My first foray into solo travel was, looking back, perhaps a bit punchy. After travelling with my cousin for three months, I set off from Koh Tao in Thailand for the start of the rest of my round the world trip by myself, kicking off with a 32 hour journey to Kuala Lumpur. My three …
I have a love hate relationship with Instagram. For the most part I love it – I’ve always enjoyed photography, I like the micro-blogging aspect of it and I’ve met some cool people on there, some I now know In Real Life. I enjoy having a (very curated) view into celebrities I admire’s lives, and …
One of the things I get asked most by people before they set off on their travels is: how do you make friends whilst backpacking? It’s a fair question. When it takes time to build friendships at home, the nature of travelling – moving from place to place relatively quickly – it doesn’t sound like …
It’s been nearly eight years since I first packed up my Jack Wolfskin and set off on my first round the world backpacking trip. Here are my top tips if you’re about to head off for the first time travelling. And tell me where you’re going, I want to hear all about it!
I have loved photography since I can remember. I grew up in a house that holds boxes and albums full of family photographs and holiday snaps. One of the things I enjoy most when I travel is spending time taking photos of the places I visit. I enjoy it as a hobby and I love having the memories to look back on. I love Instagram and following other people’s day-to-day and travels via the social media platform.
The trouble comes when Instagram takes over reality to a point where it makes us feel bad about ourselves. There are dozens of luxury travel accounts that post absolutely stunning pictures of beautiful influencers in remote corners of the world, shots empty of other tourists in the background and amazing birds eye views of tropical islands captured by drones. I follow some of them. I think they can be great to encourage people to want to see more and to travel to places they may not otherwise be aware of. They’re an escape, too – it’s nice to look at a pretty photo, right? The thing to bear in mind is, it’s quite literally these people’s jobs to make destinations look that desirable. They are paid to do that. They spend a lot of time on those photographs, and no matter what you think of that as a job or career, that is what it is. But we need to remember that this is not real.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to backpack now in terms of how Instagram affects people and the way they travel. When I first travelled in 2011 Instagram barely existed. I took hundreds of photos on my trip – loads of landscapes, plenty of photos of friends and me jumping in front of sunsets and there’s a whole sub category of photos of me staring off into the distance taking in a view. Clichéd, sure, and perhaps viewed as a bit wanky by some, but it was fun. I am all for an organised fun photo. But those pictures took a few quick shots to capture, not twenty minutes of dozens of different poses and outfit changes – something that actually happens now. A friend who has spent a lot of time recently backpacking tells me he’s seen people walk into cenotes in full length gowns. This isn’t Vogue, people.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to take nice photos on holiday. There’s no issue in asking your partner or your friends to take a few photos of you on a swing on the beach or relaxing by the pool in your new floppy hat or whatever. Want to post a fire selfie? Great! I want to see you looking confident and happy with how you look and I will comment telling you just how much you’re slaying. The problem comes when we feel like we have to be at 100 all the time; when we worry we don’t look good enough or slim enough, haven’t nailed the right angles, the photo isn’t ‘wow’ enough. The problem lies where it takes over your life (or holiday) to the point where you’re spending half an hour orchestrating a photoshoot by the infinity pool of your all inclusive resort in order to get the ‘perfect’ photo for Instagram, constantly analysing the angle of your body and the way the light falls on your skin before you’re happy with one to put on your grid.
Take beach photos, take pictures by the pool, take all the clichéd snapshots you want – enjoy it! Just don’t spend all your time at one of the great wonders of the world solely doing so – don’t miss everything around you. The reason you’ve travelled (I hope) is to experience different cultures, see unique sights, relax – not because somewhere is ‘instagrammable’. Having photos to treasure from your travels serves as a wonderful trip down memory lane, but don’t miss making the memories in the first place for the perfect shot. Drink in the places you travel to. Don’t let Instagram make you feel like you’re not good enough. It’s supposed to be fun, not bring you stress and anxiety over the next photo you’re posting. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather see a photo of someone looking like they are genuinely having a good time on their trip instead of what looks like an outtake from a high fashion shoot with a five figure budget. Let’s bring a bit more reality back to Instagram.
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You have to take the time to get to know Melbourne. Melbourne is that guy you go on a date with where you drink beautiful cocktails and he enjoys a craft beer. You both like food and appreciate culture; you get on really well and have a lot in common. He’s kind and he’s well travelled, but you’re just not sure if you fancy him. But you go out with him again anyway. And he keeps surprising you. Suddenly you’re six dates in and in awe of just how great this guy is, falling for him seemingly out of the blue.
Melbourne isn’t in your face, it’s pretty laid back about all the things it has on offer: amazing food, cool bars, the best coffee in the world (probably), European inspired laneways, chilled out beaches, cool hipster suburbs, art, music, comedy, festivals – Melbourne has everything going on, it just doesn’t shout about it much. Apart from the coffee. They are really keen for you to know about their elite coffee status. Take the time to get to know Melbourne properly and you will reap the awards and still have a huge list of things you want to do and places you want to eat as you board the plane home.
Dark blue waters fade into turquoise up to the white beaches of the Gilis of Lombok, Indonesia. Made up of Gili Trawangan (or just ‘Gili T’ for ease), Gili Meno and Gili Air, these islands are the perfect combination of the different styles of island life to be experienced in a short space of time. Or, as many do, for much longer than you intended (I have a fair few mates who rocked up for two days and never left).
With stunning sunsets, no cars and dive shops every five metres, the Gilis is not a destination to be missed. Gili T, the biggest of the three islands, leads the way with raucous nightlife (make sure you try a Vodka Joss – I take no responsibility for your heart rate afterwards, proceed with caution) and this combined with the great diving and lazy way of life means that this is the island I have spent most of my time on. If you’re looking for a quieter time or want to island hop between them all, Meno and Air are a mere 10 and 20 minutes or so by boat respectively.
Plane. Bus. Taxi. Train. Coach. Mini Van. Speed boat. Slow boat. Longtail boat. Ferry. Car Ferry. Tuk Tuk. Songthaew. Bemo. Jeepney. Motorbike. Scooter. Tall ship. Cable car. Tram. I’ve travelled on pretty much every type of transport going over the course of my backpacking trips. From short two hour journeys to overnight missions anywhere between …
Ten Things People Don’t Tell You Before You Travel South East Asia
Vivid green rice paddies, yoga and meditation, organic healthy eating, scooters everywhere, the smell of incense, women in brightly coloured outfits carrying offerings effortlessly on their heads, children playing football and flying kites, traditional Balinese dancing, silver, batik, ikat…welcome to Bali’s cultural centre, Ubud.