Going Our Separate Ways

Wow what an amazing year we have had! It feels like only yesterday we arrived back home after our pic overland adventure from London to Melbourne. So in honour of being backa year we have reposted our blog from our arrival back into London in 2014!

 

What an amazing journey the last five months have been. From London to Beijing then back to Delhi all overland by train, then some incredible memories through Myanmar, Australia and the Philippines. Sadly however all good things must come to an end.

For ‘The Smart Way Round’ that means it is now time for Natalie and I to go our separate ways.

Wait a minute, didn’t we just celebrate our first wedding anniversary living it large around London? We certainly did, going our separate ways simply refers to heading back to work. For Natalie that means back down to Somerset to start work again in the office for Oasis Overland, while for me, I fly out to Munich to take my first group of Guests around Central Europe for Trafalgar Travel.

Now I know what you are thinking, both working for travel companies and Dean running around Europe having an awesome time, that doesn’t really sound like work does it?! After five months together 24/7 it will certainly not be easy and getting back into a structured routine will take some time.

With us back in Europe The Smart Way Round is also going to change a little. We will be dropping back to one blog a week now, we still have some great stories to share about the London to Melbourne adventure, and Natalie will be posting a summary of all the statistics relating to our journey, but work kind of gets in the way right? We will also be sharing stories from Europe and introducing a new category of our blog called ‘Hometown Tourist’ sniffing out all the cool, quirky and different things to do around London. So really this is not the end of The Smart Way Round but only the beginning!

Exploring new places in London

Exploring new places in London

Thanks again for everyone’s support, comments and love over the last five months, because of you The Smart Way Round has grown bigger than we could have possibly imagined.

– Dean

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Would you like ham with your cheese sandwich?

When you think of Cuba you think of old cars, cigars, beaches, rum…. I could go on.  The one thing it isn’t famous for is its culinary experiences.  Since 1962 Cubans have been entitled to a Libreta de Abastecimiento (“Supplies booklet”).  This acts as a modern day ration book and the Government sets out what people pay for produce and how much they are allowed.  Prior to 1991, even children’s toys were rationed in this way.  Thankfully for the children of Cuba this is no longer the case.

As a traveller in Cuba, you don’t have to stick to such allocations; however those looking for a McDonald’s destination should go elsewhere. As much as I love McDonalds (everyone has a guilty secret) I would be dead against them setting up in Cuba.  The only amendment to that is there is one branch (just one) in Cuba.  It is situated within the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay and serves as an outlet for the US forces based there.  For those not in the military, the whole area is firmly out of bounds – more about that another time.

Fresh fruit, yum!

Fresh fruit, yum!

So food.  What can you expect?  Breakfast tends to include the mandatory bread (white fluffy only) and eggs.  Sometimes juice is available and if you are really lucky, fruit.  Pineapple, guava or papaya were the fruits of the day whilst we were there, but on rare occasions we also found banana and pineapple.  Lunches, its fair to say, are a simple affair.  One day you can have ham and cheese sandwiches, maybe the next just cheese sandwiches.  If you are lucky you might find some espagetti napolitana (spaghetti in tomato sauce) or even a ham and cheese pizza.  Then you go back to ham and cheese sandwiches.  Quite often a restaurant may have a large menu but in reality all they really have are these four combinations. Get the picture?  You have to hope you like ham, or cheese or both!

Banana chips, a staple of most meals

Banana chips, a staple of most meals

In the evening one of the best places to eat is at your Casa Particular – home stays.  They are easy to arrange and the casa ladies are only too happy to cook you a home cooked meal (in exchange for about US$7).  Normally you will be treated to a feast of soup, fried plantain (my personal favourite) bean rice, and then a wide array of fish, or some basic grilled (often a little tough) meat.  If you were really lucky you could be offered ‘flan’ (a kind of crème caramel) for pudding.  Restaurants often offered a good choice of fish and shell fish.  If it swims (or crawls) in the sea then as a diver I’m on my soapbox and not an eater, but Dean, by all accounts, had some lovely lobster along the way.  Food doesn’t vary that much across the country, although in Baracoa (one of the eastern most cities) things are mixed up a bit and you get a wonderful coconut sauce with meat and fish.

The meals in the home stays are normally very tasty and huge

The meals in the home stays are normally very tasty and huge

On one of our favourite evenings Dean and I wondered out and ate al fresco with the locals.  It was a Saturday night in Holguin and the street fiesta was in full swing (a weekly affair).  There were more pigs on spit roasts than I could count on my hands and feet together, and everyone was in a joyous mood.  We queued up, picked out fancy-laced restaurant and set about ordering.  Pig, chicken, banana chips and bean rice – all with change from a couple of dollars.  Granted the chicken looked a little (there was blood!) undercooked for me, so I dutifully donated it to my husband who is (thankfully) still alive to tell the tale!  The meal was beautiful though and a wonderful experience.

Street food pop up restaurants Cuban style

Street food pop up restaurants Cuban style

Above all eating in Cuba is never going to make you fat!  The food is wholesome, healthy and fills a gap.  You will struggle to find the array of snacks we are used to in the western world (remember we are not talking about in the resorts here – I don’t know what they have but I suspect it’s an artificial home away from home) but there is something really lovely about that.  Who needs Walkers crisps or branded Coca Cola?  When in Rome do as the Romans.  Choices are limited, but embrace them and remember not to overdose on the ham and cheese sarnies…

– Natalie

The Legend of Lalo Bravo

One of the great things about travelling is some of the characters you meet along the way. People from your adventures linger in your mind long after you return home, and a rare select few may even pass into travel folk law or legend status.

Such is the legend that is Lalo Bravo.

However before we meet the lead character we must Quentin Tarantino our story back to the day before…

It was our final day in Santiago de Chile. The last rays of afternoon sun were falling across our picturesque square as my friend Todd aka Pocket and I were enjoying a few glasses of red. Tonight we would  board an overnight local bus down to the mountain resort of Pucón.

Ahhh Chilean Red!

Ahhh Chilean Red!

Before we knew it we were engaged in conversation (in Spanish) with an elderly gentleman who proceeded to tell us how he was a former soldier in Pinochet’s dictatorship and all the nationalities he had killed during his years of service. When we told him we were Australian he looked off into nowhere, his eyes glazed over and me muttered almost remorsefully ‘I never did kill an Australian’.

Wow look at the time! We paid the bill, respectfully bade our farewells, scampered back to the hostel and headed off to catch our overnight bus. If this chance meeting was anything to go by Chile was going to be interesting. Pucón here we come!

You never know who you will meet in the leafy squares of Santiago

You never know who you will meet in the leafy squares of Santiago

For those of you who have never caught a bus around South America believe me they are an experience. In fact they could be subject of a blog all by themselves! One thing was quite common though, most would play incredibly loud Hollywood action movies. You could almost guarantee it would be Sly Stallone, Steven Seagal or perhaps Wesley Snipes serenading you to sleep each night.

So after a fitful semi-nights sleep we pulled into Pucón just as the sun started to break over the mountains. There waiting for his unsuspecting victims was Lalo Bravo.

Lalo was about five foot six, relatively skinny, short black hair with a pencil thin moustache and spoke in a shrill excited high pitched voice. He was a gittery character and not to sound stereotyped he kind of reminded us of the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales.

Dazed and confused after dreams punctuated by gunfire and bad Wesley Snipes one liners he convinced us his hostel was just around the corner and it had the best rates in town. What did we have to lose? We followed Lalo as he talked a million miles an hour about all the things one could do in Pucón. As we approached his hostel he informed us the hostel was actually full but there were a couple of rooms available in his house.

As we entered his home we were greeted by a bright blue lounge covered in old vinyl records, “I have my own music tv show and sketch comedy show” he said. We later found out the majority of the show was filled with racist and derogatory sketches about the local Peruvian community! We were shown the room which was clean and reasonably large, the price was also good, a special deal because we were not in the hostel proper. If anything bunking in with Lalo was going to be an experience so we happily agreed to stay.

The lounge / broadcasting studio

The lounge / broadcasting studio

There was an Australian couple in the next room who were apparently really nice he told us, but you don’t see them very often. He was right. During our stay we only saw them once, one morning where neither of them spoke to us or each other, however we heard them every night arguing, screaming and throwing things at each other. Apparently their dream South American adventure was not working out as they had hoped!

After settling in and Lalo returned with breakfast things started to get interesting. It turned out he was also the local journalist and proceeded to show us his impressive website (the sun bursts and a solar flare circling the world until it reached Pucón was a little much we thought) and informed us there had been a spate of arson attacks in town. Now most of the historic buildings were made of wood but the fire department were pretty useless, in fact over the past several weeks he had arrived at the scene of each fire about 10-15 minutes before the fire crews had arrived!

The wooden village and the volcano that towers over the town

The wooden village and the volcano that towers that dwarves it

We patiently sat through every fire video he had “reported” on before attempting to make our escape. Tomorrow we wanted to climb the snow covered volcano of  Villarrica that towers over the town. Lalo told us to source out one company in particular, they were the best, had the highest quality equipment and he knew the guys who ran it.

“Mention my name and you will get the respect” Lalo told us. “What’s my name?” he asked, “Lalo” we replied, “No, no, no Lalo Bravo, remember my name you get the respect, now what’s my name?”, “Lalo Bravo!” we (fake) excitedly proclaimed, “That’s right! Remember my name you get the respect!”. This went on repeatedly for several minutes (yes the same sentences over and over) and reminded me of some sales team self help class where we all stood around pumping each other up and slapping each other on the back.

Convinced the mere mention of the legendary Lalo Bravo’s name throughout the town would see locals bow down in front of us, slash their prices and generally throw rose petals reverently at our feet we strolled into the town centre heads held high, first stop, the climbing company.

We discussed the plan, agreed to ascend Villarrica the following day and then we were asked where we were staying.

Chests pumped out we proudly announced, “We are staying with Lalo Bravo”.

Insert silence here and crickets being heard in the background.

“With who?”

“With, ah, umm, Lalo err Bravo?”, we were losing our nerve.

Silence.

After a rather uneasy few seconds and eye contact shifting from one person to another like a western showdown the atmosphere was broken with…. laughter! What could we do? So we laughed. Ah yes local ‘celebrity’ Lalo Bravo, no discounts, no respect just the look of pity from the guys at the climbing shop. We paid up (full price) and continued to explore town safe in the knowledge we would not be dropping Lalo’s name again.

We returned back to the house and excitedly Lalo asked what we were planning to do. When we told him we were climbing the mountain, and confirmed we went to the company he recommended we were then asked did they give us a good deal. Well, kind of, we paid the advertised price. “What?! Did you mention my name?”, we informed him we had, “What name did you give him?” he asked incredulously. “Lalo Bravo”, “That’s right and you get the respect!”, he was outraged, so much so he stormed out of the house. He later told us there had been a ‘breaking story’ regarding the local mayor and an affair.

The following morning (after again not getting much sleep due to the fighting couple next door) we were picked up at the crack of dawn with the climbing team chuckling all the way to the mountain about the fact we were staying with Lalo. By now we saw the funny side and joined in, the laughs at his expense lasted all day.

A difficult climb to the top of the volcano

Upon our return we happened to walk in on the ‘filming’ of his television show, it would appear that you can broadcast anything in Chile!

After several days in Lalo’s company it was time to move on. However Lalo and that journey from Santiago was already taking on mythical status. In fact even today some seven years on anytime South America and Chile come up in conversation Pocket and I almost instinctively fall into Lalo mode. Imitating his voice, the phrase “Mention my name, you get the respect” has become the stuff of legend. Sure Machu Picchu was incredible, Foz do Iguaçu is something we will never forget, and the opportunity to visit Antarctica is a one in a lifetime chance, but South America will always be remembered for one man, the over the top, self grandizing and possible arsonist that is Lalo Bravo!

– Dean

ps Sadly we don’t have a photo of Lalo, such is the mystery surrounding him. Lalo is still going strong (and apparently never been found guilty of arson) and Hostal Bravo is now quite highly rated, who would have thought!

Why now is the perfect time to visit Egypt

For many people Egypt conjures up some incredible imagery. The rolling sand dunes of the Sahara desert, the enormous temple ruins of Luxor and Karnak, and of course the pyramids, arguably some of the most recognisable structures in the world. Sadly in recent years most people think of the violence and protests associated with the Arab Spring and the power vacuum left behind in its wake. Thankfully however things are improving and many countries have altered their travel advice and warnings over the past few months. With Egypt being given the ‘green light’ so to speak for many nationalities to return and with several big named travel operators resuming their tours, now is one of the best times to visit or start planning a trip to Egypt.

THE photo everyone wants

THE photo everyone wants

While there are still travel warnings for some areas of Egypt, such as the northern Sinai area (which has always been quite hostile) and the western deserts towards Libya (sadly one of our favourite areas), the main regions for international tourism such as along the Nile and the southern areas of the Sinai peninsula such as Sharm-el-Sheikh and Dahab are classified as safe by the British Foreign Office.

The sun setting over the alluring Nile River

The sun setting over the alluring Nile River

The so-called Arab Spring had a devastating effect upon Egyptian tourism, but for visitors venturing there now that can have a number of advantages. The thought of wandering around the famous ruins, temples and tombs without the huge throngs of tourists is massively appealing. I love old ruins, and could easily spend days wandering around the crumbling columns, the row upon row of sphinx and the hieroglyph engraved walls. In fact I normally get fed up with the crowds well before being overwhelmed by yet another temple. With fewer crowds (there will still be some) there is a greater sense of adventure and discovery, so it may be time to dust off the fedora and leather jacket and start exploring Indiana Jones style.

Imagine exploring temples and ruins without the masses

Imagine exploring temples and ruins without the masses

For many visitors a large amount of time is spent in the souks or markets, particularly in Luxor and Aswan trying to grab a bargain. In the boom periods you could guarantee that prices were massively inflated, the hard sell was a certainty and begrudgingly you would agree to a purchase price over a glass of apple tea. The huge drop in tourism has had a flow on effect into the markets, prices are more reasonable, the hard sell has disappeared (to a degree) and you don’t mind (so much) paying a little extra, knowing it is helping people get back on their feet. Many of the main tourist frequented souks are deserted, save for the scent of apple tea or the waft of the shisha smoke, so get out there and support the local economy.

Many of the once thriving souks geared towards tourists are now near empty. Great when searching for a bargain

Many of the once thriving souks geared towards tourists are now near empty. Great when searching for a bargain

Not only has shopping  become cheaper but there are some amazing bargains to be had when it comes to accommodation. Why not splurge and stay in one of the most famous hotels in Egypt, The Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan? This is the hotel where Agatha Christie wrote ‘Death on the Nile’ and for such a famous residence, rates are reasonably priced. If cruising down the Nile is more your thing then there are also some great bargains to be had on river cruises. A word to the wise though, with numbers down the amount of boats is nowhere near as many as before the revolution so plan ahead.

Sailing down the Nile, Agatha Christie style

Sailing down the Nile, Agatha Christie style

Egypt relies heavily upon tourism and so do many of the citizens of the bigger more frequented cities. Local guides (or as they’d rather be known, ‘Egyptologists’) spend years of university education attaining the qualifications to guide in Egypt and the sudden down turn in tourism has probably hit them the hardest. Whether visiting the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, the Valley of the Kings or the rescued temple of Abu Simbel we highly recommend  employing the services of a local guide. Walking around these awe-inspiring sites without one is like watching the television with the sound off, you don’t quite know what is going on.

Abu Simbel, before the hordes return

Abu Simbel, before the hordes return

Visiting Egypt is an experience you will never forget, the hair stands on the back of my neck every time I see the pyramids for the first time or walk amongst the enormous stone columns of Karnak Temple. Best of all, visiting now will give you the knowledge that through tourism you are helping a country heal and get back on its feet. Your visit is helping people return to some semblance of a normal life. If you ask me, that is the best reason of all…

– Dean

Keep an eye out on Facebook as we celebrate ‘Egypt Week’ with some of our favourite photos!

The two of us at the Hatshepsut

The two of us at the Hatshepsut

Sport & Travel

The final whistle has blown, heroes have become villians and vice versa, and another page has been written in sporting history. Another Super Bowl has come and gone and it is another major sporting event we have watched from around the world.

I love watching great sport events and love keeping up with my favourite sports while I travel. Over the years I have sourced out the only bar in town showing a particular sport, often involving getting up at ridiculous times of the night or getting home at all hours (like last night) after staying up to watch something.

When an important game is on, no matter where in the world you are, you can almost guarantee you will meet a passionate supporter of one of the teams. Watching a major event half a world away is also a totally different experience to watching it where it is being played. It brings travellers and locals together and also shows you just how small the world really is.

Team Red Bull at the Formula 1

Team Red Bull at the Formula 1

It is almost impossible these days to travel through a country and not see a small child wearing an English football shirt, whether it be Manchester United, Chelsea or whoever. When we were travelling through India by train as soon as fellow passengers realised I was from Australia then talk inevitably turned to cricket.  Not surprisingly their faces lit up as they recounted momentous moments in India vs. Australia cricket history.

I have been lucky enough to watch the AFL (Australian Rules Football – my favourite sport) Grand Final up a mountain in Switzerland, in several pubs across London and indeed across Europe. In Brazil one year I was crammed into a ramshakle little bar (if you could call it that) to watch the final race of the Formula One season. Local hero Felipe Massa had the chance to become world champion and this corrugated iron-shed-come-bar in the small border town was about the only place that you could watch it. It seemed like nearly the whole town was packed in tight, all holding their breath hoping and praying their man would win (sadly he didn’t).

The 2014 Melbourne Grand Prix

The 2014 Melbourne Grand Prix

Working in Europe also means I have been lucky enough to watch World Cup soccer matches in capital cities as the national sides were playing, including being in Germany for last years World Cup win. Finally this year, arguably the grand daddy of them all, the Super Bowl was watched with a great group of mates here in London at the original Hard Rock Cafe.

Party time at the Hard Rock Cafe in London last night

Party time at the Hard Rock Cafe in London last night

Probably one of our more unique locations was when we were in Mongolia. We were lucky enough to experience an incredible home stay with an elderly nomadic family in the middle of the Semi Gobi desert. Each night the couple were glued to their old television set (powered by a tiny generator – their only luxury) watching one of the country’s national sports, wrestling. While we had no idea what was going on it was fascinating watching the couple get so excited  with what was going on.

Not only do I enjoy watching various sports but given the chance we both enjoy going to see local sporting events. Getting involved with whatever sport, wherever you are in the world really gives you a chance to see what makes the locals tick and get involved in the passions and excitement. It is also interesting to see how similar sports are organised around the world.

The 'cheap seats' can be a great budget option for travellers to experience local sports

The ‘cheap seats’ can be a great budget option for travellers to experience local sports

When I was in Calgary Canada the hostel had tickets for the Ice Hockey. I had no idea what was going on, cheering every time either side scored and generally having a great time. However as the away team started to take control a group of locals behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Dude we know you are not from around here but if you keep cheering for the away team we are going to have to kill you’. They were joking, or at least I hope they were. We were also lucky enough to go to the ice hockey in St Petersburg Russia and managed to get incredibly cheap tickets. When we arrived we realised why, we were sitting next to the heavily policed ‘away team’ section but also had a great time, even though I still have no idea what is going on!

Natalie getting in the spirit at the Ice Hockey in St Petersburg

Natalie getting in the spirit at the Ice Hockey in St Petersburg

We have both managed to make it to football / soccer matches around the world, and watching Brazil play Ecuador at the famous Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro is something I will never forget. The atmosphere of the near 100,000 spectators was indescribable, and the party feeling inside the stadium is unlike anything I had previously experienced or experienced since. Next year with the Olympics in Rio, if you haven’t booked your trip their yet it may be time to get on to it.

Visiting a local sporting match or going to watch your favourite sport in a different country can really add to the travelling experience.

– Dean

 

 

6 Amazing Destinations for Christmas this Year

December 1st is officially the start of the Christmas festive period. For many it is a great time to catch up with friends or spend quality time with family. For some, it is time to travel. The weeks around Christmas provide a chance to get away, explore and have a break from normal life.

This year we are doing something a little different, we are spending Christmas at home! Normally around this time of year we have been either on opposite sides of the world, separated by work, or travelling through some far flung land. So this week we are looking at some of our favourite locations where we have spent Christmas.

1. The Holy Lands, Israel and The Palestinian Authority

Why not visit where the stories of the Bible actually took place? Wandering through the ancient cobblestoned alleyways of Jerusalem is an experience you will not forget in a long time. Watching the daily life of three of the world’s biggest religions intermingling also gives you hope that perhaps one day conflict based on different faiths may eventually be a thing of the past.

Looking down over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Visiting the Holy Lands gives you a different perspective at Christmas

Looking down over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Visiting the Holy Lands gives you a different perspective at Christmas

Of course that hope is almost dashed when you take a trip out to Bethlehem to where the Christmas story all took place. Situated in the Palestinian Authority, the journey is one of armed guards, tensions and large barbed wire fences. However, standing in the Church of the Nativity is, much like a visit to Jerusalem, an amazing experience.  Thousands of Christian pilgrims make the journey every year, and even if you are not religious you cannot help but be moved.

The Church of the Nativity in the Palestinian Authority

The Church of the Nativity in the Palestinian Authority

2.Rome and Vatican City, Italy

Thousands of people crowd into St Peters Square in Vatican City every year to celebrate Christmas Mass. The Vatican is an incredible mix of art, religion and politics but should be high on everyone’s travel bucket list. So much of the city of Rome was crafted by the Church over the centuries so a visit to the eternal city is the perfect destination over the festive season.

Looking down towards St Peters and Vatican City from the Bridge of Angels in Rome

Looking down towards St Peters and Vatican City from the Bridge of Angels in Rome

You can walk in the footsteps of the early Christians, former Popes and incredible artists all culminating in a tour through the Vatican Museums. The whole Roman Catholic world turns to St Peters over Christmas, and you can be a part of the celebrations.

The incredibly ornate interior of St Peters Basilica

The incredibly ornate interior of St Peters Basilica

3. In Search of Santa, Lapland Finland

One of Natalie’s favourite Christmas’ abroad was up into Lapland. A trip north of the Arctic Circle puts you deep into Reindeer territory and the perfect place to search for Santa. In fact the “Official” home of the big guy in the red suit is the town of Rovaniemi right on the Arctic Circle in Finland. The Santa Claus Village sells everything from local handicrafts and toys to the finest leather ware made from reindeer (you now know what happens to them if Santa is late!).

When in Lapland, reindeer boots are the height of Christmas fashion!

When in Lapland, reindeer boots are the height of Christmas fashion!

A trip to Lapland also gives you the chance to husky dog sledge or perhaps go in search of the magical northern lights! A true winter wonderland.

4. Somewhere Warm

Growing up in Australia meant for me that Christmas was normally at least warm if not hot. A summer  Christmas is a totally different experience than a winter one and could be the perfect change you are looking for. A walk along the beach, BBQ action and a celebratory drink in shorts and flip flops is about as foreign an experience as you could get for many people from the northern hemisphere, but it sure beats shovelling snow right?

Surf is up for Santa, it could be for you too!

Surf is up for Santa, it could be for you too!

5. In a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas

Why not immerse yourself in a culture where Christmas is not celebrated? Last year we spent the festive period travelling through China, and while many of the markets surprisingly sold Christmas lights, tinsel and inflatable Santa Claus’, Christmas is not really the done thing. In fact the majority of our Christmas Day was spent sitting around a rather isolated train station in Yichang waiting for our evening train.

Some of the markets in China trying to get festive

Some of the markets in China trying to get festive

Natalie spent Christmas in Egypt a few years ago (sadly for work not for fun) and again is a totally different experience than being back home. Imagine staring out over the pyramids which were already considered ancient 2000 years ago when the Christmas story took place!

Natalie at the step pyramid a few Christmas' ago

Natalie at the step pyramid a few Christmas’ ago

6. Home

For many travellers your home city is their exotic destination for Christmas. So instead of getting bogged down with the mad rush of Christmas shopping or the stress of trying to catch up with everyone you have ever possibly known, get out there and enjoy your hometown. From Christmas Markets to local Christmas Carols events, there is bound to be something amazing in your local area to help get you into the Christmas Spirit! Even for experienced travellers there is no place like home…

Where is the most random or exotic place you have spent Christmas? Drop us a line and share your Christmas travel stories.

– Merry Christmas, Dean

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