Wanderlust blogger Alastair Humphreys explains why you don't need to travel around the world to have a proper adventure... And one on a budget
At first I hesitated to write this piece as I have not travelled very widely in Europe. But then I realised that this would actually emphasised the point I want to make!
I haven’t explored Europe much because it is more expensive to travel in than other parts of the world. And it is close to home and an easy, comfortable place to explore. All good reasons to ‘save’ Europe until I am old.
However, I also don’t believe in putting off things in life: you never know how long you have left. Also I don’t always have the time or money to go on long journeys halfway across the world. And, thirdly, I have already proved to myself that you do not need a lot of money to explore Europe and that it is not merely the preserve of old folk on bus tours.
A few years ago easyJet ran an offer to fly to Spain for £5. That sounded so absurd as to be essential. My friend and I arrived in Spain with no plan and no agenda, except to have an adventure and to spend less than £5 in our week in Spain.
Walking out of the airport we stuck out our thumbs and began hitch-hiking. If you have no plan, let someone else make it for you. A car stopped. Picked us up. Drove us to Ronda. We got out. I had never heard of Ronda before, but those of you who have been there will know it’s a pretty great spot for a couple of hitch-hikers to arrive in.
“What next?” we wondered. Perhaps due a chronic lack of imagination, we decided to walk back to the airport. But in a straight line. Cross-country.
We set off on what turned into a pretty epic week of scrambling up and down steep hillsides, buying bread in tiny, sleepy villages, pinching occasional oranges from trees (Sorry! Lo Siento!).
We followed our noses, slept under the stars, cooked pasta on campfires, chatted to farmers surprised to see us far from the tourist trail. It was a magical week. The last night we slept in sewage pipes (clean ones!) in a builders’ yard on the outskirts of Malaga. But that’s another story. We flew home hungry and smelly, but it was one of the best adventures I’ve ever had.
That anecdote should prove my point: that if you are short of time and money, but eager for travelling someplace new, then don’t neglect the idea of an easyJet adventure (other cheap but irritating airlines are also available).
I am sure that readers will have many more suggestions than I do, but here are some fabulous destinations that I can personally recommend. There are so, so many more as well!
Sharm el-Sheikh – the idea that we live only a few hours from Africa is very exciting! Fly there, then walk to the Pyramids?
Chosen purely because of the evocativeness of the two names: fly into Casablanca, then make your way by local buses to Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport, named after one of the greatest travellers of them all.
Amman – Jordan is one of my favourite countries for a feeling of the exotic unknown, with amazing sights, great food and lovely people.
Istanbul – The very hub of the world for so many centuries. If you can’t think of an adventure setting out from there I would be very disappointed! One of my favourite cities.
Anywhere in the former Yugoslavia – These little countries are under-rated and under-explored. I love the little villages, the photogenic farmers, the woods and hayricks. I love the vibrant cities with all the street culture and strong coffee you expect from a visit to southern Europe.
Gibraltar – Take a tent, buy the cheapest bike you can find (under £100) and cycle home.
New for 2012: Reykjavík – Iceland is right up there with India as my favourite country in the world. High praise indeed for somewhere less than three hours away from dreary old England!
Málaga – Where it all began for me!
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