Tuesday, 27 May 2014

London - a commuters life and choosing where to stay

I'm currently looking for my next home, it's time to move. I've spent 6 years living in zone 4 far south east of what people regard as London. In 2008 it was a culture shock, suddenly a 15 minute commute from the middle of zone 2 became an hour and suddenly I was spending 10 hours compared to 2.5 hours a week travelling for work.
When I travel I feel spoilt, the hive of the cities and towns I visit are often a 15 minute walk from my hotel or hostel, in fact I purposely don't take a cab to enjoy I walk I don't get in London. I've had friends visit and stay with me who have had to experience the rigormoral of my daily life. They've in part pitied me. Bless.
Now however I want to move - the aim is to reduce my commute by 50%, have a lifestyle that provides pubs, bars and restaurants within walking distance, parks and green spaces that can be enjoyed by visiting family and friends while also enjoying a more suburban lifestyle.
Realistically - prices in London have boomed and opportunities present themselves with little less of a journey I have right now - but a home is about compromise. I'd love a period warehouse loft apartment with a rooftop terrace in central London but the bank manager is not going to fund that, nor will my current salary.
So what am I willing to compromise for my travel to work? And what will be affordable to continue to allow myself to travel the world? Some say roots hold you down but my roots feed me to grow 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Transport choice provides diverse travel experiences, rating transport options

Travel is not just about the places we see, the countries we visit the people we meet, but it's also about th journey we make to get there, finding ways to enhance the moment you leave home to the moment you return. You might choose experience, cost, or comfort, and we all have our own choices and preferences.
Here I look at the different ways to travel between places and how to rate them, what do you think? And have I missed any?
Car - it's personal, you're in control. It's your journey, you have time, you can stop, you can ramp up the music. But petrol and car hire is getting expensive. Best known as The Roadtrip there are many movies and American inspire dreams following Route 66, my journey took us north from London to the Lake District, half way there the clutch broke in the fast lane of the motorway first the Police rescued us then the AA pulled us to Lake Wimdermere.
Comfort factor - 4
Experience factor - 4
Cost: 3
Bike/cycling - it's tough, it's a challenge, your hairs in the open air, you're free, but you're exhausted. You can tell everyone your achievement. My trip took us from London to Brighton, a planned 4.5 hour cycle took 8 hours on the hottest day of the year! 
Comfort factor - 2
Experience factor - 5
Cost: 1

Boat/ferry - you're stuck, you're not going anywhere accept where they say. You can choose to watch the waves or hide in the cabin. Time can pass freely, time can escape you. Limited with destinations. I've never taken a luxury weeks cruise but does a booze cruise count? Poole to Calais in France when it still ran, overnight trip and the journey was actually quite blissful! 
Comfort factor - 5
Experience factor - 2
Cost: 3
Plane - it's a one way stop, straight there no fussing, just be careful who you choose to fly with - budget will be the influence, you're crammed in and don't expect much leg room. I always hope for the best and the worst journeys have involved snow delays or being stuck next to the toilets for 10 hours.
Comfort factor - 4
Experience factor - 1
Cost: 4
Motorbike - the best road journeys come from those on the back of a motorbike. You're cool, you can cross country, you and weave in and out of traffic, you can stop when you want, you can wear leather with pride. The farthest I've gone in 5 miles, does that count?
Comfort factor 3
Experience factor - 5
Cost: 3
Hiking - any terrain, low or high near nothing is impossible. The days travel is long, and the distance short, a map and a compass a necessity, as you're own guide you are responsible for destination point in the wilderness. I was a Boy Scout throughout my teenage summers this was our holiday experiences, and the blisters were always immense.
Comfort factor 1
Experience Factor - 5
Cost: 1
Train - networked across Europe, directs across Asia, near nonexistent in the Americas, when there's an opportunity to go by train take it. Full of a cross section of people and classes. The views are amazing as you cut through the countryside. The worst journey has to be Los Angeles to San Feancisco, it took 15 hours and we barely moved most of the time, apparently it's a 3 hour drive. While the most exciting trip was a top a bunk heading through Vietnam. Of course there's the easy and flexible Eurostar!
Comfort factor - 5
Experience factor - 3 
Cost: 2
Hitch-hiking - the age old travellers life is beginning to become extinct, not as popular nor considered as safe as it once was thanks to horror movies, hitch hiking is best in South America, Africa and Asia. We were stuck a top a hill In the middle of a thunder storm with lightning crashing to the ground around us, our only hope was a hitchhike, thumbing in pouring rain for 30minutes a small van pulled up and 7 of us piled in the back.
Comfort factor - 2
Experience factor - 4
Cost: 1
Swimming - you're crazy! I want to swim the English Channel. 
Comfort factor -2
Experience factor +8
Cost N/A
Coach - popular with pensioners and the retired these journeys are often packaged with a full trip at incredible rates. The coach takes you from A-B, for Europe this is cross country, and for South American and Asia and Africa they take the place of the train. Find the right coach in the right destination and first class is cheap. My first experience was a long journey for a German language exchange trip to Osnabruck, my worse was an incredibly bumpy ride through Cambodia, the most surprising was a chat with a young lad heading to University in India, and the best was the several trips through Argentina.
Comfort factor - 3
Experience factor - 2
Cost: 2
So what are your favourite travel experiences to recount by transport?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Travel - how do you substantiate an experience?

What makes travel personal is the experiences we have. We can't help sharing our experiences, and more often than not hoping our experience was better than everyone else's. If we went to lie on a beach it was the most relaxing holiday ever, if we went to explore the hills it was the best discovery holiday ever, if we went to travel around we travelled better than anyone. But as we know there are always differences and compromises and we all have different interests... Don't we?
Price - the cheaper the price the more valuable the experience?
So I chose a budget holiday. I shopped around and I got a good deal, the best deal, none could have got a better deal than me. The experience was more than worth what I paid. I am the best travel shopper than anyone I know. We cut corners but we got away, we never would have had the chance otherwise.
- yup it's true a good cheap price allows you to travel, but it doesn't necessarily give you the best experience if you're in a hotel on the outskirts of town or sharing a bunk in a noisy dirty hostel or missing shows and local delicacies because of a tight budget, is it best not to go?
Luxury - the more luxurious the trip the more enjoyable the experience?
I wanted it to be the best trip ever, money was no object so I found a luxury holiday company for the best hotels and tours for the most amazing package. We saw everything and we were taken everywhere, we were never lost, we never lost time, and made the most of our time. We didn't have to plan anything which meant we could totally relax and immerse ourselves.
- yup. Holidays should allow you to relax and enjoy what is around you and if you have the money then absolutely why not. But don't you miss out on the people experience, and learning how other places and people work? Surely that's why we travel?
Backpack - the more basic the journey the more relevant the experience?
I booked it all myself, packed my backpack and researched along the way. I made each and everything up as I went along following the road, the people and the experiences that presented themselves. I ticked the boxes and more. I met all sorts of people. It was a bit dirty though and hard work but I had an amazing experience.
- sure we've heard a few students say that. Backpacking gives you little chance to relax, everything is on impulse and spontaneity, but it is a break from the real world where everything is planned and routine. Backpackers say they never miss anything, is that really true? I doubt it. If you backpack as a professional adult, it's a break from the norm, right?
People - the more culturally engaged the more rewarding the experience? 
When I go on holiday I travel to meet people and learn cultures, discover myself in the wider world to appreciate what I have and to understand more from others, I meet new people and make new friends who provide me with new memories. I have people and experiences I can share with my friends and others.
- this really is great if you're a socialite at home and away. It's also great if you study sociology and really want to understand culture. But does it really reward you with 'me' time? Does it allow you to spend private time with yourself and the family and friends you travel with or does it make it an individual lonely experience?
Companions - the more you love your travel companions the better the experience?
I prefer to go away with my family and friends, a big group of us. It's always a fantastic laugh and there are so many things we do. Sometimes it's a bit noisy and you have little private time, but I like to go away with the people I know most to spend time with them. It makes me happy, even if occasionally stressful and arguments break out.
- no holiday is perfect, and if you can experience travel and holidays with people you know your experiences go beyond yourself and it's something you remember forever and want to replicate with those people again in the future. The most tricky part is agreeing when and where to go, and organising it...so good luck.
Reward - the more desperate you are for a holiday the more the impact of the experience?
 
I've not been on holiday for years, infact I don't go away often, maybe I have a holiday once every few years. Otherwise I stay home. Wow - the last time I went away it was just amazing. I want to do it again.
- I call this denial. There's no reason to not go away, it's either being lazy or lonely, you probably need a friend to push you to do something instead of being a hermit. These people tend to have little to say about their trips.
Memories - the more you do on your travels the more you remember the experience? 
It's ram-packed, our itinerary is always full. I try to organise it all to within an hour. We had a bucket list and we aim to tick them all off every time. We did it. You should see the photos, OMG it was all amazing, though I did prefer the bungee jump to the white water rafting. It was hard work to organise in advance and expensive but worth it all.
- was this a holiday? Do you need another holiday now? It's exhausting just listening to it. There's too much to take in. It's admirable but is it really possible every time? These people give their life's to holidays and travel and spend little on anything else. Life though...is for living...right?


History - the more you read the more you learn from the experience? 
There's so much that came before us and the stories and what is left behind is phenomenal. We as the human race did not learn from our mistakes and our experiences and we never will. There's places that should not be forgotten, and when you come face to face with the reality it's incredible to learn what happened thousands of years ago. We get transported back in time, to another place entirely. Some people might think we're boring but that's what travel is about.
- you have to admire history buffs, it takes a dedication. Though sometimes I feel they recount the guide book history section than their own experiences. They seem to love their life in the past rather than the present. Yet aren't they right? By visiting history it makes today more significant of the centuries of travellers in the tomorrow?
What sort of traveller are you?
Me? I am: backpack, people, and memories, but more backpack. Though the companion holidays I have been on we're great