Why Travel? Building on a discussion in the pub… 

Anyone who has been to any sort of socialising event will no doubt have come across the well travelled person who loves to talk not necessarily about where they’ve travelled, but about how it has changed them. How it has made them find themselves and made them realise what truly matters. I was recently positioned with such a person at a gathering, with them the least-worst option of mingling, and it got me wondering… if this person’s view of travelling/oration of travel experience annoys me so much, why do I personally then travel? After all, it’s expensive and takes up a lot of time so there must be a damn good reason why I like it so much AND why I choose to spend my free time blogging on it too. 

Well, straight up the thing that comes to me is simply that you get to see beautiful sights. I’ve been lucky enough to get to see some of the world’s most travelled to locations, from the natural beauty of The Grand Canyon to the manmade impressiveness of cities like Rome and its colosseum. But what is it that makes me compelled to go see these things? It can’t simply be the superficiality of ‘these things are beautiful’ – can it? Well, yes, actually, it can. Why does a sight have to change you. Why does an experience have to be valued based on how it impacts you, not on simply how enjoyable it is. 
From browsing pyschologytoday and brainyquotes quotes on beauty it seems that most ideas revolve around the eye of the beholder and about beauty not being skin deep and simply visual. However for me Keats has got it right: 

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness.

– John Keats, Endymion

It’s not why something is beautiful that matters, simply that it is and to enjoy it. Take for example this photograph taken by me of Budgies J and Al walking in the Swiss mountains. 


The location was stunning and together we got to stroll through this stunningness for many hours: Stopping on the side of a secluded waterfall for a packed lunch, resting on the sheer rockface for a drink of water and simply stopping for no reason at all to just admire the view. This stopping and admiring is key. Stopping to admire the beauty around us. When do we get this chance when we are not in ‘travelling’ mode? Yet when we travel we get to to do it a lot and this is what is special about travelling. 

For example, budgie Al is a clinical, cold, rational Slytherin of a man whose heart is barely in his body yet alone on his sleeve. Yet, when I’ve been travelling with him I’ve seen him physically stop in his tracks and moan out a ‘wow’ from a view: a hidden and surprise lake on Mount Tamalpais for example and the first glimpse down into the Grand Canyon come to mind. He’s also said these very words which I think sum up in many ways what I’ve been saying: “let’s just stop and look. No photos, no phones. Let’s just look and admire.” (Said whilst looking out from the Golden Gate Bridge). 

And yes, there is a part of me now concerned that this is potentially crossing into the ‘travel changed me’ areas with me realising that beauty is awe inspiring and makes you stop and think… But no, let’s face it, this is still actually quite shallow. I’ve always known that I’m attracted to attractive things. I didn’t need to travel to realise this. It’s just that travelling is one of the only times when you’re allowed to appreciate beauty and that allows you to see it. So I guess this post’s message is twofold. 

1) appreciate beauty because it’s beautiful. 

2) don’t feel ashamed of the fact that you simply want to travel to see beautiful things. Just because others (genuinely or not) talk of their life changing experiences from travelling doesn’t mean that this is the correct way to travel. It’s just as important to stop and smell the roses. 

Thanks, 
Matt (the beautiful). 

The Art of Packing

By Jamie

Packing is probably the most boring, problematic, annoying, and yet strangely disregarded part of travelling. It is something that is readily dismissed as a job that can be done the morning you are due to leave, and so invariably the morning of your journey is frantically spent running round your house in search of passports, clean socks, headphones, teddy bears and anything else your frazzled mind has time to remember before you scurry off to the airport without any of the things you really need, like an inhaler for my asthma, for example (how did I make it this far in life?). And then you arrive at the airport to realise your bag is 5kg overweight because you packed anything and everything earlier, so have to pay a load more to take your unnecessary stuff on the plane. Paying for extra, unneeded stuff is not the Budget Budgie way, so, having faced several fraught trips with a bag full of useless things and nothing I really need, and pretty much having bought yet another toothbrush from every place I’ve ever been because I’m an idiot and don’t look in the bathroom while I’m panic-packing, I have decided to compile a few hard-learned pointers to ensure your travel life runs more smoothly than mine.

  1. THINK AHEAD

This is insultingly obvious, and yet who honestly thinks about what they need to pack (aside from my mother who compiles a lengthy hand-written list two weeks in advance)? Thinking ahead is key, especially for long trips that need more stuff. For example, for our Budgie inter-rail trip we had backpacks to last us three weeks. This meant space was at a premium, and the weight needed to be kept low enough to actually carry the bulbous mass around for many miles to reach the obscure hostels Matt had booked. This needed planning and forethought to spare my shoulders a real workout, so I packed essentials and heavy things a full week beforehand, and added to it as I slowly remembered important stuff (my toothbrush finally!), and also removed things as I had time to truly assess my priorities, such as just the one teddy bear. Thinking ahead was essential to this, and any trip where you will really need all of the things you have as you lug your possessions on your back like an excited middle-class snail touring Europe.

2. MAXIMISE YOUR SPACE

Inefficient packing is not just a minor sin, it’s basically evil. Why let that precious space go to waste because you can’t organise a bag? Firstly, and again obviously, put heavy stuff in first. Having spent too long in airports recently, I’ve discovered one of the most annoying things in life (apart from the fact my EasyJet flight has been delayed AGAIN) is seeing people leave their bag or hand luggage and watching it topple forward and cause a domino effect with any other bag or person it hits, all because the owner of the toppling bag has put their underwear and clothes in first, because it’s the most important and obvious thing, and then stuffed all their heavy stuff in afterwards, so the bag is as top-heavy and unstable as a tory government. A base layer of the heavy stuff, all fitted into squares to maximise space, is the easiest way to stop your bag pointlessly crashing into people. Then, with stability ensured, put the clothes.

Also, as I suggested before, form stuff into squares in your bag. treat it like Tetris; you have to fit shapes to the gaps until it’s neatly filled. This is where panic-packing fails and foresight wins.

To fully save space, you could also invest in some vacuum packing bags. They are very cheap and are a surprisingly effect way to pack clothes and reduce wasted space.

3. BEAT THE WEIGHT LIMITS

Airlines love the bag weight limits, that golden opportunity to wait for people to panic-pack or load up on souvenirs  and then, with no alternatives, charge them! Be careful to check what you are allowed, because of course the airlines all have different limits to be annoying. I recently had good fun neatly packing my hold bag into my efficient Tetris-squares to discover it was 9kg over the limit. As my good, dear friends EasyJet charge £20 a kg, I broke out my ingenuity to spread the weight:

  • Hand luggage is your main ally here, especially on flights that have no weight limit for them (some do, I’ve had my hand luggage weighed before so check). Always go for maximum bag size, of course, and put your heaviest things in there. I squeezed 19.8kg into my hand luggage through magic and cunning (I was moving country before you ask why I needed so much stuff). As long as you can lift it, it’s not too big and the airline staff aren’t mean and weigh the bag, it’s the easy solution.
  • The extra 1kg that airlines let you get away with in the hold luggage can be very helpful. Just look a little shocked it’s over the limit but very close, and they wave you through no problem.
  • Pockets. I own a pair of shorts whose sole purpose is for stuffing a lot of things into its huge, warehouse-sized pockets. My moving country adventure pushed me to get four books, a computer mouse, a phone charger, a wallet, two sets of keys, two phones (don’t ask) and an ipad into my pockets (a belt was truly essential for this). I reckon I looked pretty weird waddling with huge, misshapen thighs but ah well.
  • The duty free bag is also a good friend. If you have a regular airport, get a cheap thing there and keep the bag for future use. You can take an extra rucksack through in the larger duty free bags. Be careful that you use the right bag for the right airport though. And ask for a big bag, they don’t mind changing it (even when I bought 7 euros worth of chocolate with 5 cent coins, and I was too busy counting my change to see what bag she used and had to ask her to change it for a bigger bag while an angry queue formed behind. They loved me in that place).

4. IS IT NECESSARY?

The final, and vital, question you must ask yourself. I’ve packed things I’ve never wanted or needed, but “just in case” I have taken it with me (at the expense of my toothbrush again most likely). Question everything, because it’s pointless taking things you really don’t need. I took a bottle of alcohol around Europe during inter-rail because Alan gave it to me at the last minute and I forgot about it. That is really pointless and unnecessary.

These are just a few pointers, all fairly straight-forward and obvious, that I try and employ to avoid my many previous mistakes. They are simple, but can make a big difference. We will add more as we think of them, and any suggestions you have are certainly welcome in the comments section!

What to do when Public Transport lets you down

This evening my two hour journey has rumbled on into being closer to 5 hours than 2 and this is entirely the fault of the train provider. Now, I know I’m not the only one to experience such troubles. And this is certainly not the first time it’s happened. But I thought I’d just share a few ideas on what can be done when transport ****s you over to ensure you still have a good time!

1) don’t worry, be happy. 

2) release your angers by slapping hard the fool who is being falsely positive and pretending to do the advice of point 1) 

3) now that stuff is out of your system and that initial rush of anger is vented look for an opportunity. This journey has been rubbish it’s true. More than rubbish. However, I have bought myself some wine to enjoy on the final leg and now I shall have the fun of adding this expense to my compensation request tomorrow. Free wine! Ok, so, perhaps this (potential) freebie doesn’t equate in your mind to the additional 3 hours travelling… but let me tell you another, better, example. When we were InerRailing there were some unforeseen and highly annoying strikes going on in Europe and Ål and I got stranded somewhere in Germany we had never ever intended to go. However, after our initial anger was vented (see (2)), we sucked it up and found a local affordable place to stay and got to experience Dresden. Completely without planning, completely by chance, completely because of public transport screwing us over. We got an early train the next day to our intended destination so we didn’t lose a day there and instead gained a night in a new city. Whoop! 

4) if there really is NO opportunity present to enhance the situation, then this sucks. But you know what the stories people most enjoy are from your travels?? (Maybe aside from exotic holiday romances). Disasters. These are fun for others to hear about because it turns their jealousy of your holiday to amusement! And everyone is happier amused than jealous. So it’s good for your friends back home if occasionally whilst you’re travelling you have a disaster! 

5) Plus. If you truly are having a disaster episode with transport the likelihood is you’re stuck somewhere for hour upon hour waiting. Just waiting. With nothing to do but wait. Well… isn’t this what many people go away for anyway? To relax and do nothing? To have the OPPORTUNITY to literally do nothing? Yes, Luton airport may not be the poolside villa you had booked. And yes, you may have been planning to do people watching on a nudist beach as opposed to a sweaty airport full of people in jogging bottoms. But, crucially, you still have this time to relax now! Make the most of it! 

One time I had an 8 hour delay to my flight and was stuck at Heathrow for this period. Naturally I was angry. Naturally I was sad. But then in the line to get the pathetically low value slip entitling me to a budget dinner somewhere, I made a friend. A friend just as angry and just as sad. So we went off and had lunch together in a pub and had a few drinks slagging off the airline and then we played FIFA on his Ipad using our phones and then we chilled out listening to music together whilst reading. And then; because we had many hours and were both pushing one another to read fast, we finished our books and swapped them over so had a whole new one to read on our hol! So whilst still in the airport I’d made a friend, had a nice pub dinner, had some drinks, played some games and read my planned book AND gained a new one. Whilst the delay sucked, I just brought my holiday to the airport! And many of you won’t be like me and will have friends or a partner with you there anyway. So just enjoy the fact you’re with them and enjoy the chance to relax :). 

So there we have it, 5 ways, ish, to make the most of times when public transport lets you down. Don’t be angry, be happy.

Oh and 6) it could give you a chance to write that blog piece you hadn’t previously gotten round to. 

Matt. 

San Francisco

San Fran is the best city in the world. Hands down. Unfortunately, its not usually an overly budget friendly option to get to from Europe. As we’re an internationally followed, world-renowned organization though some of our many readers will be based in the States and thus get there easier. Also, there are cheaper ways to get there for us in Europe. For example, encourage your parents to move there and then pay for your tickets out of a mixture of guilt for abandoning you and their air-miles. Once there, though, there are options aplenty for the budget conscious explorer and here are some of my top tips to make the most of this stunning city.

Let’s start off with the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you get to SF you will be bombarded immediately with adverts showing people cycling the bridge, proclaiming it to be THE way to travel its length. But, why? Its quicker to get across and back, sure. Its also no doubt liberating zipping along with the sea breeze whipping into you etc. But then… as someone who has walked it a fair few times… I can say that from observing cyclists they either do one of two things: 1) Spend the whole time stopping every few seconds to take photos and posing with the bike in selfies or group shots as opposed to riding it. 2) Zoom along enjoying the buzz of ‘I’m riding the bridge!’ and see absolutely nothing of the view or bridge around you. Walking is free, you can take your damn sweet time, take the photos and enjoy the view.

Sticking with the walking theme then… The city’s cable cars look lovely along the steep slopes and majestic going along the waterfront, and everyone should jump on one for a journey for sure. But using them every time? The city is very manageable to walk. Whilst Al may disagree with him whinging over his tired little feet and his burning thighs in his tight short shorts, the whole city is walkable. You can do the main street, take a right up into china town, carry on down and hit the waterfront and loop back round seeing the historic boats and moving back to fisherman’s wharf and pier 39 following the water back to the Ferry Building. And for those like me who have to put up with a complainer, there are cheaper public transport options all over the place with busses and trams and the underground. So just use those cheaper ones and save the cable cars for a one off and photos if your legs have given up.

China Town. Buy ALL your souvenirs here. They’re cheaper with warehouse style shops lined up full of the same sort of knickknacks that are twice the price up the road.

The Bay is lovely, and seeing the city from the water along with the bridges (not just Golden Gate but the others look lovely in the dusk light too for example Bay Bridge) and Alcatraz is a gorgeous thing to do. Instead of paying for one of the tourist boat tours though, go to the Ferry Building and get on a ferry across the water. You get all the same views and can spend a couple of hours in a different location before heading back. The best option is probably Sausalito. It has lovely views across the water to San Fran, the journey is a leisurely pace giving you time for photos and the likes, the town itself is full of sweet little cafes and gift shops and you’re certain to see the bay’s nature of sea lions and crabs and pelicans etc.

So there we have it, some budget budgie tips for San Francisco including some of its tourist hotspots.

(Oh yeh, you may have noticed I missed off going to Alcatraz. Well, some things you should just pay for and Alcatraz is one of these worthwhile things which you just have to suck up and pay for)

Matt.