What are the dangers faced by travellers?

What are the dangers faced by travellers?

What are the dangers faced by travellers?

There are countless dangers faced by travellers but I suspect that you haven’t yet considered the following three points. They are not up there with getting stuck in very close proximity to a bathroom for a week because you couldn’t resist the street food or waking up after a night on the lash with a tattoo on your bum, but they are very real dangers nevertheless.
Actually the list could be endless but here are 3 of the dangers faced by travellers.

#3.  Meeting people

A full contact list can be a bonus. A busy Facebook friends’ list is a reminder of happy travels and shared memories but unless you have a great memory, do keep notes.
After travelling around a continent it may be hard to differentiate which Juan is which several months after you have parted company.
This is no problem until you want to contact one Juan to meet up for a beer and then you have to hide your surprise when a different Juan arrives and you spend the evening frantically making small talk.

#2.  Travellers lose things.

They either lose themselves metaphorically speaking or geographically, or they lose physical items.

I seem to lose underwear. After rinsing items through in the shower I have a tendency to leave my knickers draped over shower heads and taps in hostels.
If you follow my blog you will also know that I am often getting lost. I spend hours retracing my steps, sitting in little cafes and studying maps or wandering around museums after taking a wrong bus or a wrong turning.
But in my mind, getting lost is a good thing. You can discover hidden gems and make new friends, and you can lose yourself – just make sure that you get out of town before you turn into that rambling hippy on the beach who took the wrong turning twenty two years ago.

wristbands - a danger of travelling

wristbands – a danger of travelling

#1.  The hidden danger of travelling – the wrist band

Many travellers adorn themselves with colourful bands around their wrists. These scrappy pieces of woven cord and fabric tell a story, plotting ones journey and prompting memories of friends met.
But these cloth bands can be lethal.
The stray ends dangle in food, drinks and on plates, collecting microbes and passing on germs. The situation is not quite as dire as you might expect because on the upside, everytime you take a shower they do become clean again.
The biggest hazard is fire. Stirring supper over a gas flame, the careless or hungover traveller can quite easily find flames licking up their bands, although after time, this propensity to burn appears to diminish, probably in direct correlation with the amount of dirt that they become coated in.

To sum up

There are many dangers faced by travellers but sometimes it is the small ones that can cause a melt down and a panic rather than the larger dramas which crop up.

If you want to travel, don’t let anything put you off – get out there and give it a go.

If you want to read about a REAL danger – such as the time that I faced a potential robber who was armed with a knife, Click here

 

 

 

 

My new backpack…and getting lost.  Again!

My new backpack…and getting lost. Again!

Confidently striding through a new city with all of my possessions.  In the wrong direction!

If you are following my recent adventures as I have travelled from Helsinki through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania you will know that there has been one recurring theme.

I keep getting lost!  This is quite unusual for me as I am normally very careful to be aware of my surroundings. Trying to find my hostel in Vilnius was another story.  I got off the bus at the station with my full back pack and I confidently turned right and set off up the first proper hill that I had found in any of the Baltic countries.

And it was the wrong way.  I readjusted my useless internal navigation system and got back on track.  The sun was out, I was wearing my thickest hoodie and a coat and there were some very dodgy characters hanging around in the back streets.  I was hot, tired and thirsty.  But I was determined not to pay out for a cab because I knew that the hostel was close and it was a matter of pride that I should cope.

And as I tramped along the cobbles I was thanking my lucky stars for the day that I met Paul at Nomad Travel and he gave me my backpack, the Osprey Farpoint 55 (click here for more information)

Osprey Farpoint 55 zipped together

The smaller size compared to my previous bag obviously meant that I was carrying less weight which was a big bonus but the bag is so well balanced it is a dream to walk with.  I was fully laden wearing my iTravel shoulder bag containing my valuables slung across my body and the smaller, detachable daypack from Osprey on my front, but because of the ingenious clip system which attached it to the main pack, my arms and hands were free.

The strap system fitted my frame size and the weight was carried on my hips and it is a tiny detail but the whistle on my sternum strap and close to my mouth gave me a ridiculous feeling of safety when the beggars began eying me up in an unsavory way.

It takes a while to get used to a rucksack when you are on the road and living from hostel to hostel.  You certainly don’t want to unpack every time but certain things need to be easily accessible or put away in the lockers.  After a couple of weeks on the road I was finally comfortable with my packing system and I could quickly find most items – helped enormously by the huge zip which opens the bag like a suitcase.

obviously the boots don’t go in

My initial fears about the straining zips have (touch wood) proved unfounded and there has actually been a little bit of give in the fabric which has eased both the bag and my mind slightly.  I have worked out how to clip the bags together (the little one on my front) when I am wearing them (that took a bit of practice but I got there) and when the two bags are strapped together I am practiced in accessing one or the other without separating them.

The iTravel shoulder bag is also a bit of genius kit.  Out and about in cities it doesn’t attract the attention that a camera bag might but the clip system means that I feel very safe from pickpockets.  It has internal pockets which can be adjusted so there is less scrabbling around looking for something and it is coping with my two netbooks that I am currently lugging around.

I eventually reached my hostel in an extremely confused state – not helped because the town square of Vilnius is anything but, and is an elongated triangle, but I was extremely proud of my achievement and for once, there was no need to swear and curse how much I hated my rucksack as I lowered it off my back.  I LOVE it!

The perfect combo

The Adventure begins.  Into Estonia

The Adventure begins. Into Estonia

My next adventure is underway.  The starting point is Helsinki – the end point…who knows!

 

And from the very beginning it appeared that things were going to be a bit challenging.

 

Drama #1  occured as soon as I arrived at the airport.  I was met by my fellow traveller who handed me the keys to his large (left-hand drive) transit van and he announced that, due to certain circumstances I had to drive.  Out of Helsinki during the rush hour.  Along the motorway which was being dug up and like a slalom course.  And directly into the low setting sun and with the sand which had been laid on the icy roads during the winter whipped up into a swirling sandstorm.  The only thing that I can say about that white knuckle ride was that the sky ahead of us resembled nothing that I had seen before – it was pure molten gold and more beautiful than any sky that I had ever seen.

The frozen fjord at Espoo, Finland

But we survived and the next day we spent a half a day walking around Helsinki which is an OK sort of a city, but it is very spread out.  The highlights are the Uspenski Cathedral with its red brick and green onion dome roofs and the fantastic-from-the-outside-but-plain-inside white Cathedral.

Helsinki Cathedral

Drama #2 began after we had booked a night in an apart-hotel in the dormitory town of Espoo over the internet.  The hotel had no receptionist present at any time.  When you are sitting in your vehicle and you have very intermittent internet access and no Finnish SIM card and you have paid for the night over the internet but cannot open the email which contains details of your room and the key code, you cannot even begin to express your frustration.  But eventually we sorted that problem out and got into the hotel.

On day 3 we were back in the van for another white knuckle ride back into Helsinki for the ferry port.  Dodging the trams I was quite proud that I only managed to jump one red light – I didn’t notice the junction let alone the traffic lights – but I was just relieved to reach the terminal in one piece.

And then there was drama #3.  Two very large border guards were cruising around the queue of cars when they pulled up alongside us and studied us intently.  We KNEW that they would be interested in us and then they were asking for our papers.  While everything was in order things were not straightforward (but not my story to tell at this stage here) and then I was being asked to blow into a breathalyser and I had the cells from my tongue scraped for a roadside drug test.

When everything came back negative (alcohol, marihuana, opiates and amphetemins) the border guards lost interest in us, allowed me to take a photo of the drug test and decided that they didn’t need to pull everything out of the van.  And I drove us onto the MS Finlandia for the 2.5 hour trip across the Gulf of Bothnia to Estonia.

Beach huts on one of the islands as we leave Finland

Estonia

If driving in Helsinki was nerve wracking I almost had a complete meltdown in Tallinn.  Driving off the ferry I was horrified to discover that here there were trolley buses, which instilled fear into me as unlike trams they were perfectly capable of veering off their tracks and EVERYBODY was driving at twice the speed limit (at least) and they are, I think, probably the second most aggressive, fast drivers in the world – after those in Bahrain.

We tracked down our hotel for the night which was in an old stone building that was once a sauna complex for the town, and from which we could see the large castle which dominates Tallinn.

Part of the castle at Tallinn, Estonia

On Sunday morning we set off on foot to explore, wandering around the little winding streets although it was next to impossible to get lost as the tall spires of the various churches which rose above the walled city acted as good orientation points.  Tallinn has an incredibly well preserved wall surrounding much of it and little streets which are a charming mix of the traditional wooden houses and the modern.  The old town square was picture postcard perfect in the warm winter sun and we were lucky enough to bag a table outside one of the little bars and rest for a while.

The town hall in the Old Town Square, Tallinn, Estonia

We visited the Orthodox cathedral which is up near the castle complex.  The inside was atmospheric with the smokey haze and scent from the candles and the incense  rising high up into the onion dome.  Pillars were painted with flowers and swirls and there was constant movement as people flowed between the various icons and altars, many stooping to touch the floor and some even kneeling to kiss the floor in front of some of the relics.

The Orthodox Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia

I had really enjoyed learning Spanish when I was travelling in South America and now on this trip I want to learn a musical instrument.  Many travellers have guitars or drums but as I desperately need to reduce the weight that I carry, I opted for the harminica.  Back at the hotel that evening S, my fellow traveller who can play many instruments very well gave me my first harmonica lesson.  I thought that it went rather well, and rather easier to learn that Spanish but some of the other hotel guests may argue otherwise.

The following day I went out alone to explore Tallinn.  I found the ‘Knit Market’ where rows of stalls are set into arches underneath the town walls and ladies sit knitting and selling their woollen socks and jumpers.  I found the ‘Cat Well’ where in the olden times people would throw the stray cats (dead and often alive) as a sacrifice to ensure that the water to the town wouldn’t run dry – never mind about the risk to the public health from the decomposing bodies.  And I saw St Olaf’s Church with its slender spire and which was once the tallest building in the world, although it and all of the other museums were closed, either because it was Monday or the ‘wintry season’ or both so I was unable to climb the tower and look out over the red roofs of Tallinn.

Castle and town walls in Tallinn, Estonia

I was stood in the street studying a map when two young men approached me and asked if I needed any help.  Forty five minutes later we were still chatting by the side of the road.  Andri, smart as a pin in his blue suit and Gunner a teacher, both spoke excellent English and had a cracking repartee of anecdotes and observations on life.  They were hilarious and I was sorry to have to move on and to say goodbye to them.  And a little later in the day they emailed me to tell me that just after we had separated they had been fined for jay-walking!

Andri and Gunner

Estonia, like many places that I visit, has surprised me.  I try to travel without any pre-conceptions and always with an open mind, but you can’t help but absorb information which the media decide should shape your view of the world.  I have always thought that it is so important to watch the news and to be aware of what is going on in the world, but as I travel, I am more and more disallusioned, not by the news itself, but by the spin which is placed on the stories and which distances us from other people, countries and cultures.

Estonia is spotlessly clean – from the streets without litter to the clarity of the air.  For all of my first week I was blessed with brilliant blue, cloudless skies, crisp cold mornings at freezing point, but with temperatures rising rapidly in the sun during the daytime.  Most people can speak many languages – English, Russian, Finnish and Swedish seemed to predominate and they are friendly and keen to chat.

The cat well

I love to travel and to see things.  Old buildings, modern towns, forests or beaches are all fantastic but for me, it is the connection with people who make my travel so special.  Andri and Gunner were a chance meeting by the side of the road but they made my day in Tallinn, so for this journey as I travel down through the Baltic States I intend to delve a little bit deeper into the lives of the people that I meet and bring you some of their stories.

I hope that you will follow me and accompany me on my adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where am I now?

I have a plan of sorts.

Today I will be flying from Barcelona to Helsinki where I will begin a road trip south.

I plan to travel through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania learning about the culture and history of these countries as I go, and  I will try to get a little side trip into Russia – did you know that there is a little area called Kaliningrad marrooned off to the west and sandwiched in between Lithuania and Poland?

The idea is to continue through Poland and Germany – and see where I end up, depending on what takes my fancy.

So sign up to follow me and see where I end up

P1100770

 

Exciting News

A partnership with Nomad Travel and my next trip

I have some very exciting news.

I am working in partnership with Nomad Travel who have given me a travelpack and a shoulder bag to trial.  I am really excited to be working with this company as they do so much more than sell equipment.

Later this week I will fly to Helsinki to begin my next adventure which is a road trip south, first travelling through Estonia.

Follow the link below to find out more

Click and follow this link to read more 

Nomad Travel, Turnpike Lane, London

 

 

5 things I missed while travelling

I missed you…

Hot bubble baths.  With candles, music, a glass of wine and a good book

I will miss you not…

Cold showers.  Except for on the Carribean coast where even the sea was as hot as a warm bath and I craved a cold shower.

Playa Blanca, Colombia

Playa Blanca, Colombia

I missed you…

Blue cheese.  Cheddar, Brie, Camembert and Caerphilly.  Red Leicester, Stilton and Double Gloucester.

I will miss you not…

Arepas.  A staple food form in Colombia made from maize.  Yuck yuck and yuck

guinea pig

no, its not cheese

 

I missed you…

My friends and family.  Thank goodness for Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Facebook

I will miss you not…

Cockroaches.  Enuff said!

I missed you…

A hot spicy mouth-burning, nose running Madras curry

I will miss you not…

The stomach churning smell of chicken hearts roasting on barbeques in the streets of Peru

hairdrying the hot coals

hairdrying the hot coals

I missed you…

The simple yet hauntingly beautiful sound of a blackbird at dawn or a robin

I will miss you not…

Vultures.  Hooded, sinister and ever watchful I always feel as if they have a sixth sense that I am about to keel over and I will be their next meal

demons of death

I miss you South America

 

 

 

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