We took our first major trip in 2002 when we spotted in a copy of TNT an advertisement for round the world flights. At £860 the idea of flying to Peru and making our way overland to Argentina, crossing the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand and Australia before exploring Southeast Asia, seemed a bargain too good to miss.
Though our (as then) email newsletter, the Jobs Abroad Bulletin, was helping many people find work abroad we ourselves were jobless. Even with tens of thousands of subscribers each month, our choice of sending JAB out for free was never going to make us rich – if anything it was costing us money.
Deirdre, with a generous redundancy package and an ethos of saving, was able to find her share of the trip but my workshy nature (aside from our websites, of course) combined with a careless attitude to money meant I had to come up with a plan and that plan was credit.
Along with a car and home improvement, a holiday is a staple of the personal loan market – though on this occasion the credit in question came from my credit card. It would have been better had I been able to fund this new adventure by saving up, or even with a loan, but the card was there, looking pretty, and the world was waiting.
Looking back I do not regret the decision for a single second. Though it would perhaps have been better to save up for our journey the memories of those 365 days were worth every penny. That trip cemented a love of travel that has changed our lives to this day. On a professional note an appreciation of the wider world and our determination to see it again provided the necessary focus that helped our websites to kick on to a new level and ultimately provide us with a living.
Though there were many more I‘ve narrowed down the six highlights of that credit funded year to:
The hike to the Incan ruins was an ordeal that still gets dredged up in half mocking accusations of whose stupid idea was it to walk up and down mountains at altitude for four days. There was a perfectly adequate bus service to the site, dammit. Still, Machu Picchu is well worth the effort of every step. Though it is likely Machu Picchu was only a minor location in the wider Incan world its spectacular setting make it a must see for any visitor to South America.
Without Lake Titicaca there would not have been an Inca Trail for unfit travellers to bitch about. It was from here – where the clouds seem to come so close to touching the surface of the lake – the Incas believed their god created the sun and, later, the first Inca emperor arose. More temporal were our hysterical giggles when, lost and in failing light, we chased down a hillside after oranges tumbling from a split carrier bag. Eventually we were rescued by small boys and spent the night in simple accommodation, waking to the subdued noise of an island without electricity.
Salar de Uyuni
The 4WD tour we took through the glorious and varied landscape of the Salar de Uyuni deserves its place among our highlights in South America. The journey over the encrusted salt flats, past volcanoes, red lakes and flamingo flocks, took us to the Chilean border and out of vastly underrated Bolivia.
Most of our time at Iguazu Falls was spent in Argentina wandering around at our own pace and viewing the natural wonder from above or, at times, at eye level, but we had first caught sight of the raging waters the day before in Brazil from a far more exciting angle. In a small boat we were treated to a 270 degree view from almost underneath the falls as we crept slowly towards a cascading cul de sac of river water.
The Great Barrier Reef
I’ve only snorkelled a couple of times but both occasions have been in two of the best locations the underwater world can offer. From the first Bond-style backward roll into the sea colourful fish were my constant companions. They stuck around without a pause investigating their gangly guest while I in return explored their realm.
We took a round-about route to Angkor. Distantly circling the temples from our start off point in northern Thailand, we travelled there along the Mekong to Laos, through Southwest China and down the length of Vietnam. All the while we met travellers coming in the opposite direction and savoured the anticipation of our own visit. With such a build up the complex of temples at Angkor could easily have proved a disappointment but they did not fail to impress: a sentiment agreed on by every single traveller we met on our way there.