What Are Beg-Packers & Are They Really That Bad?

Beg-packers - backpacks

Beg-packers are everywhere in the media at the moment. They’ve been around for a while, but a rise in numbers (and a rise in blatant insensitivity) are getting people really mad. So, what are beg-packers, why are they asking for money and are they wrong to do so?

Here are a few answers to those questions and my own personal opinion, which argues that beg-packing is pretty ridiculous, but it isn’t all bad (read first before you get angry at me too).

What are beg-packers?

Beg-packers - begging
By @Joop_nl via Twitter

Beg-packers are Western (majority white) tourists who are asking others to fund their travelling. Beg-packers are raising this money through crowdfunding websites such as fundmytravel.com, hawking postcards or busking on the street, and in some cases, just begging for money. Read more

Chasing Home | A Few Thoughts On Being Between Places

Chasing Home - Cover

Hey guys. So, I recently participated in the World Nomads Travel Writer Scholarship programme, where I wrote a piece on the theme ‘a place that is unfamiliar to me’. Devastatingly, I didn’t win the scholarship (next year, perhaps?), so here is my entry published here instead, entitled Chasing Home:

Chasing Home: Big Buddha, Hong Kong
Chasing Home: Big Buddha, Hong Kong

When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I described the city as a sensory overload.

Fresh durian and fermented bean curd in the steaming streets of Mong Kok. Strobing neon signs on Nathan Road. Soup noodles slipping from chopsticks held between clumsy fingers. The telltale salty tang of MSG. Tonal Chinese languages with staccato one-syllable words.

I loved it.

Chasing Home: City Lights, Hong Kong
Chasing Home: City Lights, Hong Kong

The longer I spent in the city, the more it felt like home. Weekends spent hiking in the New Territories or lapping up the sun on the trio of Tai Long Wan beaches. Evenings spent in TST or Central or Wan Chai, drinking overpriced cocktails in tiny bars or sitting on the waterfront with cheap beers from 7-Eleven.

Summers were coated in a thick layer of smothering humidity, while winters sparkled in red and gold, auspicious signs for the coming Lunar New Year. The sunlight was thick and creamy like milk tea in the day, then deep orange like the peel of a mandarin in the evening. Read more

A Day in Oxford City Told Through Oxford Dictionary Definitions

Oxford City - Oxford Dictionary: Oxfordian

Dictionary: A book or electronic resource that lists the words of a language (typically in alphabetical order) and gives their meaning. Inspired by a long (and sunny!) weekend in the home of Oxford University, here is a day in Oxford city as told through Oxford Dictionary definitions…

Oxford City - Oxford Dictionary: Muggle
Oxford City – Oxford Dictionary: Muggle

Muggle: A person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill. Can often be found touristing around Harry Potter filming locations in Oxford.

1990s: from mug + -le; used in the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling to mean ‘a person without magical powers’.

‘she’s a muggle: no IT background, understanding, or aptitude at all’

Oxford City - Oxford Dictionary: Ashmolean Museum
Oxford City – Oxford Dictionary: Ashmolean Museum

Ashmolean Museum: A museum of art and antiquities in Oxford. It opened in 1683 and was the first public institution of its kind in England.

‘no, despite the empty tables you may not have a drink in the Ashmolean Museum Restaurant because of some vague excuse about an event or maybe allude to how it’s members only, but probably we’re just a bit snobby.’ Read more

24 Hours in Qatar | A Long Layover in Doha

24 Hours in Qatar, a Long Layover in Doha - MIA Outside

I have flown in and out of Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, a bazillion times, travelling to and from Hong Kong. However, for this flight back to the UK, I booked a long layover in Doha just so I could spend 24 hours in Qatar and finally see more than just the airport!

I’m not in any way sponsored by Qatar Airways (I wish I was), but they are genuinely one of the best airlines I’ve travelled with, hence why I’ve done it so often. They’re cheap, they fly where I need to go and their service is always of a high standard.

So, here is the story of my 24 hours in Qatar, how I made the most of a long layover in Doha and some travel advice for anyone looking to do the same:

24 Hours in Qatar: Hamad International Airport

24 Hours in Qatar, A Long Layover in Doha - Hamad International Airport
By Ken Yamaguchi via Flickr

The first couple of times I flew in and out of Hamad International Airport, it was nothing but a shack with a duty free section and nowhere to exchange money!

Now, the new fancy terminal is like a miniature city in itself. There’s so much to see and do in the airport alone that you could easily make the most of a long layover in Doha without venturing out into the city (and I have done that too).

Aside from the obvious restaurants and shopping, Hamad International Airport also has art galleries, lounge facilities (all-inclusive food/relaxation areas starting at US$55), an airport hotel and a spa that has massage packages and even a swimming pool! Read more

Two Months in Southeast Asia | Backpacking Trip Roundup

Two Months in Southeast Asia

Hurrah! My #40days40blogs challenge meant I finally posted up all the details of my two months in Southeast Asia! Here’s a roundup of all the places I managed to squeeze into my two months solo and on a shoestring budget, including detailed itineraries, travel journal entries and more:

Two Months in Southeast Asia: Myanmar (Burma)

Two Months in Southeast Asia - Yangon

I started my two months in Southeast Asia with Myanmar, also known by its old colonial name, Burma (this confused some of the Brits back home so FYI).

This country is fascinating. I was intrigued by its history and the tragic stories of the governing military regime and the colonial wars.

Two Months in Southeast Asia - Yangon

Also, I personally found Burmese cities to be overwhelming, even for someone like me who had been living in Asia for five years. The traffic, the crowds, the business, the noise! It was chaotic, but beautiful. I really felt like I’d thrown myself into the deep end. Read more

Bedtime Stories | The Best Hostels in the World (And Some of the Worst)!

Best Hostels in the World - Cover

“You’ve slept in a lot of beds,” one of my oldest and best friends said to me a few weeks ago. When I gasped in offence, he was quick to add, “I mean, travelling, of course!” That got me thinking about all the places I have stayed on my travels: some the best hostels in the world, the comfiest of pillows and… some of the worst places I have ever ‘slept’.

After five years of living in Asia, I have pretty much perfected the ability to sleep anywhere. But, there are still a few standout beds that (bed)spring to mind. Here are, in my humble opinion, some of the best hostels in the world and the places I’ve most enjoyed resting my head.

Oh, and a few of the worst, too:

Bad Bed – Noah’s Ark, Hong Kong

Best Hostels in the World - Noah's Ark
By HK Arun via Wikimedia Commons

Did I ever tell you about the time I moved to Hong Kong and stayed for three weeks in a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark? A life-size replica of Noah’s Ark. How is that possible? Why is that possible? How could they possibly know it’s life-size? All very good questions that I have no answer for. Read more

Post-Travel Blues: Two Travel Bloggers Share Their Stories

The post-travel blues. I’ve definitely been wrestling with them these past few months. However, that’s all a little tied up with moving back to the UK after half a decade living abroad. Plus, there’s a little reverse culture shock thrown in there for good measure!

And so I asked the travel blogging community if they had ever experienced something similar. Here’s what Megan Roughley of Where My Travels Takes Me and Rosie Fluskey of Flying Fluskey had to say about the dreaded post-travel blues:

Megan Roughley – Where My Travels Take Me

Post-Travel Blues Megan Roughley

After an adventure away from home for quite some time, your mind is racing with all of the memories you have recently made and all of the experiences that have changed you for the better. You are coming home a changed person. Read more

Two Weeks in Bali, A Series of Unfortunate Events | Travel Diary

Uluwatu, Bali - Two Weeks in Bali

I’d witnessed Bagan sunsets in Myanmar, splashed around in the lagoons of Laos, buffed up on history in Cambodia and stuffed my face with Vietnamese delicacies in Saigon. I was, sadly, coming to the end of my big Southeast Asian backpacking trip, but at least I was going out on a high. It was time for an incredible two weeks in Bali.

After five years of living on the continent, this trip was something of a farewell to Asia. And my final two weeks in Bali were a farewell to that trip itself. After six weeks of sightseeing, I was ready to flop on a beach somewhere, stretch out with some yoga and relax with a cocktail in hand.

I had been trying to get to Bali for at least four of the past five years, specifically for the amazing surf and therefore surf schools. In my two weeks in Bali, I visited Legian, Kuta, Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, Lovina, Amed, Ubud and Canggu. I absolutely loved it, but unfortunately, luck just wasn’t on my side… Read more

Pico Iyer: Movement is Nothing Until You Stand Still

Pico Iyer

I’ve been back in the UK now for four months. I’m still reluctant to say ‘back home’, but I’ll admit that it’s slipped off my tongue more than once. Like travel writer Pico Iyer says in his TED talk, ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘Where is home?’ are more complex questions now than they once were.

In fact, I’ve been wrangling with that word ‘home’ even since I breathed it in along with the crisp, British air outside Birmingham Airport.

I’ve tried on the word ‘home’ like you might try on a pair of jeans at a high street store; they don’t quite fit, but you try and justify the purchase anyway because you’re planning to lose a few pounds, right? So, they’ll fit in time, right?

And I’ve written. My lord, I’ve written about it! I’ve always found it easier to articulate through the written word than through the spoken word. I’ve typed the word ‘home’ and then hit the backspace key, paused, and then typed it again with quotation marks wrapped around it.

Trapping the letters between two floating apostrophes, like pegs on a washing line, is exactly how the word feels to me.

I meant what I said when I wrote that moving back to the UK is so much harder than moving away – so much more than I anticipated. There were parts I left out from that post. As personal as it was, there was stuff going on one level down, down in the basement, that I didn’t want anyone to see.

Because it is a struggle and it’s a work in progress and it’s more complicated than i thought. I’m rethinking everything. My goals. My dreams. How I should work towards them. How I’m going to get there. What I need to sacrifice in the short term for what I want in the long term.

Anyway, these four long months have been dragging and yet they’ve gone by in the click of my fingers. I applied ferociously for jobs for two months, but then stopped because it wasn’t the right approach and I was getting no where.

I worked on my CV and was more careful about the jobs I applied to. I worked on this blog. I visited other British cities to try and find my feet, eager to play the tourist and find a place to call my own, but I was back in that high street store. I can’t get anything to fit right.

I gave myself a deadline of three months to find a job before I would implement plan B and look at moving away again. But, then I found myself counting down the days until it could be a possibility. Because, if I was being honest with myself, wasn’t it always plan A instead of plan B?

The longer I deliberated whether to stay or go, the more I panicked that I was failing by doing nothing and the more I felt myself slipping into a routine that I had tried so hard to avoid. Freelance work. Sorting out rent with my parents. Doing a lot of nothing

I’ll be honest and say that the last couple of weeks have pretty much been rock bottom, most likely amplified by the passing of the three-month deadline and my 27th birthday. This was not what I imagined for myself after three months back in the UK. This was not what I imagined for myself at 27.

I was punishing myself for not managing to find my dream job and create my dream life within this ridiculous time frame of December to March. I was so frustrated that I had chosen to come home – not just because I was listening to my head, but also because I was listening to my heart – yet, the more I leaned into a life back in the UK, the worse I felt.

‘Why are you back?’ was a question a friend asked me just a few weeks after Christmas. I smiled and talked confidently about my plans, but I was surprised to see that he didn’t seem convinced.

‘Why are you back?’ another friend asked a couple of weeks ago, seeing how down I’d let myself become.

‘I don’t know.’ I tearfully replied.

It wasn’t until this past week that I really started to understand.

You know that quote: ‘Do the thing that scares you’? It’s one that I always think of when I think of travel and I think it’s good advice to live by. But, do you know what scares me most? Living at home with my parents, working two jobs and sitting still for a while.

So, Amy, maybe that’s the exact thing you should do.

I’m beating myself up for being neither here nor there; not fully committed to being back in the UK, yet not ready to just give up and move abroad again on a whim. But, maybe this is exactly where I’m meant to be. Maybe I just need to be still for a while.

That’s where Pico Iyer comes in. A fellow travel blogger commented on previous post and told me that she related to what I was saying, offering up some words of wisdom. She gave me a link to the below TED Talk by Pico Iyer and it completely resonated.

It’s 14 minutes long, so I appreciate if you don’t have time to watch it all, but his speech pretty much articulates everything I want to say about being back. Not just all the stuff about redefining home – that’s a whole other discussion for another day and he’s bang on about that too – but, what he says in the second half about stillness.

Pico Iyer says that movement is nothing unless you can be still. Home doesn’t need to be a nation or a house or even a family. It can be somewhere where you can be still for a little while. Still so that you can collect your thoughts. Still so that you can plan your next move.

That’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s frustrating because I’m so used to moving around and my feet are itching like crazy, but it’s exactly what I need. It’s what I need to do in order to collect myself and my thoughts, before I can move on.

Then, regardless of what comes out of that process, at least I know I’m not making a decision on a whim. Only when you’re still can you really listen to what you want.

I’ve lived out of a suitcase. I’ve carried all my belongings on my back. I’ve hopped from country to country literally without a care in the world. I’ve loved it all, but if you move that fast and that often, sometimes you lose sight of what you’re doing it for.

So, girl, if you can do all that then you can spend a few months at home binge-eating British food and catching up on all the TV you’ve missed! You’ve earned it. More importantly, you need it. You have some figuring out to do.

Notice that the quotation marks have disappeared.

My adventures aren’t over just because I’m taking some time out to reassess. Moving around means nothing unless I am still, somewhere, sometimes, even if it’s just as a point of reference.

So maybe I just need some time standing still.

#NoFilter: The Truth Behind My Instagram Photos

The Truth Behind My Instagram Photos - Vang Vieng

I love me a bit of Instagram, but I also love me a bit of truth. I feel like it’s very easy to get sucked into the #FOMO caused by social media. I’m very aware that I’m only showing and seeing the highlight reel, not the full story. So, here I thought I’d share the truth behind my Instagram photos.

There’s no ‘big reveal’ here – I’m pretty upfront about my experiences travelling, that I’m a serial user of filters (no #NoFilter here!) and I use an editing app to make my photos pretty. Because duh – I’m no professional photographer and I don’t have a big fancy camera.

So, here’s the truth behind my Instagram photos:

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

The Truth Behind My Instagram Photos - Manarola
The Truth Behind My Instagram Photos – Manarola

It rained all day. All the walking paths were closed, so I couldn’t walk or hike between the villages and I got soaked. Manarola was the fourth Cinque Terre stop of the day and the skies had *just* begun to clear, thank goodness!

For the third village, Corniglia, I had to take off my shoes and socks and wade in water that went up above my knees, it was so flooded. Read more

Scroll To Top