We looked on Couchsurfing recently for options for a two-day midterm break stay somewhere in Ireland, and Bert from the Netherlands got back to us. He lives just outside Abbeyfeale, in the county of Kerry, or ‘The Kingdom’ as they like to call it down there, so we thought: why not? That was far enough away to make it worthwhile going for the Sunday and bank holiday Monday, and there’d be plenty of things to see en route, so we accepted, and he confirmed, and that was that. We were going to stay in Bert’s cottage just over the Kerry border with Limerick, barely a stone’s throw from the river Feale.
We arrived in Zakynthos by the front door, at the beginning of April, the end of orange season. To fly in, as we sometimes do, is to skulk in through the servants’ entrance. We sailed into Zakynthos harbour this time like pirates, boots up on the gunwale, telescopes out. Continue reading
I took this picture one afternoon recently in a café in Krems an der Donau (Krems on the Danube), which is an hour west of Vienna in the scenic Wachau area. It was a chilly day. We’d done all our sightseeing. All we wanted was to sit down somewhere in the Altstadt (old town), and have a coffee. Continue reading
There’s a lot to see in Salzburg; experts have calculated you’d need a good 5 and a half days to see it all. We had two. So we had to skip stuff, obviously. Like men, women, and children at an ‘all-you-can-eat-buffet’ with only 10 minutes to go before the restaurant closes, we had to be strategic about our gluttony. But short though our time in Salzburg was, we felt like we packed a lot in in this historic city of 150,000 without blowing our budget, so here’s a rundown of our two days in the hope it might give you some ideas for when you come here, if you ever do, which, obviously, you should. Continue reading
I’ve been watching Viennese people. They probably think that, as a tourist, I’m looking at the Hofburg Imperial Palace or Schloss Schönbrunn, but I’m looking at them. What’s more, I take photographs of them surreptitiously. In my defense, if I didn’t use subterfuge it wouldn’t really be possible at all. Es ist meine Lieblingsbeschäftigung, my favorite activity. Continue reading
You’re allowed do 130 km/h on the Autobahn here in Austria. Which means of course that you do 140, like everyone else. And occasionally, when no-one’s looking, you might chance 150. Which puts the Danube Valley less than an hour from Vienna. Continue reading
If it wasn’t for the birdsong, it’d be perfectly quiet here in Donaustadt. Preparing my cup of English Breakfast tea, I look out the kitchen window at the neighbours in their kitchen doing pretty much the same thing, probably thinking the same thing too: please let there be some milk in the fridge. Continue reading
My wife follows all these travel writers on facebook and WordPress. That’s nice. One day exactly a month ago I came home from work all grumpy and middle-aged. “Do you mind if these people stay with us for a night?” she asked me. That obviously depends on who these people are, I said. Actually it doesn’t, I thought. I don’t particularly want anyone staying with us. Hadn’t we only recently reclaimed the small studio space we used to rent out for the last three years so we could have privacy again. “They’re travel bloggers”, she elaborated. Alright, that sounds interesting, I said, discounting the future, as they say, and fell asleep on the couch halfway through a sentence I was reading.
Last Friday I got home from work, less grumpy this time because I’d finally finished the job that was making me grumpy. Sadly, there were junkies in my house, 3 of them. Ah, the Travel Junkies, that’s right! Jason, Kerri, and Sydney are from Portland, Oregon, and are living the #rtw hashtag dream. That’s social media for “round the world”.
So we put them up for the night, and they told us all about their blog, the dark secrets of blogging success (they crash servers!), and how in general they manage to do what for most people is something they can only dream about. That was kinda the deal. Actually, there was no deal, of course, but it was natural that we would grill them with questions about the stuff we’re all interested in.
Like, how do you just sell your house and go travelling around the world? It’s the frugality, stupid. One thing that’s apparent from their blog is their attention to the financial side of their story. On travel-junkies.com you’ll find the answer to the elusive and maddening question: “How much exactly does a dream cost these days?”. This is very valuable, especially if you have kids, and elevates the blog above the usual ‘15 Places You Absolutely Must See If You La La La Haven’t A Care In The World’ type of travel blog.
We’re kind of doing a version of all this #rtw business in April next year, deo volente (don’t worry, I’m still an atheist), which is when we intend to move to Greece, to the eponymous Koukla House on Zakynthos, so what Jason, Kerri and Sydney are doing resonates with us beyond the usual frustrating tendency to want to experience the world through others’ eyes. In fact, I find it all absolutely inspiring. I have struggled to maintain an interest in my desk job – yes, I know, everyone does – to the extent that I quit my contract last Friday. Doing something we have no interest in whatsoever just for the money is going to kill us all, but we all need the money, don’t we? Well, actually, it depends what you want to do with your life.
But travel is all about going to places – I looked it up – so we took them to Kangaroo Point and Southbank (in Brisbane, that is) on Saturday morning, keen to show off our city. I don’t know why – I’m Irish, it’s not really my city. But we thought they should see it, and hopefully write about it. There’s something special about what they’re doing and we wanted to be a part of it.
It was excellent, a mini-trip worth writing about unto itself – the weather was fine, but there were clouds, which is great for photos! We lost them for a while when we got a parking spot and they drove on and missed us – drama! There were dragons (well, waterdragons)! We got a guy to take a picture of us, who – you won’t believe it – turned out to be from Vancouver, just over the frickin’ border from Oregon! We went on a boat! There were crazy Asians taking photos on the boat! All of it catnip to travel bloggers like us.
In the end, they could have stayed the whole weekend, that would have been more than ok with us, but they had to head south to Port Macquarie, which was a ridiculously long drive after the busy morning we all had. Their stay with us had just been a waypoint between a few weeks in Toowoomba, and their next stage in New South Wales. Getting into the spirit of travelling parsimoniously, we urged them to make sandwiches before they left. It’s amazing how when you start thinking about long-term travel, you realise the unsung power of the mighty banana. We could all see much more of the world than we do if we just packed a few more sandwiches instead of eating out.
Some time into our stay in Zakynthos, depending on houseguests and other vicissitudes, we intend to hit the road and do the Peloponnese. We might stop by Paddy Fermor’s house; go to Monemvasía, hopefully; Kalamata, maybe. Whatever we do, we will certainly be better prepared for that trip by our experience of spending time with this family of world travellers, and the valuable lessons they’ve taught us.