   That’s why travelling stops you in your tracks and forces you to take a look at how crazy beautiful the earth is!

We have more of respect for nature

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We’ve seen a lot of wildlife and nature on our travels. From the Orangutans in Borneo to the Proboscis Monkey’s and birdlife down the Kinabatangan river. We’ve seen chickens ritually killed by shamans and tens of buffalo slaughtered by tribes in Sulawesi. We’ve bathed elephants in Chiang Mai and experienced dolphins and whales in New Zealand. It’s a privilege to share the earth with such amazing creatures.

Our thirst for travel never died, it just got stronger

Asad at Tashilunpo Monastery

You would think that a year and a half later, the urge to travel would fade and we would slot right back into our lives in the UK. But it hasn’t. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of getting on a plane and just going somewhere. Sometimes I wish we didn’t feel that way. It’s unsettling and we both still suffer from a restless desire to just pack up and go!

We discovered our adventurous side

Asad Skydiving - New Zealand

We went mental in New Zealand. Probably because we bumped into a friend who was a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Before you know it, Asad had performed a skydive, I had ziplined and paraglided my way over the Remarkables.  We would never have even contemplated any of this before!  It just goes to show that the confidence you gain enables you in so many ways.

We learned people are the same

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People are the same the world over. It doesn’t matter what religion or race you are, everyone has the same needs. Everyone works,  looks after their families, plays candy crush and enjoys a good drink! Everywhere we travelled people received us with an open-heart. Strangers shared their food and stories with us. In China we felt like celebrities. They were intrigued by us. Asians with a British accent.  Even in remote areas where the locals were not used to tourists, people may have been reserved but there was never any hostility. We’ve learned that people are essentially good. Even in countries such as Myanmar (Burma) who only opened their doors to the world in the past few years, people were friendly and warm. I miss that.

We learned religion is more diverse than we thought

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We experienced alot of Buddhism and Hinduism across South-East Asia. But Indonesia was really amazing. Bali had such a diverse form of Hinduism, nothing like you see in India or Nepal.  Sulawesi was breathtaking and threw the usual concept of religion out of the window. Mosques displayed ancient Torajan symbols and some Christians still practiced cliff-burials.  It was all surreal and magical.

The planet we live on is an amazing place. Go see it with an open heart and an open mind and I promise it will teach you something no book or university will.

Let us know what you think of this post! We’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

10 Ways to Turn Your Holiday into a Travel Adventure

Unless you’ve already discovered the freedom and truth behind long-term travel, escaping the 9-5 for most of us is restricted by time and money. The travel industry leads you to believe that holidays are just about glossy travel brochures, all-inclusive resorts and over-priced tours. You’re clinically chauffeured around the world without even getting your feet dirty. Your contact with locals is a controlled environment and you leave with a one-dimensional view of where you’ve just left. The travel industry pushes the notion that you’ve worked hard for your money so they try to solve the problem by offering package tours as value-for-money options for time-poor people. It’s just not true. You can travel how you want, where you want and it’s usually cheaper than what you’re lead to believe.

So what do people do with their holidays? According to various surveys that monitor consumer behaviour, it seems the British are creatures of habit. Apparently millions of us go back to the same place, the same resort and even the same pub year after year. Some people even sit in the same spot! Talk about a groundhog holiday! But the travel industry pushes this as an easy, stress-free option, so that’s what we do. We go for the easy option.

It’s time to get out and do something different! It’s time to start thinking independently. Without the tour operator.

I’m not saying you should avoid all tours, in some countries such as China, you have to join a tour just to enter and travel around Tibet. There are many independent tour companies that offer amazing activities and we’ve used many. They serve a purpose and after all this is your holiday. Your time. Try and see if you can do things by yourself, get around by yourself and possibly save a whole heap of money in the process. Don’t waste the time that you’ve worked so hard for, to just go back to the same place and do the same things time and again just because someone is telling you that’s all there is. You’re missing out on so many new experiences that could change and inspire your whole outlook on life.

A few years ago Asad and I took a two-week trip to Vietnam. This time we booked every part of this trip independently. No tour operators, no brochures, just a desire to do something different from the usual hotel and beach combination. What we experienced in those two weeks changed us forever. It was a turning point in the way we would travel going forward and a realisation that there are so many options to travel.

So how can you make a holiday more adventurous, exciting and inspiring? Well, here are 10 ways to turn your holiday into a travel adventure!

1) Go Somewhere You’ve Never Been Before

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Hiking through the Yunnan Province, China

Budget, time, exchange rate, the weather and the type of trip you want, will all affect what destination you choose to visit.  It may sound obvious but the first step in making your holiday more adventurous is going somewhere you’ve never been before. Don’t keep visiting the same place just because it’s easy to get to and easy to be in. Go somewhere that offers a diversity of culture, food and people. Be open to new experiences. We never would have thought we’d end up in China, but it one of our highlights and an amazing country with warm, friendly people. We learned so much by visiting China.

The world is an amazing place, see as much of it as you can!

2) Avoid Tours – Go Explore Yourself

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Exploring the famous temples in Bagan, Myanmar – without a tour group!

Some tours are better than others, but generally a lot of them involve being herded around like sheep. The whole experience can feel rushed and depending on the guide, you can either come back none the wiser or be overwhelmed with too much information. Imagine having a lifelong dream of visiting Angkor Wat. Would you really want the experience to be anything less than amazing? Why risk it? This is your time. Get on the internet, find out how to get to where you need to and explore by yourself. You’ll have all the time in the world to take in the sights at your leisure.

You’ll save money and the whole experience will be on your terms

3) Take Public Transport 

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Getting on the iconic Yangon – Mandalay train

Many of the fond memories we have about travelling around South East Asia is the sheer amount of options available to get to your destination. Trains, planes, taxi’s, tuk-tuks, songthaews, scooters, bicycles and yes, horses, donkeys and elephants! When possible, instead of flying to your destination, why not take a train. Though quick and convenient, you miss out so much when flying. On a train, you’ll see some amazing sights on the way, take in the scenery and get a glimpse of life as you cross urban cities and rural landscapes. You get a feel of the country and gain valuable insight and a real understanding of what that country is about – plus you’ll get a chance to mingle with people from all walks of life. Why not see how the locals travel and either get on a bus, bike or catch a lift in a songthaew.

The journey is part of the experience

4) Get Out of the Hotel

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Amazing street food in Jalan Alor – Kuala Lumpur

It’s easy to stay in the comfort of a resort. Everything is within reach. But isn’t it fair to give to the local economy of a country and not just put money in the pockets of the big chain hotels? Why not explore local restaurants, soak up the atmosphere and try the amazing street food. It’s usually the best and far cheaper than the hotel. For those of you who can (and want to), break away from the “all-inclusive” mentality. It’s just a monetary prison that keeps you in a hotel bubble restricting your movements and mindset. As you’re constantly thinking about meals and drinks, inevitably you don’t spend enough time outside of the hotel.

Get out and discover a whole new world out there!

5) Explore on Foot

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To actually experience a place, there’s no better way than to hit the streets and walk! Why be confined to a cab when you can see, feel and experience everything on the street. We’ve walked for miles through the chaotic streets of Asian cities, trekked up mountains, through forests and hiked remote villages. We’ve got lost only to discover serendipity, shared stories with random people we’ve met along the way and had hilarious conversations that we’ll never forget. We’ve been shocked, saddened, inspired and touched by things we’ve seen whilst walking through some of the most amazing places in the world.

You’ve taken the time to visit a different country – be part of it. Become part of its story

6)Get on a Motorbike. 

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Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai

There’s nothing better than getting on a motorbike and exploring.  With the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, there’s something about the freedom of getting around on a bike that’s unparalleled. There’s a sense of unrestrained freedom involved and you can go wherever you want, when you want and how you want. You become totally immersed in the scene irrespective of whether you’re in the mountains or the city. We’ve hired bikes in many places except countries such as Nepal, where even getting on a bike would be a death-wish! It’s also enabled us to take some great photos of places we wouldn’t normally be able to reach by car.

There’s some moments you’ll never be able to create ever again – take a camera!

7) Challenge Yourself – Do Something You’ve Never Done Before!

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Throng La Pass – Himalayas, Nepal

I mentioned earlier that a trip to Vietnam changed us. Back then we classed it as a holiday, but looking back it was actually a travel adventure. We literally travelled from the North of Vietnam to the South and managed to shoe horn three days in Cambodia! In those two weeks we saw Hanoi, Halong Bay, took a three-day motorbike tour starting in Hue, (never done that before) through the mountains of Vietnam, across the Ho Chi Minh Trail ending up in Hoi An. We visited the beautiful beaches of Muine, hired a motorbike and explored the Cham temples, spent a few days exploring Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), took a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia spending three days exploring Angkor Wat (independently) and then flew back to Hanoi. All that in two weeks! Was it tiring? Yes it was. But was it totally amazing? Hell – Yes! Did we save money by arranging it all by ourselves – yes of course!

I’m not saying you should run around like a crazy person trying to see as much as you can in a couple of weeks. It’s about filling your time with different experiences, seeing and doing amazing things that inspire you and take you outside of your comfort zone!

8)Make Each Trip Count – Get That Bucket List in There!

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Everest base Camp – Tibet

Everyone has a bucket list – a list of things to do, see and visit before the end is nigh! Everyone’s bucket list is different.  It may include bungee jumping, sky-diving, seeing orangutans in Borneo, watching the Northern Lights or just camping under the stars with a few friends. Whatever you’ve always wanted to do, make sure you do it. When I look at my bucket list and the number of things I’ve ticked off, I wish I’d done them earlier and made the most of my two-week holidays.

The more you travel, the more you realise bucket lists get longer!

9) Mix Up Your Accommodation

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Happy Days, our very own house – Golden Bay, New Zealand

Unless you’re looking for luxury and want privacy, don’t stay in a hotel.  There’s something about hotels – I’m not sure what it is, but we never made friends in a hotel. There’s a certain awkwardness that transcends cultures and stops people talking to one another without feeling weird! Try hostels, you’ll be surprised at how many great hostels there are out there that offer clean, spacious private rooms with their own bathrooms. Hostels have gone beyond dorms now. With great communal eating and  lounge areas, the atmosphere is more conducive to striking up a conversation easily and getting to know people.  It’s a great way of sharing experiences, getting some great advice about the destination you’re in and exchanging stories.  A lot of hostels also arrange nights out, activities and events where everyone can get to know each other in an easy setting.

Couch Surfing is also a great way to not only save money but really discover how locals live. You stay in someone’s home and hangout with them gaining local knowledge and experiencing a country through the eyes of a local. If Couch Surfing is not for you and you prefer to do your own thing, try airbnb. We had a great one bedroom villa in Bali in the middle of a rice paddy field. It was ridiculously cheap and had everything we needed. Whilst travelling, we’ve stayed in many places, from hotels, camp sites and wood cabins to villa’s, hostels, hutongs and guesthouses.  Not only did it all add to the experience but we got to know a great bunch of people this way.

10) Make Use of the Internet

The internet is a great source of information. Use it well! There are millions of people travelling the world at any given time doing amazing things, sharing information and exchanging ideas about how to get around the world the quickest, cheapest and safest way. From online guides and travel forums to travel blogs, it’s mind-boggling  what you can learn just by searching the internet.

So as Spring is just around the corner and thoughts of warm Summer days on beautiful beaches once again comes to mind, think about how you can make this summer holiday, more inspiring. You never know, it may be the start of something unexpected.

Useful Information

This is a list of just some of the resources we used to book flights, hotels and trips.

Flights 

Skyscanner – skyscanner.com

Expedia – expedia.com

Accommodation 

Agoda – agoda.com

Hostelbookers – hostelbookers.com

Hostelworld – hostel world.com

Tripadvisor – tripadvisor.com

Airbnb – airbnb.com

Couchsurfing – couchsurfing.org