Doing your research, getting advice and making your own decisions

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. I know I’m only on my third week of travelling but I have been researching my trip since the beginning of January and I’d like to think I’ve done quite a lot of planning. 

As you’ll know if you have been following along with my adventures so far, I’ve recently moved on from Venezuela to Colombia. Instead of flying which costs about $250, I choose to do my first land crossing. My guide book gave me detailed instructions on how to do this and as it came closer to July, I spoke to my travel agency who were able to help with organising a transfer to the Venezuelan border. 

Confident I had done the proper research and preparation, I thought nothing more of this part of my journey and moved onto planning my travels in Colombia. But, after speaking to some travellers who were part of my first trip in Venezuela, I started to doubt my decision. They were telling me that I couldn’t cross there; that the border was closed; it was really unsafe; that I’d be arrested by corrupt police and more of the same worrying thoughts. And these seeds of doubt grew in my mind. Was my research wrong? 

So I contacted my travel agency asking for advice, did more research and spoke to some local people. When it came down to it I had to make a decision: either abandon my plans and get a flight, or continue with what I had originally decided and paid for.

After a lot of thought and worry, I decided to stick with my decision and cross the border on foot, as planned. I was so tense and worried in the days leading up to the crossing. I felt like I was taking a big risk but that I didn’t want to back down on my initial decision. 

When the day finally came, a long story short, the biggest problem I had was losing my Nike cap on a motorbike taxi. Crossing the actual border was fine. I had my bag checked near the border for the first time and once I’d walked the 100m to the Colombian immigration office, the staff were really helpful – I even had a joke with the English speaking attendant behind the counter. The bus I got from Maicao to Santa Marta was pretty luxury with air conditioning, reclining seats and three TV screens, and it only cost me £6-£7 for a five hour journey. 

The point I’m trying to make is, although it’s worthwhile listening to advice from other travellers and you can gain some really useful information, you don’t have to take it all as fact or law. When it comes down to it, you can make your own decisions and choose what risks you want to take. Everyone will have a different opinion on what the best sights to see are or places to visit, which towns are dangerous and which are fun. It’s the journey of discovery that makes travelling a fantastic experience. 

I’ve had a short but sweet time in Santa Marta which I wouldn’t have been able to see if I wasn’t crossing the land border. Now I’m continuing my journey south through Colombia to the popular colonial city of Cartagena. 


My packing list: South America

A full rundown of everything I’ll be packing and taking with me to South America for the next four months, including clothes, toiletries, tech & gadgets and other essentials.


Tomorrow is the big day. I’m taking an early morning flight from London Heathrow with a big traveller’s backpack, a day rucksack and a small personal bag to last me for four months in South America. I say four months as my plans for the ski season are waiting to be confirmed. I still have my heart set on Canada but I’m not sure what form I’ll be going there in. Stay tuned for updates on that front…

So with just over 12 hours left to go before my first flight (to Portugal and then onto Caracas, and then Puerto Ordaz) I am finally packed! It has taken me a long time to collect together every last item to include in my bag – and I’ve probably spent a lot more money than I intended on items to go into the bag, and the bag itself. But I’m happy that I finally have everything I want and it all fits, just about. 

As promised, here’s a full list of everything going into my bag (I was planning to do a video instead but ran out of time…):

Clothes
9 short sleeve tops/t-shirts
2 long sleeve tops
1 long skirt
2 cotton dresses
3 pairs of leggings (2x sporty, 1x cotton)
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of cotton flowery trousers
1 demin jacket
1 thick cardigan
1 hockey sweatshirt
8 pairs of socks (4x walking, 4x sports)
2 swimsuits (1x bikini, 1x swimming costume)
Underwear (pants, bras, sports bras)
1 fold-up waterproof

Shoes
Flip flops
Walking boots
Trainers

Accessories
1 scarf
1 belt
1 pair of gloves
1 Nike cap
Personal bag (small over the shoulder bag with lots of pockets)
Sunglasses

Toiletries
Shampoo & conditioner
Face wash
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Hairbrush & hair bands
Suncream & aftersun
Insect repellent
Face wipes
Medicines
Make up (probably too much of it…)
Tampons (apparently hard to find while travelling)
Tissues
Universal sink plug & travel wash
2 travel towels (little and large)

Tech & gadgets
iPhone
iPad & keyboard (which I’m practising on now)
Kindle
Adaptor
Chargers
Portable battery pack
2 torches
Headphones

Other essentials 
Passport
Travel money
Purse & bank cards
Packing bags (to separate all my belongs in my bag and keep them protected)
Travel folder with all my important documents printed, scanned and photocopied
Books and travel guide
Journal
More tissues
Inflatable neck cushion
Eye mask & ear plugs
Fan
Cable ties & duct tape

And that’s just about everything I think… It’s not the most exciting list – I’d love to carry around a bag full of Haribo (it would be a lot lighter too) but it’s hopefully everything I’ll need in South America. And if not, I’ll either throw it out or pick it up along the way! 

That’s it for now – next post will be more exciting, I promise! It will come from Venezuela! 

First stop: Venezuela

First stop on my travels is going to be Venezuela. This is a country with amazing natural beauty and often gets overlooked by travellers.

 

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When I tell most people that my first stop on my travels is going to be Venezuela, their reaction is often quite negative. Don’t you know it’s really dangerous? Have you really thought about this? On your own? I don’t think it’s a good idea.

But I’m really excited about going to this beautiful country. I’d be ignorant to say it isn’t dangerous in parts but that shouldn’t stop people going to places and doing things they want to do. If you take precautions and are sensible then you shouldn’t let the fear of what could happen stop you.

I’ve done a lot of research on travelling in Venezuela. It appears that the safest way to visit as a solo traveller is to book group trips through a travel agency. Initially there were four sights I was interested in visiting: Los Roques (amazing islands off the north coast), Angel Falls or Salto Angel (the world’s tallest waterfall), Roraima (a breathtaking table top mountain) and the lightning show at Catatumbo (a natural phenomenon unique to Venezuela). After more research and first enquiries with travel companies, I realised it wasn’t going to be feasible to visit them all in the two weeks I have set aside for Venezuela. As the destinations were reasonably far apart, I made the decision to just see Angel Falls (pictured above from Google) and Roraima.

From here I had lengthy email conversations with a few travel companies, trying to figure out logistics and compare costs. This was quite complicated and the time difference was slowing me down but I’ve finally decided on the expeditions and the company I want to go with.

Osprey Expeditions, is run by local Venezuelan travellers and does lots of different trips across the country and continent. I’m going to be visiting Angel Falls first for three days and then trekking for six days to the top of Roraima and back down. On one of the days I’ll be trekking for at least eight hours, which is slightly worrying but if I can run a marathon, surely I can mange this, right? I’ve invested in some hiking boots which I’m hoping will make the journey a bit easier.

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In the next post I’ll give you a full rundown of what’s going into my four month traveller backpack (also a new purchase!)

It’s time for a new adventure…

I’ve quit my job, left London and moved back to my childhood home in Stroud (a small town where practically nothing ever happens). Why? I’m going to go travelling around the world in search of a new adventure. Find out why I made this change in my life now…

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I’ve made the decision in my life to quit my job, leave my family and friends and go travelling around the world in search of a new adventure.

Right now, I’m in a fortunate position where I am not committed to anything. I don’t have a mortgage tying me down, I have savings I can use and I’m not locked into a career path. I have the freedom to independently decide what I want to do in my life and when.

Until now I’ve conformed to the typical path for someone in my situation. I went to a good school, studied hard, played sports and came out with good enough grades to go to university and do the same. After that, I moved to London and started a career in marketing. From the surface you might ask, what do I have to complain about?  You might even think I’m being ungrateful for the great start in life I’ve had.

I’m not though. I just want more. I want to do something meaningful or remarkable with my life. When I look back on my life, I want to be proud of the choices I’ve made and the achievements I’ve collected. What have I done now that hundreds of people my age haven’t? Not much I’d say.

No one has the power to change that except you. You can’t change where you come from, but you can change where you are going. And I am going to do something great. Starting with this trip and ending who knows where. Stay tuned for more about my planning and packing over the next month before I set off for my first destination in July: Venezuela.