One of the newest blogs that I have been reading is Backpacks and Bunkbeds where I get tons of helpful information about various places that I’ve never been to. Neil Barnes, the author and blog owner, provides various helpful tips based from his own travel experience and he also shares information about volunteering in various countries.
Neil used to do volunteer work in South Africa, Sri Lanka and India right after he finished his degree. Get to know more about Neil and visit him at Backpacks and Bunkbeds.
Before you go to his blog, check out my short interview with Neil.
How did you discover your passion for travelling?
“This is going to sound so lame, basically I spent the best part of 21 years growing up in the same small area, school, uni, work all of it … and then basically I got bored. One summer evening whilst totally fed up and without really thinking I booked a 5 week volunteer football coaching project in South Africa. 8 weeks later when I finally made it home after having the time of my life I decided travel was my thing. I got a job and started saving like crazy and within 10 months I was on a RTW trip.”
What’s the most horrible experience that you’ve had on the road?
“Food poisoning, conjunctivitus and breaking bones have all been pretty crappy, but nothing beats getting on a train in Poland only to find it full of footy fans/hooligans. My mates and I always laugh about it now, but at the time I think we all went so pale through fear and intimidation that we were almost transparent. Police lined the station platforms at each and every stop along our route, riots shields, shotguns and dogs, they werent messing around. In return the fans/hooligans offered missles, flares, balaclava’s, drums, drinks, drugs and general rage. Our saving grace was a German lad who was ‘along for the ride’ and who had once lived in England, just around the corner from where my mates and I lived at the time.
I think offering him a drink and chatting about that area of London saved us from his rather large and scary friends who seemed intent on glaring at us for the majority of the train ride. 4 hours of gut renching torture later they departed and we could finally breath, cue nervous laughter all round.”
What’s the best travel experience that you’ve ever had?
“Woah, tough one! Really tough one! I’m actually taking part in a post series at the moment which asked me to list my top 3, and even that’s incredibly difficult. One memory that always sticks out is volunteer sports coaching in Sri Lanka, I fell in love with that country and the kids in my sports class were incredible. We had so much fun playing on the school sports field and dodging the school cow in the process, and I met so many people through that placement too. I was taken for dinners, allowed to train with a local football team and even got invited to a wedding. I was totally gutted to be leaving once my 6 weeks were up. I visit whilst the war was still in action, now its over I bet the country is even more amazing.”
What’s the biggest realization that you’ve got out of travelling?
“That my life is good and I am lucky, simple as that. Not all of us can travel full time, it would be nice, but like a few other bloggers I know, I work the 9-5. Its easy to get lost in cubicle life, working with tunnel-vision and dreaming of the next paycheck. I can get really stressed at work, but I try to remember that in some countries I’ve visited, people have it a lot lot worse. Whilst I’m worried about crappy deadlines, they’re worried about clean water and where their next meal might come from. I guess I get caught up in what I consider ‘the norm’, but for many others around the world it would be a dream.”
What keeps you going? What keeps you motivated?
“New people and new experiences are what keep me going. I agree travelling can be tiring. When I first started travelling on a regular basis I was a bit silly and used to play the numbers game, I was all about ticking activities and countries off my list quickly. It was bloody exhausting I tell yee and I rushed things, which I now regret! Slow travel is my preferred method now, its worth taking that extra day or two to really unearth all that your chosen destination has to offer.”
This is a silly and hypothetical one. If you would be given a chance to travel with a popular person or a celebrity, who would it be and why?
“Hmmm, how about David Attenborough? I’d love to go and film a series like Planet Earth or Blue Planet with him and the film crews. They get to go to some of the most amazing locations and see some of the most brilliant natural wonders. It’d be remote I imagine, but that appeals to me, I like to try and travel new paths. I might even pick up a few videoing and photography tips along the way.”
Where’s your favourite place in this planet and why?
“Man who writes these? There soooo hard! Erm …. god I have no idea how to narrow it down to just one. Maybe Unawatuna in Sri Lanka for the beaches, could be Donegal in Ireland for the stunning views. Taupo in New Zealand is a good shout, and I loved living in Sydney. Oh but then there’s Zadar in Croatia and its sea organ which has recently become a favourite … I dont know which to choose, crap …. erm pass!?”
What’s your best tip for newbie traveller?
“Communicate with people, as simple as that. Whether it be fellow backpackers or locals, whether you speak the language or communicate through another medium. The people you meet and connect with are a huge part of what makes travelling great. On a lighter note, a blogger mate recently spoke (well, typed) these words and I think they go a long way whilst at the same time make me laugh a little – ‘take half the stuff and twice the money’.”
What’s the funniest and silliest thing you’ve ever done while travelling?
“Silliest was trying to take on a flaming skipping rope whilst less than sober in Thailand – Skipping rope 1 – Neil 0.
Funniest was probably fainting after having my ear pierced in Oz, I was just a day into a new relationship … funnily enough, that relationship didn’t last.”
What do you think about yourself?
“Typical brit in the sense that I’m pale, love football and have a taste for beer, but I’d honestly like to think i’m not a yob and/or irresponsible traveler. I’m an Aries so supposedly that mean I’m fiery, but I think i’m pretty laid back and easy going when on the road. I like to try and plan things quite meticulously, but they rarely work as they should. My friend’s have been known to call me the Dr because I like travel, I’m a bit of a geek, I’m also clumsy and look a bit like David Tennant supposedly (I just think it was my spikey hair).”
“Backpacks and Bunkbeds is a simple and clean backpacking blog which details one London lads (and occasionally his girlfriends) travels around the globe. It’s packed full of travel diary entries, maps and costs from the countries I’ve visited over the past 7 years or so, and also includes segments such as top 5′s, travel blogger interviews, what to do in London and travel blogging tips i.e. wordpress help. Backpacks and Bunkbeds is only a year old, but is getting bigger and better all the time.” – Neil Barnes
Editor’s Note: All pics are provided by Neil.