Namibia’s one of those countries that, despite bordering a relatively popular destination like South Africa, doesn’t get much love from tourists. In fact, when I mentioned we were heading there for a couple of weeks, most of my friends didn’t really know where it was, and certainly couldn’t name any of its attractions.
The country is one of the most sparsely inhabited on earth, hot and arid for most of the year. It’s an ancient land, home to the world’s oldest desert, and rock paintings and carvings dating back many thousands of years. Enormous dunes crowd all the way to the ocean, while the sand slowly reclaims an abandoned mining town, reminding us just how precarious human civilization can be.
It’s not just about desolate landscapes, however. Vast herds of wildlife dot Etosha’s large salt pan, there’s incredible seafood to be found along the coast, and thrill-seekers can go quad biking, sandboarding, ballooning and more.
We had a little under two weeks in the country, and crammed in as much as we possibly could. Thousands of miles later, we returned to the airport, dusty, tired and exhilarated. It had easily been one of the best trips we’d ever taken, blowing away every single expectation we’d had.Continue Reading →
This time last year, that’s what I’d have said if you’d asked about life on the road. I was completely sick of it, and it was making me sick in return.
I’d been on the move for nearly five years, and the passion was gone. Where once lay a burning desire to see the world, the smallest flicker remained. I barely cared where I was going next, dragging my backpack from country to country in an indistinguishable blur of airports and Airbnb apartments.
The views and the food changed, but everything else stayed the same. Working all the time, I hardly saw any of the places I stayed in, even when I spent months there. What did I do in Oaxaca, or Taipei, or Madrid? I’ve no idea, but whatever it was, it was less than most visitors would have done in a long weekend.Continue Reading →
Everyone loses weight when they travel, apparently.
All that walking around new cities, hiking in the mountains, swimming in warm oceans. None of the terrible Western diet, or sitting in a cubicle for 50 hours a week. So much spare time for exercise and looking after yourself. I mean, basically it’s impossible not to drop a few pounds, right?
So why, after four and half years on the road, was I fifteen pounds heavier than when I started? Why was I still getting acne despite barely remembering being a teenager, and having chronic digestive problems? Why was I tired all the time, sluggish, bloated, and feeling every one of my forty years on the planet?
The answer, like it usually is with these things, was simple when you break it down. Diet and exercise.Continue Reading →
It’s official. I’m no longer a full-time traveller.
I’ve got a year lease, and a gym membership, and Portuguese bank account. Last week I went to the municipal offices here in Lisbon, and officially registered as a resident.
I have a desk, and a chair, and a monitor, and more clothes than can fit in my backpack. My fridge is full of food, and my calendar is full of social events.
For the first time in nearly five years, when someone asks where I’ll be in a few months, I can answer their question with certainty.
I’ll be at home.Continue Reading →
Seven months ago I walked down a beach and into the Atlantic Ocean. That wouldn’t have been very exciting, had I not walked 865km across northern Spain to get there. That beach, in the small town of Finisterre, was where the road and my Camino ended. It’s taken this long to process the experience, and put fingers to keyboard to explain what it meant to me.
Unlike many who walk the Camino de Santiago, I wasn’t looking for an epiphany. I wasn’t recovering from a messy divorce, had a health scare or sudden death in the family. I wasn’t suffering from a crisis of faith, or a midlife one, and I hadn’t just been laid off from my job. Instead, my thought process was much simpler than that. I’m turning 40. I want a challenge. I’m in Spain. Let’s walk.
There’s a saying amongst pilgrims, though. The Camino provides. It gives you what you need, whether you know it or not. Sometimes that need is physical — food when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty, a bed when you’re tired — but sometimes it’s more than that.
It also gives you time, and space. Spending six, eight, ten hours a day moving slowly across an enormous landscape, week after week, gets the brain working in unfamiliar ways. The Camino provided me the opportunity to think, to reflect, to meditate, free of distractions and complications beyond my immediate needs.
I didn’t have many expectations from my walk, and wanted to just let the experience turn out as it would.
So how did it turn out?Continue Reading →
Back in September, I completed one of the most challenging and satisfying experiences of my life. In a little over a month I walked from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a small French town at the base of the Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela and onward to Finisterre on Spain’s Atlantic coast. These routes, the Camino Frances and Camino Finisterre, are part of a vast network of medieval pilgrim paths across Europe collectively known as the Camino de Santiago.
I’ll write plenty more about the experience in the future, but wanted to devote one post solely to the gear I took — exactly what I chose to take and leave behind, and how well those choices worked over the course of my five week walk.Continue Reading →
It’s August 13th. For most people, it’s just another random Thursday… but in this little corner of the world, it’s a Very Big Day Indeed.
Today, after 18 months of excitement and terror, validation and self-doubt, tears and… more tears, and the hardest I’ve ever seen anyone work, Lauren’s book is officially out!
Today, “How Not to Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker” was released around the world.
Today, I’m the proudest I’ve ever been of my incredible girlfriend.Continue Reading →
I turn 40 next month.
Forty years on this big ball of rock. It’s been a hell of a ride so far.
In my early twenties, I thought I knew exactly what life had in store for me. Of course, I didn’t have a clue back then — and I still don’t. Approaching my fifth decade, I have little more certainty about anything than I did in my second. Some people would struggle with that, but oddly, I find it comforting. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and I don’t want to.
My current ideas for next April, for instance, see me simultaneously in New Zealand, Guatemala and Portugal. 2016 could see me settling in Spain, or wandering from beach to beach around Central America, or something else entirely. Hell, just today Lauren and I talked about visiting the Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India or Myanmar later this year, and as usual, ended up making no decision at all.
Right now, there’s really only one thing I know for sure.
A little under a month from now, early in the morning, my alarm is going to go off in a little French town at the base of the Pyrenees. I’ll get dressed in a hurry, throw my backpack over my shoulders, and quietly let myself out the door. Looking up at the mountains, I’ll pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and slowly start walking down the road to Spain.
And I won’t stop until October.Continue Reading →