“Oh, they are little things …tiny things, like drawing pins, midges wings, and dew drops, wasp plops, a grass leaf, babies’ handkerchiefs, and these little walking sticks” -Mulligan and O’Hare
We are very good light packers. Honestly, we are! We travel for three weeks at a time with only a little rucksack (rather than a “proper” backpack) that we can take on planes as hand-luggage, yet we do seem to always bring some weird and wonderful things with us that may seem to be neither use nor ornament to most sane and practically minded people.
1.A USB Stick With an Emergency Copy of Xanadu
Susan loves Xanadu. I mean she LOVES Xanadu. Jill has never seen Xanadu. Therefore there is always an emergency Xanadu for that one golden night in a hotel where we have nothing better to do than order room service and watch Xanadu. This hasn’t happened yet, as strangely enough we always find good craic and interesting things to do, but Susan lives in hope! This has also lead to hilarity when crossing the Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan border and they insisted on looking through all the files on our laptop and phones, and were very interested in what covert espionage we had on the USB. “It’s just XANADU MAN!”.
2. An Emergency Beard
You never know when you might need a beard. Like when you want to dress up as a medieval Georgian man and the photography shop doesn’t have an in-house selection of beards.
Susan’s rock-hard fighting luchador alter-ego, we first met Mandible in Mexico over several street Margaritas and he’s been tagging along for our adventures ever since, stepping in whenever there is any rock-hard fighting, downing shots of dubious local speciality boozes or having wees behind piles of rubble to be done and saving Susan from the ordeal.
4. A Kindle Copy of “Abducted and Forced to Give Milk” and Other Hilarious Crap Erotica Only Available on E-book.
It breaks up a long bus journey, is a good ice-breaker and will usually result in parents whose children are kicking the back of your chair on a flight reeling in their child when you start reading it aloud.
5. At Least One Cup
Because everyone needs a nice sturdy plastic cup to have their breakfast lager bottom in!
One of the few drawbacks of travelling from place to place (especially at the speed that we do) is that it often you fall so in love with a place and its people that it breaks your heart when you have to move on. The big killer for us though is the gorgeous stray dogs we meet on our adventures that we would love to let tag along for more of our travels, or in some cases Susan has actually started looking into the logistics of organising to adopt them and take them home to Ireland! Here are the top dogs that stole our hearts (and most likely some of our dinners):
1. Nob Island (Utila, Honduras 2013)
We met little Nob Island shortly after we got off the boat from La Ceiba to Utila. We had no accommodation booked but had decided on a hostel that unfortunately was closed when we got there. As we spent a bit of time outside knocking on all the doors/windows trying to get someone’s attention (it was the middle of the day), we entertained ourselves petting a lovely little stray scamp that was hanging around in the street. As we gave up and decided to find somewhere else, little Nob Island (named after our nickname for Utila – because our trip there unfortunately collided with US Spring Break, and it was therefore full of Spring Break nobs) followed us. She was our road companion for pretty much the whole day (us having resorted to the usual “we’ll go and have a beer and assess the situation” that usually happens when we haven’t found anywhere to stay), exploring the island and stopping off at various bars, sharing our nibbles and ordering her a bowl of water wherever we went. Susan was completely besotted, and was using anywhere with wifi to Google how to transport a dog from Honduras to Ireland. Eventually we decided on the apt sounding Hotel Margarita and went back to relieve ourselves of our backpacks, but on arrival the owner (the commanding Miss Carmen), took aversion to our little furry friend and chased her away with a broomstick. We understood her not wanting a flea-ridden stray dog in her nice clean rooms, but she could have just slept on the bench outside and there was NO NEED to hit her with a stick! It almost made us leave the hotel we were so annoyed. Despite much searching we never saw little Nob Island again and it breaks our hearts to this day. We do console ourselves with the fact that, lovely though Susan’s apartment in Dublin is (and right next to the park!) she would only have been disappointed when she was used to a beautiful Caribbean island.
2. Giant Mini Kiev Island Police Station (Kiev, Ukraine 2014)
Since we’ve already had this year’s trip planned since the middle of last year (as it was supposed to happen this March but couldn’t due to Nissan being unable to function without Jill for 3 weeks during that month and would have ended up making underpants instead of cars), we’ve been stuck in a weird kind of limbo this last few months – stuck between having to wait several months for this year’s trip, and not having to plan next year’s trip. Obviously our trajectory proposing fingers were getting itchy, so we’d already planned 2017’s trip during our “idle moments” (i.e. procrastinating when we’re supposed to be doing other things).
Susan’s creation of our world map this weekend has provoked the same “Oh shit! Look at all those places WE HAVEN’T BEEN YET!” reaction in both of us, so we’ve come up with the following Five Year Plan (all our usual around 3-week length trips unless something miraculous happens in between now and then i.e. Jill’s work realising the business won’t fall apart without her if she’s away for longer than that):
October 2016- “Bottom Right Africa”
Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania (and Zanzibar), Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland
This trip is pretty much all planned (a proper detailed itinerary and the usual route map to follow in the coming months), so we’re just filling in the blanks in the accommodation column and getting flights and safaris booked at the moment. And getting far too excited and impatient!
2017 – “North South America”
French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador (and Galapagos!)
This one is also pretty much planned, which happened during March when we consoled ourselves over not being in Africa when we should have been, by planning the next adventure! It has a good mixture of waterfalls, jungles, beaches, cities and cloud forests – which as every school kid knows, are the main food groups.
2018 – “Trans-Mongolian Train with Added Bonuses” (need to think off a more catchy name for this one methinks)
Russia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, More Russia, Mongolia, China and hopefully…BONUS NORTH KOREA!
Firstly, how bloody expensive has the Trans-Mongolian got these days? We were looking about 5 years ago and it was around £200 one way, second class but now you’re looking at £555 for the same ticket! That’s some inflation! Secondly, we’ve stuck Abkhazia and South Ossetia in there as we are dying to get the Life Achievement that is “Visiting All Former Soviet Breakaway States” and due to logistical/us being retarded with visas issues we unfortunately had to miss them out while visiting Georgia last year. We’re having a few stops along the trans-Mongolian route, in dubious Siberian Russia and Mongolia, and also a side trip down to Kazakhstan, before we get to Beijing. And THEN hopefully we can get a guided tour to North Korea for a few days (you can only go there when accompanied by an official guide, whom you can do nothing, not even leave your hotel, without!) if Jill can manage to avoid having unkempt hair or she won’t get in (yes that is one of the regulations “No ripped jeans, sandals or unkempt hair”. As Jill’s travelling hair looks like a bag of ferrets have been dead on it for a few months, this may be the highest logistical challenge we have yet had to face).
2019 – “Far East Far East”
China (continued), South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, possibly more TBC
The jury is still out on this one, as we had decided on it earlier but Susan is now gagging for more Africa here instead. Jill has never been to the Far East and is desperate to go on this trip so we’ll see what we end up agreeing on!
2020 – “Left South South America”
Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina with added Antarctia jaunt (probably King George Island)
The main highlight of this trip for us will be ALL THE WINES! And Susan wanted to spend her 40th in Antarctica but we ended up at the (amazing) Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan instead, so it feels only right that for Jill’s 40th (2020) we should go there! For Susan’s 50th she is determined to go to the moon.
2021 – “West Far East and the Himalayas”
Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan and maybe Iran
This was literally decided five minutes ago-
Jill: What can we do in 2021? A five year plan sounds better than a four year plan…
Susan: Aye it does. Maybe we will want to go to India by then.
As you no doubt know, one of our favourite travel activities is finding grotty little dive bars in which to talk the toot to drunk old men. The grotty dive bars thing has long been a tradition (as we would rather stay away from the touristy places and get to know some of the locals), and we didn’t really give much thought to the old men part until we were in Estonia earlier this year, reading through the “In Your Pocket” guide to Tallinn and noticed “Vaali Bar”, a “small and stinky local institution” promising “cheap drinks and unusual elderly regulars” and thought that sounded right up our street (declaring “I love talking shit with old men!”, “I love talking shit to old men too!!!!”) and our great night there with our new friend Aaaaaaaarrrrrrnie, that we decided that we should make more of a conscious effort to meet more old men and make it part of our mission statement and core values.
Looking back, we’ve had some of our best craic with old men! Drinking beers in a record shop in Tulum (Mexico), driving around the castles of Transylvania (with beers, obviously)…and our favourite occasion when, after being warned that the men in northern Albania were dangerous and would kidnap us, we happened upon a hut halfway up a mountain near Thethi where the old mountain men within greeted us warmly, offered us beers and we had a fabulous evening drinking, playing dominoes and chatting in broken English/Albanian – these are some of our greatest old men times! So, we thought we’d put together a list of reasons why old men are the best.
Wandering in search of a nice loose egg, your favourite idiot broads abroad embarking on an yet another enchanting voyage of self-discovery (not the kind that's in those arty french films with subtitles and hairy biffs). Join us in our journey!