Category Archives: United Kingdom

Posts made whilst back home!

We’ve been back a month already – time for some reflection!

Every blog post I seem to start by saying “time has flown by”, well it certainly has since we arrived back home from our 15 month trip exactly one month ago today. I have really noticed that working 5 days a week seems to make the clock spin faster! Just a few weeks ago we were free and travelling the world, now we find ourselves slapped back to reality in the ‘real world’. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind and I find myself wondering if I ever went away at all, and thus I thought it was time for a bit of reflection.

I was really looking forward to seeing the ‘green fields of England’ again and eagerly looked out of the window on the way into London’s Heathrow airport in anticipation. Unfortunately it was grey clouds with rain streaming down the windows all the way down to the runway, not the English summer I was hoping for! Optimistically, or stupidly, I was dressed in shorts and flip flops and without the heat and humidity of Asia that I had been used to for the past three months I felt pretty cold! Waiting for me at the airport were my Mum and sister, complete with a welcome home balloon, and it was great to see them again after so long. As a brucey bonus I found that Katie had even baked a belated birthday cake for me. ?

The first few days at home felt surreally normal, when you go away for so long you think things will have changed at home but I found it pretty much as I had left it. That said it is nice to return to a place you know, not having to search for a room, and generally not doing all the touristy things – which gets pretty tiresome! I had about 10 days back in the UK, during which I caught up with friends and family and despite it being a long time since we last saw each other it felt like old times.

I really enjoyed being back on ‘the island’, it was nice being in my own country for a change, but after 6 months without work my wallet was feeling pretty empty and in need of some refilling. So I flew out to Bonn, Germany, where I had been living before starting our trip, to rejoin my old team at Deutsche Telekom. We had stayed in touch whilst I was away and when they asked if I would like to come back I jumped at the chance – a real luxury in the present economic climate.

It was like seeing old friends when I met my former colleagues again and I felt really welcome back in the team. Straightaway I found I had some luxuries that I didn’t have in Australia – my own desk, a quiet office, and a big monitor – no view of the harbour bridge though! It is a bit of a shock to the system to be working again, sitting in the office for 8 hours a day has definitely been a bit strange.

Germany doesn’t feel totally foreign to me these days, and I was pleased my German language skills haven’t been totally lost whilst I was away. Bonn may not have the same buzz as Sydney, but it’s a nice place and, just to prove you don’t have to go to the otherside of the world for a good sunset, I was treated to this over the city with the Rhein in the foreground.

Lisa has been spending time with her family in friends in her home town, Fürth, in southern Germany – about 4 hours on the train from Bonn. Probably the strangest thing about being back is that Lisa and are apart – in 15 months we had just two nights apart, when I was at the Rugby World Cup in Auckland, and apart from our time in Sydney we were pretty much together 24 hours a day! Of course spending so much time with the same person isn’t particularly healthy and there were times when we got on each other nerves (me more than her I suspect!) but I am really pleased how great we got on. We always had something to laugh and talk about even during the stressful moments – such as trying to find the right bus or train to get on! It is great that we have shared this amazing experience together, photos are good but it’s even better to share a memory with someone. We are looking to move closer together in the near future though, which is good as I find myself really missing my little travel mate…

I haven’t had much time to dwell on the trip, but when people ask me things like “was it a good trip?” or “where was your favourite place?” – I find it a bit difficult to answer there’s a bit more to a 15 month trip than that – there was good, bad, and indifferent! It’s funny though, you don’t fully appreciate the experience until you are back at work! Of course I would rather be lazing on a Fijian beach or being attacked by sand flies on a Kiwi one! More than anything I find myself thinking of Sydney, which for me is one of the best cities in the world, the lifestyle, the nightlife, and our friends there – why does it have to be so far away?!? Naturally when we were there we were thinking about all the things we were missing back home – the human mind is cruel sometimes!

I’m not even going to try and pick a favourite place, we pretty much liked everywhere we visited, but New Zealand seems to crop up in my thoughts more than anywhere else – again why does it have to be so far away? I don’t miss those darn sand flies though! Also some of the best experiences were in the first 6 weeks of our trip when we took the Trans-Siberian express through Russia and then went down through Mongolia to China. Over 10’000km on the train may sound boring but it was one of the best travel experiences I have had. This photo taken at the station in Moscow just before we boarded the Trans-Siberian shows the final destination of Vladivostok, which is on the eastern end of Russia (7 days travel away!), really makes me remember the anticipation and excitement I had of what lay ahead…

Visting Tibet was another very special experience, a very spiritual place with some amazing people, and getting up to Everest Base camp was another experience I won’t forget. I could go on and on about all the amazing things we saw, the people we met, and the experiences we had but that would take a while and you can read through the previous posts for more details through the links on the right.

So the plan is to see how things go for the next 6 months or so, hopefully move together and enjoy Europe again. Summer seems to be picking up, the Olympics is on, and my friends and family are not to far away – happy days! After that who knows, Germany, the UK, or maybe even Sydney – can someone invent a quicker plane please! It goes without saying that there are future travel plans in my head – the worlds a big place…Europe (maybe with the kids!), South America, Canada, and before I really settle day I quite fancy a jaunt to one of the polar regions…just need to stay in the ‘real world’ for a while and save up some money!

Keep checking back as I am sure I’ll be blogging about another trip in the not to distant future…

Setting off on a new trip!

It has been nearly four years since I returned from Brazil and my 6 month Round-the-World trip, since then I have been thinking about the next big trip – well the time is now!  On Monday April 4th 2011, together with my girlfriend Lisa whom I met on the 6 month trip in Ecuador, I put on my backpack once again for a trip that will last for up to 12 months.

We will start the trip with one of my life ambitions,by  taking the mighty Trans-Siberian railway which extends from West coast of Russia all the way the to it’s East coast, with branch lines through Mongolia and into China.   Our plan is to take the train from St Petersburg (Russia) to Beijing (China), which is approx. 9994km and about 154 hours of train travel!  This is obviously a long way so we are planning to stop along the way for several days in Moscow (650km/8 hours – Russia), Irkutsk (7525km/103 hours – Russia), and Ulaanbatar (8638km/125 hours – Mongolia).  We are travelling in 2nd class (Kupé), which means we share a four birth cabin – which should be interesting as I have heard the Russians make good travel companions, with the drink of choice on the train being Vodka!

When we arrive in Beijing we will spend time there seeing the city sights such as the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square – of course I went there on my last trip but this will all be new to Lisa.  Our train journey is by no means over as we are then planning to head to Tibet, taking the worlds highest railway, which is a 4064km journey over 3 days – although we will break this up with stops in Xi’an (to see the Terracotta Warriors) and Xining.  We are hoping to spend around 10 days in Tibet visiting it’s spiritual home, Lhasa, with it’s monasteries and also taking a trip into the Himalayas and hopefully catching  a glimpse of the worlds tallest mountain, Everest, maybe from it’s base camp.  Concrete plans are still being finalised as this planning all this from Europe is tricky – we may have to make it up as we go along.

Our plan is then to fly from Lhasa to Shanghai from where we are scheduled to fly to Sydney, Australia on May 12th.  At the moment we are scheduled to spend 3 days  in Tokyo, Japan, but unfortunately due to the recent and ongoing disaster there this now seems unlikely and we will fly direct from Shanghai to Sydney instead.  Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the people of Japan, and hope that the situation there improves in the near future.

From Australia the plans are very loose, we have booked accommodation for 4 nights in Sydney, and are then planning to initially take a camper-van up the East Coast (to warmer climates as it will be winter in Australia at this time).  We have working holiday visas so will be keeping an eye open for work opportunities so this will influence where we go to – I am hoping to take on a 3-6 month network design contract out there – if possible!  Roughly speaking we expect to stay in Australia 6-8 months, depending on how the work situation pans-out.

After Australia our flight ticket will take us to New Zealand, Fiji, and then into Singapore from where will will travel overland (maybe through Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam en-route) to Bangkok (Thailand) for our return flight to London – probably this time next year!  We haven’t given much though to this part of the trip yet!

I have draw out this map (click on the icon for a bigger image) of our planned trip (green line for overland legs, red line for flights).

All very exciting and daunting at the same time!  I have just quit work and Lisa has recently finished her University studies, and with no commitments this is a perfect time for us to take a trip of this nature.  We are planning on taking each leg of the journey at a time and working it out as we go to a certain extent – starting with St Petersburg on Monday where it is currently around 0 degrees, doh!

So two days to go and I’m still not packed, lot’s of last minute preparations to make and I best get back to it!  Check back here soon as I will of course be blogging regularly with updates on our progress…

 

Off to Tanzania on Wednesday!

Hi all!  Its been a while since I’ve posted anything on here, but thought I would let ya know I’m off to Tanzania on Wednesday!  A group of five of us plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro!  At 5800m high its going to be quite a challenge, but we have been training and will be taking it slow and steady in a bid to reach the top via the Machame route.

kilimanjaro

As you can see it should be very interesting, we will be passing several different eco-systems on our route to the top – from rich jungle to deserts, and roaming around the bottom are Carnivorous animals!

After the trek up the mountain we are doing a Safari around the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and Ngorongoro.  Fingers crossed we will get to see some interesting animals – to see a Lion would be amazing!  We haven’t given to much thought to the Safari as yet as we have been training hard for the Kilimanjaro trek!

After that I’m heading to the island of Zanzibar, where I plan to relax and have a bit of luxury (during the trek and safari we are sleeping in tents!), hopefully get in a bit of snorkeling too.

Quite a varied and action packed trip – I can’t wait!

If I can get on the internet I’ll be posting updates so check back soon…

Bringing you up to date and new trip planned!

Hi all! Its been a while since I last posted on this site! I thought I would write an update as I am departing on another exciting trip! Before I get to that I’ll give you a very brief summary of what I have been doing since my 6 month trip around the world!

I returned to work BT in the same role as before my trip, however after a while I felt I needed a new role/challenge and to move out of my Mums house! So I left BT in January 2008 and setup as a freelance IT consultant and have been working in Reading for the last 6 months for a large UK defence agency.

Since my trip I have been in a relationship with Lisa (from Germany) whom I met in the Galapagos! We really clicked in the Galapagos and planned a meet-up in London last summer, after a few more liaisons in the UK and Germany things soon became serious and we’ve been happy ever since 🙂 Here we are in the picturesque town of Bamberg in Germany:

Lisa and Shep in Bamberg, Germany

Due to our international relationship I find myself travelling to Germany and Austria (Lisa studies in Vienna) regularly, which is a nice lifestyle! I was even out at Euro 2008 in June and was lucky enough to go to the Spain v Italy game in the quarter finals. I’m even learning German, and enjoying it, although my Spanish is getting very rusty! I haven’t done a big trip as such but since I returned from Brazil I’ve visited Holland, Poland, France, and Slovakia (as well as Germany and Austria). Apart from all that I’m still enjoying sports (still supporting Coventry City – this season is the one!) and regularly meeting friends around the UK.

Anyway this is a travel blog and the reason for the post is because Lisa and I on Saturday are off to India for a month! We are taking all of August off (the benefits of being freelance) to do a bit of backpacking around one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. My guidebook described India as ‘one of the few places on the globe you can still get serious culture shock and sensual overload’ so its going to be an interesting adventure! However we are both keen to experience the Indian culture and wanted to do so whilst we are still young and prepared to rough it!

A month sounds like a long time but in a country as big and varied as India it is no time at all. We’ve picked out a few places we want to go and will work around those. From the research we have done the transport infastructure and chaotic way of life may impact on how much we can see. With this in mind we havent planned too much, we fly into Delhi and out of Mumbai and we will take each day as it comes in between. However, our rough route hopefully will be similar to that shown on the map below:

After a couple of days acclimatising in Delhi we will head up to the foothills of the Himalayas to a town called Rishikesh, which is the home of Yoga and a very spiritual place apparently. From there we’ll head to Agra which is the city closest to the Taj Mahal (something we are obviously keen to see) and from there into the state of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is the largest state in India (covering an area roughly the size of Germany) and where a lot of historical palaces and forts are located, as such it will be the main part of our trip. We will try to visit Jaipur, Jodphur, Bundi, Jaisalmer, and Udaipur if we can. Jaisalmer in the West is located in the heart of the Thar Desert and we hope to do a camel trek from there into the desert. We will then fly down to Goa for our last week where we will hopefully be abel to relax and unwind before heading to Mumbai (home of Bollywood) for a day before our flight home.

As you can see quite a bit to fit in. hopefully the experience of my previous travels will be useful in dealing with all that India can throw at us. Check back here during August as I’ll be updating on our progress as often as possible.

I’m off to dust of the backpack and purchase some Imodium tablets!

How being back home feels!

Time really does fly, its over a week already since I arrived back in the UK! Already I’ve seen lots of family and friends, returned to work, and been up to Manchester – which has made for a nice welcome back. Lots of mixed emotions still, nice to be back, but sad that the trip is over – but very much looking forward to what the future may bring.

Mum and Katie were waiting for me at Heathrow (probably the worest airport of the many I’ve been too!) complete with a ‘Welcome back’ balloon! I was feeling a bit spaced out though as I didn’t sleep much on the flight and we landed at 8am, which meant it was 4am Brazil time. Didn’t do much else for the rest of the day except unpack, which did’nt take long, and eat a nice roast dinner – with gravy and Yorkshire pudding, superb!. The first thing that struck me when I got back was the freshness of the air and the greeness of the landscape – pretty refreshing. Everyone has to do there bit for the enviroment, but we definatley are not the main offenders!

Its been great having my own bed again and not have to hunt for a place to stay, with a decent duvet/pillows, and not have to share the room with complete strangers – simple things! Its also been great to wear different clothes than the ones I’ve carried aroudn the world, especially good to wear jeans again. Other home comforts I had’nt thought about before include being able to drink the tap water, and having food avaliable in the house – yes I’ve been freeloading off my Mum!

My good friend Al and his wife Katherine came to visit with their 6 month old daughter Jessica, who I had not seen before as she was born nine days after I left! I’ve known Al for 25+ years so it was kinda strange to see him with a nipper! He looks like he is enjoying life as a Dad and is very proud of her! Our lifes have certainly taken very different paths in the last six months, although I don’t envy having to deal with nappies one bit! Of course I got to hold little Jessica, crazy how tiny she is!
With Alex and Jessica

I’m lucky that I have had a job to come back to and its been good getting stuck back into that. Unfortunatley I have to work from home a lot, which may sound like fun but trust me it gets dull after a while! Had some meetings in Manchester last week and met up with a load of friends up there, which was good. Everyone says it must be hard to go back to work, but its not that bad really I’m actually enjoying having a purpose and a routine again – I’m sure that will wear off quick!
Its strange in six months you expect so much to have happened back home, I guess because I’ve been busy doing stuff, but everything seems as it was when I left! Most people greet me by saying “the times flown by”! The time did fly by, but it did feel like I was away for a long time! The first couple of months seemed to take a while and then suddenly I was at the halfway mark and then time flew!

It was a busy six months, I did a lot in that time and thats why the time went quick I guess! I met people who were doing six months in just one country! But I enjoyed being busy and seeing as much as I could in the time I had. Having said that it was nice in the Galapagos to have a month in the same place and get to know somewhere and people well. I also met plenty of people who seemed to have stayed in a place too long, they mainly seemed to play bongos on the street, so I guess its getting a happy medium. If I travel again though I will try to go at a more leisurely pace, and try not to plan too much.

Lots of people have been asking me where my favourite place was, and I honestly answer it was all good. Yes there were places I enjoyed especially, but there werent many places I went to that I didn’t enjoy. A lot of the fun for me was the day to day part of travelling, obviously the sights were good but trying to communicate with the locals, sampling local food, working out the transport systems, and trying not to get lost were what travelling was about for me. It was a great buzz for me to wake up in the morning and not know where I’d be that evening.

Of the 3000+ photos I took, one of my favourite photos is this of me on a boat in Cambodia travelling between Siem Reap and Phomn Phen.

Travelling in style in Cambodia

Its a bit grainy as it was taken on a disposable camera because I’d lost mine the previous week! I’d left Tom that morning and was slightly apprehensive about heading off into Cambodia on my own. The boat was a rickety old thing but it sped along the river at decent speed, I sat on the top deck for the duration of the five hour trip and got a bit sunburnt (except when it rained!). When we arrived at the dock in Phomn Phen there were loads of touts for local hostels, pretty chaotic, I found a hostel I wanted and got on the back of the guys scooter with my big backpack strapped to me – crazy, no helmet just wearing shorts and flip flops, you just would’nt even think of doing it in the UK! Great memories, click here to read the original post!

Other highlights for me (click links to read my original posts) include; the Great Wall of China, which has to be seen to appreciate its scale – photos don’t do it justice. Saigon in Vietnam, buzzing city with lots of cool things to see and a good nightlife, deffo warrents a return visit. Malaysian food, superb curries that were a cross between Thai and Indian, nice country too shame I could’nt have spent longer there! I love South East Asia, its such an easy place to travel and experience a different culture with friendly people and a laid back atmosphere! Outback Australia, the arid vastness are amazing and pretending to be ‘Mick Dundee’ is fun! Ayres Rock is good too. Also the three weeks I spent going up the east coast of Oz was cool too, although not sure how my kidneys handled it! New Zealands scenery was awesome and the easy way of life has made me consider moving out there, if only it wasnt so far away! Doing a skydive there was one of the scaryiest things I’ve ever done, but totally buzzed from the experience!  Then of course the Galapagos was awesome, the work was tough and the bugs sucked but getting to spend a month out there and meeting some really cool people was an amazing experience. I was a bit unsure about it when I first got there but after a few days I settled in and I’m glad and proud to have done something meaningful on my trip. Mainland South America was all good but Chimborazo volcano (going up to 5000m!), the Inca Trail (amazing views and a tough challenge), and the Salt Plains of southern Bolivia (out of this world scenery) were particular favourites. Have to say I enjoyed Argentina too, another place I would like to explore further, whilst Rio de Janeiro was a good place to end the trip. As you can see its hard for me to pick a favourite!

Another question I’ve been asked a lot is “Have you changed?”. I’m not sure, I deffo have some new and different perspectives on life, but I think I’m still the same but a bit more worldly wise! I’ve learnt a lot from my trip, especially about myself. Travelling alone really makes you get to know your likes and dislikes – I know I’m comfortable in my own space and would not be fazed by travelling solo again. Having said that it was great to see everyone I met en-route, it was good to have a bit of both. I know I’ve been really lucky to of had this experience!

So whats next for me? Not sure right at this moment! Travelling is a bug and I havent quite got it out of my system yet. Unfortunatley it also costs plenty of money so I need to get my head down and do some work for a while, but I wouldn’t rule out doing it again! I’d like to do a substantial overland journey, such as the trans-siberian railway which goes from Moscow to Beijing – pretty cool I reckon. Also fancy visiting Everest basecamp in Nepal and seeing India (for the food!), and then theres Africa too – so much of the world to see! I’m also thinking about maybe working abroad for a bit. Lots of options, but for the short term at least I’m living at my Mums until I’ve decided what to do.

Hope you have enjoyed reading the blog, its been a great way to keep in touch with lots of people and it was great getting all your messages. Check back occasionally as I’ll post any new travel related articles here.

Sheps final thought. Travelling is awesome, I would recommend anyone to do it, theres a big world out there……..go explore!