Wednesday, 18 March 2015

How to be considerate when you travel more than your partner

The life of a travel writer, or even just a frequent traveller, can take its toll on the individual involved, but they are not the only one who might feel the implications. Being the partner of such a person can have its difficulties too, but there are things that can be done to lessen the strain on a relationship.

It could be that your partner would love to travel as much as you do, but work or circumstances prevents it. Alternatively, it may be that your other half simply isn't as interested in exploring the world, so you go without them. Either way, here are some ways you can make your many departures easier on them.

Have your own toothpaste

This is a really simple thing to achieve and can be applied to a number of household items that you generally share when you live with someone. If you are heading off for a few days on an assignment or trip and pack the communal toothpaste, the chances are it won't be until bedtime that your partner realises there's nothing to brush their teeth with. At this time of night there isn't much they can do about it and are most likely to feel contemptuous about your travel lifestlye.

Let them know your travel plans

Outlining your travel plans to someone before you go away is sensible, so they know what to do if there was a problem. Doing this with your partner is even better as it will let them know at what point they should start to worry. If they are expecting you back at a certain time and a certain date and you don't appear, then they can start to look into where you are and what to do about it.

Another good idea is to write key information down, such as a brief itinerary, hotel names and numbers and flight details. This means if you are delayed and don't have a way of getting in touch, they can check these and assuage their worry.

Stay in touch

It is very easy to get wrapped up in what you are doing on your travels and forget about your life back at home, especially if you're only away for a few days. Your partner will want to know you have at least arrived safely and not getting in touch can lead to resentment. The emphasis should be on the person who travels to ensure they make the connection, not the other way round. In this day and age it is much easier to be in touch than it used to be, but even in off-the-beaten locations, it is still worth making the effort.

Unpack straight away

Nothing will remind your other half of the downside of your lifestyle more than tripping over a full backpack every day. Unpacking is not the most exciting of jobs and one that is easily put off, but getting everything organised and put away will mean there is not a constant reminder to your partner that you will soon be off again.

Ask about their activities during your absence

While your trip may seem much more exciting than the things that your boyfriend or girlfriend does every day, they are still important. Of course you will want to fill them in on everything that you got up to, but don't forget to show an interest in their lives, as forgetting to do this can lead to a big void opening up between you.

Let holidays be holidays

When you travel a lot for work, it can be easy to let this side of things creep into your holiday time. With this in mind, try and draw a distinction between the travelling you do as part of your job and that which is done with your partner. This may mean not blogging from a destination or continuously highlighting the fact that you have been to a place before. Sometimes it is better to discover a city together as opposed to be offering your expert knowledge all the time.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Childhood memories of Africa

Back in the 90s, a couple from Newcastle-upon-Tyne took their two daughters - five and nine at the time - on their first trip to Africa. They would return several times throughout the girls' childhood, but little would they know that, 20 years later, the youngest would become a travel writer. Here, Emma Dodd reflects on the impact those childhood experiences had on her development and the memories that outshine so many others.

A few years ago when my parents were moving house, they uncovered a box full of the scrapbooks my sister and I had made of the holidays we went on as children. There was also a photo album that my sister had made after our first trip to Africa. All the photos were taken from knee height and highlighted the things that catch kids' attention, but pass adults by.

Flicking through the pictures really showed how engaged with our surroundings we were and the extraordinary experiences we had. My own first memories include holding a baby crocodile and making friends with an orphaned elephant named Moto in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, where we stayed on one of our trips.

At the time I didn't realise how fortunate we were to be able to go off to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa during our summer holidays. It is only now that I understand what an undertaking it must have been for my parents to pack up their family and take two small children to such an incredible continent.

One difficulty was always to get us to take our anti-malarial pills and my mother used to employ a wide variety of tactics to ensure we did. These included squashing them between two teaspoons and adding strawberry syrup to disguise the taste or hiding them in sandwiches.

As a child I could see the differences between where I lived and the places we visited, taking in stunning views such as Victoria Falls and the paradisiacal beaches of Zanzibar. Going to school had much more significance after seeing children in these places ask my parents for pencils and their rapt attention as my dad pulled one from his bag and sharpened it before handing it over.

Making friends has never been a problem for me and I became adept at connecting with children that I met in all these countries despite, usually, the lack of a common language. This formed the basis of a fundamental skill that has come in useful all through my life.

On visiting the Sossusvlei region of Namibia when I was seven, the whole family climbed one of the smaller burnt orange sand dunes. I was determined to see the view from the top of the very tallest and set off towards the summit. After a while, my parents realised I wasn't going to tire until I had achieved my aim and set off in pursuit to be presented with one of the 'great views of Africa'.

Twice in my life I have seen leopard - once on a night drive in Zambia and then again in Malawi, where we stumbled upon a young cub behind an anthill – and, despite my young age at the time, I can still remember the excitement. By contrast, when I then first visited a zoo during my time at university, I was stunned to see a tiger, normally even more elusive than a leopard, just sitting there. Despite the fact that tigers are Indian not African it was then that I really appreciated the patience required to see a big cat in the wild and how the anticipation and search builds the whole experience into something truly holistic and memorable when the 'spot' is made – crucially, even if one misses the sighting, the looking is part of the fun.

For a long time I have had an interest in conservation and campaigns that extend well beyond my own situation and this interest is directly attributable to those early safaris in Africa. Even when I was quite young I had a much greater sense that the world was a huge place than any of my peers and I  understood that there were people who were significantly poorer than us.

I wore my Save The Rhino T-shirt until it practically wore out and, at the age of 12, announced that I was becoming a vegetarian; a decision that was based on careful thought and what I had seen in the world. Travel broadens the mind and my wonderful African experiences as a child had a truly positive impact on me that can I can, today, still trace back to those safaris.

Travel continues to come as second nature to me and I have spent time volunteering as an English language teacher in a pineapple farming community in Costa Rica and taken up every opportunity to visit new places that have come my way. Before I turned travel into a career, my parents would suggest I should be sensible in my thinking about the future and what I would do. To this I have always replied that they shaped what I wanted to be: they took me to Africa when I was five!

This article was originally written for The Explorations Company and appeared on their website in May 2014

Friday, 6 March 2015

Operation turning 30: Phase one: Saving

When I was 21, a friend and I embarked on five weeks of travelling around Eastern Europe by train. Being students, our budget was modest and our view on the world somewhat different to what it is today. Wandering through Prague we came across The Alchymist Hotel and peered in through the window at the warm glow of luxury emanating from inside.

Right there and then we made a pact that if one of us ever became rich or famous, we would treat the other to a stay at the Alchymist. Eight years later and the pair of us have updated our plans and decided that since we are due to turn 30 next year and are in steady employment, we will realise our dream and plan a return trip to Prague and book to stay at this sumptuous hotel.

With a year to go and another friend of ours on board, we are on the first phase of this plan: saving. Each of us has a special Terramundi jar to help us realise our gold. These personalised money pots are great as once you have popped the funds inside, there is no way of retrieving them until the day when they are smashed upon.

This fateful day will come when we get together and take a hammer to our savings jars and count how much we have been able to accrue over a year. Then we shall book our trip and celebrate a total of 90 years of life between us - quite an achievement.