Uncharted Traveller

Author - Uncharted Traveller

Change: When were you last present?

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Understand that most people feel the same way in life except at different times and there really is nothing to separate most of our problems except the timing in which they come. Everyone has setbacks too and it can help to look at our heroes to understand how life is not a straight line, that it really is a climb with many obstacles on the way up.

It’s not commonplace to be empathetic for oneself nor is it to learn from the same advice we are so used to giving others and so we most often continue down the same path to disillusion until it hits us square in the face. Although it may be a vague memory, if you take a look back, maybe way back – you can almost see that time when you were doing what you wanted to do, when you were with someone special or when you were somewhere you at least wanted to be.

It’s so easy to be negative now, it’s so easy to complain about what went wrong, to fall upon reasons for why you are here and not where you had hoped you would be. This wasn’t the plan, we both know this but it doesn’t change anything. You are not working at what you love anymore, you are lonely or having a hard time coping with past mistakes.

But for how long since you stopped believing? When was the last time you were present and who are you even talking to?

Sometimes I need to remind myself that there was such a time – that there was a night when I was gazing at the stars, that there was a morning when I smiled through breakfast, that there is still a way to move forward and away from the disillusion.

No matter what has happened or how difficult it seems, I know the situation is not the problem for a situation is something I can change.

I can change anything, can you?

Hiking Donegal: The Choice Is Always Yours

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This photo was taken while hiking Donegal, Ireland a few of weeks ago. I was travelling the west coast of Ireland while trying to work remotely in my tent each evening. It ended in disaster.

It was a logistical nightmare in which I was unable get any connection or signal to work online. As a result, I was very concerned during this trip about the constant thoughts of failure and the many reasons that almost stopped me from taking to it in the first place.

Ironically, these first steps of learning how to become a full time travel writer brought a distinct reminder for why it was suddenly so difficult.

The Atlantic ocean was crashing along the shore on a particularly stormy night and once more, I was fretting about not being able to get online again to earn any income and forget about the many obstacles that seemed to be unfolding each day.

With nothing else to do, I picked up a book and beneath the glow of my little head torch, I read a passage which told me everything I needed to hear.

“The red road is the tough road because it’s narrow, it’s winding, it’s full of storms and obstacles. The black road is easy, it’s straight and it’s wide, it doesn’t offer any challenges. The storyteller never says you have to travel this road or you have to travel the other road, they end up telling you the story of the red and black road by saying: the choice is yours, the choice is always yours.”

Thanks to the fact that all my clothes and the contents of the backpack were soaked, I ended up with an emergency blanket wrapped around me that night. But the next morning, I was still alive and able to continue until I found somewhere to dry off and reevaluate what I was doing.

In the end I decided to ditch the tent and go travel somewhere where the cost of living would be almost as small as living in a tent in Ireland. This is the story of a digital nomad; something tells me I have no right to be doing any of this but really, that’s got to be what life is all about, making a decision, and I choose the red road.

How to Get from Krakow to Auschwitz?

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When I was trying to find out how to get from Krakow to Auschwitz recently, I had a difficult time trying to get information from the people at the hostel and tourist information. They all wanted me to go on a tour to Auschwitz.

I wanted to go alone and in some way, experience the journey there without the noise of a group tour. By all means if you want to go by tour and do not have much time, go by tour but for everyone else, the following is the easiest way to Auschwitz;

Train to Auschwitz or Bus?

Some people might want to go by train to experience the rail journey taken by the prisoners, as morbid as that sounds. Anyway, do you have to book tickets for the train to Auschwitz? No, you can just show up and buy one.

It takes 1 hour 30 minutes but I would suggest going to the central station early so you have time and room for error when finding the right desk.

However, I recommend you go by bus because they drop you right outside the Museum OR at the train station, if you are staying in Oswiecim. The bus takes 1 hour 30 minutes also.

Hotel in Oswiecim

There is not a lot online for hotels etc but if you check out Booking.com you will find a few reasonably cheap options in the centre of town. I stayed in the Home Traveller Hostel (Old Tree Villa Hotel is next to it) which I liked but it is a walk from the town of approx 2km. I did not mind the walk each day.

Auschwitz Ticket

You are probably best to reserve a place on Auschwitz.org which does not cost any money and neither does the entrance. I did not reserve and there was no problems getting inside.

If you have a bag, you will need to leave it on the tour bus or in the luggage storage at the entrance (kiosk to the right of the entrance).

Your time is unlimited from what I can tell and there are plaques all around the camp to explain what you are looking at.

Birkenau

A free shuttle bus will take you to and from Birkenau which is 4km away.

Warning, it is a very emotional place to visit.

Should you take a tour of Auschwitz?

In my opinion no, the groups look very rushed and miss out on a lot. However, the guides do explain everything brilliantly.

 

How the Best Vietnam Travel Company Changed Me

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The main question a person asks themselves when they are getting ready to travel anywhere, is whether to travel alone or on a tour. I wish somebody told me back then, what I know now today as my personal experience has left me in no doubt as to which one is best. Recently I took a tour with a travel company in Vietnam and it completely changed my perspective on how I travel at all!

I travelled alone for much of the past seven years but it is only in more recent years and since working as an International Tour Guide that I have realised the importance and much larger amount of enjoyment which can be found from taking a group tour.

In truth, it took all of these years of travel experience and the recent experiences travelling in Vietnam to understand that the reasons I had for going alone instead of on a tour, were mostly lies I told myself or at the very least, the result of wishful thinking. Here are the top 5 lies that I told myself:

  1. I will immerse myself in the local culture

This was usually the first lie I told myself and the first reason I had for travelling alone; that I would be able to get more involved with the local people or community by travelling without a group. The reality is, that a language barrier can mostly stop this from happening and in fact, the easiest way to get to know a community or get involved with the locals, is by taking a group tour.

  1. I will enjoy being alone and travelling without a tour group.

I kept telling myself this for years, that I would take to the life of a nomad and enjoy exploring places by myself.

The best moments of my travels, as with my entire life, have always been with other people and other travellers. Without people to share these sights or experiences, there is no meaningful way to create life lasting memories. I realised this very fact when I decided to take my first tour in Vietnam. Granted, I got lucky because I ended up visiting Halong Bag with the best Vietnam Tour Company and the like minded travellers on the trip are still great friends to this very day.

  1. I will use the time to learn about myself

I tried to maintain this lie for the longest time. I told myself I would read and write, enjoy the solitude and use it as a chance to get to know myself. However, quite opposite seems to happen when you travel alone. I am very comfortable by myself but to be honest, I found that most of my time spent travelling, was done so wishing that I had someone there to talk with along the way.

Again, this was something my tour in Vietnam would teach me; you learn more about yourself by travelling with a group of interesting people than most books out there.

  1. I will put myself out there and meet new people.

Wishful thinking. In reality, walking up to a group of strange people and introducing yourself is a terrifying even which, if we are honest – rarely happens!

The best thing I did in Vietnam was go online and ask friends if they knew of any Vietnam Tour Packages they could recommend. Once I booked the tour and walked into the meeting place the following morning, I was forced to put my fears aside, shake hands and finally, meet new people!

  1. Group Tours are expensive.

What a lie, if anything – Group travel has always been more cost effective than travelling alone. No more paying the full price of rooms alone and group prices for pretty much everything else including activities and meals.

I now know that my time to Vietnam would not have been anywhere near as good, had it not been for the trip I took with the best Vietnam Tour Company. In fact, it will be a long time until I travel alone again as whats the point in going it alone, when you can meet more people and have an even better experience on a tour.

Travel is Not a Far Away Place

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My feeling is that most people travel to experience a change of some sort in their lives but it means we wind up travelling to top destinations in far flung places around the world at a huge cost when really, a lot of what we are looking for is on our own doorstep.

Although  I was born here in Ireland, I realised recently that I knew more about Africa, South East Asia and South America than I did about my own Country. So I decided to take a hike in the Countryside somewhere for a break, to find out a little bit more about my homeland.

Derry & Donegal

I took a bus to Derry City which was an interesting stopover enroute to the North tip of Ireland, Malin Head. There is a great walking tour of the city walls and the history is no less than engrossing, with many sad stories along with uplifting messages to those who are open minded enough to hear them.

Malin Head was insanely beautiful. I stayed at the Sandrock Hostel there but it was most memorable for the beautiful country roads which winded around the headland to the most Northern point of the Country. There you will find the old outposts which were used by the British in Word War 1 and these same buildings were then used by the Irish during World War 2, as they attempted to communicate with oncoming German bombers. The reason for this was to let them know that the land below them was Ireland and not the nearby, United Kingdom.

New Experiences

It was nice to walk around this area and set foot inside the historic buildings before walking back along the roads through quaint villages with beautiful scenery.

I finished the evening off by watching a beautiful sunset over Malin Head and wondered why I don’t do these things at home more often? It was a wonderful feeling to get away from the city, to go somewhere new and refresh, at a low cost. It dawned on me that I usually travel to far away places for new experiences when I could so easily do them in a much more local travel destination.

I vowed to do it more often, to be more aware of my immediate surroundings and stop thinking of travel or adventure as a far away place. Because it’s not, Travel and adventure is what happens the minute you walk out that door.

Generation Emmigration: Why so many young are leaving home

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With more people emigrating from different countries around the world by the day, it’s only now, having travelled and lived abroad for the past six years, that I fully understand why young people are packing their bags and leaving Ireland, England, Australia and just about everywhere else.

Many years ago when the idea first came to mind, it was met with a very stark warning.

“There‘s lots of snakes there, you know that don‘t you? You hate snakes“

My Dad was born in the 1940‘s, he worked very hard to take a family from the working class to the comfort of the middle. In truth, like many in the same era, he had sacrificed the best part of his life to provide a better life and opportunity for his wife and kids.

In my case, the true fruition of such opportunity came at the turn of the century when several movies including “The Beach“ with Leonardo Di Caprio began to inspire a deep sense of wanderlust. I was certainly afraid but at the same time, the idea of travelling to exotic places and experiencing different cultures was impossible to ignore.

The previous warnings of snakes was in response to my mention about moving to Australia on a working holiday visa and it didn‘t take hindsight to realise this was my Dad‘s feeble attempt to dissuade his son from moving away from him. When I finally decided to move he said “you can always come home you know…“ .

In fairness, no parent likes to see their “baby” move away but it‘s worth keeping in mind that more recent generations have a completely different attitude toward travel and living abroad to that of our parents or ancestors. In fact, it maybe an exaggeration but it‘s also likely that my parents and their parents solely related the idea of moving or travelling abroad to desperate circumstances like famine, unemployment etc whereas my own personal view screams the complete opposite emotions of excitement, change and joy.

Today the online world is a prime example of how the theory of travel has moved from being a scary thought to an exciting adventure. The internet is awash with photographs, video and encouragement aplenty for the potential traveller. It‘s a haven of support, a library of exciting ideas and a glimmer of hope for those who seek change in life.

Although unemployment has not disappeared and some folk still move for un-savoury reasons, in general those who emigrate nowadays or go travelling, do so to escape the confines of a more conventional life, to seek new places, meet new people or enjoy more freedom and all of these new experiences individually result in many moments of enlightenment for the traveller.

Travelling or living abroad is addictive, it changes people and brings about a completely different way of thinking. Whether they decide to return home or not, nobody who moves to Canada or Australia, backpacks through South East Asia or buses around South America ever regrets their brave decision to go travel.

Truth is, the world has changed so much in this lifetime and it pains me to say it but Dad couldn‘t really have understood my reasons to leaveIreland, in fact I doubt those who have not travelled themselves can fully understand it either.

For me the nice part to remember in all of this is a bit of a paradox; Many will say the impact of technology and internet is to thank for our growing sense of adventure or inspiration but really, this great feat should be attributed to our parents and ancestors who provided us with this opportunity that most of them never had, to explore this beautiful world.

People may not always understand your reasons for going and sometimes you might not even understand it yourself but it’s only important to remember how privileged we are to live in a world where new places and new people are never “far away”.

There need be no wonder for the reasons why young people emigrate or travel in today’s age – it is a great experience, it helps people grow and most importantly it provides a freedom of choice that is unparalleled in the recent history of civilisation.

So enjoy the journey for what it is and remember, no matter where you are or what is happening;

You can always come home.

The Importance of Going Somewhere

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Standing at the bus stop this morning listening to music again, it felt as though I had spent half the week waiting already – if it wasn’t the bus, it was at the ATM machine and if it wasn’t waiting in line at Tim Hortons for another coffee, it was waiting for someone to call or text in the evening.

Nobody called….and nobody texted.

I spent several years travelling around the world from South America to South East Asia, Australia, Europe and then a lot of travel to Africa. Honestly, when I left home I really thought that travelling around the world would allow me to “find myself” or to find answers to all the confusion that seemed to hover over my then current situation. It wasn’t just the job, it was everything – my lacklustre social life left me confused as to whether anything was getting better, my lack of ambition was obvious and my constant yearn to know what the purpose of life was all about was unrelenting.

I left home for the reasons above but while there were many answers on the travels, the experience of doing so seemed to bring forward even more questions than ever before.

However I know now that it was in this period that my life was most fulfilling, meeting new and exciting characters from different countries, waking up in a new destination each morning – eating pot noodles and feeling excited for what lay ahead that day or week. The new experiences changed me and everything I had come to know but it was the experience of being on the move that was most important – it made me feel like I was progressing in life, going somewhere and it made it feel as though I were closer to finding meaning even if that wasn’t true at all.

So now I’m at the bus stop again, with the same music and the same people standing alongside as the day before and the day before that. Nobody is calling and nobody is texting so I leave the bus stop and begin walking as a symbol for everything I wanted to change.

It was only in this moment I remembered what even I so easily forget from time to time –  one of the most important lessons I learnt while travelling the world: The only way forward is to keep going and it is only with new experiences that we find the change we yearn for so much. It is not the fact that I am now in the big city that makes me feel like I am waiting, it is the fact that I have stopped moving forward, I have stopped looking for new experiences in my life, new people, a partner.

I walk not because of the bus, I walk because I want to move forward, to stop waiting for the ideal life to present itself and look for it instead.

East Coast Trail: What are you afraid of?

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I get asked this all the time of course but when I returned to signal after a few days of isolation walking the East coast trail in Newfoundland, I received a message from someone asking why I take on these trips and why I take to them alone – in general it is because I have found that adventure has a way of changing a person but I thought It would be apt to answer this question more specifically in context to the last few days.

Sunlight shining through the doorway brought a new atmosphere to the woods that were so dark just hours before. I would never have done this a few years ago (camp alone in the forest), I do still notice the branches snapping around the tent at night, I sense something out there in the darkness, I still feel vulnerable.

Although I am now content on sleeping alone in the woods, it can still feel daunting but ironically it has been my favourite part of this short adventure to notice all these same fears are present because it is then I also realize that these feelings no longer control the outcome anymore.

Instead they prompt me to think deeper about the fear and they prompt me to move forward, to keep going.

I met another camper in the woods called Lucas, we had a chat about the trail, gear and where we came from. We spoke for just ten minutes so I was devastated to feel emotional when we went our separate ways – I didn’t want him to leave. Later that day I felt just as devastated to notice how my spirits soared just to see the remnants of a fire “SOMEBODY ELSE IS OUT HERE”. It was a particularly long stretch of unforgiving terrain but it seemed I was no longer hiking the East Coast Trail, no I was marching for survival. As with the many deserts I cycled last year in Africa, it got to the point where I just wanted out of this forest, I didn’t want to be alone anymore – I wanted to sit down with a cup of tea and watch tv… I don’t even drink tea!

I truly savour these journeys into the outdoors but as darkness falls again and I look out across the bay to lights in the distance, it’s clear that the lessons I learn on them are always more important than what I “achieve” or what I see.

You see, my deepest fear is not of the woods or what’s lurking outside the tent, it’s not the moose, the marsh or the terrain.

My deepest fear is of being alone and solo adventures remind me of this. I do these trips because they have an acute way of refreshing my mind of what’s important and they help me to overcome the fears that have stopped me moving forward in the past.

As I said before, adventure changes you and the question as to why I take these trips is another reminder of how it changed me:

I am now searching for reasons why I do these things instead of wondering for the many reasons as to why I cannot.

Simple Advice: How to become a professional Travel Blogger

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Being a Professional Travel Blogger is a dream for many. It seems really exciting to just keep travelling all over the world and putting your experience down in pen and paper. Well, it does come with its own share of struggles and hardships, though. It involves a huge amount of work, investment of time, and even the effort. It can be long before you even start to see any profits or benefits.

Keep on, no matter what

Most people tend to give up on travel blogging too soon. There are a number of people who try to take it up as a full time job, but leave it half-way, the main reason being the time taken for your investment to be fruitful. Quick results should not be expected if you expect to take this up as a full time career. You leave your jobs and start travel blogging, but when you see the losses you get disheartened. One needs to be strong enough to0 pursue this and wait for the results.

The Lives of Professional Travel Bloggers

  • For a professional travel blogger, his blog means the most. You will have to put in a huge lot of effort to make it worth it. You need to love it and enjoy doing it. You need to be a bit of a workaholic.
  • They work much harder than any usual person with a fixed job. If you expect a 9 to 5 job, then this is not your take. You should be ready to work for hours at a stretch without any fixed time limits. It is much more than just writing down. The work involves tremendous amount of research as well.
  • The money is never constant. You do not have a fixed source of income. The money may be too less at times or much more than expected at other times. The lean times can be a total loss, and you need to be well prepared for all this.
  • It takes time to actually start making money. In the beginning, for a year or so, you need to establish yourself and make your mark. Only after that you can expect advertisers and travel companies to start putting money in to your blog. This is where you need to keep going without giving up.
  • Blogging and writing are different. You just do not write on a blog. You need to be much more creative, engaging, and enticing. You need to write smart.

Well, travel blogging is indeed exciting if you have the passion for it. If you have it in you, go for it!

Can YOU live Without Travel?

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I stopped commenting on Facebook or putting up status updates after an experiment quite a long time ago, the reason for doing so was pretty simple – why do I constantly want to tell people, whether I know them or not, how I am feeling or what I think about something they give absolutely no shits about? It was a short and pretty ridiculous experiment whereby each time I felt the urge to update Facebook, I asked myself “What will other people get out of this?”…the unsurprising answer 90% of the time was exactly nothing.

Technology is a great thing, social media, television and smart phones – they’re all great, I love them all almost as much as I like hanging off the side of a mountain on s Saturday morning but honestly, it has completely changed the way I think about other people. This is almost solely down to what comes up in my news feed each day, I feel like an old miserable pessimist for saying this but it just seems to be one long stream of people talking about how great they are, how great their lives are….and basically pointing out how shite mine is at the same time!

It dawns on me that even when people are not trying to make other people feel this way, it just happens anyway – a photo of a white sandy beach in the Bahamas can feel like a kick in the balls on a Monday morning in the office, a video of a skydive in Australia makes me reach for tissues for bringing up happy memories of my once exciting life when I too, was jumping out of perfectly good airplanes in Australia. Sometimes I wonder whether I need to travel again as it always seems so much more exciting and happier than being here.

Thing is, it’s almost never as good as it seems. It reminds me of the time I visited Easter Island, the most remote island in the world with people living on it (apparently). Before I went I had visions of these ancient Moai statues speaking to me and it was easy to also imagine feeling like Tom Hanks in Castaway looking for Wilson on a big tropical island but that’s not really how it went down. Easter Island was fascinating in many ways but I put up pictures back then without any words because the truth is, it cost a fortune to get there and in comparison with trips I have taken all over the world – it was a bit of a crap experience.

I spent every morning being chased down the street by two stray dogs, I have no idea how they knew to be there at the right time every-time..but they did – the bastards. The Moai were cool but like travelling around Bangkok Temples, when you see a few of them, that’s it, it’s time to start looking at something else. It was a lonely time, there were hardly any tourists when I was there and honestly, I just spent most of the time wanting to be anywhere other than where I actually was!

The Moai picture above has apparently made a lot of people I know want to go to Easter Island but in truth, just like the happy status updates on my news feed every morning, just like the pictures of white sandy beaches I see on Mondays, just like my time in Australia and every other time in the past – Travel is an amazing thing but it’s not always as good as it seems.