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See Without the Fee: 5 Things to Do in London That Don't Cost a Penny

by Sam Stephens |

It’s a well-known fact, albeit one perhaps yet to be totally verified by science, that it always tastes better, looks better, feels better, sounds better, and basically just [insert verb here] better when it’s free. Yes, one of the things we all seem to love most in the world is saving money, which is precisely why travel can, at any given time, act as both our best friend and our arch nemesis, bringing us a wealth of new experiences and memories even as it threatens to thwart our careful budgeting at every turn. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that low cost travel has become so high on the agendas of so many.

 

The search for low-cost adventures is underline by a unique fervour when it comes to London, one of the most visited, bustling cities in the world that is unfortunately located in the United Kingdom, a country whose currency, the pound, constantly feels stronger than a fire-breathing, poisonous gas-snorting, fiercely charging rhino encased in spiky armour, rendering your own currency about as valuable as Monopoly money. Believe it or not, however, there are some highly intriguing, rewarding, and one hundred percent free sites in this spectacular city of history, culture, and architecture. It’s okay – we figured you wouldn’t be that easy to convince. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five of our favourite destinations that will help keep London firmly on your ‘to-see’ list: 

The British Museum:

It may be an obvious candidate that shows up on virtually every list of British tourist attractions ever written, but that doesn’t make it a less deserving one. The British Museum is simply overflowing with amazing artefacts and intriguing glimpses into history, and is gracefully complemented by the beautiful Greek-style architecture that houses its priceless exhibits from all over the globe. Some of the world’s most recognised pieces lie within its famed galleries, including the Rosetta Stone, the Mummy of Katebet and, more controversially, the Parthenon (Elgin) marbles, while countless others sprawl across a huge number of rooms accessed by a central, sweeping staircase. Located in the heart of London, widely accessible by public transport, and committed to education and research, it’s an unmissable London destination for travellers from all walks of life. While you’re at it, why not visit some other famous free museums including the Natural History Museum, the Museum of London, and the Tate Modern.

Hyde Park:

Hyde Park is a magical oasis of shimmering greens and blues that rises majestically and somewhat incongruously from the concrete hustle and bustle of one of the world’s busiest metropolises. At 142 hectares (350 acres), it provides a perfect, if transitory, escape from the visual and aural assaults of the city, and makes for a beautiful stroll amongst glistening grass and frolicking squirrels on one of those rarer sunny days. Visitors can pause for some active debate at Speakers’ Corner, admire the views from the banks of Serpentine Lake, and weave their way between innumerable statues and fountains including the famous Diana Memorial Fountain and the dominating Apsley Gate. Located in the heart of London, frequently hosting concerts and exhibitions, open daily from 5:00am to midnight, accessible by Tube on the Central and Piccadilly lines, and within close proximity of many famous attractions including Kensington Palace, the monumental Wellington Arch, the beautiful Marble Arch, and Harrods, Hyde Park is a definite ‘must-see’ for your freebie list. If you want to explore even more of London’s leafy paradises without opening your wallet, we also recommend the beautiful St James’s Park, the oldest of London’s Royal Parks with some great views of the London Eye, the lush Kensington Gardens, themselves adjoining Hyde Park, and Postman’s Park, with its famous Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice.

 

 

Trafalgar Square:

A pulsating, vibrant square in the centre of London, Trafalgar Square is a fantastic place to spend a relaxed afternoon sprawled amongst the pigeons in the shadow of the dominating Nelson’s column, reclining by the famous stone lions, looking out at the regal Charles I Statue, or gazing up at the unique Fourth Plinth. Surrounded by many fascinating museums including the beautiful National Gallery, the Square is made even more appealing by its frequent hosting of celebrations and events, its high accessibility on the Bakerloo and Northern Tube lines, and its close proximity to the vibrant China Town. Brimming with history and culture, Trafalgar Square is a tourist’s haven, liberally adorned with stunning statues, colossal columns, awesome architecture and fabulous fountains. Other free squares and public spaces that may capture your imagination and that are only a short walk from Trafalgar Square include Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.    

Wander Across Tower Bridge:

Not to be confused with the better known but far less recognised London Bridge, Tower Bridge is the perfect backdrop to the famous Tower of London and is appropriately adorned with the turrets that so often leap to mind whenever we think of London’s Medieval history. It might surprise you to learn, therefore, that the bridge, unlike the neighbouring 11th-century Tower of London, wasn’t actually constructed until the 19th-century. Although entry and the exhibitions within incur a fee, simply walking the bridge offers some fantastic views of the Thames, all while serving as a practical walkway between some of London’s biggest attractions, including the aforementioned Tower of London and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Completely free to walk, photograph, and admire from the banks of the river, Tower Bridge is a wonderful feat of engineering and is not to be missed. While you’re in that neck of the woods, it would be criminal to miss the nearby and also 100% free Millennium Bridge and, you guessed it, the actual London Bridge (at least the modern version of it).   

Walk Westminster:

We know, we know, we’ve already discussed Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, both of which lie within Westminster, but this area deserves a little more focus because some of the world’s most recognisable tourist attractions are situated here, and although most, if not all, incur a fee to enter, their external architecture is totally free to admire and photograph. This is why taking a day to explore Westminster, although absolutely critical for everyone, is perfect for those desperate to see London on a Budget. Head over to Big Ben and the beautiful British Parliament, revere the ancient Westminster Abbey, get regal by the gates of Buckingham Palace and political by the doors of number 10 Downing Street, and afterwards relax by watching the slowly revolving London Eye. There’s simply so much to see and do in Westminster without racking up a huge fee, and this is crucial because, let’s face it, you’ll get enough of that with food and accommodation.    

 

It might not be the best or most comprehensive way to see the city, but this list certainly proves that the historic and culturally rich London is accessible for even the most budget-conscious traveller. So take a couple of days off from forking out a fistful of pound notes every hour and instead wander the parks, streets and rivers while admiring the architecture, bridges and monuments that complement them. Meet the people, see the sites, and, most importantly, enjoy London without breaking the bank! 

Tags: Backpacking, England, Europe, free, globetrotting, holiday, London, save money, Scrubba wash bag, top tips, travel, travel tips, United Kingdom

Meet Lisa Pagotto, Founder of Crooked Compass

by Sam Stephens |

An avid traveller who cherishes remote locations, preserved cultures, and virtually any activity that brings her in contact with locals off the beaten track, Lisa Pagotto has always thrived on adventure. Turning her lifetime passion into a profession with the founding of Crooked Compass, a ‘boutique tour operator uncovering the world’s best kept secrets’, she now leads groups of likeminded travellers from the streets of Nepal to the foothills of Iran, always in pursuit of that insatiable goal to both encounter and engage with the incredible cultures, landscapes, and people that the tourism industry so often neglects. As Lisa explores the globe and inches ever closer to her ultimate goal of visiting every country that peppers its surface, she continues to encourage and inspire others to travel mindfully and respectfully, thus building the educative foundation that is required to foster such sustainable travel in the future.

Given this alignment of our core travel values, we here at the Scrubba wash bag are thrilled to be partnering with Crooked Compass by offering wash bags for all travellers booked on one of their small group tours. With this partnership, we hope not only to ease the burden of doing laundry in some of the world’s most remote locations, but also to educate about the importance of sustainable travel, particularly in regard to mindful water consumption and the avoidance of water pollution. Enthusiastic travellers ourselves, we’re thrilled to be part of Lisa’s journey, and lost no time in seizing the opportunity to find out more about her inspiration, motivation, and goals for the future.   

Lisa Pagotto meets the wildlife in China

 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your past adventures

I have had travel in my blood from before I was born. I took my first plane at two weeks old and have not stopped since. I was very fortunate as a child to travel abroad regularly, but nothing changed me more than my trip to Tunisia, my first non-western country, as a 21 year old. My Nana took me as it was a favourite destination of hers, and as a child I grew up hearing stories of her exotic travels there. I was desperate to be part of her stories but was always too scared to venture to a North African country. When I finally arrived, I was captivated. The strange Arabic language tangled with Latin inflections, while the unusual aromas, mysterious culture, and unexplained sounds of the call to prayer made my mind swirl. This destination challenged me. It made me curious to learn more about this world that was so foreign to me. My time in Tunisia was spent living with local families familiar to my Nana, which laid the foundations that would later shape me into the experiential travel junky I am today. I set out in search of other destinations that Australian travellers would often stigmatise, as I was desperate to break down those barriers and show people a world they didn’t know existed. This year I will reach country number 100, meaning I am almost half way to visiting every country on the planet!

From a professional side, I have been in the Travel and Tourism industry my whole career (14yrs). Starting off as a retail travel agent, I have worked in wholesale, sales and marketing, product development, contracting and negotiation, foreign exchange, strategic partnerships and also as a tour guide.

Lisa Pagotto

 

What exactly is Crooked Compass?:

Crooked Compass is a boutique tour operator exploring emerging destinations and the lesser known side of common destinations through small group tours and private customised tours. We focus on uncovering the world’s best kept secrets and showcasing a destination through the eyes of a local. Our culturally immersive journeys are created to inspire, educate and encourage travellers to understand responsible tourism and support local community initiatives.

 

What inspired you to start Crooked Compass and what was the first tour you organised?

Crooked Compass started out a blog which was simply a hobby. It was basically me blogging about all the unique, weird and wonderful experiences I have seen throughout my travels. It quickly grew a readership, with many followers asking how they could travel like me and experience these unique wonders for themselves. I started to collate my knowledge and had an app built to house this information in one platform, allowing easy access for travellers to search for ‘outside the box’ travel experiences. From here, the business morphed into a touring product. The first two tours that were launched were Snow Leopard Tracking in India and the Mount Hagen Cultural Show in Papua New Guinea.

Snow Leopard Tracking

  

Snow Leopard Tracking

 

Mt Hagen

 

Tell us about some of the tours you offer and what makes them unique

Culture & Craters – This is the perfect little 6-day African trip for those who are fascinated by culture. Sadly, when you visit Masai villages now in Kenya and Tanzania, the experience is very commercialised, with Masai throwing on a blanket over their modern clothes, chatting away on their mobile phones, and zipping off to town on a motorbike. We spent a lot of time researching to find that corner that is still untouched and authentic, and we found exactly that. This tour spends time living with hunter-gatherer tribes that still lead a traditional, nomadic life. We go with them as they hunt for small game (i.e. rabbits), learn how they extract poison from trees to make their poison hunting arrows, and see how they live off the land by foraging for food.

 
Cultures & Craters Tour

 

Soul of Nepal – I created this tour after the Nepal earthquake, at a time when tourism simply stopped. We did a lot of research to see what was stopping people going back to Nepal, and asked ourselves what it would take to get them there. The most common feedback we got was, ‘I’d love to go to Nepal but I don’t trek.’ I created this itinerary as a response to that feedback, eager to showcase the more local side of Nepal – a truly beautiful aspect of the country that is too often overlooked by other tour operators – and to prove there is far more to Nepal than its treks. On this itinerary, we visit smaller, almost forgotten villages in the Kathmandu valley where income still operates on a barter system. Here, you can see women sitting in the dusty streets grinding mustard seeds. Time old traditions are rich here, and there are no other travellers. We also spend time in an ancient Newari village called Panauti, where we split up amongst the local families and live with them for 2 nights. Your host family becomes your guide and you do whatever you like! It might be hiking into the foot hills to mingle with Tibetan refugees, cooking with the mum of your family, or cycling through the village with the children. We also stay in the guesthouse of an active monastery where we have time to interact with the monks and learn about their way of life.

 
Soul of Nepal tour

 

Valley of the Assassins – When the Iran travel sanctions were lifted at the end of 2015, I watched as every tour operator launched into selling this fascinating destination. I quickly noticed that they were all selling the same part of the country, with extremely similar itineraries, so we naturally decided to #FollowADifferentPath. Our Valley of the Assassins tour ventures north from Tehran into the Alborz Mountains. We visit villages that are only accessible by foot, meaning they are frozen in tradition. We run this tour in September, when Shahsavan Nomads are in these foothills. We spend a night with them learning about their fascinating life on the land that hasn’t changed in thousands of years. We then visit Kandovan, which is similar to Cappadocia in Turkey (minus the tourists and touts). This fairy chimney landscape is so unheard of, yet so spectacular. We really focus on the quieter, greener, and more traditional side of Iran as opposed to the ‘Classic Route’ following Persian history, architecture, and jewellery.

 
Valley of the Assassins Tour

 

Do you have a favourite travel destination or a favourite travel activity and why? 

Syria is, so far, my absolute favourite destination, although I was there well before the current conflicts and would definitely not advise travel there at the present. My favourite travel activity involves spending at least one night with the locals– experiencing their traditional life and food. I have lived in a ger with a Mongolian nomad family in the middle of winter, slept on hay in the upstairs of a barn in the Sapa Valley in Vietnam with a minority group, and stayed on a local family’s rooftop in the old town of Jerusalem. I’ve even slept on a clay bed with a lower caste farming family along the Great Wall of China after spending the evening making hundreds of handmade dumplings for an upcoming local festival! Such experiences usually involve no English, which forces you to communicate with your hosts through non-verbal signs, enabling you to realise how insignificant language really is!

 

What are your travel goals for the future, both personally and within Crooked Compass? 

Personally, my goal is to travel to every country in the world. I love meeting people from different backgrounds and learning about fascinating cultures and tribes. The more remote something is, the more interested I am. Goals for Crooked Compass are to keep up the curiosity. To keep searching for and discovering the lesser known side to countries and showcasing this to our travellers. Our goal at Crooked Compass is to educate travellers by helping them understand their destination at a deeper level. To understand where their travel dollars go and how they help support the communities that we visit. On the flip side, we are also extremely focussed on ensuring that we do not harm or disturb the environments we visit, as we want to ensure that our trips enhance the quality of life for those who live there. Our ultimate, ongoing goal is to teach our travellers to be responsible.

 
Diving in the Kerama Islands, Okinawa, Japan

 

How do you combat the 'travel bug' when you're not actively exploring the world? 

The simple answer is: I don’t! I am well and truly infected with the travel bug and there is no cure (not that I want one). I simply manage my itchy feet by always having the next trip booked. Whether it be a personal holiday or escorting a Crooked Compass small group tour, I always have at least one, (usually 3 or 4) upcoming trips planned so that I always have something to look forward to.

 

Do you have any advice for others hoping to explore the world like you've done? 

If you are wanting to travel the world in my style, guide books are a great starting point for background knowledge, but they won’t provide you with the experiences that I seek. Instead, I rely heavily on chatting with locals, getting the inside scoop, and asking for information on those places that the travel guides don’t cover. For those who are at a crossroads of wanting to travel but feeling obliged to do the adult thing and continue in a career, this is a quote I really believe in and live by: “Take vacations. Go as many places as you can. You can always make more money, but you can’t always make more time.”

Mountain bike riding down Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador

 

Do you have any awesome travel tips that will help people to stay safe, travel light, or save money while exploring the world? 

Some tips to stay safe include always registering your travels with Smart Traveller and always carrying an international sim card. To travel light – mix and match. You don’t ever need more than 5 tops (especially if you have a Scrubba wash bag with you). Take clothes that can be dressed up or down with a scarf or beads from a market. To save money, bargain, bargain, bargain, and only ever change enough currency for what you need, as you will always loose out changing currency back. If you see something you love but think you can’t afford it, just buy it and figure out how to pay for it later! After all, you will never see anything like this again and you will likely regret passing up the opportunity! Trust me – I did this once, and will never make the mistake again. Now my house (and office) is filled with the most amazing, eclectic pieces from around the world – including an 89kg Terracotta Warrior! – that never fail to bring back tons of memories each time I walk past them.

Meeting the wildlife on the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

 

Where can people go to follow Crooked Compass or get involved in one of your journeys? 

To see the full range of our small group tours, visit www.crooked-compass.com or follow us on social:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Crookedcompasstravel/

Twitter @crookedcompass

Instagram @crooked_compass

 A big thanks to Lisa of Crooked Compass for taking the time to share some of her travel secrets with us today. We look forward to putting her copious knowledge to use on our own trips in the future, and encourage anyone interested in her style of engaged, immersive travel to check out the Crooked Compass website for more information.

Exploring Panauti, Nepal

Tags: clean water, Crooked Compass, followadifferentpath, green travel, Lisa Pagotto, Q&A, Scrubba wash bag, travel, travel clean, Travel Interview, Travel Tours

Product of the Month: Eco Vessel

by Sam Stephens |

Throughout our Scrubba Journey we’ve come to realise that there’s no better feeling than sharing our practical, lightweight and eco-friendly products with like-minded travellers around the world. Whether you’re looking for a simpler way of doing laundry on the go, or are seeking a convenient solution for being without laundry facilities altogether, we like to think we can help you out with our clean, light and free philosophy. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that we love testing and sharing practical items from other innovators who are striving to simplify travel with lightweight and environmentally-friendly products.

This month’s product is Eco Vessel, a light, durable and, as the name suggests, eco-friendly solution for all those travellers who just can’t go without their morning coffee or evening herbal tea. This greatly appealed to us coffee addicts here at the Scrubba, so we decided to put a few of the Eco Vessel products to the test, drawing on both our passion for hot beverages and our wealth of travelling experience. 

The Products:

Although we love a challenge, the Eco Vessel range is simply too vast for us to review in its entirety. As an alternative, we’ve chosen three products that provide a nice sample of the Eco Vessel Range. These products allowed us to get a feel for the different colours and sizes offered by Eco Vessel, along with the various convenience of carrying and storing the range for travel. To see which one best suits your style, read about our own journey with Eco Vessel below.

The Boss Triple Insulted Bottle with Tea and Fruit Infuser (1.9L/64 fl. oz.):

The first thing that struck me about what can only be described as this simply colossal bottle, was its weight. At 12.7 x 12.7 x 29.2cm (5 x 5 x 11.5”), and with its sturdy stainless steel body, I expected to be weighed down quite significantly by this monster, aptly dubbed BOSS. I was therefore shocked at how lightweight the product actually was, weighing in at a mere 880g (~2lbs). That being said, at ~2.2kg (4.8lbs) when full, the BOSS is certainly not something I could lug around whilst travelling or backpacking. For camping or road trips, however, this growler could prove to make its owner very popular, especially when filled with some chilled beer or steaming coffee to be shared out during long, chilly nights. Afraid the insulation isn’t up to scratch? We filled the BOSS with boiling water, left it at a room temperature of around 15°C (59°F), and returned to it 24 hours later. We were pleasantly surprised to measure the temperature in at a balmy 40°C (104°F), and couldn’t wait to put the BOSS’s promise to protect our beverages from slightly harsher elements, to the test. Scrubba team-member, Dhruv, took the BOSS on his camping adventure over the weekend, and had this to say about it:

In the outdoors, the BOSS held up, quite simply, like a boss. It was awesome to be able to stave off the chill by keeping our drinks warm for hours on end. The insulation is more than sufficient. Definitely recommended for outdoor trips that don't involve too much hiking!  

 

So all in all, this product certainly made Dhruv the boss of the campsite. Of course, when you’re in charge of steaming tea and hot chocolate rations on endless, frosty nights, you win the admiration of your fellow travellers by default. But, aside from becoming the undisputed king of the campsite, there’s a whole host of other reasons to love the BOSS, including: 

  • Its Trimax Triple Insulation, guaranteed to keep liquids hot for 8 hours and cool for 36 hours.
  • The durable, 18/8 stainless steel finish.
  • Its safe, environmentally-friendly, non-leaching and recyclable material, free of BPA, phthalates, and liners.
  • The convenient carrying strap, great for staying hydrated whilst on the move.
  • The removable tea and fruit infuser, ideal for perfecting your favourite blend.
  • Its leak-proof, dual opening, boasting a wide lid for a convenient, no-mess fill, alongside a much smaller top for easy, no-spill drinking.
  • Its versatility: the BOSS is available with interchangeable lids and can also be paired with the adult flip straw top.

The Boulder Triple Insulated Bottle with 2 Piece Screw Cap and Strainer (946ml/32 fl. oz.):

Not much of a camper, but an avid traveller and backpacker, this sleeker, slimmer bottle is more my style, especially as it carries all the features that enabled us to fall in love with the BOSS. The 18/8 stainless steel, the Trimax Triple Insulation, the carrying strap, the recyclable and non-toxic material, the leak-proof dual opening lid, the removable ice, tea, or fruit strainer, and the compatibility with the flip straw lid, render this bottle every bit as durable, safe, and versatile as the BOSS. However, at only 8.89 x 8.89 x 26.03cm (3.5 x 3.5 x 10.25”), and weighing ~1.43kg (~3.15lbs) when full, the reduced bulk and weight of this bottle make it an ideal companion on backpacking or hiking trips, especially as its sleek body allows for easy storage in rucksack pockets, whilst its durable carry strap enables efficient clipping or tying onto bag belts and straps. Although we didn’t personally test them out, the Boulder bottle is also available in 600ml and 700ml versions for the lightweight, solo explorer. We love the Boulder for its bright, vivid colours and slim design, and are happy to report that it fared just as well as the BOSS out in the field.

 

The Double Barrel Insulated Mug (500ml/16fl. oz.):

Fashioned like a beer barrel but equipped with the sturdy handle of a tea or coffee mug, the Double Barrel Mug promises to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold thanks to its double wall insulation. Sure enough, after six hours in our office, water that had gone in boiling still measured in at a reasonably warm 30°C (86°F). At 12.7cm high and 8.9cm in diameter (5” x 3.5”), and weighing in at ~826g (~1.82lbs) when full, the Double Barrel Insulated Mug seems like the perfect companion for all minimalist travellers, made from the same durable and safe materials as the other Eco Vessel products, and equipped with a handy open/close slider lid to reduce the risk of spills. Always enthusiastic about lightweight, environmentally-friendly products that claim to contribute to the ever growing travel industry, I took the Double Barrel Insulated Mug along on my morning commute to see how it fared on a bumpy ride and a chilly morning:

Rubbing the last dregs of sleep from my blurry eyes, I brewed my first coffee of the day. Instead of draining it in my usual three gulps and spending my last minute at home desperately attempting to rehabilitate my scalded throat, I deposited the steaming contents directly into the Double Barrel Insulated Mug before dashing out to catch my morning train. Storage options when full are a little tricky, as the lid is not leak-proof and the handle prevents compatibility with most cup holders. Thankfully, I only have a minute or two in the car, and was thus able to nestle the mug between my thighs whilst enjoying its radiating warmth and the wafting scent of a fresh brew. To my deep satisfaction, the mug proved to be a great addition to my usually tedious wait on the platform, staving off the chill better than my thick shawl and earning me more than a few envious glances from fellow commuters. The handle was easy and comfortable to grip, the serving size was more than adequate for your average commute, the slider was easy and convenient to drink from, and the lid, whilst not leak-proof, was certainly sufficient for keeping my coffee safely inside its mug throughout my hour-long, bumpy trip. The contents were still deliciously warm at the end of my journey and, thanks to the slow caffeine release I’d been enjoying throughout my commute, for once I actually felt alert and ready to begin a productive day. At the office I simply washed the mug out with some warm, soapy water, as per the attached instructions, and then refilled it at the end of the day with a calming peppermint tea guaranteed to see me through the stressful bustle of the outbound commute. A little difficult to store when full, but lightweight and easy to hold, the Double Barrel Insulated Mug is the perfect companion for short commutes and is absolutely necessary for those who, like me, prioritise their last minutes of sleep over preparation for the day ahead, and find themselves dashing out the door as a result. 

From handy travel mugs and triple insulated growlers, to filtration bottles and kids’ “sippy” cups, Eco Vessel will cover all your hydration needs in a broad range of colours and sizes. Beat dehydration and ensure that the only things you leave behind on your travels are your footprints, with this impressive range of sturdy, eco-friendly drinking vessels, guaranteed to keep your coffee hot and your beer ice cold for hours at a time.

 

Tags: adventure, backpacking, eco-friendly, EcoVessel, green travel, light, product of the month, product review, The Scrubba wash bag, travel, travel bottles, travel clean

Five Reasons Why Everyone Should Travel Solo at Least Once

by Sam Stephens |

Thinking of travelling solo? You’re making a great decision! Solo travel is becoming more popular with each passing year, perhaps because travel is now more accessible than ever, or perhaps because, in this tech-driven world, solo trips no longer isolate travellers by inhibiting them from connecting with friends and family back home. Despite this, many are still intimidated by the idea of travelling alone, afraid they might become bored and lonely, or convinced they are incapable of handling themselves in unfamiliar situations. Whatever your reason for putting off solo travel, we’re confident we have an abundance of counter reasons why you should take the plunge and book your first solo trip today. Here are our top five:    

You’ll meet more people:

It might sound crazy, but it’s absolutely true! Every time I travel solo I stay in dorm rooms at hostels, take group day tours, and do everything I can to connect with other travellers, many of whom are also alone and searching for a friendly face to break the tedium of long, lonely days. Solo travellers, in my experience, put themselves out there a little more in order to make some like-minded friends who are eager to bond over their shared experience of independent travel. When I travel in pairs or groups, on the other hand, it’s much more common for me to turn inward, relying on my own party for conversation and making relatively few friends as a consequence. Solo travel, therefore, is a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and meet other individuals who are going through the same experience as you are.  

You can tailor your trip to fit you perfectly:

Even if you travel with a very close friend, partner, or family member, you’ll realise extremely quickly that you’re going to disagree about certain aspects of your trip. Sometimes these disagreements are helpful, strengthening bonds through the art of compromise and pushing you to experience something new that, against all expectation, turned out to be one of your most valued memories. Other times, however, they cause disputes that result in a bucket-list activity being pushed to the gutter to make room for something else. Even if you and your travel partner have arranged to participate in separate activities and meet up afterwards, there are always going to be moments in which compromise is necessary, and in which you need to travel according to someone else’s timeline. Although the art of compromise is an important and necessary one to learn, solo travel is a great way to plan the ultimate itinerary.
You love this park and want to spend a little longer there? No problem!
You’re not as hungry as you anticipated and think you’ll push lunch back another hour? Too easy!
That train ticket’s a little expensive, why not walk instead? Let me just check with myself … I say it’s okay! 

 

You can spend some quality time with yourself:

As great as solo travel can be for meeting new people, it also presents a perfect opportunity to check in with yourself and quietly reflect on your own travels, whilst developing your newfound confidence and independence. Just taking a moment alone with your own thoughts can entirely change your perspective of a certain monument or event, an experience that can then solidify into a profound memory that is free from other’s biases and opinions. It’s always important to think about the purposes behind your travels and what you’re ultimately hoping to achieve, be it new friends, new language or cooking skills, or a greater sense of human diversity and culture, and solo travel is one of the best ways to put yourself in touch with your own goals and to find the focus to achieve them.

 It’s easier to stay within budget:

Just as solo trips simplify itineraries, so they often ease the financial side of travel. After all, even if people share finances and earn similar amounts of money, no two travellers are going to have exactly the same opinion regarding basic travel expenses such as accommodation and food. This can again cause minor rifts to appear between travel partners, and can even result in one or more members of the group exceeding the budget they set for themselves. Because solo travel places you entirely in control of what you see and where you stay and eat, it’s the easiest way to stick to your budget and to avoid the unforeseen expenses that often put people off the idea of travel in the first place.   

You’ll gain some practical life skills that will come in handy in the future:

No matter where or how you travel, adjusting to new cultures, new languages, and new people is always going to present a challenge that will ultimately help you with your confidence and communication skills. However, there’s nothing quite like being able to tell people that you and you alone designed your trip from the bottom up, kept yourself safe whilst navigating unfamiliar territory, and managed to stay within budget despite the allure of new activities and the confusion of foreign currencies. This realisation not only fosters a more profound sense of your own capabilities, but is the kind of thing that can look great on resumes. Self-managed travel shows independence, confidence, flexibility, adaptability, resilience, autonomy, responsibility, apt research and problem-solving skills, a willingness to learn new skills and to challenge yourself, and an interest in the global world. Of course group travel is also a great indication of many of these skills, but solo travel is the perfect way to prove to yourself that you’re capable of taking control of a large-scale project without retreating into the shadows of your partners.  

Whatever’s holding you back, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and give solo travel a go. From lengthy trips abroad to weekend getaways, individual travel is an experience that brims with benefits and that must be tried at least once. Endorsed by innumerable travellers around the globe and offering a unique, unforgettable perspective of the world, we recommend grabbing your Scrubba wash bag, strapping on your pack, and taking the plunge. You won’t regret it!

Tags: adventure, backpacking, holiday, laundry, solotravel, The Scrubba wash bag, travel, traveller, wash bag, washing on the go

Q&A The Wounded Pelicans

by Sam Stephens |

The Wounded Pelicans is the name by which endurance duo, Christopher Evans and Antony Sedman, are better known. Hailing from the Gold Coast, Australia, the pair have made a name for themselves by participating in numerous endurance events – all in the name of charity and improving their own lifestyles! In exposing their bodies to the challenge of one gruelling endurance event after another, the pair hope to raise not only awareness for the importance of maintaining happy, healthy lifestyles, but also money to aid the disease research that is so desperately needed in today’s society. Having raised $20k for cancer research in 2016, the duo have now moved on to a new project, consisting of 10 extreme events that will see them raise money for various issues and conditions that affect the youth of today. In fulfilling the challenges they have set themselves, The Wounded Pelicans are hoping to motivate kids to achieve their fullest potential, and are thus wholly committed to helping fund research for the conditions that threaten to prevent them from doing so.  

Although the name, ‘The Wounded Pelicans’, derives from their school years, the pair are confident that it has come to accurately represent their current journey, with the pelican that is capable of ‘holding more in its beak’ reflecting the depths of endurance displayed by a duo that consistently runs back-to-back events – including multiple 100km+ ultramarathons – and the ‘wounded’ alluding to the occasional injuries they’ve inevitably picked up along the way.

8 hours into their 24 hour track run - first event of 'The Big 10' project

 

Initially making the transformation from ‘avid party lovers’ to endurance athletes in order to focus on their health, the duo is now fully committed to challenging themselves to high levels of physical and mental endurance in order to help those who are fighting for their lives on a daily basis. Motivated by their enthusiasm and inspired by the fantastic cause behind it, the Scrubba wash bag recently sponsored The Wounded Pelicans for their upcoming ultramarathon in Nepal. We cherish our involvement in this great project, so were thrilled to get the opportunity to sit down with Christopher, one half of the duo, to find out a little more about his philosophy, aspirations, and motivations.

 

Tell us a bit about The Wounded Pelicans. Who are you and what are you all about? 

We're an endurance duo from the Gold Coast. Our names are Christopher 'Tofes' Evans and Antony 'Ant' Sedman, but we're usually known as those 2 crazy kids that run hundreds of kilometres for charity. In 2016, we completed 40 endurance events to raise much needed funds for cancer research. 

 

What inspires you to organise and participate in these sort of fundraising events? 

Funny you mention that… I was never a runner to begin with actually. A few years ago I was in the peak of my party days when I decided to go travelling for a couple years and things got out of hand. My health was beyond degraded, and I was struggling with anxiety and depression at the time, which wasn’t helped by my partying like a rock star every day… It wasn’t until I came home early to focus on my health that I decided to train for a marathon, which quickly led to 8 events by the end of 2015. After Ant and I decided to continue running by participating in one event per month in 2016, we made the decision to run for charity. We knew we’d get some decent exposure, so it seemed obvious to try and raise money along the way. 13 events spiralled into 40, which was exhausting but very exciting at the same time. After our wild year competing in 40 events, it’s safe to say that pushing the limits and helping people along the way has become a newfound love!

Participating in their 24 hour treadmill challenge in 2016

 

What new challenges do you have planned for 2017 and what are you hoping to achieve by the end of the year? 

This year we're continuing the endurance and altruism by putting our time and energy into a project called 'The BIG 10'. Instead of trying to top 40 events like last year, we'll be tackling 1 extreme endurance event a month from March to December, where each month correlates to a different cause for struggling youth.  These events will require a great amount of physical, mental and emotional endurance, showing that 2 normal guys can push the limits and inspire youth along the way. Youth is our focus because they're the future creators and innovators of the world. Not only that, we also want to push their limits and teach them how to stay healthy, while showing them how important gratitude is.  

 

Your upcoming challenge in May will see you run the world’s highest ultramarathon in Nepal to fund research toward a cure for cystic fibrosis. Can you tell us why it’s so important to work towards a cure for this disease? 

Cystic Fibrosis is currently an incurable disease. Around 3000 families are dealing with relatives with CF and the average life expectancy for those born with CF is 38.

 

Why have you chosen the ultramarathon to represent your fundraising work for cystic fibrosis?

A year ago a few friends sent me an article about the 10 most dangerous ultramarathons in the world, and this Mt Everest ultra was #1, which was my incentive to do it. It wasn't until October last year that I met Greg Jury, the founder of Bottlepops. He told me he'd like The Wounded Pelicans’ brand to collaborate sometime this year for our endurance project, 'The BIG 10', as his daughter, Ellie May, has CF. It was an easy decision to dedicate this event to finding a cure for CF - the penny dropped when I realised that I'll have around 9% oxygen during this ultramarathon, which correlates to what it's like being a CF patient on a day-to-day basis. Ellie May is also the ambassador of this Everest4CF project.

 

How are you preparing for your marathon at 17,600ft? 

I'm currently training 6 days a week (sometimes twice a day). I'll get up at 4am and will either be running (road or trails) or doing TRX cable suspension training. Then, in the afternoons, I'll do strength work and altitude training in a chamber at my gym. At night I sleep in an altitude tent to get accustomed to high altitude. 

Training in the altitude room 

 

How much are you hoping to raise for this cause and how can people contribute?

We’re aiming for at least $65k and we’re currently accepting donations through our Go Fund Me page. It’s a bold goal for the amount of time I’ve set, but I’m willing to risk my life running the world’s highest ultramarathon to raise a substantial amount toward a cure for CF. Although I don’t have any family members with Cystic Fibrosis, I have many dear friends who are either struggling themselves or have children who are. It’s unfair for them.  

  

Where can people go to learn more about you and keep up to date with your journeys?

Anyone can follow The Wounded Pelicans’ Journey below:

Website/Blog: https://www.thewoundedpelicans.com/category/uncategorized/

Facebook: ​https://www.facebook.com/thewoundedpelicans/ 

Instagram: ​https://www.instagram.com/thewoundedpelicans/ 

 

A huge congratulations to 'Tofes' and ‘Ant’ for their inspiring work, and best of luck for what will surely be one of the most challenging events of their lives! We encourage everyone to support this event by making a donation to help fund a cure for CF here. Be sure to also visit the Cure4CF Foundation to learn more about the work being done to combat this incurable disease, along with the Wounded Pelicans’ website to find out more about ‘The BIG 10’ project and the inspiration behind it. You can also check out the video below to hear 'Tofes' himself talking about the upcoming venture. We know we’ll be following the journey with bated breath!

 

 

Tags: Charity, Cure4CF, endurance athletes, Nepal, Runningtomakeadifference, The Big 10, The Scrubba wash bag, The Wounded Pelicans, Ultramarathon