Travel – a renewed love.

Last year I took 27 flights some long, some short but all with the hassle of airport security, queueing but thankfully no delays or lost luggage so really who can complain? I was however sick at the thought of a flight by October last year. When I had to go to London a month later I was not looking forward to it at all. Flying had been reduced to the transportation in my mind; my body was goods in need of transport. It was about getting it over with.

Now I’m back to counting the days to my next flight a sign that my love and passion for travelling is returning. I burned myself out last year. Now I’m excited for my trip, have some activities pre booked and even have a cheap internal flight booked. In Norway I took an expensive bus from Bergen to Stavanger, flying would have been quicker, cheaper. I’m still glad I took the bus. But now an excess of flights isn’t daunting, it’s exciting.

Spain is my destination. I’ll admit that for a long time Spain had a stereotypical and not desireable image in my mind, previous trips had always revolved around sunbathing and staying within the hotel grounds which have never held an appeal for me. This time I’m going to Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and Granada. I’ve pre-booked UNESCO site tours and have only checked the temperature for the purpose of packing correctly, not tanning. I’m excited for islamic architecture, fire festivals and easter celebrations. The last occasion is particularly surprising – I fainted in God Friday mass when I was younger, it’s a long mass! I’m excited for tapas and Gaudi and Dali and everything else Spain has to offer and I previously dismissed.

It’s a relief to be looking forward to travel again. It’s one of the few things I never have doubts about and know will always be to my benefit. I’ve never had an all consuming passion or talent like some people but I’ve always wanted to travel and seeing different landscapes. I went into playschool one morning talking, or as the teacher said “raving”, about volcanoes. Now I’ve been inside a volcano and am actively plotting how to get to Ethiopia to camp by a lava lake and have no questions or doubts about this. It’s a constant, a stability the insatiable desire to learn, go and see. I’m so glad it’s back.

Egypt: Is it safe?

I travelled in mainland Egypt along the Nile not in the Sinai Peninsula Region. I have no experience of how tourists are treated there.

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Standing on the Great Pyramid. Nearly a year later I’m still in awe.

Egypt especially its tourism and tourists are not having the best time of it lately. 224 dead from a plane crash the likely cause of which seems to be a bomb, multiple countries suspending flights there and government travel warnings that are less than encouraging. These are things that the country with the oldest tourism industry doesn’t need.

I visited Egypt in March 2015 and I had been indecisive about going there while planning my trip. The images of Tahir Square and it’s protesters came to the forefront of my mind when I  thought of Egypt. Then the pyramids would float into my mind and my childhood love of the Mummy movies and Egyptian god and goddesses fables. I went back and forth between going there or else Tunisia, the seemingly safe option. The later attack on tourists there showed me how wrong I was for falling into the trap that there isn’t inherent risk in everything you do.

Honestly maybe I compartmentalise things but I felt safe throughout my time in Egypt. Our hotels had airport level scanners for going in and out. We had an armed tourism guard forced to join our group bus journey from Alexandria to Cairo and sniffer dogs circle the bus before we parked at each hotel. These things might unnerve some but I never felt in danger even while going through such checks. The guards never seemed that concerned in fact our armed escort fell asleep for most of the journey back to Cairo. Were we really in danger? I just didn’t think so.

A lot of the unrest in Egypt and instability in recent times is internal directed towards their government and its faults and not towards tourists. I never felt personally unwelcome and the further I travelled south along the Nile and away from chaotic Cairo I felt more relaxed. The side effect of tourism dwindling there so much at the moment is that you can see some usually crowded sights – the Pyramids, Egyptian Museum, Abu Simbel – with nowhere near their normal crowds. We arrived at the Pyramids for their opening but after being there two hours there was little over a hundred people there; considering the vastness of the sight this felt sparse. Getting there early meant we had beat the midday heat as it seems there i not tourist throngs to beat in Egypt currently. In fact there were greater crowds further south in Luxor and Aswan but nowhere pre 2010 standards.

If you’re thinking of going to Egypt go, seeing such iconic sights like the Sphinx in person is surreal. Rather than unwelcome you might feel too welcome as the there’s a novelty to western tourists so you may be asked to have your picture taken. For all my nerves and worrying the payoff was well worth it. I’m nothing but glad I went to Egypt and there’s no guarantees that going somewhere else will be safer. Paris and Tunisia use to be places you  would never have security concerns about and unfortunately now you do. But that’s the nature of the world. Belfast use to be a no go area and bombings were a common concern. Now people of my generation have no first hand experience of such fear of the North. Fear will get you nowhere, literally. Egypt isn’t as dangerous as it is portrayed and the potential sights and experiences are worth it.

 

Travelling – why should it be Perfect and Easy?

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Murphy’s Law -Pants will rip and it will be in Tehran.

The seemingly predominant representation of travelling in the current media is idyllic and dreamlike to the point that you the reader, who is not travelling, are stupid for not doing it and instead living the 9 to 5. I mean travelling as opposed to taking your holidays. If you’re on your holiday taking your few leave days from work  to experience a stress free week or two in a completely different landscape, that’s fine. Expect perfection you’re putting your money and free time into it.

When I say travelling I mean taking a break from western world conveniences, going somewhere far away you can’t just return home from at the drop of a hat, being challenged and educated about the world. A trip that makes you equal parts nervous and excited. I see things like the perfect travel wardrobe – which is so vast that it could never realistically fit in a backpack along with the necessary gear – a wardrobe that is definitely put to gether with how with will long on camera in mind not whether or not it’s practical or comfortable. Then the typical traveller feels like a slob, that they’re travel wasn’t as special because they didn’t look constantly maintained while doing it.

There’s also the ridiculous if I can do it you can and how to travel for free articles; that is as long as you have a passport that’s globally accepted, a family that can look after itself in your absence or a job that doesn’t take constant training to stay up to date and employable. Not everyone can do it for a million reasons other than money. It’s a growing frustration I’ve experienced the more I read blogs that I use to go to for encouragement and inspiration. They make travel seem easy, too easy and too perfect. It seems unattainably perfect as though you aren’t doing it right if you’re  exhausted, sick or just weren’t as enamored with a destination as you thought you might be.

I see more and more people convinced they could never do it, travel, as they couldn’t manage things as effortlessly and glamorously as it should be done. You should travel, If you want to you must. It will hard, tiring and sometimes you’ll wonder why the hell you bothered but most things worth doing – further education, relationships – cause this sort of reaction at one stage or another. Travel will too but that makes all the more worthwhile when you learn something, meet someone, see someplace that stuns you deeply and stays with you long after the moment has passed.

So if you want to travel believe you can and go for it. Research the practicalities, ignore the perfection filters and go make yourself happy. The one thing that is right no matter what is that no one can do it for you.