This week’s guest post comes from Tales of the Barefoot Backpacker who describes himself as follows:
- A solo traveller.
- Travels as light as he possibly can – usually only with hand luggage.
- Likes to visit the unusual and ‘darker’ parts of the world – he likes to see places where people haven’t ‘necessarily been nice’ to each other.
- Takes photographs of the interesting and unexpected, as well as landscapes.
- Writes. A lot.
- He’s an introvert (which counteracts a lot of the above).
- He’s British. This is apparently a self-evident fact amongst anyone who’s ever encountered him …
Here are the 10 questions I asked him and his fantastic answers.
1. What is your name and where do you come from?
I’m Ian, and I live 13 miles from the heart of Sherwood Forest, in England’s East Midlands. No, I’ve never met Robin Hood. I’m originally from Liverpool; no I’ve never met the Beatles either but I believe the younger brother of one of my classmates at primary school was in the early 90s band ‘Cast’.
(That fact alone may well ‘date’ me somewhat compared to other travel bloggers!)
2. What sort of traveller are you? Full time / part time / business / backpacker etc?
I am a part-time backpacker. I did recently take a year out to travel the world but in the event travelled on and off for about half of that year in total; I still haven’t quite figured out if that made my travel plans a success or a failure.
I’d call myself a ‘backpacker’ because, well, I generally carry a backpack … 😀
I’d classify my travel style as ‘light’ – wherever possible I travel only with hand-luggage, my reason being that I’d have to carry it around with me while I wander between cities anyway, so it makes sense for it to be as light as possible. Plus there’s so much advantage with not having to wait at luggage reclaim.
Wherever possible, I tend to travel cheaply and slowly – overland trains/buses rather than internal flights, backpacker hostels rather than boutique hotels, street food rather than restaurants. However I also have a short attention span so while some people could happily spend three months in a place, really getting a feel for it, I’m usually off somewhere else after three days.
Generally I also travel alone; while I’m not averse to meeting people along the way and going for trips with them, most of my actual travelling I tend to do on my own. By nature I’m both a loner and an introvert, so the idea of solo travel sits very well with me. In any case, most of the places I’ve visited have been ones popular with other backpackers and travellers so I’ve rarely been completely isolated for an extended period (West Africa was quite hard in that respect because it did feel like I was the only foreigner around at all).
Finally, I tend to choose my destinations on history and culture rather than weather and atmosphere, and my preference tends to be towards the ‘darker’ side of human endeavour; my reason for visiting Cambodia wasn’t Angkor Wat but Tuol Sleng, and Rwanda’s on my list of ‘must see’ countries but not because of gorillas …
3. How do you fund your travelling?
This is where being older helps.
I have a reasonably well-paid full-time job, and live alone. Plus I live like I travel – minimalistically. That means my day-to-day outgoings at home are pretty small, so always have a pot of savings that allow me to go gallivanting. I did run out of money on my year out, but that was my own fault for being too eager. ☺
4. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?
Ah, there are so many!
It has to be said though, some places I have found really nice because I went to them while in a mentally or spiritually good mood. That is to say, I may have been feeling quite low previously, and then moved on somewhere and the very fact of moving on has lifted my spirits. This means, for example, I have a much better view of Adelaide (Australia) than most people.
In overall terms though, probably the place I had the most affinity to, that matched my personality and my style (and therefore the ‘best’ place for me, specifically) is probably Belgium, just in general. It’s quirky, friendly, fairly open-minded, and just a little odd. Plus it has great beer. ☺
Close behind is the “People’s Republic of South Yorkshire”; the city of Sheffield, UK, which is 25 miles from my house and every time I go there, something interesting seems to be happening, from live music in the pubs to random dance performances in the street.
5. Where is the worst place you have ever been and why?
It’s funny; I’ve been all round the world, to some really grim places; badly-maintained, concrete grey, wracked with poverty, or just plain boring, yet the two worst places I’ve ever had the misfortune to set foot in have both been in the UK.
I always used to say that the worst place I’d ever been was Stoke-on-Trent. Even just going along the main ring road, looking down over the city with grey, smoke-filled skies and streets of Victorian terraced houses that still looked like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, surrounded by bulldozed remains of heavy industry that are slowly becoming overgrown with weeds and litter, is enough to make you feel you never want to even stop, never mind have a walk around.
This is probably still true. However I’ve now been to Stockton-on-Tees, which elicits the same type of feelings – miserable streets, boarded-up-shops – but with fewer people, which makes it seem a little more ‘apocalyptic’.
Abroad, I was less than impressed with Addis Ababa, a dusty, orange/grey city with few redeeming features and generally arrogant & unfriendly people. Compare with Ouagadougou, a much less pretty and much poorer city, but one where everyone smiled and was genuinely pleased to see me.
6. Do you have a Bucket List? If so where are the 3 top places on it?
I have an anti-bucket list, of places I don’t have any ambition or desire to go! Controversially, Japan is on it …
Seriously though, while I don’t have a specific, defined, Bucket List, I do have in my mind a list of places I definitely want to see at some point. It’s in no particular order, and can vary on a whim. They’re often more ‘concepts’ than specific places; travel ideas rather than precise itineraries or events.
Amongst things I’d like to do are:
- Visit every capital city in Europe. This would be much easier if they didn’t keep creating new countries! I’ve realised, for example, I’ve been to Belgrade three times, and each time it was the capital of a different country, which makes me wonder if that means I need to visit Podgorica, Zagreb, or even Pristina to fulfil this goal …
- Visit every “county” in the UK – because people don’t concentrate enough on their own country, which is often a shame. And for every Stockton-on-Tees there is a corresponding Sheffield.
- Travel around India. Fascinating country, especially from a British perspective, but I suspect strongly this is one place I’d not want to go to entirely on my own – I think it would be too ‘intense’. Fortunately I have friends who are more than happy to join me. At some point.
7. What 3 things (apart from the essentials – food/water etc) do you always travel with?
As I travel so light, it’s hard to tell the difference between what’s ‘essential’ and what isn’t (I’d consider my camera to be as essential as my passport!). However, three of the things I’ve realised (through trial and error) that I need while travelling are:
- Pen and paper. Much of the time I’m ‘off-grid’, so I need to have some way of writing down ideas, feelings, or even just doodles to pass the time. Especially true in cafés!
- “Some way of telling the time”. I never wear a watch, haven’t done since I was at school – apart from my toe-rings I don’t wear any kind of ornamentation, jewellery, or device. Generally I carry around with me a cheap mobile phone; one with few functions and an awesome battery life. It has the secondary advantage of meaning if necessary, I can use it to speak to people, although given I try to avoid doing that sort of thing at home, it’s very rare for me to it abroad in a country with a different language.
- An e-reader. It saves carrying a library in my backpack, and still means that when I have nine hours to waste in an airport with no Wi-Fi, I’m able to do something enjoyable and productive if I get bored with staring at a blank sheet of paper going ‘why can’t I think of anything to write’.
8. What makes you happy and why?
Ah, happiness is an ill-defined goal; something that often you don’t realise you’ve found until after the event, looking back.
Where am I at my most happy? Probably sitting on some grassy hillside near a small fast-flowing stream, looking out over some woodland, on my own.
Or in a pub. Mmm, beer. ☺
I think just being able to travel makes me happy, having my own space makes me happy, being able to relax and have the choice on how much or little to do. That sort of thing.
9. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
Generally I think I’ve always blogged when I’ve travelled. It’s been a way to record what I’ve done so that I can remember it better, and provide context to the pictures I’ve taken.
As a teenager I did keep a personal diary for a bit, as I think most did. To me, blogging became an extension of that – I used to regularly blog my personal life at LiveJournal in the mid ’00s before I kind of got bored of it.
With regard specifically to travel blogging, the first trip I completed a blog for was an Inter-rail adventure I did with my then-fiancée (we broke up long long ago!) back in 2000. It still exists on my website, still in its raw form – hasn’t been edited since!
10. What makes your blog unique and why should people read it?
It’s unique because I wrote it, just as every blog is unique for the same reason :p
I’d like to think my blog is unusual, partly because I have a certain casual style to the way I write that makes it informative yet still easy-to-read and amusing. In addition, I don’t just write about where I’ve been and what I’ve done, but also concepts around my trips; a bit of the history and culture behind a place, why I’ve chosen those destinations, and also so that future travellers to those places can maybe be helped by what I’ve told them.
I also like, in general, to visit places that may be slightly more off the typical tourist trail than most people do, which means that people might find it interesting to hear about places they may never have thought of going. Given the history of some of these places, one tagline I did consider for my website was “I go to these places so you don’t have to”.
FROM ESLT – Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Ian. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your responses. It’s nice to meet a fellow part-time British traveller. I particularly liked your answer regarding the worst place you have ever been and it did make me chuckle. I visited Stoke-on-Trent last year for work and distinctively remember uttering the words ‘I NEVER want to come back here!’