I've spent many, many years outside of the UK, either working and/or travelling. There are countless events that have occurred and almost none of them could have been purchased in a travel agency. As a very approximate rule of thumb, I spend about half my life travelling independently and the other half paying for it!! In the decade just finished, I worked for 4 years and 4 months of it. I always work lots of hours and have always been a good, hard working, loyal and dependable employee. Having no kids has also been the other significant reason to explain the amount of time that I've travelled. It's not luck, it's simply a matter of choice. Oh, and I'm not into drugs either!! I'm also a bit of a risk taker. The highlight for that sort of thing was in the summer of 2003, when I spent 6 weeks backpacking around Iraq. Not the Kurdistan part of Iraq either, but Iraq proper.
I'm the one in the middle of the picture just above and to the left of this text!!!
Oh Lordie, I'm no good at this sort of auto-biographical type of thing. Anyway, here goes.
I have always travelled independently and mostly, on the seat of my pants. I'm simply not the type to take the normal few weeks holiday every year and just go on 2 week holidays etc, stay in 5-7 star hotels and that sort of thing. It's simply just not my personality. I haven't been on a business trip somewhere and used anytime off whilst that somewhere to go and visit that somewhere. I have just taken months off between jobs and taken a chance of finding another job when I start to look for one again. I've never had that much money (probably because I've travelled so much) and I've just done the best I can. Having said that, I've probably had a lot of experiences (mostly good) that simply weren't possible to find in any brochure or couldn't be done with all the money, private planes, helicopters, Centurion Amex cards etc in the world.
Due to previous employment, I have met many, many, many of the UK and USA's A-list celebrities, mostly singers. I have been in many positions where I could have abused the trust that had been put in me. I could have (and still could) sold certain information to various media outlets and if I'd done so, I'd probably have a lot more money now that what I do. I do have high morals though, even though it means that if I'd broken those morals, I'd never have to work again. Besides, I enjoy my work (most of the time!!).
Due to a strong connection with the Medal of Honor (a USA award for those who don't know what it is), I've also met some significant folks in the USA Government. That includes 2 former presidents, 2 former commandants of the Marine Corps and various others who are well known. I've also met many recipients of that award.
I vastly prefer meeting local people "on their turf" as it were as for the most part, it is far more interesting, adventurous and genuine. I realise that we're all different and what's good for the goose may not be for the gander.
I prefer the spontaneity of independent travel and most of the time, it brings good experiences. Note the word "most". I've had my fair share of bad experiences and although they're a nuisance at the time, it's just part of travelling independently. I am not a flashpacker or a tourist with a backpack. I understand the difference between touring, backpacking and travelling. Indeed, there are different types of travelling also.
Most of the time, I prefer to stay with locals in whatever sort of accommodation they have, rather than a fancy hotel.
I've made 3 trans-Atlantic crossings: the 1st time was a 28 day odyssey from Gibraltar to Antigua on a 12 meter catamaran!! The 2nd occasion was on the QE2 and in 2008, I travelled on the QM2. I enjoy the Cunard vessels enormously and I do believe that it's nice (and maybe even important) to splash out every now and then. In fact, I'm a member of the Cunard World Club and have a gold membership in that.
I have also taken a trans-Atlantic Concorde flight. Concorde is somewhat dear to me as the British Concordes were manufactured in Filton, the exact same town where I grew up. In fact, I was home in November 2003 and went to the airfield to see the very last landing of any Concorde.
As a general rule of thumb, I would much rather spend (for example) 6 weeks exploring one country, rather than 1 week exploring each of 6 countries. I do have a bit of a weakness for World Heritage sites. Generally speaking, I hate anything that's organised and will avoid that sort of things at all costs (I do appreciate that for some people, they're a great thing). I've never gone on any tour that was longer than a few hours. The last thing I did like that was a double decker bus tour of Bath (next door to where I was raised).
For example: I've recently left the Philippines after spending 9.5 weeks there. Many tourists will spend that sort of time on an Asian trip but will spend that time visiting a few countries. Many people will spend for example, 2 weeks in the Philippines and then claim that they have "seen" the Philippines. I simply cannot travel like that. I want to experience a bit more of a country than a tourist or a tourer does. Whilst in the Philippines, a man threatened to put a hit on me for spending too much time with my girlfriend. Try buying that sort of experience in a travel agency!!
Some of you have e-mailed me asking me how I can backpack around mostly and also enjoy something like the Queen Mary 2. When I was on the QM2, it was a trans-Atlantic from New York to Southampton. I enjoyed that as there's not the getting off the ship at 9 a.m. and having to be back on board by 4 p.m. The idea of visiting a different place every day and getting off the ship with hundreds of my fellow passengers and being herded around somewhere or other like sheep on a conveyor belt and having to be back on board by 4 p.m. is not my idea of fun and is certainly not a way of genuinely experiencing a country. I wouldn't even bother ticking (checking) that country off if it were me. I don't consider that sort of thing travelling in any way, shape or form. I often think that there should be a website called "mosttouredpeople" and that many members on this website should transfer over to it. A trans-Atlantic trip is completely different and I enjoy immensely the myriad of things that there is to do on a vessel like the QM2.
I vastly prefer travelling independently and very much "on the cuff". I am happy to "push the envelope" and in the summer of 2003, I spent 6 weeks backpacking around Iraq (war or no war!!). That explains some of the pictures you see below!! I have done more than my fair share of hitch-hiking and strongly prefer meeting the locals on their turf and not at some fancy hotel because they work there!! If I'm not hitching (which I haven't done for quite a long time actually), I travel on local transport and will always stay in the sort of place that the locals are likely to. I'm even starting to get into "couchsurfing".
I am not into going to a country for a few days and then "ticking" that country off. Going around Europe on a EuRail pass for 2 months is not my idea of travelling. 2 months is barely enough in England, let alone Europe!!! Heck, just the British Museum can take the best part of a week, easily.
I'm not into cruising here and there, spending a few hours in a country and then saying that I've travelled in that country. I'm absolutely not into changing planes at an international airport somewhere, and then claiming that I'd visited that place/country (which is why I'll never join the TCC club) Plus, it's their practice to consider that the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands are part of the Caribbean. They're not. They're in the North Atlantic.
I've spent a lot of time travelling and because I'd rather spend some actual time in a place/country, that's why my MTP score is so low. However, I don't travel to tick off boxes!!!
I do understand the difference between touring and travelling. I also understand the different types of travelling as well. I'm probably in the "heavy" category of travellers. Bring it on!!
I also believe that most of the time, the more money is spent on travelling, then the less of a genuine experience it is. Of course, there are exceptions to that and there are still plenty of wonderful places and experiences to be had on our planet. It's just that most of them require little money. I understand why some of you take the trips you do, mostly a lack of time I guess. That's fine, it's just not travelling. Since last August, even though I've been on the road all the time since then, I haven't ticked (checked) off any more destinations on my MTP scorecard!! I just like to take my time and have more genuine experiences. It would be very easy for me to blast through Russia, China and India in 6 months and really bump up my MTP score, but that's just not the way I do things. No doubt, some people have gone on Caribbean etc cruises, been herded around 5 or so countries for a few hours each and then ticked those countries off on their MTP scorecard. That is just not my scene, but whatever floats your boat!!
FINALLY: I'm always up for adventure type stuff. I'm not concerned about roughing it and taking risks here and there. I'm always open to suggestions if you've got any. Bring 'em on!!! In the summer of 2009 whilst on Saipan, I finally got certified for open water scuba diving. Oh, by the way: it's normally easier to ask forgiveness rather than permission!! I like that. I'm also up for any type of high paying sort of employment that rewards well. I've no objections to hard work either. To the contrary actually, I sort of enjoy it. If you know of something that you think might be suitable, please let me know.
I'm also looking to do some serious sailing across the Pacific or that general part of the world. I'm totally up for most things. Again, just let me know what you're thinking.
My Favorite Places:
The Galapagos Islands, Syria, Indonesia and Turkey. If I met an alien from space and he/she/it only had time to visit one place on Earth, I would totally recommend the Galapagos Islands. I think it's the one place on this planet where each of us should go. There is a magic there that I have experienced nowhere else, all because of the animals. It's simply amazing.