Couples

 



This is the story of two couples setting out on the road on a round the world trip. Both started their journey at roughly the same time, travelling through Asia, Australia, South America, before eventually meeting for the first time on their 10 week African safari tour from Cape Town to Nairobi.  It was uncanny. Both couples were the same age and had been together three and a half years; came from the same background, same jobs and were devoted to their relationships. At the end of the trip in Africa, one couple flew home engaged, the fairy tale ending to an incredible, once in a lifetime journey. 

The other couple? Well, their circumstances were a little different. The other couple were barely speaking to each other, and at the end of the safari, broke up. I’d love to tell you I was part of the golden couple, but sadly, I was the girl who got dumped in Africa, alone with nothing but a backpack crying at Nairobi Airport. 

In hindsight, it was one of the best curve balls life ever threw at me, but it was also brutal, and I wouldn’t wish that exhaustion and fear on anyone trying to clear customs at Kenya’s busiest airport. If you travel with your partner, you’re going to find out everything about them, and have the spotlight turned on your own flaws as well.  You’ll find out how they react to everything in every situation, from the intensely good to the bone-shaking bad. I firmly believe a long round the world trip will either make you or break you as a couple: after all, if you really want to know someone, try hand-washing the skid marks out of their underwear for 12 months. 

So what’s the key to coupled bliss on the road? Well firstly, there are a few things you need to have clear before you travel with your partner, and the number one thing you need to be black and white about is money. You want to work out before you go how much money you have and how you’re going to spend it. Then sit down and work out how much money the other person has and how they want to spend it. If someone is a big drinker and the other isn’t, this will affect your finances. If someone is a shopper and the other isn’t, this will affect your finances. If someone likes a comfy hotel while the other one prefers dorms, this will affect your finances. 

The key to dealing with these small, but potentially large issues is communication. You need to be able to talk about and discuss money before you go, and even more while you are on the road. In fact, communication is the key to harmony on the road when travelling with anyone, be it your mates or your mum. You need to be able to talk about what you want out of the trip and find out what the other person wants. After that, you need to compromise, and find a situation where everyone is happy.   

You also need space. Find your independence on the trip. Head out to that museum by your self, read a book in bed, grab a beer in the bar, head out for a meal with new friends. But also give the other person their independence and the chance to do these things without you. Oh, and don’t forget to have a little fun together. 

Travelling can be a liberating experience, but it can also be a claustrophobic one if you pick the wrong person to travel with. The good news? If it works out while you’re on the road, it’s probably meant to be. If it doesn’t, take heart: I didn’t know it at the time, but I met ‘the one’ on the third day of my round the world trip. It took a while for friendship to turn into something else, but now we can’t wait for our next round the world adventure.  

 

 

 

First Aid Kit

 

 

 

Apart from aspirin, Alka-Seltzer and Imodium with a bit of luck you are going to make your entire trip without need of any medical provisions at all. It is always smart to be prepared though. Top of the list in preparation should be a good insurance policy but then you already know that. Right?


Even in the boondocks of Bandar Seri Begawan and dustiest Dar es Salaam you will find well-stocked chemists for unexpected ailments that might crop up – often with medicines that are better suited to local ailments (although be aware that there is a risk that they could be out of date or contaminated). Many large travel stores sell off-the-shelf first-aid kits but you will normally want to customise them to some extent and Nomad Travel & Outdoor (www.nomadtravel.co.uk) is one of the best sources for specialist advice.

Contents will change depending on your destination and style of travel but use this list to cherry-pick the most important items to include in your.

  • Plasters and Compeed (blister sealers)
  • Aspirin – can be useful for releasing tropical fevers (but never to be taken if you think you might have dengue as it thins the blood dangerously)
  • Paracetamol and Ibuprofen (the former is painkiller and the latter an effective anti-inflammatory)
  • Rehydration Sachets – for counteracting the effects of diarrhoea but can also be used as an to replace salts and minerals lost during long treks (and for disguising the taste of water purifying tablets)
  • Piriton antihistamine (anti-allergenic – but to be taken with care since it makes some people drowsy)
  • Ciprofloxalin – probably the most versatile treatment for severe travellers’ diarrhoea
  • Hydrocortisone cream for treating infected bites
  • Daktarin powder for treating athletes foot or various types of jungle rot that is a result of trekking in humid climates
  • Iodine tincture – increasingly hard to find (try Nomad) but has the benefit of being used not only to disinfect small cuts but also as a backup water-purifier (1 drop per litre).
  • Clove oil – for toothache
  • Tiger balm (buy it in Thailand) – calms irritated mosquito bites and deters leeches and ticks
  • Antiseptic wipes and gloves
  • crepe bandage, wound closure strip, wound dressing and burn dressings
  • Scissors, tweezers and safety pins
  • Sterile hospital equipment pack including needles, syringes and lancets
  • Water purification tablets (can include taste neutraliser but in effect this is usually just citrus, so you can use local limes or lemons)
  • Mosquito repellent roll-on (less waste than spray). Soak repellent into a regular sweatband until it is well soaked and you have a permanent reservoir of the stuff with you
  • Sunscreen – at least SPF15
  • Thermometer (maybe disposable)
  • Condoms – can (also) be used to keep finger wounds clean and to keep a roll of emergency cash dry. And, in a dire emergency, a condom can be used to carry a litre of water!

 

 

 

by Mark Eveleigh

Hangover dilemna

 



David Whitley wonders whether it’s ever justified to cancel travel plans due to overenjoyment of a city’s fine hostelries.

 
The few of us who are not due for sainthood will have been here before. You’ve got a limited period of time somewhere and want to make the most of it. And one evening you go out for something to eat and maybe a couple of drinks. 

Alas, that couple of drinks turns into a couple more. Then you get bored of beers and switch to spirits. Then some idiot goes and buys some shots. Then it all becomes a bit of a blur as you start bellowing down the ears of strangers and demanding a DJ plays Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Eventually, with the contents of your stomach resembling an out of control chemistry lab, you stagger back to your bed (or a handy park bench), possibly via a kebab shop. Conversations on the great white telephone are optional at this point.

The problem, as with all great nights, comes the next morning. If you’ve got something you absolutely can’t miss (such as a flight or a connecting train), then bad luck – you’re going to have to grin and bear it. But the big traveller’s dilemma is when there’s nothing absolutely urgent to do the next day, but there’s lots you’ll miss out on if you don’t do it then. Do you still force yourself up and get on that day trip? Do you take it as an opportunity to lie in, or do you trudge over to those museums and photogenic sights?

If, by strange twist of fate, you’ve not been in this situation, take it from me that going round museums with a blistering hangover is HORRIBLE. Getting up for a 7am tour after only a couple of hours’ sleep is also horrible. There’s no escaping it – if you do the noble thing and plough on with the original plan, it’s probably not going to be pretty.

So is it best to just sack everything of, stay in bed for as long as necessary and then just mooch around a bit feeling sorry for yourself?

I probably usually lean towards the military option. Fight through the pain, old chap, don’t let the buggers get you. Sometimes this pays off – eventually you’ll feel at least vaguely human enough to take things in. Sometimes it turns into a miserable, pointless box-ticking exercise. And, if I think about it, the times when the latter has happened have always been when I was going to things I felt I ought to go to rather than things I really wanted to go to. So, I think that’s probably the dividing line. If you can ask yourself “is this something I want to see?” or “will I regret not seeing it?” then it’s time to get out of bed and drink plenty of water...

 
Should you stay or should you go? When does a hangover justify writing off the next day on the road? Share your thoughts y leaving a comment below.




 

Jetlag

 




Da
vid Whitley wakes bolt upright at 4am and realises that it’s not so bad after all
 

One of the oddities of jetlag is that after a long haul flight you’ll often find yourself waking up at a ludicrous time for a few days. Somewhere between four and five in the morning is about usual and, yes, this can be really annoying. 

But instead of lying there in bed, wide awake, hungry and really annoyed, you can look at the phenomenon as an opportunity. It’s not often you get to be wide awake and sober when everyone else is asleep, and there are few good options for using those rare hours.
 

1. Do some reading – preferably guide books
If the book has sat in your bag, briefly skimmed over before departure, now is the time to have a proper plough through it – learn about the customs and the history of the place you’re in, find some things that you didn’t know about that you may fancy doing over the next couple of days, start formulating a more coherent plan.
 

2. Have a good nose through the tourist board’s website
For similar reasons that you should use the time to go through the guide book – the tourist board site might have some cool new stuff that isn’t in the book.
 

3. Go on a Wikipedia safari
Start on Wikipedia page, and keep clicking through to different topics. It’s amazing what sort of stuff you can learn...
 

4. Go for a run
There never seems to be time to do exercise while you’re travelling – now’s the time to go and get some.
 

5. Go for a walk
However, if you do go for a run, you’re probably going to miss out on the sight-seeing due to puffing and panting too much. But the dead hours of night are often the best time to aimlessly meander around city streets, with no crowds to jostle through, and a completely different array of sights on show. The streetlights illuminate shuttered shop windows, the few people who are out at this time all must have a reason for being so and everything looks very different. It’s a fascinating way to see a city. It’s worth taking the camera too – you’ll get some really unusual perspectives for photos.
 

6. Watch the sun rise
Of course, this can be added as part of the walk, but even if not, it’s worth doing. If you can position yourself in a nice park with a good view just before dawn, sitting down and watching the sun come up can be pretty magical. And you may as well do it now than when you’re not having to force yourself to get up.
 

7. Schedule an early tour
Be warned: this may backfire massively. But you know those tours that require a really early start? Like five or six o’clock in the morning? Why not do them when you’re waking up at four in the morning anyway? By the time you get back, you’ll be knackered, of course, but that surely doesn’t matter all that much...

 

 

 

 

McDonalds Threshold

 

 

When you hit the wall with a region’s traditional cuisine, a quick junk food fix doesn’t half sound tempting, David Whitley confesses

 

I have a friend who is seemingly obsessed with eating at McDonalds. It seems to come up in conversation at least every hour, and I struggle to see the appeal. Even hungover, I’m more likely to want a good bacon sandwich. Frankly, the food at McDonalds is horrible. There’s a reason that none of the thousands of McDonalds ‘restaurants’ around the world have ever made it into the Michelin guide. And there’s a reason that most right-thinking people pour scorn on the ubiquitous presence of the golden arches.

 

But spend enough time on the road, and a Maccas suddenly becomes unusually appealing. Or a KFC, which is arguably even worse. Pizza Hut or Burger King becomes frankly divine. That’s the thing with the whole eating local concept. Sometimes you crave either a touch of normality or the variation you’d normally have at home. Go to the States and you’ll get sick of eating everything with cheese on it – you’ll find yourself craving Thai or Indian food; anything with a kick that’s not kinda gooey. The same applies in Mexico – anything that’s not Mexican becomes an overriding criterion.

 

Asia, I find, is by far the worst for this. Great tasting, cheap food is pretty much ubiquitous across the continent, from Beijing down to Bali. But almost all of it involves rice. Don’t get me wrong, rice dishes are fine in moderation, and you can do many things to rice in order to make it vaguely interesting. But to eat rice for lunch and dinner every day for weeks on end? The very thought sends me into cold sweats territory.

 

It doesn’t take me long on a rice diet to get to the stage where I’m craving something quick, recognisable and without a grain of rice anywhere near it. Yes, I could spend ages tracking down a restaurant that does ‘Western’ food well, but the quick fix will usually do for my purposes. It’s resetting the variation clock – one meal without rice, and it’s OK to step back in to the monotony. It may be rubbish, but at least it’s different.

 

It should also be borne in mind that, half the time, that ‘local’ cuisine is something of a fiction. I remember being in Dominica, and finding all the Caribbean restaurants and cafés empty while KFC had a massive queue outside. McDonalds, KFC and the like haven’t taken over the world purely to give exasperated tourists an escape path. They’ve made it because the locals rather like eating tasteless burgers and grease-drenched low quality chicken as well. You’re hardly losing authenticity points here – everyone’s at it.

 

How long can you go on the road before reaching your own McDonalds threshold? Or do you have another guilty pleasure whilst travelling? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

 

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