Bring on 2015: Another year of adventure for The Smart Way Round

What an epic year 2014 was for us. We completed our overland adventure from London to Melbourne, settled back into ‘normal life’ (for us anyway) back home and scattered in a few European  travels along the way. From spending New Years on the world’s highest train in China, to the temples of Bagan in Myanmar, it would be near impossible to pick a top travel experience.

Over the last few weeks many travel bloggers have been recapping on their 2014 adventures, and while we are incredibly proud of what we achieved we cannot wait to get stuck into 2015. From some great new adventures to hopefully an updated website (if we can figure it out!) we are planning for The Smart Way Round to get bigger and better!

First things first though, we are excited to announce that we are heading to Cuba! A long time bucket list destination, we are off to explore this amazing country at the end of February and are looking forward to some fun, sun and rum when we get there!

We also have a week in Prague planned – one of our favourite European cities.  In July Natalie is off to explore the Faroe Islands and Iceland (I’m likely to be stuck at work, but hey I travel around Europe for a living so don’t feel too sorry for me!). So 2015 is already shaping up as another exciting year for us.

This year we are also approaching a major travel milestone. We are both knocking on the door of visiting 100 countries (not all the same ones mind you), and are trying to plan how to celebrate this achievement. If you have any ideas please drop us a comment, email or Facebook post, between us we cannot decide which country to make lucky number 100.

So roll on 2015 and all the adventures it holds.  Wherever you are off too, happy travels!

–  Dean

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A Different Type of Christmas

With only a few sleeps until Christmas, this year The Smart Way Round is trying something a little different for our Christmas celebrations. We are staying at home. In fact this will actually be the first Christmas we have spent at home together since we have been a couple.

Over the last five years Christmas has been spent in some far flung land and more often than not we have been separated.  Our first Christmas ‘together’ was spent on different continents! After meeting in Egypt, I had to return to Europe to work over the Christmas and New Year period. Natalie on the other hand lived it up on Zanzibar for Christmas and Malawi for New Years.

Natalie doing what she does best, preparing for a dive in Zanzibar on Christmas Eve

Natalie doing what she does best, preparing for a dive in Zanzibar on Christmas Eve

Our second Christmas together was also spent apart, with Natalie working out in Egypt and Jordan and myself flying back to Australia and landing on Christmas Day.

Natalie was visiting the Pyramids while I was stuck on a plane

Natalie was visiting the Pyramids while I was stuck on a plane

Christmas number three was even more eventful. Having returned to Australia in October (again), this time to submit my visa application to allow us to get married we anxiously awaited news of our approval. With both of is getting more and more frustrated Natalie announced over Skype one day she was booking flights and would land on Christmas Eve, returning home to the UK on New Year’s Day. Little did we know that the same day our visa was approved, so when she landed early Christmas Eve, looking a little worse for wear, we had two things to celebrate that Christmas. That week down the Great Ocean Road in Victoria was one of our favourite trips, and was the perfect break leading up to our wedding.

Surfs up at the famous Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

Surfs up at the famous Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

Last Christmas we were already nearly two months into our overland adventure from London to Melbourne and was spent in China. Cruising down the Yangtze was a much needed touch of luxury as we had not seen a comfortable bed or running hot water for the best part of about three to four weeks. While Christmas Day was spent waiting around a train station for most of the day it will live on as one of our best ever.

So this year we are home. No backpacks to lug around (sadly), no exotic destinations to explore, just the two of us at home and together, something we are definitely not used to but extremely looking forward to.

Christmas in Torquay Australia two years ago

Christmas in Torquay Australia two years ago

With this being our last blog of 2014 we want to wish all our followers, supporters and fellow adventure seekers a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year whatever you are doing and wherever you are. Safe travels, enjoy the festive season and we will see you next year for a bigger and better 2015 on The Smart Way Round…

– Dean & Natalie

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Safe Travels for 2015

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Safe Travels for 2015

The itch that just can’t be scratched….

Travel. Six harmless letters. Six letters that, in the right order, will change your life forever and will open your eyes to indescribable experiences.  Some would say they are six of the best letters out there…

Travel fuels both of us. Arguably it’s the best thing we’ve done, both together and separately and it is the one of the biggest things we have in common. Most importantly it is the way we like to spend our time together. These days unfortunately my job gets in the way (yes I do need to change the ‘about me’ section on our blog). That’s not a dig at my job. Not at all. I really enjoy it and above all it only serves to make us enjoy holidays more.

So it may come as a surprise to hear that a few years ago I once advised a friend (who had largely holidayed at home) not to travel. They were asking me to justify why it was worth all the money I spent on it (trust me when we work it out, Dean and I could have bought a holiday house in the country mortgage free with what we have spent). Humm I thought and my answer was ‘don’t do it’. My reason for this was simple. Travel is more addictive than any drug out there. In the words of a famous advert, “once your start you just can’t stop”. Therefore my logic was if you don’t catch the bug (which is more infectious than the common cold) then you don’t have to drink the vitamin c to get over it….

Do I still agree with this? Well in short, I’m a little older, a (very) little bit wiser and the answer is a resounding no. We may not have as much money to put towards our next house, but we have enough and better still we have irreplaceable memories. Memories forged whilst out on deck in Antarctica, stood in front of the magnificent Taj Mahal, walking the Great Walk, Inca Trail and Mt Kinabalu. Seeing Uluru (next time Dean!), Santa in Lapland, staying at the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphisis, pretending to be John Wayne in Monument Valley, watching cheetahs stalk in Tanzania, flying over Victoria Falls, swimming with whales sharks, diving in top dive spots and enjoying the view at the top of the always remembered twin towers. I could go on, but you get the picture. Once you’ve travelled you NEVER look back. To pick a highlight is impossible. To regret spending the money unthinkable. Each and every moment precious.

So whether you have £100 or £1500 for your next holiday spend it wisely on a memorable shared experience. I’m lucky my soul mate loves travel as much as me. Or maybe you make your own luck? I’m sure I make a better buddy for him when we are away, however not doing that all the time only makes you appreciate every holiday more.

It is true what they say. Travel is the one thing that really does make you richer.

– Natalie

Chilling with my travel buddy

Chilling with my travel buddy

 

Happy Blogaversary! Eight Statistics to Celebrate a Year of Blogging

This week marks our one year blogaversay. Around the same time last year we were preparing for our epic overland adventure through 13 countries on our way to Australia. While it was an incredible and life changing five and a half months we never really thought about what would happen to our blog once we safely returned back home to London. We finally decided to stick with it and are so glad we have. Year one as travel bloggers has been a steep learning curve, from negotiating Chinese firewalls, internet black spots, bloggers block and worse of all real life and having to go to work! It hasn’t always been easy finding time to blog but after a bit of a lull in the middle of the year we rediscovered our travel mojo and are excited about what year number two has in store.

Back at the beginning leaving home almost a year ago!

Back at the beginning leaving home almost a year ago!

So to celebrate our blogaversay below are some statistics to summaries The Smart Way Round’s first year:

1. Number of Posts: 79 (including this one)

2. Total Number of Website views: 8,604 (not bad for a small little travel blog)

3. Countries where people have read our blog: 104 (Great Britain, Australia & United States occupy top three spots)

4. Our most popular posts: “Rehabilitation of a Four – Letter Word”, “Our Pre Oktoberfest Checklist” & “Meet Us”

5 Followers on Twitter: 3,908

6. Followers on Instagram: 338

7. Likes on our Facebook Page: 712

8. Versions of our website: 1 (but we are slowly working on upgrading it, another steep learning curve)

The two of us would like to say a huge thank you for the amazing support we have received over the last year. From the comments, to the shares and follows ‘The Smart Way Round’ has far exceeded both our expectations. So here is to another fantastic year of travels, characters and amazing experiences, see you all on The Smart Way Round…

– Dean

A toast to another year of adventures

A toast to another year of adventures

 

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…”

– Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca

The dingy, overcrowded and dark hotel bar at the Havana Hotel in Cairo is probably not the first choice of bar to meet up with a friend. Long and rectangular with just enough room between the lounges and seats to squeeze past, during a week in October 2009 it became my regular haunt.

The not so glamourous entrance to the Hotel Havana

The not so glamourous entrance to the Hotel Havana

With time off between the summer and winter seasons in Europe, but not enough to do things independently I decided to jump on board an overland truck from Cairo to Nairobi. First things first however, visas and welcome letters had to be arranged. It was at the Australian Embassy waiting to get a letter confirming my Australian passport was real for Sudan that I met Chris. After reading an inch thick travel advice, and followed by the question, “So you still want to go to Sudan?” we had our government stamped confirmation letters and we were on our way.

Over the next few days Chris and I spent the days rummaging through Cairo’s souks, hopping between the Ethiopian Embassy and generally exploring Cairo. Throughout we met several other travellers who would be accompanying us on our adventure south. Every night we would return to the Hotel Havana, where most people were staying before the trip, to have a few beers, catch up and get to know each other.

Chris had spent some time in Dahab before arriving in Cairo to sort visas. During his time there he had met a British girl who would be joining our trip. As Chris put it, “Natalie is a really cool chick”. As the week progressed the odd assortment of intrepid adventures travelling with us filtered into the hotel, but no Natalie.

Natalie relaxing in Dahab before we met

Natalie relaxing in Dahab before we met

One evening, several days before the trip, the band of merry adventurers had assembled in the bar. A thick smoke wafted up towards the ceiling from the various shisha pipes scattered throughout the bar and the heavy scent of apple tea hung in the air. In the background Arabic dance music rang out from an old CD player behind the counter and the low drum of hushed conversation would be broken by raucous laughter from one group to the next.

The rusty old metal detector at the front door would occasionally beep as a new guest entered but the fully armed security guard would only ever give a disinterested glance. I think the security was more there to make us feel safer but I had a feeling if something did happen they would be the first ones out the door!

It was at that point my life changed forever.

Against this backdrop of curling shisha smoke and apple tea the door from the hotel opened. A stream of bright iridescent light streamed into the bar followed by a ghostly silhouette. As the door creaked closed the beaming smiled Natalie replaced the silhouette. “That’s Natalie, the chick I met in Dahab”, Chris exclaimed. I don’t know how and I don’t know why but the moment I saw Natalie I knew I was going to marry her! Little did we both know, it was on that summery night in the smoke hazed hotel bar in Cairo The Smart Way Round was born.

It must have been love...

It must have been love…

That was five years ago. Our adventures have taken us all across the world, five continents and numerous countries. November sees the one-year anniversary of The Smart Way Round but the adventure started years ago. That’s the thing about travel, you never know who you are going to meet. I am always reminded of a comment a guest made on one of my first ever trips around Europe, “You make friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime”. Well in Cairo in 2009 it was definitely the latter….

– Dean

The Smart Way Round was born!

The Smart Way Round was born!

 

To spend or to avoid… Airport shopping!

Airport duty free shopping. It divides opinion. For some travellers it is a ticket to spend. For others it’s a painful gauntlet that’s full of dilly dalliering travellers rushing to catch flights.

I have some friends who look forward to the experience. They stock up on cheaper priced face creams, cosmetics and perfume.

I have others who avoid the shops like the plague and instead find a seat in the corner to ‘man the bags’ whilst their partner goes off shopping. I would suggest that this also works well!

Whether you are rushing for a flight or have time to kill, the Duty Free section is sure to get in your way or give you an escape!

Whether you are rushing for a flight or have time to kill, the Duty Free section is sure to get in your way or give you an escape!

As smelly, not washed often enough backpackers I’m sure we have all at one point or another felt that we could do with smelling a little sweeter. Bingo. Walking through the perfume section sorts this little problem perfectly. Like many others I always take the opportunity to try out a new scent and see what I think. I certainly don’t buy every time however I do from time to time make a purchase. Choosing the scent to try can depend on several factors. How long you want it to last, whether you go for something totally new or one you know. Perhaps above all it depends on where the shop assistants are located as to which one is easier to get the biggest ‘squirt’ of! The tricks of the trade….

Some Duty Free favourites...

Some Duty Free favourites…

It’s fair to say whilst we assume prices are cheaper, this is not always the case. I recently looked at a Ted Baker set in Boots at a London airport. Eager not to carry it round I searched to see if I could buy it online. To my surprise it was being sold on the Boots website quite a bit cheaper. However most things are ‘duty free’ and indeed less expensive at the airport. This in itself encourages travellers to part with their heard earned cash.  My tip – if you still have lots of time to kill and have your smartphone handy, then double check prices to make sure you really are getting a bargain!

Duty Free champers - these  appeal to The Smart Way Round!

Duty Free champers – these appeal to The Smart Way Round!

For me, the biggest thing airport shopping provides is that feeling of being on holiday. It’s a signal of the beginning, of the excitement that lies ahead. You might not want to buy anything, but with time to kill at an airport it provides a space to wander and stretch the legs. And hey, if yet another MAC eye shadow should fall into my shopping basket then who am I to complain….

– Natalie

We Blame Oktoberfest!

Hi everyone

To all our loyal followers you may have noticed that this week we have not posted a blog. Well a little something called Oktoberfest got in the way. You know, the world’s largest fair, where they consume close to 10 million litres of beer, 2 million bratwurst sausages, 400,000 chickens and 800 full oxen, or there abouts.

We will be back next week, but in the meantime thought we would share some of our photos from the festivities…

Prost!

 

At the main entrance to Oktoberfest grounds

At the main entrance to Oktoberfest grounds

The giant ferris wheel offers great views over the grounds

The giant Ferris Wheel offers great views over the grounds

Views from the ferris wheel the following morning

Views from the Ferris Wheel the following morning

Advertising in the U-Bahn

Advertising in the U-Bahn

First beer officially at 10:33am

First beer officially at 10:33am

A sense of the size of the Augustiner Beer tent

A sense of the size of the Augustiner Beer tent

Getting into the spirit of things...

Getting into the spirit of things…

Nothing beats drinking beer in traditional costume

Nothing beats drinking beer in traditional costume

 

Safe travels everyone!

N&D