This week’s guest post comes from Grete at Grete’s Travels. Check out here fabulous, in-depth answers to my questions below. She is one of the most travelled women I have come across since I have been blogging and has been to so many countries and places I want to visit it makes me green with envy. A lot of it undertaken whilst she worked full time! Grete is extremely friendly and has loads of tips and advice which she can offer you. Mr ESLT are provisionally planning on visiting India next year and as Grete has been herself – 10, yes 10 times and has offered names and numbers of local drivers and guides who we can contact. Perhaps she has some information that could help you too when planning your next trip?
1.What is your name and where do you come from?
Hi, I’m Grete and I was born in Norway, although I have lived in the UK since I was 15. When I married David – a Londoner – we relocated to Bristol in the South West of England, where we have lived ever since. Having moved an awful lot while I was growing up – 13 times by the time I was married at 19 – I was keen to settle in one place with a permanent base, and we have been in the same house now for 34 years.
2.What sort of traveller are you? Full time/part time/ business/ backpacker etc?
I suffer from a rare, little know malady called Obsessive Compulsive Travel Disorder, OCTD for short. Although there is no cure for this ailment, I am concerned with ensuring that my condition is kept at bay at all times – the best I can hope for is the continual availability of medication. The single, most successful remedy for this affliction is to ensure that the patient has plenty of ongoing and recurring voyages. Therapy, in the form of foreign or domestic travel, has to be administered on a regular basis. If the interval between each dose is too prolonged or intermittent, a reasonable supplementary drug can be administered by way of travel reading, travel shows, travel planning, travel talks etc in order to ensure stabilisation of the illness at all times.
With this in mind, I permanently stock up on antidotes – making sure I have at least one trip planned and booked at all times. In between being able to take my regular medicine, I spend time on therapeutic activities such as reading other people’s blogs and talking travel with like-minded people.
So you could say I am a full time traveller who only actually gets to travel part-time. We’ve been incredibly lucky (and trust me, that ‘luck’ took a lot of work) that we have been able to travel a lot over the 38 years we’ve been married – the last 25 years we have averaged over 10 foreign and domestic trips each year.
Our style of travel has been very varied over the years – you name it, we’ve probably tried it: small group adventure trips, large group bus tours, fly drive, all-inclusive, cruising, private tailor made, beach holidays, city breaks, canal barging, mountaineering holidays, walking holidays, skiing holidays, camping holidays, caravanning, sailing holidays, cycling holiday, safaris, overland expeditions, day trips (to places such as Iceland and Monaco amongst others), river cruising, bird watching, gourmet holidays, whale watching holidays, tank driving holiday (yes, really!), shopping trips, drinking trips, diving holidays, road trips, visiting friends, wildlife holidays, self catering…..
We have always preferred to maximise our time away by pre-booking accommodation and transport – these days, however, the floor seems such a long way down, so camping is no longer a viable option.
3. How do you fund your travelling?
For us it’s always been a question of save, save, save, prioritising travel over virtually all other expenses, including children! We deliberately chose to remain child-free because of my pre-mentioned ‘illness’.
Now that we are retired (we both worked full time – and some – until five years ago), there is obviously not the same level of income coming in each month, so we’ve had to adjust our travel spending somewhat. That, coupled with the fact that we are part-time carers for my 89-year old disabled dad, means we are taking shorter trips closer to home these days.
We have no intention to stop travelling once our savings dry up though: with no offspring to leave anything to, we intend to re-mortgage the house to release some equity if we have to.
4. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?
The quick answer: My own bed after a long trip!
Seriously though; I get asked this a lot, and I always find it so hard to answer. Having been to 136 countries (or 146, depending on what constitutes a ‘country’) and too many cities to even think about counting, we have so many wonderful memories.
If I have to narrow it down, I would pick these as favourites:
Continent: Africa – inherently misunderstood by most westerners and consistently misrepresented by the mainstream global media. Mysterious, complex and enigmatic, there is so much more to Africa than meets the eye: the souks of Marrakesh; the ruined metropolis of Leptis Magna; the imposing pyramids of Egypt; the golden desert dunes of Sudan, the national parks of East Africa, well endowed with exotic animals; the pounding waters of Victoria Falls; the lost world of Madagascar, the voodoo ceremonies of West Africa to mention but a small selection of the huge variety of attractions this continent has to offer.
Country: India. Despite ten visits to this country, we have merely scratched the surface – I could spend the rest of my life exploring India and still not see it all. I love everything about her: the people, the colours, the food, the temples, the scenery, the wildlife, the festivals… even the smells and notorious traffic! We actually considered moving out there at one stage.
A single destination: Numerous places have touched my heart and soul in many ways over the years, even brought me to tears on more than one occasion, but there is one place – far away and a long time ago – that my thoughts always go back to when I am asked this: Iguaçu Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina. The beautiful cascades, the sound of the thundering falls, the air full of colourful butterflies, the coati roaming around hoping for a tasty titbit from the tourists…
5. Where is the worst place you have ever been and why?
I’m a firm believer in the saying: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out”, so there aren’t many places I have disliked. In fact, looking back on our 200+ trips abroad (and almost as many jaunts to various parts of the UK ) over nearly 40 years of travel; I can only think of 2 places that I have unpleasant memories of:
1. Cancun in Mexico. Once outside the hotel (which incidentally was lovely!), I could not find one single redeeming feature of this huge, ugly, man-made resort full of drunk, loud, obnoxious, Americans. Apologies to all my American friends, but this place seemed to attract the worst of the worst from your country! Fortunately we only had one day there on the way home from a fascinating three week tour of Mexico and Guatemala.
2. Senegal. Again we only spent a very short time there, but what we encountered was not what I have come to love about Africa. We found the people rude, angry, demanding and downright hostile – even threatening at one stage – in almost every place we went.
I would not choose to go back to Cancun, but I guess I am willing to give Senegal another chance.
6. Do you have a Bucket List? If so where are the top 3 places on it?
You bet I have a list! In fact that is another definite obsessive personality trait – I have lists of everything! I love crossing things off my lists! The only problem is, the list is growing instead of shrinking – the more travel I do, the more I realise there are so many wonderful places out there to explore.
Do I have to just pick three? Can I not have 333?
OK…. here’s my three, in no particular order:
1. Brazil to see the wildlife and nature in Pantanal, with a side trip to Pategonia for mountains, glaciers and penguins.
2. Safari in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, especially around the Okavanga Delta; exploring by boat, Jeep, on foot and small plane plus seeing the ruins of Great Zimbabwe.
3. Ethiopia – seeing the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and other historical sites in the north and meeting the colourful indigenous ethnic groups in the south.
7. What 3 things (apart from the essentials-food/water etc) do you always travel with?
Well, I totally consider a camera an ‘essential’ item – in fact any nightmares I have often feature me being in some far flung destination and my camera not working. I wake up in a hot sweat! Photography is another obsession of mine.
1. A sheet of paper with all my important numbers – passport number, the number of the local embassy (which I also input on my phone), travel insurance details including the 24-hour claims line, the serial numbers of all my electronic equipment, the telephone number for reporting lost/stolen bank cards, drivers licence, car insurance, home insurance and details of next of kin. I carry this in a money belt underneath my clothes at all times (plus I send it encrypted to my email account).
2. An extensive first aid kit. We often travel to places where we could be days from the nearest civilisation, although I obviously adapt the content to the destination: if we are doing a fly-drive in Europe I would only carry a few essentials, whereas for an expedition across the deserts of Northern Kenya (our last trip), I would take everything I might possibly need (or hopefully not). My most used item is rehydration solution – in hot climates I take at least one a day regardless of whether I am dehydrated or not, as it also seems to protect my tummy against upset caused by the local food. In Kenya last month I added it to every single bottle of water I drank, but then the temperatures did reach 51°C!
3. A thin sarong. I have used it as a towel, a sheet to cover me during a hot night, a scarf to cover my head when entering a mosque, a curtain to stop people looking in when staying in dodgy accommodation or when showering in a public bathroom, attached to the window of a vehicle to provide me with some shade from the hot sun, a skirt to cover my legs when going to a temple, a modesty-cover when peeing behind a non-existent bush in the wild, a cover for sunburnt arms when I didn’t pack anything with long sleeves, a bag to carry stuff down to the beach, to cover an unsavoury pillow in a cheep (dirty) hotel…. the list of uses is endless!
I also take a metal beaker for that all-important Duty Free nightcap in the room; but I consider that an ‘essential’ too!
8. What makes you happy and why?
During travel – as with everyday life – it’s the little things that make me happy: meeting interesting people whose way of life is so very different from my own; seeing a bird that is new on my list (another obsession); the smell of the earth after the rain; a pretty flower; trying some new and exotic food (the weirder, the better); a nice sunset; getting a good photo; having a laugh with friends I make along the way – it all makes me realise I am so incredibly lucky to be able to indulge myself in this obsession of mine with the man I love! And finally: coming home to my own bed and electric toothbrush!
9. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I started blogging about our travels in 2011, after several requests from friends and family who wanted to ‘follow along’ on our travels. Initially I spent up to two hours every night while we were away, writing up the blog and adding pictures; but after a while I decided I was wasting too much valuable travel time when I really should be enjoying my surroundings rather than staring at a laptop screen! So now I write it all up at my leisure after I return home – although I still make copious amounts of notes as I go along. It’s a win-win situation: I get more time to enjoy the destination while I’m there, and I get great pleasure from re-living the trip once I get home!
I have, however, been writing a journal ever since the early days of our travels back in the 1980s, and I am slowly going through them, typing them up, scanning in the old photos and publishing them on my blog. Eventually I hope for the blog to become a complete record of our travels.
10. What makes your blog unique and why should people read it?
I think every blog is unique – if you take ten people on the same trip, you’d get ten different accounts / experiences! I write my blog mostly for me, but if it gives other people pleasure in the process, then I am doing a good job! We travel in a wide variety of ways, so my blog posts are always different – this year alone we have been on an all-inclusive trip to St Lucia, a week on a canal barge in England, a fly-drive in Croatia, a short break in Scotland with my dad and an adventurous journey to the remote regions of Northern Kenya, so there is something for everyone. Next up is searching for the Aurora Borealis in Northern Norway followed by a tour of Haiti!
From ESLT – thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Grete. I love that we have connected! I love that you and David worked full time and still made all the trips you did and continue to do so. You show that you do not have to sell everything you own and that extensive travel is still possible even from a permanent base if you want. I am sorry to hear about your condition – Obsessive Compulsive Travel Disorder, it seems to be quite common. However, it appears you have it well under control 🙂