If you’re heading to Athens this summer, then here’s a ready-made map that you can use as a layer in Google Maps: bit.ly/2018AthensMap
Athens is a big city – and this map is a mere starter-for-10 for places to visit. It has some of the worthwhile museums, a few restaurants, bars, cafés and a beach bar or two too. You’ll want to read the earlier Books, Cafés and Art in Athens – a few ideas too.
A San Francisco principle that applies in London too. Life is short, and anger always puts you in harms way. Eye contact matters, and a smile and a wave rarely goes amiss. And yes, those lorry drivers can be scary – but if you look at them as if you’re looking up to them (!) – they’ll be extra careful around you.
That said: best stay entirely clear of big roads with doubledecker buses and big lorries. And never attempt this special Ukrainian trick in London or indeed elsewhere:
Say, if you lose a pedal some 10km from home – as once happened to me during a bout of torrential rain. A good-humoured Black Cab driver will help you fit the bike in the back.
Note, there is no fog
Despite the reputation for pea soup fog, London’s air is clearer these days – (even if it might not be that clean). Despite this, many people, especially the spandex-clad alpha types, buy fog-grade strobe lights for the winter months.
Lights are good, blinding is bad
Strong lights could have the exact opposite effect of what you were hoping for. Be sure to point your lights down onto the road. You’ll be seen – but without blinding. In doubt? Park your bike with the lights some 20 meters away and then start walking towards it. If the strobe is uncomfortable to you, it is uncomfortable – and distracting – to others. You may also want to say to bicyclists that blind you (whilst smiling and waving): ‘there is no fog’.
This is probably the most important advice of all. Do a fully-packed test walk before you go – say, along the Thames. If you can’t walk 10-15km easily without getting annoyed – then you’re carrying too much. Let go… let go… focus on essentials. For example, if you’re not wearing sandals: prioritise clean and dry socks – and leave the heavy flashlight behind. Makes a massive difference. Buy the best socks you can afford.
Add a little structure
Say, a sundowner. Life beyond work (if you’re vagabonding for real) can sometimes start feeling a bit messy; because there isn’t necessarily an organising principle. Well, stopping everything to watch the sunset every day (and raising a beverage to celebrate all that’s gone well) works a treat. Also a great time to talk about what has been difficult – before the dark sets in – and what you might do differently… if you want to super-advanced, add a diary / journal to that mix. See take note below…
Triangulate, triangulate, triangulate
Even if you have a GPS in your phone, always be asking for directions. In my experience wonderful experiences flow from this – and you find places beyond the beaten path whilst you’re at it. That said – be wary of doing the ‘Lost Tourist’ look…
You’ll quickly lost track of where you’ve been / what you’ve done. A notebook, starring things on Google Maps, sending postcards, recording a voice or video note are all ways to do that. Pick an approach that works for you. I personally value the analogue the most.
Things take time, and you’ll be surprised how sometimes nothing seems to take twice as long. It is very easy to get exhausted travelling. Don’t rush. My rule for Africa is that you can only do one (1) thing per day. For example: get a visa sorted. Or run an errand. Or book a ticket. Yes, just one. And for I’d say that in South America it is much the same.
Black-Swan Avoidance / Hard-nosed advice
It is *unlikely* that you’ll need most of this – that said, when it is cheap to insure against mega-SNAFUs, it is makes sense to do it. Bit like bringing an umbrella…
Always avoid the ice cubes… unless you can truly drown them in good quality alcohol
Don’t get dehydrated …
Other SNAFUs – based on painful personal experiences
Avoid a single point of failure – have a Mastercard, Visa and Amex – from different banks
And hide a couple of $/€50 notes somewhere for that rainy day
And agree a protocol for whom can wire you money in an emergency – and how they should do it. Scams around this rare – but stressful for the relatives / friends when they happen! Easy to avoid with a simple protocol up front.
Scan your IDs and leave a copy
On a your locked phone
And if you’re in a country for a long time, consider getting a notarised copy to carry instead of the original
If asked for your ID – always resist letting go of your documents. Either use a notarised copy as above / show originals through the window of the bus/car – or at least hold on tightly whilst they look. The exception is of course if you’re at a border crossing in which case you can’t hold on to the document. Or indeed inside a police station.
If asked for a bribe… my approach is to wait the asker out. Most get bored… That said, that might not always work, especially if they have taken your passport. Either way – have a deep conversation with each other about how you might handle a situation like this. Feels less stressful when it then does happen (as it most likely will).
And do yourself a favour – buy the highest cover travel insurance – you’re extremely unlikely to need an evacuation. But if you do. You’ll be glad to have that airlift…
DO READ THE SMALL PRINT. For example – most won’t cover if you’re not wearing a seatbelt… and stuff like that. Best to know up front. Even if it never becomes relevant. And wear that seatbelt either way.
Whichever company you go for, you want unlimited cover for the serious Black Swans: Medical Expenses and Repatriation. And a very very high number for Personal Liability. The price difference is marginal. The peace of mind isn’t.
If it all goes belly-up
As it has for me a few times – but also applies if detained or hospitalised:
You’re not alone – even though you might feel like it in the moment – so reach out
Let your respective consulates know that you are in trouble (even if their help might end up being limited). If your country does not have a consulate – go to a country that is an ally, say, EU or equivalent.
Don’t take any shit. Be firm.
A short bookshelf for the easy-going vagabond through to intrepid traveller
And if you’re intrepid and into mapping, then Stanfords. But thread below might also be of interest. You can go to the red bits if it is for work (rather than vagabonding). Just think very carefully, make sure you have a very good reason (say, a World Health Organisation project in Somaliland). And if the latter is the case, then these are your people for pro advice before you and whilst you are there: ngosafety.org/
Anyway, that thread as promised courtesy of Marcel Dirsus who is worth following either way:
That acronym unfolds (into English) as The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation – they have a library, exhibitions space and an interesting events programme. You can find them it on Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé.
Now this one is a bit trickier – the oldest of the lot. Dates back to 1482 – and it used to be open to the public. Sadly does not seem to be the case anymore, but you can peek through the windows from Fiolstræde (and then go for a coffee at Paludan).
Walk along South Bank – and stop at the new Tate building for the view
There’s usually an pop-up xmas market up near Royal Festival Hall – and then keep going and explore four distinct fixtures:
Borough Market – where the well-to-do middle-class hangs out. That said, Monmouth is hard to beat. And if you have time, the bread baking courses are fun. Also, some of the fishmongers have a fire-sale just before 5pm on a Saturday.
Flat Iron Sq – the newcomer to the area – mix of food etc. Also, Gentlemen Baristas are gentlemen (and a have a secret roof terrace). And sometimes you can hear music students across the street practice. Which is nice.
Maltby St. – only open on the weekends – the original break-out … Rope Walk is a tight but fun alley of interestingness. And you can taste Jensen Gin straight from the still… And on the other side of the railway tracks you have the Beer Mile.
More waterside walking – East London edition
Walk along the River Lee – and stop for pizza (and beer) at The White Building – or keep going and have a riverside coffee at Stour Space … and if you have salmon eaters with you, stop at Forman’s. For it is good.
Or if you ventured down the Hertford Union Canal, then make a side visit to the Pavilion in Victoria Park. Decent coffee.
Secret Sq. and an old mansion house
Have lunch at the co-operatively run vegetarian/vegan Bonnington Cafe – cash only… and then stop at Italo (across the street) before heading down to Brunswick House for a browse from cellar to top floor – (and have a drink in the bar at the end).
Books, nuts and cheese in Piccadilly and a proper martini in St James