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Our Travel Blogging Equipment

Our Travel Blogging Equipment

So we decided to quit the rat race and travel the world, documenting, photographing and filming our adventures as we go.  As beginner wanna be travel bloggers, we realised that to do what we wanted to, we needed to research and invest in some tech and travel gear, so that we can work towards creating better than the average holidaying blog / vlogs.

We spent hours discussing what we wanted to do and then looking up articles and reviews on both Google and YouTube to see what products were out there, what people thought of them and how to actually use them.  It has been a huge learning curve !

In this post, we want to give you the result of weeks, if not months of combined research and what we have chosen to take with us and why.   We have included links to these products, if you want to look at them in further detail.

We have NOT been sponsored or paid by anyone to review these products – as new bloggers we have not received any sponsorship and the reality is that we had to dig into our savings to buy these items, so the comments below ……. are what we REALLY think!

Recommended Products

We are new photographers and usually when we go on holiday we use a small automatic camera or our phone, however a large part of a travel blog is pictures. Likewise Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  the pictures need to show our journey.  How many times have you said “wow look at that” and then when you take the photo say that it doesn’t quite capture it.

Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 Lumix Bridge Camera

We decided that we didn’t have the photography knowledge and experience for a fully manual DSLR,  but wanted more than the point and shoot, so we decided on a Bridge Camera.  The FZ-1000 has hundreds of rave reviews and allows us to learn photography whilst taking great pictures.  It also films in 4K which will be great for YouTube clips.    We already owned a GoPro but that doesn’t allow zooming and being able to control depth of field.  We are very happy with this camera


 £650 – Click Image to view on Amazon

GoPro Action Camera

GoPro have been producing top quality action cameras for some time now and we already owned a GoPro Hero 4 Silver, which we bought a couple of years ago.  Although there are now newer versions we decided to continue to use the Hero 4 as it’s a great action camera which can also film in 4k.  A great all round action camera that with a waterproof case, will be used for all our scuba diving and water footage.  Due to the compact size and various attachments, it can be used for other action shots, like out of the car window or on the handlebars of a motorbike, it can also be mounted on the camper van to catch those carpool karaoke and dance moves ! £369.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

DJI Spark Drone

I have watched so many travel videos on YouTube and the drone footage adds an excellent varied and imaginative element to the video.  It can really help the viewer engage with your location by showing the whole landscape from above.  We knew we wanted a drone, but had no knowledge of them.   From reading reviews, watching videos and talking to friends, there is no doubt that DJI is one of the main market leaders and producers of fantastic drones.  As a novice I wanted to invest but not spend thousands just in case I crashed it on the first few flights.  I also wanted it small enough that it could fit into my rucksack, day bag or hand luggage.

We came across the new model the DJI Spark.

 £682.85 – Click Image to view on Amazon

I won’t go into all the different features that this amazing little drone can do, but I am so glad that we decided to invest in this.  It is very small, light and is easy to use as a beginner.  I strongly suggest you spend that little more and get the Fly More Combo Kit.  The combo kit comes with the remote controller, spare blades, bag and spare battery.  From watching reviews from people that have had a crash it seems on occasion the tablet or phone has lost connection with the drone, but if you have the remote you can still fly it back.

I am sure we will get some great clips on our travels.  If you want to see my first fight on you tube then click image below:

Apple MacBook Air

We have always used Windows based products and so when we started looking for a small laptop / notebook to take with us on our travels there was a lot of confusion.  We couldn’t make up our minds.  We watched lots of YouTube clips that compared them and they both had advantages and disadvantages.  What was important was that it was able to handle video editing, including 4k so that it future proofed a little.

Then came the question of which spec.  I wanted  a newer processor, so went for an i7 although it seems an i5 would suffice – we ended up going for the cheaper 8GB of RAM.  The 16GB of RAM will work faster but as the 8GB will do the job even a bit slower we decided to take the slightly cheaper option.  As far as hard drive – you can buy an external hard drive so the space required on the computer can be lower.

Apple Macbook Air 13.3″ 1.7GHz Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB Flash Storage

£1450 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 Mini Tablet

Since we had already made the decision to go with Apple – we decided to get an I Pad Mini.  This can be used on the plane and for editing video footage on the go.   It also acts as the visual screen for the drone that we bought.   The main question was do we need the regular or cellular version.  

To explain the cellular version cost £100+ pounds more but it allows you to take the SIM card from your phone and put it into the IPad.    As we are planning to travel a lot, this means we can use the internet from the phone when there is not strandard wifi available.   If you have unlimited internet then this would be recognised as phone usage rather than tethering which generally has smaller data limits.  We ended up buying the Apple Cellular iPad Mini Tablet. 

 


£529.27 – Click Image to view on Amazon

Zhiyun Z1- Evolution 3-Axis Handheld Stabiliser Brushless Gimbal

During our research on making great videos – there was a lot of talk about Gimbals.   A word that I personally, had never heard of.  A gimbal is basically a device that helps stabilise video footage.  We decided to get one that could be used with the GoPro as it was a cheaper option than buying one for the main camera – this would have been £500+ and we need to be weary not to buy too much to start off with.

There are lots of different Gimbals that can be used for the GoPro – after careful consideration we chose the Zhiyun Evolution and we were not disappointed.   Quentin a friend that was staying with us at the time bought one by Feiyutech which was more expensive and I could not see any additional benefit.

The gimal gives must smoother footage and will stop future viewers feeling sea sick when they watch our videos.  It also has the added feature of a hole at the end so the gimbal can be attached to a tripod or extension pole.  It uses batteries which allows you to carry spares –  whereas some of the others brands, you have to plug the actual gimbal in – this can be very limiting.

£191 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 External Hard Drive

Keeping your data safe is really important for anyone who is taking pictures and videos, whether you are a blogger or not.  Imagine capturing months of footage, only to for it all be lost.  We made the decision that we wanted the best external hard drive that would withstand being knocked in the rucksack or dropped.   The hard drive range from LaCie do just that.  There are various specs – we chose the – LaCie Rugged 2 TB Thunderbolt + USB 3.0, Portable, 2.5 inch External Hard Drive. Drop resistant to up to 2m it will cope with me dropping it (I’m 6ft 3 or 1m 88cm).  

£161.66 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 

They come in various memory sizes and obviously the smaller ones are cheaper.  Check to make sure they have the correct connections.  The MacBook comes with a thunderbolt socket and this hard drive has a neat cable attached to it so you don’t have to worry about loosing it – it also comes with a separate cable to allow you to link with a normal Windows PC.

When you set it up you can choose either to have 100% for use on Apple, 100% on Windows or a combination.  I would suggest a combination as it allows you to easily share files between your MacBook and Windows PC.  Quite handy!

 

Protection Accessories

When you invest in great technology the last thing you want to do is scratch the lens  or damage a product by dropping it – so make sure you spend a little extra to protect your gear. Here are some of the items that we bought

Filter for the Lumix FZ-1000

Filters help perfect your images and there are a huge amount available.  As a beginner, I wanted a basic filter that will not only protect the lens, but will also reduce glare and reflections.   We choose the Gobe UV 62mm Japan Optics 16-Layer Multi-Resistant Coated Ultra Violet Filter.    It screws onto the front of the lens and I leave it on, so if I knock it  – I will scratch the filter not the camera lens.   We went for a better quality filter as we decided there is no point investing in a good camera to then put a cheap piece of glass over it . £18.40 – Click Image to view on Amazon

Go Pro Protection

We decided to buy a couple of covers for the GoPro as sometimes it will use in its protective / waterproof housing and sometimes it will be used on its own.

We bought a lens cap that just pushes straight onto the front of the camera for when its out of the protective housing
£6.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 

The other cover we bought was for the waterproof housing to protect it when it’s not in use

£12.87 – Click Image to view on Amazon

MacBook Air Protective Case

There are lots of different cases on the market  – we decided on the UAG (Urban Armor Gear)  MacBook Pro Military Drop Tested Laptop Case.  It had great reviews and when we received it, it certainly felt strong and should protect our MacBook in the event that we have a mishap.  I (Chris) am known to be quite clumsy  so in the future I am sure you will hear me saying “thank God I bought a good case”.
£54.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

IPad Mini Protective Case

As we were so happy with the protective cover we bought for the MacBook, we decided to stick to the same brand. – Urban Armor Gear.  Again a very solid practicable attractive case.

 

£34.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 

Other Accessories

 

Bluetooth Microphone for GoPro

Both the GoPro and Lumix FZ-1000 are excellent cameras however to make those great YouTube clips, we needed an external microphone.  You will see on both the tech Video and drone clip the audio needs improvement.   We chose a wireless blue tooth set made by Removu.  Not the cheapest but it has excellent reviews and I like the fact that it’s wireless and can be used up to 40m away! and the microphone is waterproof!   We haven’t produced any videos showing the new audio but watch this space!

£82.68 – Click Image to view on Amazon

We also bought a cable that allows the microphone to be used on the main camera

£14.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

Tripod Adapter Mount Bracket 

This small bracket allows any GoPro housing to be mounted (screwed) onto a standard camera tripod.  This will allow us to put the waterproof housing on the extendable monopod for shots out of a boat, close to the water or out of a vehicles window.

£1.95 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 Floating Hand Grip for GoPro

This hand grip is perfect for using your GoPro when doing water activities.  The waterproof housing fits on top and if dropped in the water it will float!  It also comes with the wrist strap.

£7.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 Red Filter for Diving

When filming underwater the colours change as you go deeper so to stop your diving footage becoming a green blurry scene you need to use a filter on the GoPro.  DON’T BY A CHEAP ONE.   I made this mistake a couple of years ago when I bought a cheap one on Ebay.  Infact they were so cheap I bought 3 of them incase I lost them.  So being the generous person that I am  – I gave one to a fellow scuba diver who had a GoPro but didn’t have filter.  Both of our videos came out red – it seriously looked like we were diving in a blood bath and the days filming was ruined!
I now buy known brands and Polar Pro is one of the leading brands  – they make a selection of different filters and you know they are going to work.   We bought a switchblade last year for our holiday and it worked great.  It has a red filter as well as a rounded  lens which magnifies the subject making great footage of smaller marine life.   I would suggest tying or cabling the filter to the housing just in case it fall off during diving.

£63.64 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 GoPro Selfie Pole

You can’t be without a selfie pole to enable you to film yourselves.   It gives some great shots whatever you are doing – I have used mine for diving both filming yourself and it allows you to film marine life with out getting too close and causing the creature distress.  Its best to get an extendable waterproof one so it can be used in above and below water.

£8.49 – Click Image to view on Amazon

Extendable Camera Monopod.

We had lots of discussions to decide whether we need this, or if we are actually going to use it a lot.  Time will tell but I think this is a great bit of kit.  It extends to 1.2m and is very light weight.  At the end is a standard tripod fitting, so you can put both your main camera or Go Pro (need the tripod attachment).  It can be used like the selfie pole but with much greater length, with the possibility of attaching the gimbal on the end.  Many options to use this, for some usual shots.

£9.95 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 DJI Spark Spare Batteries

Although the drone comes with 2 batteries, we wanted to buy some spare batteries just in case we are off the beaten track and either don’t have access to charge them or with only 15 minutes flying time per battery, and need that additional flight time.  They are not cheap but are a good long term investment (as long as I don’t end up crashing into the sea!)

£49.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

Fireproof Lipo Battery Safety Storage Bags

We have all heard horror stories of lithium batteries catching fire and as these batteries are larger, we thought it would be a good idea to buy some protective fireproof bags, just in case.  You also don’t know how strict some airlines might be, so this makes them definitely safer for travelling.

£4.49 (stores 2 batteries) – Click Image to view on Amazon

 

Lightening Cable for Remote / IPad

The most reported fault that causes problems with the DJI Spark is loss of wifi connection, mainly for those that just use their phones to fly, rather then the remote control.  As we bought the combo pack we have the remote control but it communicates to the IPad via its own wifi.  We decided to buy a cable that goes from the remote into the IPad so that in the event that the wifi signal was lost both elements would still work.  Not essential but a good bit of added security.  You can get a variety of cables for different phones and tablets.

£6.89 – Click Image to view on Amazon

Landing Gear & Mini Launch pad For DJI Spark

This is another added safety device.  When taking off you want to avoid dirt and grass etc, and so this landing gear raises the drone a couple of cm, which can make all the difference.  There are lots of different styles available. – we likes this one, as you can still attach the propeller safety guards which you can’t with other models.

£6.00 – Click Image to view on Amazon

£15.89 – Click Image to view on Amazon

There will be times when you either need to do a hand launch or need a clean surface e.g. on sand.  This hand held mini launch pad does just this and also helps protect you fingers.

Tablet Holder Bracket for DJI Spark.

Depending on which device you use as a display screen, if may not fit into the brackets on the bottom of the remote controller.  If you use you phone it will fit but the IPad mini does not fit.  (I have heard, that some batches of remote do fit and some don’t so check before buying)

This bracket is great as it allows you to attach the IPad and gives clearance underneath for your hands to use the joy sticks.  It also comes with a neck strap in case you drop it!

£8.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

Spare Batteries for the Lumix FZ-1000 Camera

We choose not to go with original batteries as review said a number of brands gave the same performance at a lower price.

£15.49 – Click Image to view on Amazon

GoPro Rechargable Battery for HERO4

We decided to go for original spare batteries for the GoPro.

£19.99 – Click Image to view on Amazon

 

So we have invested in what we believe is essential tech to help us provide you with the best blogs, blogs photos and videos.

Stokesay Castle Shropshire

Stokesay Castle Shropshire

Our Spanish friends Pab & Janire (featured in the first Drone YouTube video) who were visiting the UK, wanted to explore a local castle, so we took a trip south towards Craven Arms, armed with our camera, go pro 4 and the new Spark Drone to visit Stokesay Castle.

Stokesay Castle is one of over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites cared for by English Heritage – for more information on other sites visit http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

According to English Heritage, Stokesay is the best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England and was built at the end of the 13th Century.

 

After following the signs, we pulled into the car park, which cost £1 for the day – we headed in.  You pass the church on the way in, so we investigated that before buying the tickets.

Tickets were £7.60 per adult or if you want to visit more English Heritage sites then there is the option to buy an annual membership.

Armed with our go pro we headed through the beautiful gate house.

The Gate House

As we entered the main courtyard, there were some items for the kids (and us) to wear and a couple of staff nearby to help the kids (of course Pab and I couldn’t resist a quick sword fight !)

 

On Guard !

They do regular events there, so check our their web site.

Of course, I had the wear the TREAD the Globe T-shirt.   The t-shirts were to help promote the blog and our journey and we were so pleased, to be contacted by Helena a few days later, to say that she had seen the T-Shirt and us blogging at Stokesay Castle – thanks Helena !

 

 

The views from the top of the tower were amazing and we were surrounded by the beautiful Shropshire countryside.  We did get a few odd looks as Pab filmed me walking up and down the stairs – but we had fun doing the videoing and wanted to get good footage for You Tube Channel.

 

Top of the tower

 

As I walked around, you couldn’t help but wish the walls could talk – because you know they would have some very interesting stories of things they had happened over the years.

The Great Hall has been unchanged for 700 years !!  and the staircase at the end of the hall gives a great birds eye view.

 

The Great Hall

 

After exploring the castle we headed off to find a spot to launch the drone  – we found a recently harvested field nearby to launch from.  The footage came out really well, and can be seen in our short You Tube clip at the beginning of this post.

 

Of course before we headed home we had to stop for a cup of tea in their tea room !

 

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The Fabulous Ugly Duckling Pub & Restaurant, Longlane Telford

The Fabulous Ugly Duckling Pub & Restaurant, Longlane Telford

Just north of Telford, in Shropshire, can be found the high end Gastro pub ‘The Ugly Duckling’.  It’s unusual to find such a high end pub, selling modern British food, at such reasonable prices.

 

The Ugly Duckling

Opened in August 2016 The Ugly Duckling has quickly grown in popularity, due to the superb food, inviting and relaxing décor. It is recommended to book, especially on weekends.

Front Entrance

I booked a table on Saturday night as a treat to us both before Marianne goes into hospital. She is very generously donating a kidney to her best friend Kate.  We’ll save the details of that for another blog post!

The Bar Area

 

The Bar

Looking at the menu it is obvious that The Ugly Duckling offers so much more than the stereotypical gastro pub.

We arrived about half an hour before our reservation at 7 pm and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink (Marianne was behaving and had lime cordial), whilst taking in the relaxing décor and all the ‘duck’ art work.  It is obvious that the owners saved no expense when they carried out the refurbishment and they have really done a fantastic job.  It is said you can judge an eatery by the care they take on back of house – and even the toilets are nicely decorated!

We were sat down by our waitress and offered drinks and water to have with our meal and efficiently presented with our menu.  The menu offered about 8 different starters with the average price £6 – £7 with both meat and vegetarian options, the specials board was read out and explained including all the trimmings (of which there were many !!)

Marianne chose the Lamb & Spring Onion Cigars at £7.95 and I ordered Scallops & King Prawns served with a Lobster Bisque at £10.50.

What can I say – they were really delicious, you could taste the freshness with a real depth of flavour in my dish, and the balance of the Lamb, spring onion and mint sauce with the broad bean humus made Marianne speechless (doesn’t happen often !!) – both dishes, we would recommend and would definitely have again.

We couldn’t resist the Gin & Tonic Granita when offered.  We expected a frozen gin and tonic sorbet – I not a big fan of gin and tonic but loved this – it was beautifully presented in a small flute glass with lime shavings and went down a treat.

Gin & Tonic Granita

For the main course – The menu offered a choice of about 15 main courses, plus daily specials with prices starting from £10.95.   With Chateaubriand on the special board how could we resist.  Chateaubriand is from the tenderloin fillet and is considered one of the best cuts of beef you can get.  Due to the size of this dish with all the trimmings it is for 2 people, so Marianne and I decided to go for it.  Priced at £54  so £27 each – it was the most expensive main course but, due to the occasion we decided to splash out.

Well – seriously – to say a main course at £27 each was worth every penny means it must have been good right.  It was – it really was.  We asked for it to be cooked medium and it was cooked exactly as we wanted it.  Accompanied by Heritage tomatoes, asparagus wrapped in Parma ham, homemade chips, baby carrots and watercress and Parmesan salad.    The peppercorn sauce that it was served with, was really really good!  I don’t like tomatoes but I ate these, they were like confit tomatoes and tasted so different to your normal tomato – thanks chef I ate a tomato!!

Chateaubriand

Both of us really didn’t have much room for pudding, but bumped into friends and after catching up and sharing stories we decided that enough time had passed to be able to manage a pudding !!! so we decided to give up the fight and went for it!! – Rhubarb & White Chocolate semi-fredo served with Limoncello Ice Cream.  It was a wonderful way to finish off a superb meal.

Rhubarb & White Chocolate Semi fredo

The service throughout the meal was very efficient, friendly and relaxed which together with the superb food made the meal thoroughly enjoyable.  We wouldn’t hesitate in coming back and highly recommending The Ugly Duckling to those in Shropshire, looking for beautifully and thoughtfully prepared, fantastic food, sustainably produced and sourced locally (They aim to purchase local food and to source most food from within a 20 mile radius.  Obviously being in the Midlands fish, has to come from slightly further afield, however their ‘catch of the day, is delivered fresh on a daily basis), sold at a great price, in a thoroughly desirable venue with service that welcomes and includes guests.

We had the pleasure of meeting the Head Chef Will Mason, after the meal, to find out where he learnt to cook such delicious food.

Chef Will, originally from Telford, started cooking from an early age, and at the age of just 11 followed his mum to work, who managed the Hundred House in Norton, just outside of Telford.  This obviously sparked a passion for food and he went on to work, until the age of 19, at the Raven Hotel, under Chef Steve Biggs.  Will wanted to learn the classics and ventured over to the resort, Courchevel 1850, where he stayed for 9 months.  Will has also worked at the Courmayeur in Italy and Austria before returning to work under Chef Nigel Huxley at The Drapers Restaurant in Shrewsbury.

Will & the Team

Will has been Head Chef at The Ugly Duckling since it has opened and his passion to produce great honest food was obvious.  Talking of fresh, it was so nice to discover that the only frozen food is their ice cream and everything served is made on site, including the ice cream.  This was obvious from the wonderful flavour of the food we had.

Some of the great staff we met – Say Cheese !!
To find our more information on the Ugly Duckling check out their web site here

 

A few more Pictures:

 

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For more reviews and to follow our adventures why not subscribe to our blog post on our homepage.  We are also on twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

A Day at Shrewsbury’s Dragon Boat Contest

A Day at Shrewsbury’s Dragon Boat Contest

Sunday 9th July we were invited to attend the annual Shrewsbury Dragon Boat race, with the team from the Princess Royal Hospital.

The event held at the Shrewsbury’s School’s Pengwern Boat Club (can also be viewed from the Quarry Park)  is organised to raise money for the local Severn Hospice.

A total of 39 teams competed and each had a team tent along the river bank where they relaxed and many had BBQ’s.

The local hospital team ‘ Stitched Up’ was knocked out after 2 rounds but it was a really great day with many teams dressing in fancy dress.

Team from the Princess Royal
Stitched up by Stacey

 

There were lots of great imaginative fancy dressed teams, here’s some of the best ones we saw

 

Meeting Lara Croft was the highlight of my day !

 

 

And of course Sloth from the Goonies – “
Hey you guys”

 

Or How about the Ninja Turtles
May the force be with you

 

Pirates of the river Severn

 

The boats raced to the music of Hawaii five o  and Marianne was spotted doing her special Hawaii five 0 boating dance – most entertaining.

Overall the day was most enjoyable – thanks to the people in Shrewsbury for making us feel so welcome and joining in all the photos.

Check out our Face Book page for the full selection of pictures we took and make sure you subscribe to our blog and follow are journey as the TREAD the Globe for ever more.

My First week blogging – Panic, Papers and Interviews

My First week blogging – Panic, Papers and Interviews

As the recovery from the leaving party settles and Marianne heads off to work on Monday morning, I arise with enthusiasm and dread thinking of the amount of work to be done.  It’s not work as we know it, sat at the desk answering emails from the boss, but there is a lot to do to get ready to travel full time.  There’s working out how to sell all our ‘stuff’, learning about the tech that we will need as full time bloggers, from photography, go pros, video editing software, You Tube channels, Gimbals, drones and so much more that I haven’t even heard of yet.

I was keen to get some basics done, to help promote the blog and our journey – and it has been a very eventful week.

Our first TREAD the Globe T shirt  was delivered.   We initially only ordered one to see what it looked like and check the quality, but were pleased with the results.   I decided that we needed a message on the shirt “Blogging / Vlogging in progress” so people know what we are doing, rather than looking like a complete loony whilst we have fully blown conversations to a go pro, as we walk around and it may give a bit more credibility when we ask complete strangers for a photo.  Let us know what you think of it.

So to clarify Vlogging is video blogging. It’s not the same as flogging so I haven’t started to enjoy getting whipped !!

 

We also managed to get some great publicity through both the local newspaper (The Shropshire Star) and BBC Radio Shropshire.  Sophie Madden the chief reporter for the paper came over to the house to interview us, on our plans to sell up and TREAD the globe for evermore and to discuss Marianne’s plans to donate a kidney to her best and longest friend Katie Bridgett.

 

Sophie Madden Chief Reporter

 

She is an amazing woman and there’s not people that would go through this for their friends.    At this time we are not allowed to say where or when the surgery is taking place as there are a total of four people involved as Marianne is not a direct match with her friend.  Over the coming months we will share our experiences on this and hope that we can raise awareness of the living donor scheme to help other people in similar situations.  Marianne also wants to show the world that there is life after donating a kidney to hopefully inspire people to do the same.  She wants to show that you can still jump out of an aeroplane, swim with sharks and travel the world.  I’m not convinced on the jumping out of a plane, as she has already ticked this off her bucket list) but Marianne is definitely someone that’s up for a challenge – any other suggestions on things for her to do after she has recovered are welcomed !!

Huckleberry Finn eat your heart out

We had great fun with Steve the photographer as we ran around the house looking for a couple of sticks and some chequered shirts so we could end up looking like we were from the adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The rucksacks I had prepared looked far too normal!

 

A picture in the TREAD van

 

 

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On Saturday morning we had the pleasuring of going to the BBC Radio Shropshire studio for a live interview with Eric Smith, the morning presenter.  As we waited it gave us a similar feeling to that of a job interview.

We had originally been told that the interview would last about 20 minutes but Eric was certainly very curious about our plans and the fact that so many people talk about selling up but no one actually does it.  As we had already gone through a long thought process of why we wanted to TREAD the Globe permanently we were able to answer all of his questions.

He did think we were insane when we explained we wanted to swim with schools of hammerhead sharks off the Galapogos Islands and I am not sure we fully convinced him that sharks are really misunderstood fish!!!

The interview flew by as Eric made us feel so welcome, and it lasted about 40 minutes.  We ended up staying in the studio until Eric’s show had finished.  But, before we left, we agreed we would go back to the studio as we set off on our travels for a cuppa and a chat !!

With DJ Ryan Kennedy

 

 

Overall the first week as a blogger has been very busy, but most enjoyable.  Watch out for our next post as we head off to the Shrewsbury’s annual Dragon Boat race.

Why I decided to quit my job & sell my belongings to travel the world

Why I decided to quit my job & sell my belongings to travel the world

We have always loved to travel and experience what our wonderful world has to offer but I would never have actually imagined, that I would one day quit my senior management job to travel permanently…..

As we sat on a beach on the beautiful island of Mabul, in Sabah Borneo, Marianne and I listened with envy as a couple told us they weren’t on holiday – they were just travelling.  Here we were, having saved up all year, for a 3-week rushed trip around the far east, cramming in as much as we could, talking to a couple, who seemed to have no stress and we’re casually talking of their plans, saying maybe we’ll head here or there.  They weren’t the only people we had met on our travels that had such a lifestyle, and deep inside it planted a seed that grew over several years.

  On the  beach in Borneo

Both Marianne and I are from hard working career minded families. I was brought up to study hard, (although as a child I didn’t really- sorry Dad!) to work hard, go for that promotion and save to get a mortgage for a nice house. As we went through life together, we worked hard so we could afford the mortgage and all the wonderful belongings we have accumulated over the many years since we have been married.

I spent many years working every hour possible in 5 star hotels in Singapore, Australia and England.  In this time we had even bought our own pub and set up an internet business called Martial Mania selling Martial Art training DVDs (as one job was never enough!).

I spent the last 9 years as the Head of Catering Services at The Shrewsbury and Telford NHS trust.  Marianne also works for the NHS and it highlights the fact that life is very precious and every moment should be enjoyed to the fullest.  As you get older you do realise that none of us are guaranteed a long-life journey.

One day, it hit us like a bolt of lightning.  So here we are in our late 40’s, with a nice house full of beautiful things, most of which we don’t use.    We both started questioning our purpose and goals in life.  What’s next?  Do we keep working for another 20 years until we reach retirement age and during this time we can pay the numerous bills and buy more stuff?

We both work very hard, to be able to live in a nice house and buy things that we think make us happy, but do they really? Is there not more to life than doing the same routine every day, and chasing the latest gadget or updating tech because your TV doesn’t have 4k (which none of the TV channels currently televise anyway)

I know, that when I am on my death bed, I will not be lying there saying that I wish I had more money in the bank, I wish my house was cleaner or I wish I had worked harder.  I can however, see myself wishing I had walked the great wall of China (or the great wall of Mexico if President Trump ever builds it) or wishing I had dived with a school of hammerhead sharks off Galapogos.  Yes, we both like diving with sharks, who are misunderstood, but I’ll save that for a future blog post.

So, Marianne and I got into a discussion, what do we want to do when we retire, what would we do if our numbers came up and we won the lottery and what would we do if we knew we only had a year to live?   The answer for all of these questions was that we would quit our jobs and travel the world forever more.

But was it possible?  How could we afford it when we haven’t had the fortune of winning the lottery?  The research then started on how could we do it.  The details on how it’s possible will appear in a future blog post (after we have started) but the key was not to sell our house and initially to live on the rent.

So, as I sat in a meeting, under pressure to get action plans, forecasts, reports, audits etc done, my mind started to drift back to the conversation we had on the beach.  I walked out of that meeting knowing that I would draft my resignation and I emailed it to my boss that night.

 Goodbye office

It is the interactions and experiences you share with people that will give you a much greater sense of fulfilment rather than buying the latest gadget which will only give you short term satisfaction (or so you believe).  The more gadgets and equipment you have, the more it seems that something breaks and needs replacing.

 

 Goodbye tea with Staff at the Princess Royal Hospital Telford

Although travelling and the dream of selling all the belongings you have spent your whole life accumulating, is not everyone’s dream, I would urge you to live your own dream, whatever that is, as expression says “life is not a dress rehearsal its real”!

The first chapter of our new life is beginning, as we plan on quite how we are going to empty our house (yes, we have an attic and garage like many of you – full of stuff) we will initially be blogging about and promoting the wonderful locations and events we have here in the UK.

 Getting rid of all this in the garage may take a while !

Stay tuned for our next post as we get ready to TREAD the Globe.

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Barcelona- an awesome city break

Barcelona- an awesome city break

February is a great time of year to escape the grey days in England and look for a little winter sun! We decided on Barcelona.  We took a short 2 hour flight with Ryan Air from East Midlands Airport.  Stepping out into a very comfortable 18 °C, was just what we needed.

Booking through Air B&B we found a very comfortable flat, booked for four nights in the Gothic Quarter, as it seemed a good central location within walking distance to most of the top sights. (If you’ve never used Air B&B before you should check it out click here).

Check out what we saw and recommend if you take a trip to Barcelona.

La Rambla

Our first stop and the nearest to our flat.  This famous street, is one that attracts a lot of tourists (and pickpockets, so beware and only carry what you need to, everybody says it – but it is a real warning! with common sense you will  be fine).  We started at the top – a long street with street performers, shops and restaurants.  Although busy, it must be a lot more crazier in the summer months.

Walking down the centre of this long pedestrianised street, the restaurants are all geared towards tourists and tend to be a bit more expensive than if you head off into the side streets and go off the beaten track.

About a quarter of the way down on the right is a narrow entrance to the market.   Wow,  if you love food you are going to love this – its like Harrods food hall on steroids!.    Meats, seafood, chocolates, fruit – its all there.  Again more expensive that other markets as its in a tourist location – as we found out when Marianne posed for a picture and maybe got a bit personal with the strawberries (picture of the strawberry on instagram) and then ended up buying half the stall.  I’m sure she did it on purpose so we had to buy fruit !

I was in food heaven !

 

Port Vell

At the bottom of La Rambla  it opens out and across the road is the sea front.  A bridge takes you over to a large shopping centre full of known branded shops, restaurants and a cinema.  This leads onto the main port where you can spot exclusive super yaghts and it a great spot to sit and watch the sun set over Barcelona.

I hope that ferry stops !

La Catedral

Located in the Barri Gotic (gothic area) is La Catedral.   If you go in the morning, as we did, it was free to enter.  It was a very beautiful cathedral with a nice courtyard housing a pond, orange trees and geese.   Out side the entrance is a large pedestrian area with stalls and entertainers.

Arc de Triomf

The Arc de Triomf was built in 1888 as an entrance gateway to the Barcelona world fair.  It’s an impressive structure and located on a long straight pedestraniased walkway with the Parc de la Ciutadella at the bottom.

Parc de la Ciutadella

A short walk from the Arc de Triomf, is this beautiful park.   The history of the park is not quite so beautiful – After winning a war, in the early 18th century, King Felipe V demolished this part of the city to create a military citadel so he could control Barcelona.  Then a hundred or so years later, this was destroyed to create a large park where the people of Barcelona could escape the mayhem of city life.

In the North West corner of the park is the Font de la Cascada –  with a beautiful fountain.   Worth the steps if you want a nice aerial view over the park.

Chris doing another fountain drink shot !!!

Basilica of the Sagrada Familia

This is a must visit attraction if you go to Barcelona.   Towering above the city sky line is this magnificent building, which started being built way back in 1882.  Yes that’s right 1882 ! This is Antonio Gaudi’s most stunning work and with still many years of construction to do, numerous cranes tower over an already very tall building.

Marianne’s dad, David and friend Pam were also in Barcelona and we arranged to meet them at the entrance to the Basilica.  We waited at the entrance next to the lake, which was clearly the entrance as visitors were queuing to enter.  It was fascinating watching the street vendors selling their selfie poles, fridge magnets, etc. who would get a warning from their look outs, then pack up in a panic and flee when the police were nearby only to set up again as soon as the police had left.

After nearly an hour we decided to go in on our own and then realised that the tickets were sold on the other side of the building, and you then had to walk back round to enter.  It didn’t make any sense but as we joined the line for the tickets we spotted them, when we asked the ticket office if ‘this’ was the front ? they explained that the the front had not actually been built yet !!

There are a number of ticket options available.  If you only have a short time a basic ticket will be fine at 15,00 €.  There is also an option that includes an audio tour, which is the option we choose it was very informative and gave lots of facts that you wouldn’t normally know.

 

We also made sure our ticket covered the lift to the top.   Not to be done if your scared of heights as it is very high but gives you a great view over Barcelona.  The spiral staircase down seems to go on forever and you will definitely be a little dizzy by the time you reach the bottom.

 

 

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Abbreviated as MNAC this is the national museum of Catalan Visual Art.  If you like art the this is a must. However even if you are not into art, the area around the museum is well worth a visit.

 

The museum sits on top of a hill  over looking the magic fountain.  There are escalators up to the top for those that are unable to take the stairs.  Its a wonderful place to sit and listen to the entertainers with an amazing view of the city below.

 

Behind the museum is the park – Sant-Mont Juic.    A large area of parkland  – we strolled through on the way back to town.  En route we came across an old amphitheatre. I couldn’t resist running down to the front to bellow out a couple of lines of Shakespeare to Marianne.  Although a word of warning there is moss on the stones and some are very slippery as I nearly ended my rendition by falling off the stage!!

Romeo Romeo

 

We had a great time in Barcelona and it is highly recommended.   If like us, you are foodies check out our post  on our eating experiences in Barcelona.

 

 

 

 

Barcelona – our eating experience

Barcelona – our eating experience

When we chose Barcelona, I had a couple of dishes on my food wishlist! – to experience tapas and eat authentic Paella and for the best local food we always follow two rules:

1.  Eat where the locals eat (especially a priest or policeman), not at a place with menus aimed at tourists.

2.  Ask a good local taxi driver!

Our faithful taxi driver (Raul – number available on request!) that we used throughout our visit made a few suggestions and wow he really came up trumps.

 

Xiringuito Escriba

This was the recommendation for the best Paella in town, and it did not disappoint.  Located on the beach front, it not only has great tasting Paella but you can also enjoy the spectacular beach and sea views at the same time.    Not the cheapest Paella in town, between 16 and 25 euros but definitely worth the extra for that authentic taste.

Marianne enjoying the sun outside Escriba

Watching the chef cook in the open plan kitchen, is like watching the conductor of an orchestra, as he juggled numerous pans of paella.  I chose the ultimate with a mix of meat and seafood with whole prawns and mussels in shells perfectly placed on the top.

Me in food heaven – and that was just tasting Mariannes’ !

The paella is served in the pan with wooden spoons, which I assume, stops you scratching the natural non stick of the pan.  They also do vegetarian paella – Marianne tried a mushroom, asparagus and artichoke paella which tasted equally amazing (not that I ate some of her’s as well!!).

 

In true Marianne fashion she  managed to sweet talk her way  into the kitchen.

 

If you make it to Barcelona, then give this place a go! you can check out their web site here

 

La Esquinita de Blai

There are Tapas bars everywhere in Barcelona,  but Raul recommended us to head to Carrer de Blai.   A long straight pedestrianised road  full of people eating outside, with lots of different bars and restaurants on either side, the whole length!  There was so much choice! but we ended up going to La Esquinita de Blai and we weren’t disappointed.  Its quite a small bar, but was full of locals, which is always a great sign.

As we entered, the bar was covered in beautiful looking snacks, which we found out were called pinchos.

 

It works like a buffet – you take a plate and help yourself.  You are charged by the colour of the stick,  plain sticks were 1 euro each and the red ones were 1.80 euros (there are little shot glasses by the plates – you put the used sticks in the glass, and they count the sticks at the till when you’ve finished).  I would always suggest finding out the prices before you eat half the buffet,  just in case other bars charge more!  What can I say the pinchos was absolutely amazing – really good flavours and they are freshly made on site.

I wanted to do quality control on the tapas too – so promptly ordered some tapas from the menu too.  My favourite was the prawn tapas – this cost 8 euros but wow – great portion of prawns, with garlic, chilli and apple.  I wasn’t sure how the apple flavour would go but it complimented the taste of the dish and the chilli wasn’t too over powering.  Marianne had a favourite too – it was a croquette shaped mushroom, chicken and creamy cheese filling – very tasty !!

Me with the manager.  Thank you

 

 

El Dinamic de BCN

Located very near to where we were staying, is El Dinamic, tucked away down a side street (Passage de Pere Calders, 4, 08015 Barcelona).  It was a great find and somewhere for a relaxed casual evening.  Like the other restaurants we had tried, it was full of locals eating true Spanish style – relaxed eating, with great flavours, colours and people enjoying the food and atmosphere.

There was a menu available in English, but we were offered another menu of ‘specials’ just in Spanish.  The staff were really fun and spoke English, and were very happy to take the time to explain the various dishes.   The roasted peppers and chorizo tapas is worth sampling and they also had great salads, local cheese boards and meat dishes.

More importantly they made Mojitos – which is Marianne’s preferred drink.  They also have a very interesting ‘living green wall, completely covered in plants.  It gives the feeling of sitting outside when you’re not!

Wednesday evening is a great night to go, as they have entertainment every Wednesday,  on our visit there was a guitarist called  Alejandro Salas playing.  Absolutely amazing check him out on you tube here.   The way he played the guitar was mind blowing and he is seriously talented.  We ended up staying until he finished, and enjoyed having a good sing along – although to begin with Marianne was the only one singing! – (nothing to do with the mojitos!)  soon most tables were joining in and it was a great atmosphere.  A beautiful ending to a beautiful evening – Thank you El Dinamic

Alejandro Salas

 

How to reduce your plastic use on your Travels

How to reduce your plastic use on your Travels

It seems that no matter where you travel in the world, the beaches always have washed up rubbish and are always littered with plastic.    Now, it’s common knowledge that plastic waste is bad for the environment and our oceans, but it is everywhere!.

A plastic bag can take hundreds of years to breakdown, yet despite knowing this, every year, millions of plastic items end up in our oceans.  This pollutes and damages the delicate marine life, I’m sure you have seen some of the postings on social media where, for example a whale or turtle has died as a result of  consuming plastic bags, after mistaking them as edible jelly fish.

All waste is bad, but in many areas of the world they don’t have efficient waste disposal processes and don’t have any recycling facilities.   Please also remember that when you travel to remote picturesque islands, there will be higher costs to dispose of waste via boats, or often waste is burnt, buried or thrown into our oceans as it can be a more economical way of hiding waste.

 

So what can we do to help reduce waste and in particular plastic waste on our travels, wherever in the world you may be traveling.

Say NO to Straws !

Plastic disposable straws are an environmental nightmare.  You can often see these littering local coral reefs when diving or snorkelling.  For years, I have been told you should use a straw and not drink directly from a can, as you don’t know how dirty the top of the can is! – I would say that is logical, especially if you’re off the beaten track.    So where possible buy glass bottles as the cap protects the lip of the bottle where you drink from, or use a reusable straw.   These now come in a wide variety, they are small, light and easily fit into you backpack or bag.  Check out some reusable straws.

Avoid using plastic bags

This may seem like an obvious one, but often travelers are automatically given plastic bags as in many countries, shopkeepers will automatically place your bought goods into a bag for you.  Say no! (with a smile) You can get some great, cool looking, practical reusable shopping bags that take up hardly any room.

Buy drink cans rather than plastic bottles / bags.

When you buy a drink choose a canned variety rather than plastic bottles or cartons with plastic straws.   Many local vendors in the Far East sell drinks in plastic bags with straws in – these are the worst to buy.  Marine life wont eat a can, although I have seen crabs live in them!.

Reuse plastic bottles

How you refill your plastic bottle depends where in the world you are.  If you’re in a country with drinkable water on tap – need I say more!.    If you’re in a country where you have to drink bottle water, many resorts have the large water / juice dispensers.  Fill up your bottle from the dispenser.  Not only does this save you money it also reduces your plastic usage.

Take your own drink bottle

There are a wide variety of refillable water bottles on the market and it’s best to find one that suits your own individual needs.  Some are just water bottles and some can filter the water to different qualities.

The Life Saver Bottle:

  • LIFESAVER bottle filters out bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites and fungi from water
  • Tested by Independent Test House to meet adaption of NSF Protocol 231
  • Filters 4,000 litres / 1056 US gallons of water
  • FAILSAFE – an automatic indicator when the cartridge needs replacing
  • BPA and BPS free

The Life Straw:

This is similar to the Life Saver but it doesn’t remove viruses.  They are cheaper but filter less quantities

Another way of being able to refill your  water bottle is to use a UV Steripen.  You can refill any water bottle and then use the Steripen to make the water safe to drink.  They work really well (the taste is not great – so if you have any fruit put a slice or two in to help disguise the puddle taste !!).  We used one when we climbed Mount Kinabalu.  We were able to fill up from the various rain water tanks on the way up while others had to carry the weight of lots of  bottles of water.

Be aware when your shopping

When you’re shopping consciously buy products with less plastic packaging.  Choose glass jars rather than plastic or products packed in cardboard rather than plastic.  Buying fresh fruit or ingredients you can take your own reusable bag.

Pack a reusable razor.

Take a razor that has changeable blades rather than buying disposable razors – it also takes less space in your backpack or case.  And, any shaving foam, sun creams, shampoo, shower gel or leftover liquids that you can’t take with you – give it to new found friends along the way, that need it rather than bin anything.

If everyone took a few simple steps to reduce their plastic usage, collectively it would make a difference.  We can only control our own actions – so take action and lead by example and TREAD the Globe responsibly.

Our first time under water – try a discovery dive

Our first time under water – try a discovery dive

I have always loved snorkelling – it gives you that glimpse into another world below from the familiar comfort of the surface.  So, whenever I planned a trip away to warmer tropical climates, I would always make sure that part of the holiday had a few days next to the beach with the best coral reef we could find.  Marianne and I have never really been the kind to sit and sunbathe on a beach for hours, we both get itchy feet after an hour or so …..

Our first trip to Sabah, Borneo was no exception.  After a lot of research, and looking in the lonely planet travel guide (and online I came to the conclusion that the islands off the East Coast of Sabah looked and sounded perfect.  All of the resorts seemed to be geared towards divers so the waters must be good right?.  It took some time to find somewhere to stay within our budget.  Many were hundreds of £’s per night even for non divers.  I eventually came across a resort that was both very reasonably priced and claimed to have an amazing house reef right off the beach.  Sold! I booked 3 nights at Scuba Junkie on the island of Mabul.

As I sat on the boat for the 45 minute journey it takes to get to the island I was excited to jump into that water with my mask and snorkel –  I had been sat in my office in the UK thinking about this moment for long enough !.   As soon as we arrived and checked in I was off down to the beach.  I walked in up to my waist and started swimming.  WOW there was a turtle right there under me in no more than 5 feet of water.  I was not disappointed.  I swam out over the reef and was amazed at the variety of  life below me.  Marianne was back in the resort – she is not such a keen swimmer, she has been heard saying she hates water! and I had to share my excitement with the first person I saw! I then started to babble like a child let loose in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate factory.  The person I was talking to turned out to be one of Scuba Junkie’s instructors called Jason.

Me & Jason – the reason we started diving

He asked if I was a diver and I said no just a snorkeler and he then said why don’t I give it a try.  At that time I was under the impression that you couldn’t just try it without being a qualified diver.  Jason went on to explain the Padi – discovery dive.  OK sold.  I found Marianne and shared my excitement.  Her jaw hit the floor when I said I had booked us both on a discovery dive the following morning. (she hates water and is claustrophobic a great combination for a diver)

                                      The end of Scuba Junkie’s Jetty

Jason met us on the jetty and spent time talking us through diving, explaining some basic tests, hand signals and rules that we had to do before we were able to dive with him.  The most important rule is NEVER hold your breath under water as the air can expand in your lungs as you ascend.  We were now wet suited up with tanks on our backs and climbing down the steps towards the sunken platform at the end of the jetty.  What a great set up, a secure platform in which we can practice and do our basic skill tests.   Marianne was breathing just under the surface in no time.  My brain had a real hang up.  Snorkelling is one thing, but breathing without that link to the surface was another thing !.  I think I must hold the record, for the longest time before taking their first breath !  It must have been 20 minutes my brain just didn’t want to do it.  Jason deserved a medal for his patience and constantly gave me supportive words of encouragement.

Our first dive – how exciting !

Eventually, we were kneeling on the platform and taking it in turns to demonstrate some basic skills after Jason had shown us what to do.  We had to take out our regulator, and clear it both with our breath and also by purging it, showing how we could retrieve our regulator in case we dropped it and clear water out of our mask.

OK – tests all done and we were off descending down. We could go to a maximum of 12 meters and followed Jason who kept a close eye on us.  Many people I have spoken to suffer with their ears and it took a couple of dives before I fully understood that you have to pop you ears on the way down before they start to hurt.  If your ears hurt stop going any deeper and slowly go up a meter or so until they stop hurting, clear them again before slowly descending again.

It really was another world, we saw a huge variety of fish and corals.  Marianne got fixated by a turtle that swam past that she stopped following Jason and started following the turtle – until she felt Jason pulling her fins to take her out of the trance.

A lion Fish & Eel

We both loved it so much we paid for an additional 2 dives and rented a camera so we could capture the moment.

 

There were  fish everywhere.

We love turtles.

This was how our love of diving started – all because Jason persuaded me to try it – Thank you Jason.

We will soon have reached the 100 dive milestone – that’s another story!

So next time, you have the opportunity give it a go – it may change your life – it certainly has for us !

 

Clown Fish                                                    Crocodile Fish