Juggling Writing And Gardening In Canterbury


Hello again! 

It has been a LONG time since my last blog entry and for that I am sorry, If you have missed my ramblings then I do write blogs on travel and rugby for a couple of websites as you may have noticed not to mention blogging on the website for my company, Tidy Gardens.

Again I am sorry for the protracted absence but 2012 was a very long year in terms of trying to sell books, getting my company off the ground and so on. Obviously I know that nobody wants to read about that…this is a travel blog after all, and so tonight, I will be posting another installment from New Zealand.

Keep your eyes peeled 🙂

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The answer is blowing in the wind


How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?

In this case, the answer is not blowing in the wind. In fact the answer is to be found in the vaults of the World Health Organisation who estimate that the average human being walks around 21 km per day. If we are to assume that Bob started walking vaguely average distances around the age of 8 and that he turns onto a new road every kilometer he walks then he will walk down 41 different roads per day. Even rock stars need t rest so we will assume that on Sundays he sits on his ass all day and eats nachos. This means that in his 6 day walking week Bob travels down 246 roads. If we assume that 80% of the roads Bob walks down he has used before this gives us a weekly total of 49.2 roads per week and 2558.4 roads per year. As an Englishman, Bob is legally considered to be an adult aged 18, and so in answer to his question, a man must walk down 25584 roads before you can call him a man.

How can I live without you?

Leanne Rimes may beg to differ on this but scientifically speaking, one individual does not require another to survive. But if you listen carefully to the lyrics, you will realise that she was actually singing about Siamese twins. This shows the question in an entirely different perspective and depends how they are joined. If the twins that she is singing about are separate enough to live more fulfilling lives apart then living alone could be a new and rewarding experience for them. If, however, they share vital organs like a liver or pancreas then then the answer to the question, “How can I live without you?” is simply, “Get over it. You can’t”

Difficulties of Emigration: A Humorous Read (Guest Article by Priyanka Iyer)


As a kid, I had always dreamt of immigrating to another country and obtaining a Green Card, just like the one my uncle possessed. Not knowing the real importance and value of Green Card, I thought these Green Cards were like a free pass that allowed you to have as many green marshmallows as you wanted. I had always been very fond of marshmallows and envied my cousin who I supposedly thought was getting a chance to have unlimited marshmallows all day.

After a very long time when I finally got to know the real purpose of a Green Card (and I had finally grown too tired of green marshmallows) I realized how brave my Uncle had been. Immigrating to another country is a challenging path laden with innumerable difficulties. It requires great courage to plan an overseas emigration and procure the Green Card or Permanent Resident Status for any country.

Overseas emigration is definitely a herculean task. People move to other countries in hope of finding better jobs and enjoying good living standards. Did you know that expats are more likely to be better entrepreneurs than anyone else? And you know why, because most expatriates spend all their lives staying in a cultural mosaic, being bullied by people at different places. Apologies for the satire, but surely your mind works a lot harder in adversity. When you are subjected to a hostile environment with churlish looks silently asking you to shut up, you automatically put in extra efforts.

But you can also be lucky to be part of a dynamic and welcoming culture. Besides it is also important to have a good cultural intelligence so that you can bridge the cultural gap at a new place. There are however, certain inevitable problems faced by people who immigrate from familiar confines of their own countries to a different country altogether. You can read along for some common problems faced by most emigrants.

Language Barrier

Language is a medium to enhance knowledge and learn new things, which is the most important thing you need to do when you visit a new country. Not knowing the language can actually leave you feeling paralyzed and it could actually get worse when the natives of the new place are not friendly.

Once a frantic English caller called up a French Helpline number, and got the following response “Appuyez sur l’une pour le Francais, Appuyez sur deux pour le Francais et Appuyez sur trios pour le Francais. Pour toute autre langue, nous sommes desoles” which meant “Please press 1 for French, 2 for French and 3 for French. For any other language, we are sorry”. The poor Englishman could not even understand a word of French! You may find it amusing, but this unfortunately is a bitter reality faced by most immigrants to countries that speak different languages. To combat these language problems you need to learn the new language that is used for communication at the new place you are moving to.

Alienation

Generally, people feel completely ignored and alienated at a new place. There can be many reasons for this alienation, starting from cultural ignorance, racial discrimination, hostility and differences in speaking dialects. If these problems continue to pester you, it is best to acquaint yourself with the new culture. Remaining culturally ignorant can subject you to the acrimonious of culturist hailing from different places. The fear of alienation makes most people immigrate to liberal countries like Singapore with a valid Singapore work permit. You can even get a ‘Permanent Resident’ status in Singapore, depending upon the credentials.

The problems resulted by the differences in physical appearance and homesickness can be tackled if you repose faith in yourself, and adopt a thick-skinned attitude. Let the silly remarks and instances of ignorance not let you down. You must be proud of your own cultural heritage and don’t fret about anything else. You can always call up some of your friends back home and laugh at your own cultural-inside jokes. This would help you get some good laughs and lift up your spirits, while also making you feel better.

Socio-Economic Problems

Some people feel dejected due to dissatisfaction with their jobs and inability to lead the lives they dreamt of. A major cause of this problem is lack of prior planning and proper information. It is always recommended to research more about the place before you choose to settle down there. You could be getting a better pay package at a different country, but the high standards of living can actually force you lead the life of a poor pauper. So think twice before leaving your old job without simply plunging at any new work opportunity, even if it offers a higher paycheck.

Make sure you spruce up your cultural knowledge and increase your cultural quotient; else you could end up in some of the most embarrassing situations. One of my Spanish friends, Antony once found himself in the most unpleasant situation ever. Poor Antony once pecked his Saudi Arabian classmate on her cheek in the Middle East and discovered himself being confronted by a group of people with daggers drawn. Unfortunately for him, the casual peck in Spain was not perceived as that casual in the Middle East. He often tells me about this incident, while I still continue to think whether he really was that culturally ignorant!

Author Bio: Priyanka Iyer is an enthusiastic writer who loves to express herself and believes in living life to the fullest. As a business-enthusiast and travel buff, Priyanka has written about different topics related to travel, visa requirements for Singapore and relocation to foreign countries.

Hidden Tourist Spots of India (Guest Article by Natasha Dogre)


India has aroused the fascination of westerners since ancient times. So great was the ancient lore of that then mysterious land, that Alexander the Great nearly broke his army in his attempt to follow in the footsteps of Hercules. Lucky for the Indophiles of today, there is no need to cross deserts or brave the stormy oceans. 

However, the very accessibility that modern travel provides makes it ever more difficult for the traveler to seek the “real” India, that is, one as yet unspoilt and not flooded with legions of other foreign tourists. Fortunately for the traveler seeking a unique experience, India is a big enough place that many areas have escaped the notice of the herd.

For example, the Lakshadweep islands, formerly known as the Laccadives, are India’s own hidden tropical island paradise. With 16 coral atolls, these islands offer stunning natural beaches, excellent weather year round, except of course during the monsoon months, when any kind of outdoor activity is to be avoided. Since tourism has been promoted there, the usual tropical seaside diversions of diving, and yachting are all to found in abundance. While there is a steady crowd of visitors to the islands, the tourist volume is nothing compared to similar Asian destinations like Phuket in Thailand! Since Lakshwadeep is very close to Kerala, there are various resorts in Kumarakom Kerala that offer tours to Lakshwadeep.

If sandy beaches are not your thing, then a visit to the Ladakh region of Kashmir in the Himalayas offers a truly unforgettable journey. Nestled high up in the Himalayas with a typical altitude of over 10,000 feet, this region is perfect for nature lovers, outdoorsmen, and cultural visitors alike. Despite efforts to attract visitors, the entire Kashmir region is shunned by most visitors, due to the simmering conflict over the area with Pakistan and China. This lack of visitors, as well as the fact that the closed borders between the disputing nations makes regular trade impossible, adds to the impression of a lace frozen in time. In many villages, the only indication that we are living in modern times is the inevitable Indian Army garrison. The Ladakh region is, unlike the rest of Kashmir, predominantly inhabited by Buddhists. The picturesque mountainsides are dotted with thousand year old Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Such a rugged and beautiful region was already popular with westerners in the days of the Raj. Under British colonial rule, most British officers spent their entire yearly leave time hiking the trail from Srinagar to the Himalayan foothills, where the magnificent sight of K2, the second highest mountain on earth can be seen. A network of stations that grew along this route to provide a variety of sporting activities still exist today, and it can still be traveled, although due to the unstable situation in western Kashmir, it is best to take the route through relatively tranquil Ladakh.

 

Natasha Dogre first visited India in 2003, and has been living in India for the last 6 years. She teaches yoga and works in travel for The Paul, a 5 star hotel in Bangalore. You can reach her on Natasha.dogre@gmail(dot)com to know more.

Want to make a quick buck in Kenya? Get yourself some hats!

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As regular readers and indeed those of you who have read my book will know, I am the proud owner of a rather stylish big leather hat. The Big Leather Hat and I have been companions for over a decade now, staying together through thick and thin, through triumphs and tribulations. I have come to consider the Big Leather Hat to be as much a companion as an accessory. At first we struggled to get along, the Big Leather Hat petulantly refusing to cooperate with me in matters of both fashion and more importantly money.

I’ll start by talking about the fashion aspect. It is difficult to carry off a hat as outrageously fashionable as the Big Leather Hat clearly is. Even the seasoned traveller would do well to remember the following;

This is how you see yourself when wearing it

 

And this is how the rest of the world sees you

The second problem to bear in mind is that before you have fully cemented your relationship with your hat, it will try everything it can to bankrupt you. You may not notice at first but that hat you are so proud of is sitting atop your swede literally shouting “more money than sense” at the locals. There is nothing you can do about this, and it will continue for months until you can find a way to stop looking like a line dancer when you wear it.

Okay, so maybe line dancing isn’t that bad after all.

The other thing you will need to do is make sure you wear it regularly. I don’t mean twice a year when you go to the beach, strumming your acoustic guitar in the hope that appearing bohemian will help you to meet women. (Something that I would never do of course.) No. I mean every day. This will mean that firstly, the hat will mould to the shape of your head, meaning that it will look slightly less like you are in fancy dress. The other thing that will happen is that the hat will get damaged. This sucks at first and will annoy you, but the more the sun bleaches the felt, the more it gets battered and squashed and the more times your “hilarious” mates spill their lager on it while graphically re-enacting scenes from Brokeback Mountain, the more character it will take on.

Okay, so maybe sometimes I deserve the Brokeback Mountain jokes.

To illustrate my point, the face below has so little character that it makes me feel physically sick if I look at it for more than a few seconds.

On the other hand, a “lived in” face can tell a story without having to use any words at all.

The same rules apply to hats.

The people of Kenya have always been famous for their discerning taste in headgear, and so I wasn’t surprised to be complimented numerous times on the fine Big Leather Hat which I sported while over there. Had I realised just how taken with the hat the people of Kenya were going to be, I would have brought a couple of hundred of them with me. Several times a day, people would try to buy it from me but after 10 years I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. Had I had the foresight to bring a box of them I could have made a small fortune in Kenya rather than just spending one.

The down side for the Kenyan however, is that he see’s me and the Big Leather Hat after 10 years together, looking every inch the Great White Hunter, dancing the lion dance with the Masai warriors.

Rewind 10 years and I look like this

I rest my case.

 

Daniel Brace is a freelance travel writer and author of Going Somewhere – An Australian Adventure available now in paperback or as an e-book. He has travelled extensively in Asia, Oceania, Polynesia and East Africa and is available for freelance writing and public speaking events.

A Big Thank You To All Who Have Read My Book

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As regular readers will know, I have written a book. You may also have noticed that I have used this website as a not-so-subtle way of drawing attention to this fact. I have tried to intersperse this self promotion with some interesting and hopefully funny articles which I am the first to admit, I have neglected to do recently.

I am pleased to say that I have sold more than a few copies and even more pleasingly it has received some excellent reviews, in particular this one from Waterstones.

Anyway, having been despicably apathetic towards the continuation of my blog you will (hopefully) be pleased to hear that there is a veritable glut of new and thoroughly hilarious content waiting to be added over the course of the next couple of weeks not to mention the second part of Going Somewhere – An Australian Adventure which I am hoping to release in November.

Anyway, bye for now and thank you all for reading my book (and of course buying it!)

Daniel Brace is a freelance travel writer and author of Going Somewhere – An Australian Adventure available now in paperback or as an e-book. He has travelled extensively in Asia, Oceania, Polynesia and East Africa and is available for freelance writing and public speaking events.

Snow continues to be the same

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THIS year’s snow is the same as last year’s, it has been confirmed. Children have realised the plastic tray they have had for years combines well with snow and gravity But scientists say they do not know if the latest snow is the same as the snow from 2010 because no-one can remember. Professor Henry Brubaker, from the Institute for Studies, said: “This is what makes it so difficult to cope and plan ahead. Because the records only go back 12 months we can never be entirely sure what properties snow will have. “Like last time, this snow is very, very cold – almost as if it’s frozen – and incredibly white. “We also know from last year that snow is difficult to drive on. We think this is because of its whiteness. We did some tests and driving on talcum powder is also quite tricky, especially if you mix it with olive oil.” He added: “But to really understand it, we need to know more about historic snow, so we’re desperately trying to find someone who can remember what snow was like in 2010. One man from Derbyshire phoned-in to say that he thinks it was blue and tasted like meat.” The department of transport has already given up on this year’s snow but is hoping that, like last year’s, it will eventually disappear. A spokesman said: “If only we knew why it disappeared then we might be able to work out why it arrives in the first place.” The department will begin planning for next year’s snow as soon as it has decided what properties it is likely to have. The spokesman added: “We’ve been bombarded with ideas so we’re just going to pick one out of a tombola. I’ve suggested it will be invisible but will smell like a freshly waxed saddle.”

The Essential Guide to Packing For a Long Walk (guest post by Sophie Kelly)

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Last year, I completed the Malhamdale Meander which is a 23-mile walk in the Yorkshire Dales. It was pretty gruelling, especially since I’d only started training for it about a month beforehand and had never walked over 10-miles all in one go before then. I completed it though, but not without some serious hiking faux-pas, one of the biggest of which was that I’d forgotten to pack a map. You’d think this would be common sense, but not for me. So, in order to save any prospective hikers and long distance walkers from similar disasters, here’s my essential guide to packing for a long walk:

Get a hydration pack
One of my main problems when completing the Malhamdale Meander was that I didn’t take enough water with me. I only took a two litre bottle and managed to finish it within the first two hours and then had to wait another two before I got the chance to refill it. This made the first stretch of my walk pretty un-enjoyable – hiking up the biggest hill (I’m tempted to call it a mountain) I’ve ever seen with an intensely dry mouth isn’t an experience I’d ever like to relive.

Everyone around me was using hydration packs, particularly useful for cyclists travelling long distances on their mountain bikes, which I’d thought I could do without but obviously couldn’t. If you haven’t heard of them before, they’re lightweight backpacks that come with an insert that you can fill with water. They’ve also got a handy drinking tube that you thread through the bag and clip to the shoulder, so it’s close to your mouth when you’re desperately thirsty.

Take a first aid kit
Halfway round the walk my friend started to get some horrific blisters, but none of us had thought to bring a first aid kit with us, so there weren’t any plasters in sight. The only thing we were able to source were a pair of scissors, so she resorted to cutting the backs of her hiking boots out so that they didn’t rub on her heels. This wasn’t ideal though, since they hadn’t exactly been cheap. It would have been much easier to pop a plaster on and soldier on.

Buy a raincoat
Now, when I say raincoat, I don’t mean the hulking great winter coat I took with me. The last thing you want when you’re hiking is a coat with a fleece lining – if you’ve any sense you’ll wear layers and one of them will be a fleece, but if your coat is too warm you’ll end up getting light headed from the heat. You also don’t want a heavy coat, as the hiking equipment, tents and supplies you may be carrying will create enough weight to contend with. Instead, take a lightweight waterproof raincoat or poncho, something that will protect you from the rain without making you feel like you’re going to faint.

Remember the snacks
Possibly my biggest mistake, other than forgetting a map, was that I didn’t take any snacks with me, or any actual food for that matter. When you’re hiking you need to keep yourself motivated and one of the best ways to do this is fill yourself up on high-energy snacks. Peanuts, chocolate, dried or fresh fruit and Kendal mint cake all work excellently.

So, whether you’re off on a quick hike along a national trail or are planning a day long slog up a nearby mountain, remember to pack your bag the night before and include all of these essentials.

Always Be Prepared: Packing Tips for Travel (Guest Post by J C Logan)

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It wasn’t until I stepped off the plane in Spain that I realized how much I had forgotten in an embarrassing, “DOH!” moment. Somehow I had managed to pack my bags with about 50 lbs. worth of stuff I didn’t need, like seven pairs of jeans, tennis shoes that weren’t even broken in yet, and horrendously heavy speakers (which actually seemed like a good idea as I packed my bag, imagining myself cooly nodding my head to sub-woofing jams with my arm around a Spanish senorita). To top it off, the wheel of my suitcase broke on the way to my hostel, so I was forced to carry a huge bag of stuff I didn’t need on my back. Spanish children glanced at the tortoise-like creature trudging down the sidewalk before giggling at my miserable state. Needless to say, the mix of shame and anger prompted my switch from pack rat, to the world’s greatest suitcase packer.

 

Though nowadays you can buy what you need if you forget it if you’re going to be traveling in urban areas, but here are a few helpful tips for packing everything you need and still keeping your bag light enough to carry easily for hopping on a jet charter, off a bus and a train, and in and out of a cab.

 

  • Illumination: if you’re doing any kind of hiking or rural travel, a headlamp will come in handy, if not and you’re staying in the city a small flashlight can be a life saver. Keep one no bigger than your finger on you at all times. You never know when you’ll need to check a map on a dark street or get into your toiletry bag at a hostel without waking your dorm mates.

  • Maps: Even if you’re traveling domestically and feel comfortable asking for directions, a good street map is a necessity. If you end up in a city you hadn’t planned on visiting, there are usually maps at visitor centers, bus/train/subway stations that not only outline the city, but also public transportation stops and routes. It can be fun getting lost, but it is also fun getting to your intended destination and making it back home again without walking in circles for hours.

  • Layers: Stable and predictable climates are rare and interior heating and air conditioning is common. Make sure that you carry the four important layers: light base, mid (sleeves), sweater/fleece and either light rain or heavy coat depending upon the region.

  • Swimsuit and Towel: The swimsuit is one of the most forgotten travel items, and it doesn’t matter where you’re traveling, there is probably a hot tub or swimming pool in the vicinity. Set travel plans to certain hotels may not require bringing a travel towel, but compact, sammy-like travel towels nearly always come in handy.

 

Don’t forget to bring appropriate footwear; walking shoes are always good to have on hand. My uncomfortable tennis shoes definitely didn’t last as I tiptoed awkwardly around Barcelona. Some of these tips may seem intuitive; however, I myself have forgotten these basics. Take this as a cautionary tale: always pack light and only take the essentials with you!

Getting Wild About Your Gap Year

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It can all too easily happen when you’re about to take a gap year or sabbatical. You have made the decision, notified everyone, obtained the appropriate approvals and that’s when it happens – you suddenly realise that you don’t know what to do with that precious time you’ve just freed up!

Couldn’t happen to me!

Yes, it could! The trouble is, whether you’re taking a gap year break between studies or a sabbatical, it is very easy to drift into a situation where you’ve a vague intention to ‘do something’ but just never seem to get around to finalising your plans. What then can happen is that you find yourself sitting around the house, spending a lot more time in the pub with friends and maybe spend a couple of weeks or so sitting on a beach somewhere. Blink twice and that special break has completely passed and you’re struggling to remember just where it all disappeared to.

A better way

Not everyone on a gap year or sabbatical necessarily wants to spend the whole time sitting on a beach or just travelling. Nice as that may be, it can become a bit ‘samey’. What more people are becoming attracted to is the idea of a break that includes some sort of objective, be it to learn some new skills or make a contribution to the environment – perhaps sometimes both. Such opportunities are now available through what are sometimes called wildlife conservation holidays. These are breaks that can vary from short to long duration and be based in any one of several countries around the world, though many such opportunities are found in India and South Africa.

What you’ll actually be doing varies and there will be a programme to fit your interests. For example, you may find yourself swimming alongside tiger sharks to survey their numbers and habits etc. Perhaps you’ll be inland in the bush, surveying the numbers of cubs of another species. Another option might include working to help reinstate ex-working elephants into a game park or maybe helping to prepare a new water hole for migrating animals. These are breaks with a difference that might mean your gap year or other break from routine, is really something that you’ll value and remember.

It’s experience and work

These types of conservation holidays do not just involve sitting in the back of a land rover and being ferried around from one photo opportunity to another, then rushing back for drinks on the veranda. These are active and participatory breaks where you’ll be involved in making a difference – and that may involve real work. Sometimes you’ll be involved in work that’ll bring out a little sweat and it may not all be ‘cutesy’ either. For example, measuring the size of dung balls might be an essential part of monitoring the heath of a group of animals. That’s certainly a different sort of gap year activity!

A culture

Of course, it’s not all about animals. Working in this way in places such as South Africa or India, means that you’ll see local people and a local way of life as people actually live it. Depending upon the project you’re working on, you may be working alongside local people that are also involved in the protection of the animals concerned. You also do not need to fear that you’ll be dropped off in wild country and simply left to fend for yourself. You’ll be working and travelling around under the supervision of expert guides and co-workers, who will know the locality and environment very well. Your safety is their paramount concern and they also know that you will be looking to learn and gain from the experience.

Not just for the young

The description ‘gap year’ may bring with it certain connotations of youth and school or university but these breaks are also designed for professional people taking a sabbatical or even those simply looking for a different way of spending their leisure time. There are opportunities available for people of all ages and fitness levels – you don’t need superhuman strength or powers of endurance! Accommodation and food is typically of good standard and you won’t have to worry too much about ‘roughing it’ if that’s not your scene.

So, if you like the sound of this sort of break, whether for a gap year or any other reason, why not find out more?