There is probably no saying more true than “travel broadens the mind”. Each trip we make broadens our horizons and teaches us at least as much as any textbook could about people, places, cultures, history and of course cuisine. Our chosen style of travel wouldn’t suit everyone, and certainly not people of “our age” – we are, you might say, approaching retirement – but the journeys we have taken so far are journeys of enlightenment, learning and experience. Our favourite journeys are backpacking holidays; we book nothing but the flight, and set off in search of adventure and experience, never knowing where our next bed for the night will be. This way we meet and mix with the locals – we live amongst them, we eat their food, we drink in their bars, we try and do as the locals do. It is particularly satisfying for us to know that every penny we spend goes directly into the local economy and not into the hands of faceless international companies. Package holidays, particularly all-inclusive, would be our worst nightmare!
We are Phil & Michaela, both from the Midlands originally, now living near the sea in Kent. For some time we have written travel journals, now lots of people have suggested we do a blog – well, no, just Michaela’s Mum actually. Our adventures pre blog have taken us to Dubrovnik, the Aeolian Islands, Montenegro, the islands of La Gomera, Gozo, Elba and Sicily, rural Turkey, cities as diverse as Zagreb, Amsterdam, Paris, Palermo, Thessaloniki, Marrakech, St Petersburg and Dar Es Salaam, to Greece, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Estonia, just to name a few, each place bringing excitement and learning, and experience.
Highlights for us amongst those experiences are…… being invited in to join a party in a remote Turkish village, which turned out be a celebration of a young man’s accession to circumcision (!), living in the upstairs half of a private house on a Greek island, the collapsed Greek economy having forced the family to give up half their home , being befriended by Mangala and his family in Sri Lanka who, despite having very little, invited us into their home and laid on a positive feast of fresh food from the jungle around them, being walked by Johnson through the remote Tanzanian town of Magulo, a place too unfamiliar and unsettling for us to have walked through alone. Incidentally, Sri Lankan custom meant that, as guests, Mangala’s family couldn’t join us – we had to eat alone while they stood and watched, only eating their own after we had had our fill and left the home. Everywhere we meet good and kind people, and the more this happens, the more you realise that it is us Brits who are the oddballs on this planet.
In Tallinn we were moved by The Museum Of Occupations, with its histories of human displacement on a major scale during WW2, resulting in a nation now harbouring an innate sadness over its lost identity. In Amsterdam, Ann Frank’s House brought her moving yet inspiring story to life, and, in Palermo, we were given the creeps by the catacombs with its bizarre array of preserved cadavers. Dog sled rides, live volcanoes, white water rafting, tombstone diving and elephant bathing have all featured. As for accommodation well, of course there have been some disasters, but if you are going to enjoy this type of adventure to the full, the disasters are soon forgotten.
Food travel is a huge part of our experience and no trip is complete without an odd experience or two! We have eaten Chips Mayai at a very dodgy street food stall at Stone Town market in Zanzibar, joined the locals eating curry and rice with our bare hands (well, one bare hand of course, very bad manners to use your left hand), and from the gourmet restaurants of Tallinn to king coconuts at the roadside in Sigiriya, from burek to cheese pie, from dodgy tagines to the outrageously huge portions served in Zabljak in the mountains of Northern Montenegro (order a steak, you get two!), sampling the local cuisine is one of the essential sense heightening experiences which makes travel so stimulating. Again there are disasters (we would probably say calves’ spleen boiled in lard was our lowest point) but these too somehow add to the full experience.
Our dream is to retire and go on to travel the world, writing of our experiences as we go. For now though, we will continue to see the World in instalments! And, trip by trip, country by country, experience by experience, broaden our minds…….