This is an interview with an extraordinary adventurer and traveller that has spent the last 7 years exploring and discovering the World. Learn form his volunteering experiences and also find out what hostel life is and how to make the best of it.
Neil also shares with us 5 tips on how to travel on a budget.
So, here we go:
1. Please introduce us to yourself.
Er hi, I’m Neil, a part time travel blogger from London.
I blog over at www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk about things like budget travel, travelling with a 9-5, hostel life, volunteering, and the ‘art’ of blogging itself.
Part time travel blogger, but full time geek, football fan, cinema buff and cheese enthusiast, I have been travelling in one way or another for the last 7 years across parts of Europe, North American, Australasia, Africa and Asia.
2. How did you find your passion for travel and what made you start blogging?
I started blogging as a result of learning web design at night school, travel being the obvious subject to base my early attempts at HTML and CSS on.
My love of travel however was less by design, and more through luck, or boredom even. Aged 21 I finished uni with a degree, but without a plan. Having spent the last 21 years living and studying in the same area, my home town was wearing a little thin to say the least. I needed an out, a break.
That break came in the form of a 5 week long volunteering project in South Africa. To this day I’m not sure how I managed to navigate my way to booking said project, but fast forward 2 incredible months and I was hooked. I haven’t looked back since to be honest.
That might all sound silly when you take into account I also have a full time job here in London, but even if its only a week or two at a time, I’m still backpacking where possible and seeing as much of the globe as I can.
3. You have already travelled to so many wonderful places, what is your favorite and why?
Ouch! Tough question.
Most recently Jordan blew my mind, Laos and Iceland have also come very close to topping my list in recent years, but I think Sri Lanka is still number 1 for me at this point.
My volunteer project there was incredible, my fellow volunteers amazing (i’m still very good friends with some of them), and the country itself was just beautiful.
4. Can you give us 5 tips on how to travel on a budget?
Its kind of down to the individual and discovering what methods work best for you, but for me the below work a treat
- Research – Some people like to go with the flow, I get that, but I always like to do a little bit of research before I head to a new destination. For example, if I hadn’t researched, I would have had no idea that buying multiple metro tickets upon arriving at Garde Nord in Paris earlier in the year, would work out saving me and my better half over 20 euro – enough for a few cocktails at an oober cool speakeasy bar.
- Utilise hostels and the renting of apartments – Hotels are nice, but staying in a hostel (hint – they have private rooms too), or a local apartment can often me a whole lot cheaper. I also find that they can provide much better info and access to awesome things/places/events taking place in your chosen destination.
- Cooking for yourself – Not so exciting this one, but it does work. Eating out is awesome, and all part of the travelling experience. That said, it quickly adds up and so you may on occasion wish to cook yourself a slightly cheaper dinner (pasta being the obvious choice), or make yourself a packed lunch, rather than fork out (pun most certainly intended) that bit extra to sit down in a nice restaurant. Packed Lunches in a park are my personal fave.
- Your legs, use them – Travelling is a great way to get in shape, and a part of that is walking. It costs nothing and can lead you to some incredible places that other methods of travel cannot. Just be smart with it, there is obviously a time and a place for walking. Alone when its dark and in a questionable neighbourhood is not one of those times. When it comes to safety, budgets can certainly be stretched.
- The need vs want agreement – This one calls for being head strong, but it does work. Its simple really, do you NEED it, or just want it? If its is the later and times are tough, put it back. Its all about discipline.
Travelling off peak and booking early are the other common ones, but I will assume you all knew and use those already.
5. Tell us a little about “hostel life” and can you give us a little insight into it and how to make the best out of it?
Easily the best part of hostel life is the people you will inevitably meet and become friends with.
Due to the nature of travelling, the friendships may feel like they come to an end just as soon as they’ve begun, what with people heading off in their own directions at their own pace, but you’ll be glad to have met those individuals and shared an experience or two, even if they were short and sweet.
Naturally there are those friendships that last longer, and you could find yourself just as easily making life long friends. Dorm rooms, the kitchen, the common area or bar, these are all places that might house your next best buddy.
Aside from the people, I’ve found that hostels are very good for helping with budgets (as per above).
Not just the price of their rooms, but also the price of the tours they offer, the cheap meals they sometimes provide, maps, international phone cards, local sim cards, bus tickets, train tickets etc etc.
The information and booking facilities within any hostel are usually vast, making your travels that much easier and a slight bit cheaper.
6. What is your preferred travel gear?
Owing to my blogging I rarely travel without my iphone nowadays, its like my modern day swiss army knife.
I use it for bookings, taking notes, taking photos and of course updating my blog. Other than that, I may take my GoPro, some adapters and a notebook, but other than that I’m pretty easy on gear.
Oh, I almost forgot. A book is obviously a must too, a lifesaver on long journeys.
Aside from the above I guess its just clothes that fill the majority of my rucksack …
I won’t lie, I am guilty of frequently over packing when it comes to clothing, but to be honest I loath having to waste time washing my clothes on the road so would rather just carry more. The washing part can wait until I get back to Blighty.
7. Give us a little insight into Volunteering while travelling and what was your experience with it.
Volunteering played a huge role in helping me fall in love with travel.
My own experience extends to volunteer sports and English teaching within schools and community centres. My first project lasted 5 weeks, and was spent in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (you new that already). In all honesty, this was a work hard, play hard time in my life.
The volunteer house I stayed in housed 19 other sport mad 16-30 year olds, so those 5 weeks were always going to include a few late nights. The days time were great though, coaching a whole range of schools. In the evenings I also got involved with a local futsal team, which although very very similar to football, was still something very exciting to be a part of.
Fast forward 12 months, and my volunteering experiences in Asia were a little more relaxed.
As per my answer to question 3, Sri Lanka was just magical. Even though there was a civil war taking place at the time of my visit, I was just so so happy living and working in that country. I cycled to my school everyday where the kids there were amazing.
I became great friends with a fellow teacher Tyron, who went out of his way to show me the real Sri Lanka. When I wasn’t working or hanging out with Tyron and his friends, I was out exploring the country with the other volunteers via a series of minibuses, trains and tuk tuks.
India was very much the same as Sri Lanka, just with much longer journeys when it came to exploring the country, and with a little less local interaction.
Truth be told my project in India was a little stop start, and I actually ended up going back to Sri Lanka for one last week to see my new friends one last time before heading onwards to Thailand.
I still to this day think that volunteering is a great introduction to long term travel.
It gives you all the good stuff of being somewhere totally new, work experience, meeting other volunteers, meeting locals, helping a community etc, but at the same time it offers you some stability in that you know where you will rest your head most evenings, and who will be sharing your room or travellers house. It offers a security that an outright backpacking trip might not.
8. What is the aspect that most interests you when you first make contact with a new culture?
Is food an acceptable answer here? If not food I’m always keen on checking out local sports and getting involved if/where I can.
I’ve also recently taken to observing the work-life balance in other countries. How other nationalities apportion each, and if it makes a difference in the level of enjoyment people take from day to day living.
9. Who is your favorite traveller and hero?
I don’t know if I really have a hero, there are hundreds of people I take inspiration, from travel celebrities, to other bloggers and my close friends.
The answer I really want to give you is The Dr, but as he’s a fictional character I’m not sure that’s what you want to hear.
10. A message to your readers and fans.
To anyone who has shared, commented on or simply read any of my posts or watched any of my videos, I simply and humbly thank you.
I write because I enjoy writing, not for profit or recognition, but I also hope that you enjoy what I write and are able to take something away from it.
No doubt I would still probably write if no one was reading, but that you are makes it a whole lot easier to piece the words together. Thank you again!
Thank you so much Neil for the information you shared here with us. Your lifestyle is amazing and it inspires us.
Thank you for your insight into how to travel on a budget… I am beginning to use more and more the third tip.
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