WSGT’s next Travel Influencers are Darren and Shelley of Finding Beyond, hoping to inspire you on your own journeys whether that be a simple two-week vacation, an extensive trip around the world or a move to another country.
In honor of our Travel Writing Award and February’s Influencer theme: “write more, write better” Darren and Shelley have recommended: “something we only recently discovered ourselves. We find the free Grammarly Chrome extension really useful when writing. It highlights any spelling and grammar errors in real time as you write. It can also make Synonyms suggestions by double-clicking a word. We were making a few mistakes before using Grammarly, so we hope our blog is better now that we use it. It works within WordPress as well!”
1.)Where was the first place that you travelled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or …..)
The first place we travelled together was to Australia for twelve months back in 2005. Before then we had only been on holidays with family and friends to western Europe, which isn’t very far from our homes in the UK.
The freedom and excitement we experienced when we landed in such a diverse and unfamiliar country, was a definite WOW moment for us. We could go anywhere we wanted; the desert, the jungle, the city, the beach, a remote island, anywhere! It was a little overwhelming at first but we soon discovered that this travel game is amazing.
2.)If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?
That’s an easy one. Africa to go on multiple Safaris. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years but not one of our trips has taken us there. We’d like to do it properly with a really good tour company, luxury camping, nice food etc. We don’t usually travel in style because we consider ourselves budget travellers but would love to Safari that way 🙂
3.)What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?
To visit India. We spent 9 weeks in India but before we got there we heard so many horror stories of being scammed, being robbed, getting food poisoning, staying in awful accommodation, overcrowded transport, giant rats etc. There’s been no other country that has given us the anxiety we experienced before arriving.
We overcame it by deciding to head to India at the beginning of one of our year long trips. That way we’d be more alert, could plan the visit at home without the distractions you get while on the road and get it over with if it was to be as bad as some people told us. But we had nothing to worry about. India is now one of our favourite countries and nobody should be put off going there by others people’s experiences. Yes, India can be challenging, but that’s what travelling is about and the rewards are well worth it.
4.)What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?
While we’re travelling we find the Booking.com app very useful. With so many travellers on the road these days, we’re finding it’s better to book accommodation ahead, but we never used to travel this way. We mostly book through Booking.com so the app is a great way to keep all our bookings in one place and easily make changes if we need to. We’re going to the Philippines next month during high season, so we have already booked most of our accommodation using the app.
Our Play Memories camera app is also something we use all the time. If you have a digital camera with inbuilt wifi then this app allows you to connect to the camera with your phone so you can quickly transfer images on the go. This is great when you want to post something on social media in real time.
5.)What place do you wish more people have seen?
Salar De Uyuni in Bolivia. For those who do not know what it is, it’s the world’s largest salt flat amid the South American Andes mountains. It’s not just the salt flat that’s amazing, the nearby landscape is truly epic.
We went on a three-night jeep adventure across the south-western part of Bolivia and saw active volcanoes, immense mountain peaks, huge geysers, red lakes populated with wild flamingos, bright turquoise lakes, eerie deserted towns……the list goes on. It’s one of our world travel highlights.
6.)Best advice you have been given and by whom?
Don’t eat meat in India. We were given this advice by many people. By following it, Darren was ill just once in nine weeks and Shelley managed to avoid food poisoning altogether! That’s pretty rare when visiting India for that long duration. The vegetarian food is so tasty in India so we didn’t miss meat at all.
7.)When were you surprised by the kindness of strangers on a trip?
The kindest and friendliest people we’ve come across are Sri Lankans. We visited Sri Lanka for the first time this year and were blown away by their kindness. They had a genuine interest in our well-being while we were visiting their country. Always making sure that we were having a good time by offering advice, giving us delicious food and making us feel so welcome. We saw a sign over there which sums up the kindness of Sri Lankans. The sign read, “Enter Sri Lanka a visitor, leave a friend”.
8.)What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
In the early days, it would have been TV travel documentaries, which we’ve always been fond of. Today it would definitely be all the amazing travel bloggers out there.
It’s the travel bloggers that inspired us to live temporarily in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. Many of them wrote about how Chiang Mai is a travel blogger and digital nomad hub. About how lots of travel bloggers end up staying in Chiang Mai for a few months, to experience what it’s like to live in Asia and get some work done. Chiang Mai really is an awesome city to live in. We’ll be sad to leave it next month.
9.)I travel because….
Life is too short not to. There’s a whole awesome world out there. Go find it.
Darren and Shelley are a travel obsessed couple from London, England. They’ve been travelling on and off for the past 11 years. They regularly leave their comfortable British lives behind to live the nomadic lifestyle for a year at a time. There’s nothing they love more than quitting their jobs, packing their bags and flying to the other side of the world without much of a plan. Not having a plan allows them to travel more freely, slowly and without commitments.
They’re now on their new and epic one-way ticket adventure to Asia but it won’t stop there. The only plan they have that’s different to previous trips is to try and make some money along the way so their travels can last as long as they wish them to.
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Our next Travel Influencer interview will be up in a week, follow the series here.