Category Archives: travel

My Favourite Reads of 2008

It’s amazing how many books you can read when traveling, with all that free time to kill and so 2008 offered me a great chance to catch up on many books I’d been meaning to read for years. Thanks to those 26 hour bus journeys in South America I got through quite a few!

Here’s my pick of the bunch:

  • Shantaram – A captivating story of life in the slums of Mumbai for an ex-convict who escaped from a high security jail in Australia. The writing really brings Mumbai to life and there is never a dull moment. Be warned you won’t be able to put it down!
  • The Poisonwood Bible – Follows a missionary, his wife and four daughters on their move to Congo in the 1950’s showing how Africa changes their lives forever and how trying to force different cultures to take Western government and cultures doesn’t work.
  • Marching Powder – True story of a British prisoner’s life in San Pedro prison in La Paz, Bolivia. An unbelievable place where prisoners pay for the pleasure of entering the prison, live with their entire families inside the prison, run businesses and take justice into their own hands.
  • My Sister’s Keeper – Explores the moral dilemma’s that genetic engineering creates by exploring the lives of a family where the eldest sister has leukaemia and the younger sister has been designed to be an exact match in order to keep her alive. A very emotional page-turner.
  • Empress Orchid – A fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who lived inside China’s Forbidden Palace and all of the politics that go with thousands of royal wives and concubines.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns – Set in Afghanistan this book follows the life of Mariam through an arranged marriage and the Taliban. It gives a real insight into Afghan culture and to the many wonders lost to the world through all the hardship this country has endured.
  • Atonement – I hadn’t seen the film before reading the book and therefore the twists in the story were new to me. If you’re looking for a gripping, fast read with a real moral story then this is it. As I live in South London reading about the Blitz and the bombing of Balham tube station really brought the impact of war to life for me also.
  • Suite Francaise – The actual writings of a French woman living in occupied France during World War 2, a brilliant account of the lives of real people during the war.
  • On Chesil Beach – I love Ian McEwan’s writing and ‘On Chesil Beach’ didn’t disappoint, in fact I read it in one sitting. It describes the pressure on a young couple in the 50s on their wedding day and how feelings that go unspoken and misunderstood can have a dramatic impact on events.
  • The Pact – Examines the effects of a suicide pact gone wrong between a teenage couple which leaves one dead and the other standing trial for her murder. Another gripping story by Jodi Piccoult, you won’t be able to put it down.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – And finally the conclusion of the Harry Potter series. I was so sad to leave the world of Muggles and magic at the end of this book. As a lover of Roald Dahl growing up I think this is a new children’s classic that people of any age can enjoy.

Return to Reality

After a year of traveling the globe it really was about time to get back to the real world. It was amazing to be able to take a year off and travel for so long and visit so many unique places. I tried things that I never thought I’d have the courage to do, hang-gliding over Rio, diving with sharks in Borneo and 5 day treks into the wilderness in Peru and Bolivia.

It’s funny though because traveling actually becomes your job, you settle into a routine of planning your next location and booking all of the essentials, and I know it sounds insane but it actually does become your job. Obviously a pretty amazing job – if only you could get paid for doing it life would be perfect!

Also having the same conversation every time you meet someone new becomes a bit tedious after a while, ‘Where are you from?’, ‘How long are you traveling for?’, ‘Where have you been?’, ‘Where are you going?’. In the end you long for the simple things, like meeting a friend and chatting about everything under the sun and being surrounded by people who actually know something about you. So I was definitely ready to come back after 12 months of traveling.

But… now that I’m back a while and I’ve caught up with all of my friends it’s actually starting to feel like I was never away. Nothing has really changed and the travels feel more and more like a lovely dream. Also getting emails and messages from friends who are still traveling really isn’t helping. While I’m sitting in watching the Blue Planet on TV they’re over in New Zealand actually diving Poor Knights! It just doesn’t compare.

Oh well at least I have my memories and about 12,000 photos! Thankfully London is a pretty exciting place to be and with lots of exciting opportunities popping up I think I have enough to keep me busy. Perhaps I can start planning a little weekend away…