Beyond Kyrgyzstan and the 3,752 metre high Torugart Pass is China, a country where everything – and I do mean everything – is completely different from what most travellers are accustomed.
Laura and I are so-called “permanent overlanders”. We’ve been non-stop on the road now for many decades; our most recent venture a six-year motorcycle journey from Europe to Australia. And like so many other road-warriors who cross Asia with their own vehicle, we encountered a couple of hurdles along the way.
The greatest logistical challenge, by far, was obtaining legal permission to ride through China without a guide. Very, very few overlanders have managed to achieve this. We may have even been amongst the first, who knows?
But we certainly weren’t the last. A handful of vagabonds on wheels have transited China independently since our crossing in 2014/2015.
I didn’t exactly know when or where I was going to find my forever partner, but I never could have predicted it would involve a man who lived 15,000km away from me.
Having successfully navigated the 1am phone calls, the miscommunications, the extreme highs of seeing each other after so long, followed by the extreme lows of being kept in immigration limbo, we have compiled our experiences and advice into the ultimate ‘how-to’ guide.
Our ultimate goal with publishing this book? To offer other long distance couples the tools, knowledge, and the hope that your long distance relationship can be just as successful as our own.
The women in our group had started calling me shoulders – not necessarily because there was anything spectacular about mine, but because they could see them. Which was a novel concept when we were hiking across a continent covered in ice.
In fact, Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and driest continent on earth, and summer temperatures average just above freezing. So stripping off my carefully planned out layers wasn’t something I expected, or originally had in mind.
But the sun was beating down, and I was ridiculously overdressed. I had even started sweating! So there I was, hiking across a glacier, with bare shoulders, now recommending that every traveler to Antarctica packs sunblock. Because the biggest killer in Antarctica is the reflection off the ice.
Who would’ve ever thought that packing a carbon monoxide detector would be an essential and life-saving item in one’s travel-kit arsenal?
We certainly didn’t until tragedy struck and my husband nearly lost his life to carbon monoxide poisoning at a “boutique hotel” in Central Mexico.
After dropping our twins off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp in a rural community outside of Guadalajara, Frank and I set out to enjoy our weekend together, knowing that our children would be in good hands in the company of their classmates and the Camp La Cañada counselors, including a medic on staff.
But instead of enjoying a romantic weekend of exploring and relaxing together, we spent it fighting for Frank’s life. So I pen an open letter to all travelers.
When I mentioned to family and friends that I planned to climb Kilimanjaro, the overwhelming majority laughed. Not in a malicious way, but in a “you over-estimate your abilities” type of way.
And honestly, to begin with, I didn’t really care if I climbed Kilimanjaro or not. I was going to be in Tanzania, the mountain was going to be there, and I had read a feature about Thérèse Rein and vaguely remembered that the climb was something you could brag about having done (I still use it as a sticking point on my adventurous resume to this day).
But for my original indifference of whether I completed the climb or not, the decision was made when I was told “it’s a lovely goal, I just don’t think you’ll get to the top.” And honestly, I thank every single person who said this to me. Because this was the motivating factor which got me to the top. Come hell or high water (I did trek through hell, just not high water!), I was going to prove every single one of them wrong.
I often write about what travel has taught me, and how travel has changed my perspective on life. However a lot of my transformation happened on that mountain top.
The idea to attempt a long walk had been in my head for some time. The book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, came into my hands, shortly followed by Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts; two autobiographies which detailed epic adventures across magical landscapes on foot.
It became clear to me that something very special happens to a traveler in this situation, so I decided I had to be involved. Though having never walked long distance before, I had to figure out where I should start.
The obvious choice for most travelers these days is the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James. One of the most popular long distance routes made famous by films such as The Way with Martin Sheen, thousands come from all over the world to walk it every year. I imagined I’d probably be one of those thousands until – surprisingly – I started to learn a little bit more about European pilgrimage routes.
After years of full time travel, finding a frequent fix of life on the road is a necessity now that I’ve (kind of) re-joined the real world. But the need pursue adventure on a regular basis has a tendency to present financial obstacles, so I’m constantly creating new ways to explore on a budget, without having to feel like a backpacker again.
With a love of outdoor adventure, over the years I’ve developed a bit of a habit for sleeping out under the stars. So this time I set my sights on a week of wild camping in Greece.
A pinch of humidity, few spoons of fresh air, and a plate full of scenic views as far as the eye can see is Kerala for you. Between beaches, tea estates, paddy fields, mountains, rubber plantations, pepper, and beautiful backwaters, this Indian state has it all. It’s no wonder they call it God’s country.
And it’s possible to experience it all – to witness each of the stunning landscapes people flock to Kerala to see. You’ll just need to hop on a houseboat.
50 years ago, houseboats in this region were setup to transfer goods from one place to another, as most of the state was not reachable by land. Though in recent decades the secret of Kerala’s beauty has got out, and these historic houseboats have been made accessible to the public as tourism takes hold.
Morocco is one of those dreamy destinations that pull you in with vivid images of colorful souks, exotic culture and a diverse geography.
It has always been high on my list of places to visit, and once I was there it did not disappoint! From the fabulous shopping stalls in a maze of ancient medinas, to the strange sight of goats perched high in trees munching on argon seeds, this is a place which will captivate and amaze, and there is truly so much to see and do.
Though being an experienced traveler doesn’t guarantee a flawless experience every time. Even though we travel to the far corners of the earth alone and return home in one piece, this doesn’t mean we always walk away unscathed. I invite you to hold my hand and join me in a few of my Moroccan mishaps into the Sahara Desert!
It was a hot summer afternoon in Ahmedabad, a historic city in Western India. It was the month of May and the temperature had soared well past 40 degrees centigrade. Hot winds blew across the city and singed my bare arms as I looked for an auto rickshaw (a three wheeler moto taxi) to take me to my destination.
I heaved a sigh of relief as one of the ubiquitous green and yellow vehicles slowed down. I sank into the cooler environs of the auto rickshaw, thankful for some respite from the glaring sun, and instructed the driver about my destination. I was headed towards a small village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, called Adalaj. I had heard about a unique stepwell which was over 500 years old that was located here and wanted to have a look.
I had seen pictures, but pictures never do justice, especially to historic sites. You need to be there in flesh and blood to experience the strange vibrations and aura that one finds in these places. Moreover, I had been fascinated by the legend behind the building of this stepwell and this was one of the prime motivators for heading towards a sleepy village on the outskirts of the Indian city of Ahmedabad.
I had been working as a bellydancer in the Arab world for years, when an opportunity in India popped up in 2014. For three months, I would be based in Delhi, performing in shows at different venues every night.
Sometimes our shows were as far as eight hours’ drive away – unless we were taking a plane. Hungry for a challenge, I took the leap. And I made sure I traveled with a camcorder to document the experience.
Leaving Guatemala at the end of January 2015 was a tough decision, as I really loved it there, though after spending a week at Lake Atitlan with my now girlfriend Claudia I was so head over heels that, before she left towards Belize, we agreed that we would meet again in Mexico, a couple weeks down the road.
Though we would eventually meet, it would be one hellish journey for me. And, after having been locked up in an Egyptian prison on a previous journey abroad, my standards for an experience to reach “hellish” are far from a soft cry.