Two items for female backpackers: product review

Five months after moving to London, I’m packing up my room and dusting off my backpack, ready for fresh adventures (did I mention I have trouble staying put?!) So it seemed like good timing when The Gap Year Travel Store sent me two products to review, created especially for female backpackers. I’m heading to Portugal next, and though I considered taking a  suitcase (more grown-up and suited to a mid-twenties career woman, you see), I’ve decided upon my beloved, battered backpack as my luggage option. We could argue the toss all day about which is really more practical, but my backpack just makes me feel more like an adventurer, and as I’m returning to the world of solo travel, I feel like I need plenty of gumption and adventurous spirit on my side. The first item going into my backpack, then, is this pretty Lifeventure Pink Travel Towel, which fits into a tiny pouch, yet folds out into a good-sized towel. Despite its thinness, it’s very absorbent and doesn’t leave you shivering. Plus it has an antibacterial coating, so you don’t have to worry about it smelling funny after a couple of days on the road. I used to have a blue one like this, but it was a bit bulkier, and not as big when folded out. When I’m backpacking, I still like to feel girly, so the colour of this one is perfect too! Lifeventure Pink Travel Towel – £16.99   The second item is a Nilaqua Travel Wash Kit – especially suitable for multi-day treks, because you don’t need water. There’s a shampoo, body wash and...

Kindness at the Bolivian Border

Sometimes, you have moments that you never want to forget. They may not be the most exciting or impressive, they might not be anything much, but they somehow touch your soul and you try and grab hold of them, desperate to never let go. For me, crossing the Argentina-Bolivia border was one of those moments.       I disembarked, bleary-eyed, from the bus and immediately began to shiver. I gathered with the crowd in the dark, waiting for my backpack to appear from the depths of the luggage hold, pulling my coat more tightly around me. It was 5am and I’d just arrived in La Quiaca, the Argentinean half of the Argentina-Bolivia border town. It was several degrees below freezing. There were a few shacks representing various bus companies, a small building and a couple of roads veering off in different directions. People were milling around, setting luggage down and stamping their feet. Somehow, I had to find out how to get to the border, but first, I really needed the loo. I can’t have been gone for more than two minutes in total, but when I returned, almost everyone had disappeared. Just a couple of stragglers remained,with fixed expressions of disinterest. I looked around, but I was clueless. I didn’t know how far the border was, or even in which direction. I had vaguely expected that there would be taxis or something, but there was nothing. Getting colder by the second, I approached a kindly-looking older lady and asked her if she knew how to get to the border. “I’m going to the border, it’s not far”...

The Strange World of Backpacking

After you’ve been travelling for a while, strange things begin to happen. The normal conventions and rules of life cease to apply and new ones replace them. Backpackers are their own small community, not defined by geographical location, culture or language, but they nevertheless form a functioning society, with its own unique set of customs. See how many of these you agree with… 1. Your first question upon meeting someone is not: What’s your name? Instead it’s: Where are you from? This question is followed almost immediately by: How long have you been travelling? It will be several more travel-related questions before names are exchanged, if at all. The brutal fact is, that this is a constantly shifting society, with people coming and going all the time, so while being able to identify where someone comes from and what their travel plans are might be useful to you, their name is almost certainly not. 2. You become best friends with people for a few days, you do everything together, then you never speak to them again This is nothing personal, it’s not that there was some kind of disagreement, it’s just that in this world, people bond very quickly by necessity and because they have instant things in common (i.e. that they are both travelling in that part of the world and possibly that they share a common language), but when they go off somewhere new, they lose the basis of their relationship with the other person. Of course, some people you meet will become friends for life, (‘keepers’ as one traveller I met calls them) but other people...

7 Links: My Starry-Eyed Travels so far

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing my own 7 Links list, but after being nominated by MalloryOnTravel and stirred into action by the fabulous lists appearing on travel blogs everywhere, here it is. It’s a great idea dreamed up by Tripbase, one which has allowed me the great luxury of meandering through my archives, stopping nostalgically here and there and reflecting on my still young but evolving blog. I have nominated 5 further bloggers who I hope will enjoy writing their lists as much as I did! So without further ado, here are my 7 Links. Most beautiful post La Vie Douce in the Dordogne All the posts I’ve done about France fit into the ‘beautiful’ category, with all the breathtaking landscapes, incredible cuisine and historical gorgeousness that I’ve discovered there. However, it was the Dordogne Valley above all places that truly spoiled me with endless photo opportunities and a simply beautiful way of living. I only hope I managed to capture that beauty in this post! Most popular post Preparations of a Novice Backpacker I discovered that people love it when I’m open and honest and they see a bit of the real me! Ironically, this was a post I dashed off in a frenzied state of booking and trying to organise things ahead of my trip. However, other travellers seemed to connect with the tone of panicked excitement. Despite writing more polished pieces before and since, this remains one of my most popular posts. Most controversial post Behind the Headlines: The Middle East I am passionate about Human Rights issues and while I thought hard about whether to include more...

Backpacking in Style

This may seem like one just for the girls, but tune in guys, you may just learn something! Yes, just mere weeks ago I did not have the first clue about backpacking and here I am giving advice about it?! Í’m not saying I know very much about the whole backpacking lark, but what I do know is that it is possible to do it in style. Firstly, before you start thinking that I’m carting my entire wardrobe around with me, my entire backpack weighed just 16.5 kilos. That’s right, 16.5. Including hiking boots. And children’s books. I have a 60l backpack with a 20l daypack – that held all the little bits and bobs and presents for the family. That amount of stuff (bar a cosy and completely gorgeous alpaca jumper which I bought here in Peru) is everything I have for the next four months. Now, Huaraz is a popular stopping-places for backpackers, since it is the gateway to the Cordilleras Blancas Mountains and a whole host of wholesome, tent-pitching, mountain-climbing activities. Yet these people, toting backpacks far bigger and heavier than mine (filled with goodness-knows-what) seem to take pride in wearing a dirty T-shirt and something resembling pyjama bottoms – loose, striped, baggy things and pockets in very obvious and rather strange places – as if they were made for pickpockets. Occasionally they exchange this legwear for a more daring page of shorts, either cut-off denim or knee-length combat. The T-shirts, however, don´t change. The hairstyles (both male and female) are uniformly a scraggy, shoulder-length ponytail and there are always, always, slightly grubby-looking bands adorning one or both wrists....
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