Today, 10th January 2017, marks the first anniversary of this here blog. One year ago to this day, I posted a piece on my trip to Morocco, itself nearly ten years ago, and I haven’t looked back since.
Now, the norm for travel bloggers on their first anniversary of blogging is to talk about what they’ve learnt from travel blogging and all that sort of thing. Which is all well and good, and definitely very useful and full of great information (especially to blogging newbies), but I frankly don’t want to do that. It’s just not the way I roll.
That, my friends, is the single best piece of advice I can give travel bloggers – be yourself and do what you want to do. There are so many blogs out there, and so many of them seem to follow what is perceived to be a tried and trusted formula for what they should post about, which often ends up in them being quite bland and identikit. Just saying.
But I digress. To celebrate having completed a year of travel blogging, I’m going to look back on my even longer history of travelling: in just over 30 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit just over 30 countries (rather neatly). I’m now going to see if I can come up with one memorable thing that happened in each one of them; the UK is excluded from the list, as that’s where I was born, live and work.
So, here goes…
Australia – When we were out on a boat on a lake in Kakadu National Park, a baby named Jared dropped his milk bottle in the water. This lake, it should be noted, was full of crocodiles. We were nearly back on dry land, and the boat driver didn’t notice until he’d turned the engine off. It was bobbing in the water two metres away from the back of the boat; I was ‘volunteered’ to get the bottle and, with two men holding me by the back of my legs, reached over the back of the boat to rescue it. No crocodile came close, but one was watching me from the nearby bank…!
Austria – I saw a storm near the top of the Nordkette Mountains near Innsbruck. Dramatic! But it did mean I had to go back down and not go to the very top as the storm was getting very close.
Belgium – At the Menin Gate Last Post ceremony, which was on ANZAC day, the Kiwi guy stood next to me sang along to the NZ national anthem as the military band played it. I still get goose pimples/a lump in my throat thinking about it.
China – A man trying to sell me a Chairman Mao lighter that played ‘The East is Red’ proceeded to sing the whole song to me when I asked him what tune it was.
Czech Republic – A couple of kids actually thought I was Pavel Nedved when I walked the streets of Prague wearing a Czech Republic Football shirt with his name on it, and asked me for my autograph. Well, either that or they were taking the piss.
Egypt – They were playing Walk Like An Egyptian on a loop in a café in Cairo. When a couple of Westerners walked in and started to do the dance to it, the café owner joined in and started ‘encouraging’ the rest of us to do the same.
France – In Paris, a man selling roses thought the guy I was with was my partner and tried to get me to buy one for him. The guy was my brother.
Germany – In a Berlin bar best described as Dracula’s opium den, my friend and I were ranted at for at least an hour by a scary German guy with an impenetrable beard and terrifying tattoos about how anarchy is the only legitimate system of government. All this to a deafening heavy metal backdrop and loads of people walking by dressed in gimp masks, fetish wear etc.
Greece – Seeing a completely naked girl sleepwalk in to the hostel bar I was quietly playing cards in one evening. Her roommate later told me that this wasn’t the first time this had happened…
Hong Kong – A more disgusting Hostel experience…a guy in the bunk bed above me scratched all night, and at one point I could see the flakes of skin floating down as he flicked them off his person *shudder*
Hungary – My travel companion falling asleep at the top of Castle Hill, clearly unimpressed with the stunning city panorama below him…
Iceland – Putting my hand in to a geyser. If you’ve done this, you’ll know why you shouldn’t.
India – Being thrown off a camel twice in the Great Thar desert. More on that story here.
Ireland – Being accosted by a woman in a pub for voting for Brexit (I voted remain), once she found out I was British: ‘what have you fecking done you fecking eejit?’
Italy – Whilst getting off a train, a very attractive girl turned to me, smiled and said something in Italian. My mind totally blank, I just grinned like an idiot and nodded. She looked at me funny and got off the train. There was a tap on my shoulder; I turned to see another girl (also attractive – Italian ladies are beautiful, right?) who explained to me that she was asking me for the time…
Kenya – When pestered by the very persistent touts who were trying to sell us baubles and bangles at the border crossing in to Tanzania, my companion said his name was ‘Erik the Viking’ and that he had recently contracted herpes. This did not seem to deter them one bit.
Liechtenstein – Er…getting the passport stamp? OK, on this one nothing too memorable happened. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time here – I did – but it went smoothly, so I have no anecdotes really.
Malaysia – On one of our many trips to visit my mother’s side of the family, we were in a restaurant in Port Dickson. My (Caucasian) dad went to the toilet; upon his return, he managed to go to completely the wrong table and sat down with the (Chinese) family there! The looks on their faces were priceless…
Morocco – Getting lost in the Fes Medina, and the failure of a little boy who offered me to extricate me from the maze (he only cared about the Dirham).
Netherlands – Accidentally eating a slice of hashish cake, not realising I was in a cannabis café until too late. I experienced some funny stuff in the hours afterwards…
Philippines – The truly bonkers experience of Manila airport having a power failure. More on that here.
Romania – Mad Sandu, the wood carver, whose sole English was the phrase ‘no problem’ as he proceeded to carve away yet another ornament for you to take home.
Slovenia – My friend and I bumped in to a random girl from the UK at Bled bus station…then again at a ski resort near Bohinj…and then again at Ljubljana airport! She joked she was stalking us, as she stroked the severed head of a dead owl*
Spain – Being drank under the table, on two consecutive nights, by a Uruguayan lady staying at the same hostel as me. She was about 5ft tall and 100lbs soaking wet.
Tanzania – Well, apart from this and this, the safaris were wonderful. Particularly when a monkey got in to our car and made the girls I was with in there scream. It was my fault too, because I left the door open…
Turkey – Getting rather drunk on fruit wines at Sirince, and trying to chat up the waitress. That didn’t go down to well with her husband…he was the owner. And he had his unfeasibly large and burly friend with him. Needless to say, I ran like crazy.
Uganda – I regularly taught the same class of 60-odd kids in the School I was volunteering at, and they loved to sing. I decided to teach them to sing Yellow Submarine. With only my weak and wobbly voice and a chalkboard, I managed to get them to sing it very well indeed. One of my proudest moments!
USA – Not so much a memory, as a very disorientating photo. It’s a picture of me, stood on Ellis Island in New York, in July 2001, with the twin towers looming in the background. It’s surreal and disturbing to look at it today.
Zambia – The epic road odyssey I shared with my Zambian friend from Lusaka to Victoria Falls, which you can read about here.
So there you go; I didn’t quite manage to get something memorable from every country, but otherwise feel like I’ve managed to do the idea justice. Here’s to many more years of travelling, many more countries, and many more interesting experiences on the road for us all!