Those who know anything about me, know about my love of travel. But few people actually know where it all stems from.
I never got to travel abroad as a child. All our summers were spent in a caravan in Selsey. In-fact it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I first boarded a plane.
It all started in December of 1999 – My girlfriend of the time was going to New Zealand with her family to see in the new millennium with it being the first country to ring in the new year! I was invited to go along – a month in another country, so why not!?
Little did I know then, how this trip was going to change my life forever!!
We took a flight with Britannia Airways – a 32 hour flight in total, which really was a sure fire way to introduce myself to the world of air travel. Whilst there I was totally mesmerised by so much of this beautiful country – the different culture, stunning beaches, interesting food. I absorbed as much of it as I could.
It was a couple of years later, in 2001, that I could no longer resist the travel urge. At this point I had a mortgage, a Jaguar company car and I partied in London’s celeb hot spots on a regular basis, but I wanted more… NEEDED more. I started to talk about travelling all the time to people, I watched travel shows.. I was going to do it.. I was going to be a backpacker.
What really struck me at this time was the amount of people that stated to me – ‘I wish I had been given the chance to travel’, and I would often think to myself ‘Well, whats stopped you!!’
I had the uncomfortable conversation with my girlfriend with whom I lived and handed in my notice at work. It was December 2001 at 6am when I was collected by a friend, my world packed into a backpack, on my way to Gatwick Airport.
My travels started off as a holiday really. I flew into to LA with Simon, a friend whom I had only met shortly before, through mutual friends. We set off to Sunset Strip and the adventures began. Christmas was spent in Hollywood meeting lots of new friends and then New Year was spent in Las Vegas.. this definitely wasn’t a shoestring start to my travels, but the new experiences were huge.
Visiting famous Hollywood sites that I had read about, invited for drinks in the VIP Lounge of Viper Rooms, visiting House of Blues, sitting in a bar with Stevie Wonder and going to the filming of various Late Shows and Sitcoms.
In Vegas I even stood nervously in a lift with Mike Tyson – were the experiences never-ending?! Another friend that also came to spend a couple of weeks with us (Maddy) was even approached whilst we were out and about and given business cards of film producers – these eventually even turned into her appearing in a Hollywood movie a few years later!!
In January of 2002 I flew alone to New Zealand, yes I had been here before – but had never been completely on my own. I checked into a hostel for the first time, I was nervous and scared. I booked a single room to myself, I visited the Hostel Bar with apprehension. I had never been a confident person when it came to meeting new people, I guess I was a little bit socially awkward and this was going to push me to the extreme.
I stayed with some familiarity and I caught a bus to Taupo, somewhere I had visited in the previous trip to NZ. After a few days of building up the courage, I started to speak to others in the bar that were travelling, many of them were travelling on Kiwi Experience – A pre-booked travel pass on guided buses around New Zealand. I got myself booked in and started on the adventure.
I gradually threw myself into the backpacking world, moving onto Australia – doing the Oz Experience Bus, Wandering the streets of Taiwan and visiting outstanding areas in Thailand. New experiences were still coming one after the other. I hiked a Glacier, Swam on the Great Barrier Reef, wondered the streets of Taipai and even got to cuddle up with a tiger. However by now I was starting to miss friends and family and I finally returned back to the UK.
I got a job really quickly and within months was back into my old life, new apartment in the town centre, nightly drinking and partying, it was as through nothing had changed… it really hadn’t!
It was a few years later, after taking lots of short weekend breaks and spending a fortune on holidays for a month here or trips of a weekend there, that I knew that I still had an itch that just wasn’t going to go away.
I knew I couldn’t just travel again without working and so I decided to try and pair the two together. I threw in my job and took a 15 fold pay cut to be a ‘Holiday Rep’ – ‘You’ll never last on that sort of money’ my area manager told me!
I was employed by First Choice and was sent to Portugal – Which still today has a huge place in my heart. Working in the western fishing village of Alvor, I tried to once again embrace the local life, learning a little of the language and making friend with locals, I really couldn’t get enough, I was a sponge soaking up experience after experience.
My 6 month contract was extended for the winter and so I stayed the full year, moving to the eastern side of the Algarve, next to the Spanish border. I was due to spend a second season in Portugal, before being shocked by an offer of moving to Brazil!! I Jumped at the chance obviously. Living in Salvador for 6 months was an incredible experience – my travels and jobs within the company then continued for the next 7 years taking me to other amazing destinations such as Mexico, Gambia, Egypt, Jordan, India and Greece.
Some people have a bucket list of things they want to do before they die – I however think of all the things I’ve done that I would never have even considered, yet some people dream of having the chance of doing including.
- Surfing with wild dolphins swimming next to me
- Sharing tea in a Bedouins Cave in Petra
- Guiding groups around amazing temples in Egypt
- Hiking up a Glacier
- Partying at a Brazilian Folia
- Cooking and eating real Indian food in India
- Hot air ballooning over the Tablelands
I could go on forever with the amazing experiences and memories that I have had the pleasure of having… however for me the travels are not yet over. In the last couple of years, I have eaten the most amazing Pasta in Rome, Tapas in Barcelona, Pad Thai in Thailand and visited iconic sites such as the Taj Mahal.
My travels will now continue as short trips and holidays, but with each one I will try and experience one more new thing…. things that I haven’t even thought about yet!