Monthly Archives: April 2014

Living or Travelling?

When familiarity feels more comfortable than uncomfortable, its time to make a change. Perhaps this is one of those unwritten rules about travelling that has emerged for me over the past few months.

The travelling rule is – As soon as you start to feel comfortable in a certain city or town, its time to move on.

For the past three weeks I have been staying in Sucre, Bolivia learning Spanish. Now that my time in Sucre is coming to an end, I realised that for those three weeks I wasn’t travelling, but I was living. It is a city that I could easily live in the future, when my spanish is better! I have met some fantastic people here, people that I can honestly call my older brothers and sisters.

I found I had settled into a routine, I was no longer living out of a rucksack and its quite weird to say this but I think I have found a home here. I started wanting things to make myself more comfortable. A pillow which so far was a luxury was now becoming an essential. It felt like I was starting to accumulate material things for comfort. Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad 😛

One thing that Sucre has taught me is that there’s nothing worse than rushing travelling. Travelling is something enjoyable, and the past month has been pretty rushed. Even though I’ve had an amazing time, there’s a nagging feeling inside me, wanting to go back and see the place properly. That’s an important learning for me, that sometimes you have to actually live and experience a place and not just travel.

Tomorrow I am heading off to Parque Abue Ari, it’s an animal sanctuary around 6 hours north of Santa Cruz. Deep in the Bolivian jungle. I have decided to take another one month break and during this time I will be working with big cats, including Jaguars, Leopards and Pumas. This will be an amazing opportunity to do some ecological work and most importantly work with some fantastic animals.

I’m literally really excited – Photos to be uploaded soon.

Fascinating stories of people I’ve met on my travels

One of the best things about travelling is the ability to meet a number of people from all backgrounds, cultures and countries. Sometimes when you meet these new people the only thing you have in common is that you share the love of travelling. However even that one similarity is enough for the two of you to become amazing friends.
Almost like lost souls who have crossed a connection in the spiritual world…..

So I’ve decided to share with you the four most funniest, most interesting and the most amazing stories I’ve heard whilst travelling. For obvious reasons I haven’t mentioned any names.

1.The false accusation

So In San Pedro de Atacama I met a Danish girl during one of the group excursions. I introduced myself as an 18 year old backpacker travelling for Seven months through the Americas. Without even inquiring, the first thing she said “Your parents must be really rich if they can afford to send you travelling for Seven months”. My mouth dropped open so wide you could fit an apple in it However I quickly recovered from the shock and invited her home to check out my parents bank balance. In fact I may not even have to show her the bank balance, just a cursory look around the house and she’ll realise how wrong she is.

I’m still pretty hopeful that one day she’ll show up and add a few zeros to the end of it. LOL

2.The Incredible Cyclist

For the average traveller buses are the best way to meet fellow travellers and to hear stories about there trips. On one bus I travelled on, I had the opportunity to travel with a British cyclist who was cycling around South America When I asked him how much he had cycled he casually turned round to me and said “6000 Kilometres” I was astounded at him.

Travelling has made me a tad less lazy, but cycling for 6000KM is on another level. LOL

3.The Religious Debate

Being a practising Muslim whilst travelling, definitely opens you up to a lot of questions from various people. Generally I’m pretty open about my experiences and my lifestyle. However one day I met an individual to another level. He started asking me questions such as:

– A. Over the period of time the concept of religion has killed more people than any other cause. How can the concept of religion be good?

– B. Why are you following a religion where you don’t know God’s reasoning to allowing and disallowing certain things. Surely you’re following your religion blindly? Now, I’m a forward person, however this was taking it to another level.

Thankfully I managed to answer his questions to a sufficient level. However at one point he did accuse me of “blindly following my faith” LOL.

4. The Musician and Magician

Whilst climbing hills in Bariloche, I met one of the most incredible person ever. It turns out he has been travelling for over five years. As soon as he told me this, I turned around to him and blurted out

“How the hell have you managed to fund your travelling”

It turns out he ran out of money 2 years ago. Since then everyday he busks on the streets playing his guitar and doing magic tricks with the deck of cards in his back pocket.

The small money he earns from busking usually enables him to get a few meals a day and a bed. I was absolutely fascinated by his story and the way he travels. It’s completely different to anyone.

So there you have it, four stories about the people I have met on my travels so far. I have no doubt, I’ll be meeting many more on this trip.

5 mistakes that I have made when travelling

I have been travelling for exactly 74 days now, and you would sort of expect that I’ve managed to learn a thing or two about travelling. To be honest, most of these lessons have occurred by making mistakes. But hey who doesn’t make mistakes eh. After all the day you stop making mistakes is the day you stop learning.

So therefore I have decided to share with you five mistakes that I have made whilst travelling.

1. No such thing as a free lunch

In this world there is not such thing as a free lunch or a coffee or anything of value for that matter. There was one time where I was at a cafe with a local guy who was helping me with my spanish. Before we entered the cafe, this guy turns around to me and says “I’m treating you, what would you like?” Me being me, I automatically assumed that he’s paying for my coffee, so I ordered a large Coffee with all the toppings etc.

At the end of the night the bill arrived and he automatically asked for my share. Long story short, I had to pay, and when I asked him what he meant as to “treating me” he said that his company was enough to be a treat to me :/ Oh well you live and learn eh

2. Haggling is not always a good idea

Before I came to South America, I automatically was under the impression that you could haggle for as long as you wanted and the worse that could happen was that they would say no. However this was not the case. I nearly got kicked out the shop because I had apparently insulted the shop keepers intelligence by pushing my luck and haggling further. LOL

3. First Impressions do count

Due to the fact that I’m travelling alone, I am always eager to make new friends as soon as I arrive at a hostel. Fortunately for me, I have made a number of good first impressions with the other travellers, so much so that I’m never really alone at any point on my Journey. However the same cannot be said for some other travellers I have met who have gotten of on the wrong foot, and are left trying to make amends throughout the rest of their time in that city.

4. Party Hostels are not always the best way forward

When I first started travelling, I was under the impression that party hostels, for all their faults are the way forward. Yes, due to the atmosphere, you do meet some amazing people who have the most incredible stories. However there reaches a point when you are trying to sleep at 2am in the morning, and there’s a DJ downstairs who is playing music so loud you can hear it in bloody Timbuktu. And trust me, at that moment you really do wish you had picked a nice quiet hostel.

5. Eating out every night is not sustainable

When I first started travelling, I thought I had enough in my budget to eat at a nice restaurant every night. However when I realised that my budget was taking a huge smash every time I set foot in a restaurant, I realised that I had to start cooking for myself. For me that means pasta, eggs and wedges. Why? Because I cannot cook anything else. I tried a curry once, but turned into a sloshy mess and don’t even get me started on the time I tried to cook fish. LOL

Note to self – Next time you embark on another 7 months voyage, get some cooking lessons!

So there you have it the top five mistakes that I have made and learnt from whilst travelling! Please do share any advice that you may have for me….

A humbling expereince

I have always been an individual who has never fully appreciated some of the luxuries that I have in life. However travelling has slowly made me realise how lucky I am.

Lucky that I can wake up in the morning and not have to wonder when my next meal is. Lucky that I can safely say that at night I’m gonna be safe. Lucky that I have an opportunity to travel the world. Today I realised just how lucky I was, and it came through a very unlikely incident.
This morning I booked myself onto a Mining tour. Potosi is famous for its mines and this mining tour was a lot like caving, where you would have to crawl on your hands and knees for 10 minutes while there’s a rock less than 30cm above your face. For me, that was a definition of torture.

It was claustrophobic, it was hot and it was smelly. However after a few hours of caving, we met a few miners inside the mine. And gosh was I astounded. Miners here have no choice whether they want to mine or not. From the age of 15 they are forced into the mine for over twelve hours a day. They are stuck in conditions for hours on end and these places are so tight you haven’t got a room to swing a cat. Not only are they stuck in these dreadful conditions but the safety is next to none, And the pay they receive is nothing compared to the amount of hours they work. To think that for these miners these conditions are all they know, and that they will never really be able to get away from this place saddened me.

When I shared my thoughts and reflection with a few members of my group, they turned around to me and said

“But Ammaar, they must be used to these conditions”.

However I responded that no human being should even be forced into those sorts of places. Let alone made to work countless hours in there.

Unfortunately at the end of the day this is a sad reality of life, whether its in a sweatshop in China or a mine in Bolivia, the conditions that I hated being in today should not be around.
At the end of the day, for me It was truly a humbling experience. It was an experience that will stick with me for the rest of my life, and next time when I come home from work and feel like complaining it will be an experience that I will remember.