Why Spain?

Why Spain?
Barcelona, Spain and Canary Islands

Barcelona, Spain and Canary Islands


When I say I’m going away, everyone wants to know where I’m going first. When I say Spain, many look at me as if I’ve told them I’m starting in Milton Keynes. Why begin a round the world adventure in Spain? The language and culture are foreign but familiar, and it’s full of wonderful people I haven’t seen for a very long time. Under no pressure to queue up for and tick off tourist attractions here, Spain is the ideal place to take stock and mentally start preparing for the journey across Russia. I have five days in Barcelona coming up, followed by another four in Zaragoza and Ejea de los Caballeros, where I taught English seven years ago. And Milton Keynes? Nice but too many roundabouts for my liking.


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Sleeper train: Paris-Perpignan

Sleeper train: Paris-Perpignan
Perpignan, France

Perpignan, France


Dep: 27th April 21:56 Arr: 28th April 07:20 There are two rows of three couchettes to a small cabin, hard narrow mattresses suspended on straps. I mark the end of day one with a contemplative beer in the thin corridor connecting the berths. While a couple of guys appear alongside me to watch the Parisien suburbs slide past, no one is in the mood to be sociable. I don’t care; the novelty of being away has overtaken my social skills, not to mention my French. Back in the cabin, street lamps flashing past outside quickly replace our modest reading lights. They have me jolting in and out of a ragged doze until one of my companions opposite illuminates a headtorch. As the guy turns his bunk upside down (looking for ear plugs or toothpaste or who knows what) his beam flashes away in the gloom, subjecting the rest of us to indiscriminate helicopter searchlight scrutiny. I should be angry at him, but actually I am drowsily admonishing myself for not bringing a headtorch. How useful!


Witney – Barcelona

Witney – Barcelona
Paris, France

Paris, France


This travel blog has seen 380+ visits so far, which is especially flattering since I haven’t really traveled anywhere yet… So, today it’s time to end years of talking about traveling and travel! In the true spirit of my journey, it will take me over a day to get from a bus stop on Witney High Street to Barcelona:   1. Bus, Witney – Oxford 2. Coach, Oxford to London Marble Arch 3. Tube, Marble Arch to King’s Cross St. Pancras 4. Coffee 5. Eurostar, St Pancras – Paris Gare du Nord 6. Metro, Paris Gare du Nord – Paris Gare d’Austerlitz 7. Sleeper train, Paris Gare d’Austerlitz – Perpignan 8. Train, Perpignan – Barcelona Sants No excess baggage fees. No dispiriting airport transfers. A continuous line drawn from home all the way to Beijing – and beyond. Every step forward counts! As the bus leaves Witney I am excited, scared and ready. I’m also very aware of how privileged I am to be existing in this life-defining moment after so long spent trying to picture it. The only thing to do is to make the most of it so… STOP BLOGGING LET’S GO!!!


Teaching English Abroad: Part 1

Teaching English Abroad: Part 1
Witney, United Kingdom

Witney, United Kingdom


This has arrived:

It has made me relive a fantastic year spent teaching in Spain before I moved to Leeds.

One of my classes was made up of teachers from one of the primary schools I was working at. The focus of this particular lesson was clothing. Alongside the vocabulary I decided to teach them ‘put on’ and ‘take off’. To do this I brought my whole wardrobe into class in a bag and got them to tell me to put on and then take off my clothes as I pulled them out. Strictly in that order of course!

Anyway, my class of teachers were in fits of giggles throughout the lesson, to the point where I had to stop teaching and ask them what was going on.

The school headteacher explained:

In Spanish, if you add ‘-ón’ to a noun, you exaggerate the size or scale of it. For example, ‘taza’ means cup. Therefore a ‘tazón’ is a massive cup.

Now then, the Spanish word ‘puta’ happens to be a slang word for…erm…a woman of the night.

So, the headteacher concluded, when I was teaching them:

Put on the jacket
Put on the socks

They were actually hearing:

Massive ***** the jacket
Massive ***** the socks

There’s plenty more stories where that came from! I’m sure my experiences in SE Asia will provide many others.

If you’ve got any tales of ‘mix ups’ like this, in or out of the classroom, it’d be great to hear them!


A note about travel shoes

A note about travel shoes
Witney, United Kingdom

Witney, United Kingdom


I will be relying on a single pair of shoes and some flip flops during my trip.

The two key criteria for the shoes were:

  • Comfort: even at the other end of a trek
  • Style: enable entry to the dining and dancing establishments of the world

In addition, I figured it would be useful if my travel shoes also boasted:

  • Wifi
  • A high degree of fluency in Russian and Mandarin

Unfortunately, shoes meeting all four criteria haven’t surfaced. How strange.

Anyway, I settled on the Merrell Sprint Blast:

What do you think? Did I make the right choice?


The Itinerary

The Itinerary
Witney, United Kingdom

Witney, United Kingdom


It’s about time I clarified where I am going isn’t it?

The plan is fixed until Beijing as below (click to enlarge). I am traveling by train between the UK and Warsaw and then from Helsinki onwards through Russia to China.

The idea is to plan the rest as I go, ending up with something roughly like this (click to enlarge):

A friend has been urging me to visit Batu Caves in Malaysia because he met a man there chanting monotonously over and over “BATUCAVES……..COMENAVALOOK” at tourists.

Any further recommendations for things to do along this route, life-changing or incidental, are all very welcome!


Crisis averted! 3 weeks to go…

Crisis averted! 3 weeks to go…
Witney, United Kingdom

Witney, United Kingdom


The Russian Consulate has now accepted my visa application minus fingerprints! All aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express!

To mark three weeks to go and with the itinerary confirmed I thought I would test my packing abilities.

Now, my old work colleagues at Science Warehouse have made this process very straightforward by issuing me with everything I will ever need on my travels as a leaving gift:

With a camouflage skin suit to get me across international borders incognito, I don’t think I’m going to bother with a passport.

I will post my full itinerary later this week.