Monthly Archives: September 2016

Tips To Live Like a Local While Travelling

Say Goodbye To The Tourist Trail
Most travellers spend months trailing other tourists and ticking off every restaurant, bar, and trek mentioned in the guidebook. There’s nothing wrong with this method of travel. But there is another way.

Leave the tourist trail, set down some roots for a few weeks in a city of your choice and learn how to live like a local on your gap year. Doing so will lead you to unforgettable memories of that country, and the time to do more than just scratch its surface.

Find the best eateries

We often select meals based upon guidebook recommendations; an assured approach to finding a stomach-able lunch. But actually just disappearing down a side street and following the bellies of the locals can produce greater results.

From stumbling upon delicious tempura in a four-seater restaurant near Kyoto, Japan, to devouring wildly spicy, 20p noodles from a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Chonquing, China, I’ve discovered that taking a chance on your lunch leads to delectable discoveries.

And while many advise against street food for its potential effects on your insides, watching your food being prepared before taking a seat alongside rows of dining locals is often worth the risk. Generally, it’s down to the luck of the draw whether you suffer travellers’ belly or not. Live a little.

Learn the lingo – or communicate in other ways

How much you interact with local people in any country relies on one thing: you. Proactive, fearless travellers who ignore their linguistic failings (and, in my case, accidentally introduce their name as ‘parrot’) will always meet a vast number of interesting people.

Although few travellers have the luxury of spending enough time in one place to become fluent in the local language, even basic classes can get you up to speed. The result? Chatting with new people whose perspectives on the world are infinitely more interesting than those twenty other travellers you met, all hailing from your home country.

What’s more, as your mum probably told you, politeness and friendliness are invaluable, and a smile can substitute for a thousand foreign words. A friend also swears by the socially-cohesive power of sharing snacks from your home country: I can attest that a gifted packet of pickled-onion Monster Munch to tour guides can build strong friendships.

If languages aren’t your forte, find a social activity that transcends linguistic boundaries: take tango classes in Buenos Aires, play wallyball (a cross between squash and volleyball) in Bolivia, or learn to make ceviche (a delicious, marinated fish dish) in Peru.

Experience public transport

If you’ve never taken a sleeper train through Eastern Europe, well, you’ve never lived. Overwhelmingly romantic, it offers a scenic, comfortable form of transport for locals and travellers alike.

For risk-takers, Chinese buses are an experience not quickly forgotten: a combination of appreciating the driver’s terrifying capacity to avoid a full-frontal collision, while being unable to tear your eyes away from the undecipherable Chinese adverts playing incessantly on the internal TV.

Try the tipple of choice

Sampling (in moderation) the local tipple in its native habitat will offer you a new outlook on a country and teach you about the subtleties of a culture.

For example, Japanese sake – best sampled in a Tokyo speciality bar – is a pungent, fiery alcohol seemingly at odds with the refined nature of Japanese people. Tasting various flavours of vodka in a cosy Krakow hangout will show you Poland’s warmth and welcoming nature. Chicha – a maize drink originally made by children chewing the grain to initiate fermentation – demonstrates friendly Bolivian culture at its most hospitable, and most sozzled.

Stumble upon cultural – and often downright weird – events

One of my strangest travel experiences to date was the Kanamara Matsuri or “Festival of the Steel Penis” in Tokyo. Penises on wheels, forged from metal or wood, were pushed through the assembled crowds, while onlookers nibbled on phallus-shaped lollipops. ‘Bizarre’ doesn’t quite do this memory justice.

Sound interesting? Signing up to Facebook groups for cities will alert you to celebrations like these. Keeping your eyes peeled for events also bears fruit: when in Slovenia, I stumbled upon a film screening in Ljubljana Castle. I have no memory of the film, instead what lingers is the image of the castle at night seeped in soft lighting, with the crowd seated beneath the stars. Magical.

Embrace every offer, talk to every person – and maybe even date one

If you’ve attended events, chances are you’ll have met people keen to show you their city’s highlights. This does come with a caveat – obviously due caution must be exercised whenever you meet new people. However, these invitations often lead to the most memorable travelling experiences. A friend of mine who lived in China told me about randomly meeting a communist painter at the local university. What followed was a bizarre evening in the company of famous artists, with wine, card games and dressing up to pose for communist-inspired portraits.

Not only this, but by deviating from the tourist hubs to find more interesting local joints and being prepared to chat to anyone is a great way of practising languages, or offering your English for a bit of inter-cambio (language exchange). Dating a local can also help you to discover the country, although you may find – as many have before you – that you never actually leave…

Make a fool of yourself
Recognising that you’ll spend half your time looking/speaking like an idiot as you work out how life works in your new country – but also accepting this as part of the transition into travelling virtuoso – will save you a lot of embarrassment in the long run. Plus, remembering that people in every country go out of their way to help foreign travellers will make you realise that others will do the same for you.

Living like a local requires more effort and proactivity than travelling. However, discovering countries this way will not only radically alter your perspective, but may even change the way you travel.

More Information About Unmissable Beaches on the Gold Coast

With kilometres upon kilometres of beaches that are envied world over how do you choose which of the Gold Coast’s incredible beaches to delve into? Well here’s a rundown of some of our favourites to make a start on, at least.

Surfers Paradise

This beach certainly lives up to its name, with a three kilometre stretch of white sand, swept by irresistibly, perfect surf-able waves. The district is also Queensland’s nightlife hub and a bustling shopping area. So check out this famous beach either for the waves, cocktails or a new wardrobe.

Coolangatta

Named after a 19th century shipwreck this beach is the place to head if you’re looking for a slower pace, a place to take the famously aussie laid-back way of life down another notch. The beach marks the technical end of the Gold Coast, and round the bluff is New South Wales. The beach boasts world class surfing opportunities, so grab a board and grab some waves.

Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Heads is the home of many international surfing competitions; the surf is just that good. The beach is protected by the headland so not only is it a great surf location but a safe protected dip for swimmers and body boarders too if you are not quite ready to stand on a piece of plastic as it hurtles towards the hard greeting of the sand.

Mermaid Beach

Named for the river that flows down to the shore, which was in turn titled after the explorer John Uxley’s cutter, Mermaid Beach is a quiet stretch of sand. It’s also next to Hedge Avenue, probably the most expensive stretch of property on the Australian coastline, dubbed ‘Millionaire’s Mile.’

Nobby Beach

If you’re looking for a quieter beach Nobby may be the one for you. Normally hosting families the lovely stretch of sand gained its name from a bullock that went wandering in the 1800s and was eventually found there.

Kurrawa

This beach is the home of the renowned Kurrawa Surf Life Saving Club which regularly hosts the Australia Life Saving Championships. When you’ve worn yourself out being pounded in the surf just a short walk inland is a choice of entertainment, bars and restaurants, including Dracula’s Cabaret Restaurant. Yup, really.

Kirra

This lovely clean beach is often the landing site for parasails and skydivers, who favour the soft sand when falling from the sky. If that terrifying idea doesn’t appeal the area is celebrated as one of the best surf spots for both beginners and as a challenge to the experienced surfer.

The Best 8 Stargazing Destinations In the World

tt2Visiting other planets may well be just beyond reach for your average backpacker but viewing them certainly isn’t.

With cities around the globe expanding, oozing into the countryside around them, skies unscathed enough to see the stars are becoming harder and harder to find. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has tasked itself with the protection of our nights, setting up dark sky reserves and parks in an attempt to protect the darkness.

Here are the top 8 places to view the cosmos.

Monument Valley, Utah
Beneath Bortle class 2 skies, a categorisation that means the Milky Way is visible in all its technicoloured, swirling glory to the naked eye, this park in Utah is lit by stars so brightly that they cast shadows. The first park to ever be designated an “International Dark Sky Park” by the IDA, visitors can also take ranger led walks and put a few names to those sparkling dots.

Cerro Paranal, Atacama Desert, Chile
Deep in the Atacama Desert lies the Cerro Paranal mountain, atop which sits the Paranal Observatory. The observatory is home to the Very Large Telescope which here is using a laser beam to create an artificial star. This celestial imposter ensures a fixed point for the telescope and camera equipment to focus on and produce blur-free images whilst it studies the supermassive black hole that lies at the centre of our galaxy. That ought to be worth a look or two.

Death Valley, California, United States
Whilst the bleak grandeur of the Death Valley canyon and desert is worth a trip on its own, staying the night provides visitors with an incredible opportunity to see the stars with unparalleled clarity. The park service has even taken steps to reduce outdoor lighting to better enhance the view. And in true Californian style, visitors can make an event of the stargazing at a star party that sees horseback riding, open fires and guided astronomy.

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania, United States
Cherry Springs is a 48-acre park that offers a designated 360 degree stargazing field atop a 2,300 foot mountain. The incredible view offers a sight of the centre of the Milky Way completely unobstructed by lighting, overhead lines or air traffic.

Alberta, Rocky Mountains, Canada
Miles away from light leaking cities and pesky distractions, stargazers flock into the barren expanse of the Rockies to gaze in wonder at the heavens. Whilst you may have to dodge some bears the vista will certainly be worth it.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Over 4,000m above sea-level, perched on the apex of a dormant volcano, sits the Mauna Kea Observatory. Above most cloud cover it offers a breath-taking view of millions of dancing silver stars, the Milky Way and several planets. The slightly lower visitor centre offers similarly spectacular views but with access to coffee (important on late night star-stake-outs).

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo is simply one of the best stargazing sites in the world and labelled as ‘Gold’ standard by the International Dark-Sky Association. The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve by day is a whirlwind tour at the summit of Mount John, with open access to telescopes through which planets, stars and the sun are visible. By night the stars are a gleaming mass above the incredibly scenic mountains, discernible to the naked (and probably cold) eye.

Exmoor, United Kingdom
Exmoor National Park was Europe’s very first International Dark-Sky Reserve away from street lights, cars and buildings. Although the vista is easily seen, telescopes can be hired from park centres and there is even ‘dark-sky’ accommodation available. If you want a private walk through of the cosmos that can also be arranged with a ranger anywhere in the park. So you don’t have to travel the globe to see out beyond it.