I’ve Got Fernweh!

fernweh

I’m always dreaming about travel – reading numerous blog posts and magazines in search of bites of information and inspiration. All it takes is a pretty photograph of some far flung paradise and my heart begins to ache for adventure.

So, just like when I began this blog a few years ago and was working towards making long-term travel happen, which culminated in me travelling solo around Canada for five months in 2012, I’ve decided to start planning the next epic adventure. And believe me when I say it will be EPIC!

It’s way too early to disclose any more details at this point but, all being well, I’ll be back ‘on the road’ (or rather the tracks) by next September. And my boyfriend Andy – a regular feature on this blog now :-) – will be coming with me. My mind has been ticking away ever since going freelance in January and having the option to be location independent is way too tempting.

paradise valley canadian rockies, canada
The Giant Steps in Banff National Park, Canada

Fernweh: An ache for distant places; the craving for travel

I’ve seen the word ‘fernweh’ all over my Facebook feed lately and it’s definitely my favourite definition. It’s not surprising that this word is German as the Germans certainly love to travel!

Fernweh (pronounced fern-vay) defines a feeling I have most of the time. The wanderlust never really goes away. It might settle down for a bit while I’m nurtured by home comforts, but it’s not long before I get itchy feet and crave a new adventure. It’s not about wanting to escape or not appreciating what I’ve got, it’s about wanting to live life to the full. It’s about having options and being able to embrace opportunity.

After being in the same surroundings for a while, everything starts to stagnate. There’s too much predictability, too many expectations in place. Nothing is new. Sure, there are many ways to make life interesting at home. But, for me, it’s not enough. I want to have the freedom to travel more often and for longer.

I’m not interested in putting down roots, such as getting a home and a massive mortgage. I want to get out and see the world. Visiting somewhere for a week or two doesn’t cut it. I want to get under the skin of a place. I want to live and breath travel. 

 

So there you go, I’m embracing my fernweh and making things happen. Watch this space ;-)

 

 

 

Could You Be A Digital Nomad?

freedom

I’ve often been drawn to the idea of being a digital nomad - working on the road, earning a living whilst visiting an array of beautiful, fascinating places. Quite a few of my favourite travel blogs are written by such people and that free-as-a-bird mentality is incredibly appealing.

Travelling solo around Canada for five months in 2012 was the best thing I’ve ever done. While I’ve got no plans to leave my life here in Liverpool anytime soon, I’m definitely a freespirit at heart and there’s always a part of me that wants to fly away to somewhere new. However, I also enjoy home comforts, being able to visit loved ones, snuggling up on the couch watching films with my beau and sleeping in my own bed (the orthopedic mattress is crazy comfortable).

As I get older, approaching 30 this year *gulp*, home comforts are becoming increasingly important, but that niggling feeling, those itchy feet, that hint of excitement at the mere thought of going travelling again are always there. Now is not the time though. Having just set up a new freelance copywriting business, my days largely involve work, work and more work. I’m also in a long-term relationship and if I was to ever consider uprooting, Andy would have to be in on it too.

This year is all about hard work and forging my career path, with a few holidays thrown in as well of course! But travel is a major part of me, not just a spectator and whatever the future holds, travel needs to play a bigger part. Whether this means being able to afford for us to have several trips away each year or having the flexibility to be able to work remotely from different locations (which is basically being a digital nomad) we’ll see what happens. 

Being a digital nomad doesn’t have to involve hopping from hostel to hostel, place to place though. Spending a few months in each location and renting out an apartment is a much more attractive option – especially when needing somewhere suitable to work, with adequate WiFi. One thing I know for certain, the idea of getting a massive mortgage and being financially tied down to one place is not something I crave. Although, just because you own a property, this doesn’t necessarily mean having to stay in that place. People go travelling and rent out their homes while away. Ahhhhh, my head hurts! 

Okay, this was definitely one of those random rants! It would be great to hear if anybody else has the same feelings or if any of you digital nomads can provide an insight into the benefits of this kind of lifestyle. 

 

Am I Too Old To Go Travelling?

Before deciding to go travelling in Canada, I was riddled with insecurities about being too old for backpacking. What is the best age to go travelling? Is 28 a good age to go backpacking? Am I too old for long-term travel? These were the kind of questions I would find myself typing into Google, before scouring through various forums on the subject. The general opinion seemed to be that you are never too old to travel and that travel can actually be more enjoyable in your later 20s than when you are straight out of college or university.

However, I was still worried that the majority of backpackers would be gap year students and free-as-a-bird under 25s looking to get wasted every night. Me? I was nearly 28 with a full-time job and long-term boyfriend. It was not a simple book and go situation. I was scared that I should be focusing on my career and settling down as oppose to leaving everything behind for several months. I did not have to look further than my Facebook feed to see that many of the people I went to school with were having kids and getting married. Shouldn’t I be doing this too? 

Despite these concerns I took the trip and, more than a year on, could not be more relieved about making the decision to travel in Canada for five amazing months. As it turned out, my fears about being too old were completely ridiculous.

Jericho sunset Vancouver

Yes, there were plenty of gap years students. But there were also much older people as well and many around the same age as me. The hostels I stayed in were filled with people from all walks of life. Career breakers, retired people taking that trip they had always dreamed of, those who had a work visa and were looking for a job, 18/19 year-olds taking a summer break before started uni. Having such as varied pattern of people makes travel more interesting. 

I quickly realised that you are never too old to travel so long as you have conviction behind why you are making a trip. Even if you just simply want to get away for a bit. This qualifies as a valid enough reason. Nobody ever regrets travel. It opens doors and enriches you, no matter what your age. Travel made 2012 the best year of my life. So get out there and make that trip you have always dreamed of. Do not look for validation from others, just go for it! Everything works out in the end. 

 

Have you ever worried about being too old before taking the plunge into long-term travel? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Escaping from a Nightmare Basement to a Posh Hotel

Wrapped in a white fluffy dressing down, fresh from a long luxurious shower, I wandered into the bedroom and admired the king size bed that was sumptuously layered with cushions. Then I moved into the spacious office room where a plush couch, coffee table and desk could be found. I was staying in an executive suite at a posh hotel in Toronto. So what? you might think. The story here is how I unexpectedly wound up staying here for the night.

No, I didn’t throw the towel in and decide I couldn’t spend another night in a hostel (I like staying in hostels). Nor did I necessarily feel like indulging in luxury. It was a set of circumstances that led me to be in Toronto one Friday night with nowhere to stay. The International Toronto Film Festival was underway and everywhere was fully booked.  How had I missed the small detail that a major event was taking place here and why was I arriving so unprepared?

Toronto buildings

Longtime readers of my blog might have read about my unfortunate time spent working on a farm near Ottawa, where I slept in a dark, dirty basement that reminded me of a scene from a horror movie. Well, I was running away from this situation and the only bus heading out of town that afternoon was going to Toronto. During my three long days at the farm, I had been offline and hadn’t had a chance to book accommodation. Saying this though, I’d planned on staying here for two weeks and didn’t know I was leaving until I finally decided to stop fighting against all of my instincts and just get the hell out of there.

On my way to Toronto, I didn’t think there was anything to worry about as there always seemed to be space in hostels last minute for one person; even if it meant going in a mixed dorm for a few days. I quickly realised this wasn’t the case when I was sitting in a food court in Toronto on my laptop, looking up availability. ALL of the hostels were full and ALL of the budget hotels were full. It was then that I clicked about the film festival.

view from cn tower in toronto

It was 9pm and getting darker by the minute. I was in an unfamiliar city. I didn’t know anybody here. Was I scared? Not at all. I was just tired, very tired. I decided to walk around and pop into any hotel I came across to see if there was any space. I had become resigned to the fact that, despite being skint, I’d have to probably have to fork out a lot of money if I wanted to find somewhere to sleep. The first hotel I went in had the honeymoon suite available some ridiculous amount of money and didn’t budge on the price despite me trying to negotiate (a night in the honeymoon suite would’ve made an interesting article!). I gave up and the guy in reception said they had a database showing availability at the local hotels.

He said there was a room left at a hotel down the road that wasn’t too expensive. Ah great, sounded like I might get some sleep after all. As it turned out, it was a smoking room. I’d rather spend the night in a train station than sleep in a smoke-filled room. The receptionist said there were rooms left at the Ramada Plaza Toronto a short distance away and I decided to just pay out on my credit card and get some rest. I must’ve looked like a dishevelled mess, but decided to turn on the charm to work for a discount. Ha, who am I kidding, it was more like ‘hope they take pity on me’ situation rather than a me ‘working my charm’. Either way, they gave me a small discount and a free upgrade to the executive suite.

cn tower in toronto

To say that the room was nice is an understatement. It was one of the loveliest hotel rooms I’d even been in. Funnily enough, I didn’t do any sleeping and decided instead to enjoy the room to the fullest. That’s where the long luxurious shower and fluffy white dressing gown bit came in. I pulled an all-nighter, did a bit of work and took advantage of this luxurious time out that was a far cry from the horror film basement I’d been in 24 hours earlier. Spending the equivalent to a week’s hostel stay hurt quite a bit though!

Have you ever landed somewhere with nowhere to stay? Do you have any stories like this?

Travel New Year’s Resolutions

What is 2013 going to hold for me on the travel front? While 2012 was all about making long-term solo travel to Canada happen, this year will see me fitting in adventures around full-time work.

Holidays to the Caribbean, Dublin and the Isle of Man are already in the pipeline, but what about my travel aspirations for the year?

river seine in paris with eiffel tower in background

Learn French

This year, I’m going to sign up for an evening course to learn Francais. I studied basic French at school and am completely obsessed with French culture. My first and only trip to Paris in spring 2011 was a dream come true. My embarrassing attempts to speak French were not.

When I visited French-Canadian Montreal during the summer, my desire to learn this beautiful language was strengthened. Although many people spoke English as well, I felt rude not at least trying to speak the main language. And so there were many more moments where I spoke my awful Franglais. I want to be able to say more than Bonjour and Parlez Vous Anglais!

plane at airport

Visit a couple of cities in Mainland Europe

There are so many cities in mainland Europe that I haven’t been to yet and, being back in England, there’s no excuse not to make an effort to finally get to places like Prague, Berlin and Barcelona that have been on my bucket list for a very long time.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for opportunities and good deals to reach as many parts of Europe as possible. My target is to organise at least two European weekend breaks for later in the year, but hopefully I’ll manage much more. I’d also relish the opportunity to see more of France and Italy, but we’ll see what this year will bring.

st georges hall in liverpool

Showcase my home city, Liverpool

I’ve been meaning to write more about my home city ever since I returned from Canada, but searching for jobs took precedence. With the the job situation now sorted out, I’m going to work harder to introduce regular articles and photos of Liverpool. I may be biased, but I love Liverpool and want to show it off. It’s a fun and vibrant city with a heart of gold.

I’ve said it already in my See My Travels roundup article for 2012, but Happy New Year and all the best for 2013!

Have you made any travel New Year’s resolutions? 

 

What Luggage is Best for Travel across Canada?

My first backpack was purchased back in 2009 when I had grand plans to work and travel in New Zealand. As it turned out, this trip got put on the back burner and the bag was shoved away out of sight. 

And it was out of mind for a long time. That was until I made a conscious decision to work towards leaving my job and travelling long-term. 

As my flight to Canada was booked on January 1st, 2012 – a liberating way to begin the new year – I began thinking about what luggage to take.

Reflecting back to my last long-term jaunt aboard to Australia in 2005, I remembered opting for a small wheeled suitcase. Why? Well, it was something that I already had and I didn’t see the point of spending more money on alternative luggage.

It was still in one piece when I returned after several months, albeit slightly battered. 

But, admittedly, I had felt inadequate with this type of luggage.

Most travellers had backpacks and appeared, at least outwardly, to be carrying these with ease.

I sometimes wished I’d gone for a backpack, to fit in more with the stereotypical backpacking image. And Canada was the perfect opportunity to give my neglected 55litre backpack a go.

How did I cope carrying a backpack?

Not very well. There were sure signs of my future struggles with the backpack when I had to enlist the help of my boyfriend to carry it for me on the way to Heathrow Airport in London. No matter how many times we adjusted it, my neck and back felt strained.

I could carry it for a short while before needing to stop to take a breather.

Arriving in Vancouver on a boiling hot spring day, I remember awkwardly traipsing through the centre. By the time I had arrived at my hostel, after getting lost in typical Alison fashion, sweat was pouring off me. I was a mess.

It will get better, I thought to myself.

Fast forward a few weeks and I made the decision to get rid of my backpack. I had burn marks on my shoulders, my wrist was nearly sprained every time I took it off and I kept on having to stop when walking with it for just a few minutes.

I was in a hostel in Victoria, Vancouver Island – the capital of British Columbia – when I decided to leave it in a locker with a “TAKE ME” sign on it. I’d had enough. 

What luggage did I get to replace the backpack?

I got a good deal on a wheeled holdall suitcase that had much more room and glided along easily. I had replaced my old luggage with a new model and everything was going great. 

Dragging it across cities, through numerous SkyTrain and bus stations, was no worries at all. 

It stayed strong for a good couple of months. Then it finally cracked under the pressure. 

I was at the Greyhound bus station in Calgary when the first fault occurred. I couldn’t find a lift so decided to carry my luggage up a few flights of stairs. 

All of a sudden there was a crunching sound. The handle had snapped in half, making it almost impossible to pull along. 

Great, perfect timing.

On my way to Banff in the Canadian Rockies, I was thinking about whether or not it was worth getting a new bag when I had less than a few months left in Canada.

At this point, I decided to keep it going for as long as possible. 

Then something else happened when I was rolling through Banff. One of the wheels cracked. That was it. I needed a new bag. 

But they were too expensive in Banff, so I had one last struggle with it to get to Ottawa and purchased another one here. I went with the same one in a slightly different design because it was cheap and I knew it would last until I got home. 

So as you can see, I had issues with different types of luggage. 

What is the best luggage?

If you are going to be dragging your luggage around and walking a lot between transport links, a backpack makes more sense.

You can navigate stairs more easily and don’t have to worry about tired wheels cracking or handles falling off. Saying this, the only time I would try a backpack again is if I was able to pack lighter and carry a smaller bag.

There is also the annoying issue of having to take things out of the bag to find something and then inevitably having difficulty fitting everything back in again. This is not as much of an issue with a wheeled suitcase. 

If you are going to be travelling on a lot of buses, there is always an increased risk of having your belongings damaged if you have soft luggage. Bags are literally thrown in on top of each other and you have to be careful how you pack. 

One thing is for sure: it is not worth spending a huge amount of money on luggage. Chances are, it is going to be wrecked by the end of your trip, or part of the way through.

Getting something that is as light as possible and that you can comfortably carry around is the most important factor. Test it out before committing and see how you feel about it when it’s fully packed. 

What luggage do you use for long-term travel?